Thursday, April 03, 2008

What on Earth is Twitter?

Recently, my colleague and I have discovered the internet-based curiosity known as “Twitter”. Initially, I had heard about it, and had read references to it as a way to promote your website in this ever-expanding, never-definable world of social-network marketing.

Now, I’ve been doing it for a while, I’ve been able to figure it out a bit more, and I’ve started to see its potential, both on my own sites, and in the efforts of my colleague. But it hasn’t been an easy thing for me to wrap my mind around. The first time I heard about it, it seemed like a petty waste of time. And between blogging and email groups, webcomics and news feeds, the whole internet is starting to seem like a petty waste of time, isn’t it?

But the bottom line with any of these sites or programs is this: Can I find a way to utilize it to my advantage? If I can, then let’s do it and leverage the benefit. On the other hand, then it needs to be abandoned to those with no lives.

So, here’s an overview of what I’ve discovered:

  1. What is Twitter?

Twitter is an interesting twist that combines some of the more creative elements of a number of social networking programs. It has the “friends list” from myspace and facebook. It has instant messaging, like Yahoo and AIM, and it ties so nicely in with blogging it’s amazing.

  1. How does it work?

Twitter members (whom I have a hard time not calling “twits”) find other twitter users that have common interests. They choose to “follow” them, creating, in essence, a friends list. The idea is that every so often (as often as each “twit” chooses to) he or she can jump to his or her twitter page and post a “tweet”. It’s a short message, saying anything they want to. Typically it’s used to share what the “twit” is doing or thinking at that very moment.

For example, I could go to my twitter page and send out a tweet that says, “Hey, I’m writing about twitter!” When I send that message, it will appear on the twitter pages of all of the people who are “following” my tweets.

Now on the surface, it’s easy to look at that and say, “Why would anyone care what I’m doing at any given moment?” It’s also easy to think, “Why should I care what anyone else is doing at any given moment?” On one level, you’d be right. It just doesn’t matter. “I’m cooking dinner”, or “I’m going to sleep.” Just don’t matter.

But what it my tweet said, “Hey, I just posted about such-and-such at my blog at Tell me what you think!” Maybe I might say, “I just added product X to my website at! Come check it out!” Suddenly it becomes promotional.

  1. How do I set it up?

To start with, simply go to and set up an account. You immediately get a profile page. Make sure that you create a link to your website on that page. There’s one inbound link right off the bat! Set up some good keywords in your profile. These will be used as other people search for you, so make these things relate to your web business.

You might want to check into some of the many twitter tools, like browser plugins, so that you don’t have to go to the site every time you want to post or read tweets. I use twitterfox, myself. It sits down in the lower right of my browser and pops up only when I want it to.

  1. How do I use it?

The first thing to do is to begin following some people. Not only does this get you involved, but once you follow people, most of the time they’ll return the favor, and you’ll get some folks following you as well. Do a search for some words that relate to your business. Other twitter users will have set out their interests in their profiles, so if there are any matches, you’ll pick up on them.

Then, begin posting tweets. Generally, I don’t recommend doing this too often. A few times a day is good. You don’t want to overwhelm people. After a while, as you’re receiving tweets from those you’re following, you’ll begin to recognize those that are sending you good stuff and those that are cluttering your tweet inbox. If you want to stop following the latter types, it will clear it out a bit.

  1. How do I use it to promote my sites?

Every time you do something related to your site or your business, post a tweet. Post a blog? Post a tweet! Doesn’t have to be long (in fact it can’t be long). Make sure that you include your web address. Write your tweets so that they catch interest instead of just coming across as spam. One way to do that is to post a question. Not like, “Are you interested in a new widget? Go to!”, but something like this might draw more people to your site, “How many widgets do you currently own?” or, “How do you use your widgets?”

The most astounding thing about twitter is its immediacy. I’ve been amazed at how quickly a well-written and cleverly posted tweet can draw traffic to a blog posting or a website. I’ve seen it happen in a matter of minutes. Go on, explore! And once you’ve signed up, look me up (mrkhmusic) and follow me!

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

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