I've been doing Twitter for about 3 weeks now. I like it. What's it good for? Connecting with people I'd otherwise never connect with.
Col. Potter: Cigar Radar?
Radar: No Sir, My Ma says they're habit forming.
Col. Potter: I've been smoking 3 cigars a day for 40 years and I've never developed a habit.
Radar, taking a cigar: That's good to know Sir.
In that vein: I've been Tweeting 6 hours a day for the past month, and I haven't gotten addicted yet.
5 Steps to start Tweeting: 1) sign up, 2)log in 3)look for the Twitter T symbol on some of your favorite sites and click on it, 4)Tweet me @GNW_Paul, 5)hangout
My wife helped me come up with this analogy to compare Twitter and Facebook. Facebook is like a formal banquet with assigned seating at tables; you have to know somebody at the table to but into, or listen in on the conversation. Twitter is like a giant cocktail party where you can overhear multiple conversations and butt into at will; the problem is filtering out and focusing on any particular conversation. In a sense, Twitter is like a giant ChatRoom, except that you can follow the same people over a long time, and you can go back and see what they said, unless they restrict access. Also, in Twitter it is very easy to post links to blogs, or websites or videos or pictures to enrich the conversation.
The heart of Twitter is "everybody." When you set your filter to "everybody" you see every public post that is being posted on Twitter, by anybody, to anybody and about anything. Anyone can drop in on any conversation. I haven't spent much time following "everybody," but I have watched a few times just looking for something interesting.
You don't probably want to 'listen' to everybody, so there are two ways to filter out something you want to pay attention to. The main way of filtering is to find some people you know, or who share similar interests, and then "follow" them. When you "follow" somebody, you see every Tweet they post. If you were following one person, you would see only the Tweets from that one person on your home page at Twitter. However, if that person is having a conversation, you only see one side of the conversation. You can "follow" the person on the other end of the conversation, and then you can see the whole thing. The more people you follow, the more Tweets you see, and the more conversations you see, and sometimes it can get hard to follow who is taking to whom, about what. But somehow, it seems to work out!
So part of Tweeting is following. The other part is getting followed so that people are listening to you. There are 'entrepreneurs' out there who are somehow trying to make money by get 10,000 followers. There are spammers. And there are egomaniacs that somehow thing 5,000 followers will cover up their feelings of inadequacy. There are also some real, important people like Sen. Patrick Leahy, who naturally have 10,000 or more followers.
As a newcomer, getting a few follows is a good thing, because it would be nice to think that somewhat might actually read your tweets. If you follow someone with a common interest who doesn't have more than 200 followers, they will usually follow you back, then you have someone following. Post some tweets. Say something interesting, post a good link, comment on someone else's tweet, and you will build some followers. A good way to expand your network is to check who is following the people you are following, and follow some of those people.
The other way to filter is by groups. I don't totally understand groups, but there is a search page (Not linked or tabbed off your main Twitter page) http://search.twitter.com which you can use to search for any topic. Groups use special tags preceded by the hash (or number) symbol like #catholic #prolife #TCOT (Top Conservatives On Twitter) #24 (the show) etc. You can use these tags to find information, people to follow, and to make your own Tweets show up to people who might be looking for them.
If you sign up for Twitter, and type @GNW_Paul and a message of introduction, I'll do what I can to hook you up.