What is Twitter?

I often get asked a lot “what is this twitter you talk about?”, so today I thought I would elaborate on that in todays blog post.

Twitter by definition is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows its users to send and read other users’ updates (otherwise known as tweets), which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length.

Twitter is like a blog except is it is only 140 characters, it’s a status update on “what you’re doing” except it is viewable in lots of places, it’s like a giant chat room except you choose the people you follow, and it’s also like instant messaging except it’s public & archived online.

This guy said it best really @DaveMurr: “Twitter is the hand shake. Blogs are the conversations by the fireside over a glass of wine.”

I read a comment on a blog and to put it simply: Twitter is similar to the Facebook status feature, but way cooler and there are no constant requests to join a zombie-vampire-fighter group.

There are a lot of neat things you can do with twitter like retweeting.

“RT” or “retweeting” is simply taking a twitter post from someone else and forwarding (rebroadcasting) it to your followers. Here are a few common ways to retweet a message (all do the same thing):

RT @originalsender: original message
retweet @originalsender: original message
retweeting @originalsender: original message

Retweeting can be a great way to add followers, as it pushes your @username into foreign social graphs, which in turn results in clicks back to your profile.

There is also the hash tagging of words in your tweets.
Hashtags are a community-driven convention for adding additional context and metadata to your tweets. They’re like tags on Flickr, only added inline to your post. You create a hashtag simply by prefixing a word with a hash symbol: #hashtag.

Hashtags were popularized during the San Diego forest fires in 2007 when Nate Ritter used the hashtag “#sandiegofire” to identify his updates related to the disaster.

Events or conferences, e.g.: “Tara’s presentation on communities was great! #barcampblock”
Disasters: “#sandiegofire A shelter has opened up downtown for fire refugees.”
Memes: “My #themeword for 2008 is conduct.”
Context: “I can’t believe anyone would design software like this! #microsoftoffice”
Recall: “Buy some toilet paper. #todo”

Also you can submit pictures to twitpic and they will show up on and also in your tweet. You can see some of my twitpics on the sidebar to the right here on my page.

Pictures are heavily retweeted/spread around. This one from US Airways Flight 1549 has been viewed 350,000+ times. For mobile pics use iPhone apps such as Tweetie or Twitterific, both which support on the go uploading.

If you enjoyed this content, add me at, thank you.



#1 Dave on 01.26.09 at 11:33 am

Dude, you’re churning out these blog posts faster than I can… Nice work!

#2 DaveMurr on 02.01.09 at 4:05 pm

Hey there! Thanks for quoting me – very flattering. When I 1st started on Twitter last May, I immediately wrote it off. Now its become an important part of my “online presence.” What I’ve learned is that twitter creates networking opportunities that rarely can be matched. However, don’t forget to walk away from the computer and meet people in person. Start or engage in local Tweetups – this strengthens the relationships you build on Twitter.

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