Twitter 101: A Beginner’s Guide To Tweeting Responsibly

Thanks to Charlie Sheen, everyone is talking about Twitter. Whether you love him or hate him, you have to admire his uncanny social networking skills and ability to generate some buzz.

In a nutshell, Twitter is a social media oriented microblogging site. A typical Twitter update – known as a “tweet” – might provide a quick update on what you’re doing or request help with a problem. All in 140 characters or less.

That’s “micro-blogging.” You can send updates from your PC, a cell phone, PDAs, tablets. How can Twitter be useful and how to sign up?

Twitter for fun and family
To use Twitter in your personal life…Keep your friends and family updated on your life when you don’t have the time or inclination to call or e-mail. You might tweet, “We arrived home safely from our trip” or “the car’s running again. It was just a fuse.”

Real life tweet: A passenger on a plane that skidded off a Denver runway last winter used his cell phone to tweet about the event moments after it occurred.

His friends never had to worry about his safety, because they got his tweet and learned that he was unharmed before the incident was reported in the media.

Arrange social activities, even at the last minute. Rather than place dozens of calls to find someone who is free, send out a single tweet. This tweet might read, “I’m going fishing. Anyone want to join me?”

Real life tweet: Basketball Star Shaquille O’Neal used Twitter to inform his friends and fans that he was sitting down to dinner alone in Phoenix. A pair of local basketball fans drove to the diner and hung out with him.

Solicit opinions, advice or assistance on short notice. You could tweet, “Can anyone suggest a good place for dinner in Albany?” or “My car broke down in Portland. Can anyone recommend a good mechanic?”

Twitter for business
To use Twitter in your professional life… Keep colleagues and clients up-to-date about schedules and plans. You could tweet, “Any customer expecting a service call today will receive one by 5:00 p.m. despite the snow” or “My flight was delayed. Can someone stand in for me at this afternoon’s meeting?”

Search for tweets about your company, industry, or products written by other Twitter users, and then provide fast feedback.

A plumber might offer responses to plumbing-related questions to build goodwill with customers. A manufacturer might respond to a complaint about a product with troubleshooting tips, turning negative buzz about the company’s customer service.

For example, cable company Comcast has a customer service employee monitor Twitter for mentions of Comcast and respond quickly.

The website TweetBeep ( and Twitter’s own search page ( can help find relevant tweets.

Show clients and potential clients the person behind the business. Customers are more likely to trust you if they believe that they know you and like you as a person.

To build this human connection, tweet about your hobbies, your charitable work, or your company’s softball game, in addition to your business and products.

How to sign up
Twitter is easy to use. Visit, click “Get Started-Join!” and follow the simple directions. E-mail a link to your twitter web page to keep friends, family, colleagues and clients posted on your life or business.

You can find people to follow by clicking on “Find people” from your Twitter home page.

Warning: Click “setting” then check the box by “Protect my updates” on your Twitter account page if you want to maintain control over who reads your tweets.

Leave this unchecked only if you do not expect to share sensitive information and would like to reach strangers as well as friends.

Always be careful. If you are going to be out of town for a few weeks, you may not want to tweet about that everyone can read your posts.

You can also choose to receive tweets from individuals on your cell phone. Though Twitter is free, your service provider may charge you when you send or receive messages from your phone depending on your plan.