Keep in mind that this is a business blog, so everything we talk about here is presented in relation to its effectiveness or detriment to small businesses. What is advisable for business may not hold true in the personal arena and vice-versa.
Most of the people I talk with in small business - unless they are specifically an online marketing business - have no idea of what twitter is at best. At worst, they've heard all the worst stories about Twitter and all other social networking tools and have dismissed them entirely.
I say: NOT SO FAST.
One should never dispense with gaining an understanding of a product or service that might be relevant to a business. Knowledge is power, and if you don't understand something, how can you possibly decide whether it might offer a benefit?
So, first: What the heck is Twitter?
It doesn't help that the name of the app sounds inconsequential or cutesy. It is what it describes, for sure... quick social commentary. If you've been at a party and someone important has walked into the room, causing a sudden surge of whispered comments, or a pal called you up with a hot news flash, you're hearing the real-world version of twitter.
Online twittering happens by SMS text message - and really that's all it is, a big dressed up version of text messaging, with a whole bunch of bells and whistles the online environment can provide. For example, you can blast a twitter to a group of friends at one time, set up different groupings of twitter contacts, time delay your tweets, add pictures, and follow conversations with individuals instead of having everything all lumped together in one big inbox - like the one I have to wade through on my Blackberry.
Twitter is also often referred to as a 'micro-blogging tool', whereby authors post mini blog comments with a restriction of 140 characters or less. This month there were an estimated 6 million users of Twitter, and the service is the third-largest social network, behind only Facebook and MySpace.
For the full background and current development of everything Twitter, check out the Wiki.
Next post: Does Twitter Have a Place in Business?