Almost everyone I know (myself included) signed on to Twitter and sat looking at our monitors and thought "Okay, what the hell am I supposed to do now?"
Then we almost inevitably typed into our 'What's happening?' box something like this, "Just testing" or "Trying to figure this out". This was usually our last act on Twitter for the following 3 months as we threw up our hands in frustration and forgot about it.
For all of you, I have arrived to explain why you'll actually love Twitter even though you haven't used it since 2008. I've also arrived to bring you a Pizza, but that's my job. The Twitter thingy is my new internet love.
It's not your fault that you don't get twitter. Thanks to Facebook, MySpace, and countless other networking sites, we're conditioned to post pics with captions like 'Carly and Me at Space Mountain - YEEEAAAHH!!!' or poke people (honestly? I don't and never will understand that whole thing), comment on people's statuses, start a hobby farm, medieval village, or a private garden and try to entice people who now hate you into signing up too. They're heavy on the DO and light on the READ.
Twitter is the exact opposite.
It's heavy on the READ and incredibly light on the DO.
First, it's basically a status update. That's it. Clipping your toenails? Write that and you're done. No squirrel to chase out of your neighbor's e-garden with a purchased squirrel bazooka for 75 e-farm doubloons.
Second, search for people (then click the FOLLOW button to receive their regular updates) like President Obama or Reba Macintyre or Save The Children Organization (timely thanks to Haiti) and find out what they're doing, or thinking, or stressing to the masses right now. It's real time. For example everyone is helping everyone donate to reputable organizations for Haiti. There are real time updates from people in Haiti. Links to photos taken right now in Haiti from those same people.
It's far more honest than the news media, far less commercialized and... instant! And once you're in the loop of ordinary people all over the world you are truly in the loop!
Third, check out anyone you're following's lists. Who they're following, who's also following them, what lists of people and topics have they got? Before you know it, you'll be following 100 people.
Fourth, start deleting some people you're following. Yes, you read that right, DELETING. I got rid of Kirstie Alley and 3 Star Trek actors because they just wouldn't stop tweeting! You want a certain amount of 'what's new' from your favorites, but some people tweet idiocy in 3 minute increments (Wil Wheaton kept going on about some T-Shirt with a Wolf's picture for 3 HOURS!) and that's just too much.
Now, that's it for Twitter and what it does. But it has extra features that take it from cool to Ubercool! For instance, say my friend Jerry wants me to see he's mentioned me in a post.
Like, "bcdarr has a fat ass and I'm going skiing". (That is typical Jerry! It's why we're no longer friends with benefits!) All Jerry has to do is put an @ sign in front of my name and I will see I've been mentioned. Anyone else reading the tweet can now click on my name and see my profile and all my previous tweets too. They'll laugh and applaud my creative genius (yes they will!!) and click my follow button and I'll have a new friend.
Or Jerry can type "@bcdarr has a fat ass and here's the proof! http://www.IdoNOT haveafatassthisisjustanexample.com/pic 1.jpg he now has my profile and my beautifully toned ass pics as links in his message.
If he should type "I'm going skiing to get away from #bcdarr'sfatass" well, that bastard has just started what's called a trend. Anyone else who includes "#bcdarr'sfatass" in their tweet will have their tweet (besides appearing on their own page) compiled with a list of other people commenting on my fat ass (WHICH IT ISN'T!!!! WHY CAN'T YOU PEOPLE LET THAT GO!?!?!) on it's own trend page. The trend topics are amazing (and of course there is a #Haiti relief) and people love it.
I'll give you yet another example of a neat use of Twitter. I follow the Dixie Chicks. They have a #FridayFeature which is a trend for a song of theirs to be played on (you guessed it!) Fridays. You tweet #FridayFeature a song you want to hear and if enough other people tweet the same title, you win the vote and that link is up for you on Friday.
I like the possibilty of talking to a star. Don't act superior!!! You do too! Like asking for an autograph, if you type @Elvis (okay bad example but it does give me the opportunity to point out that Twitter VERIFIES the person is who they say they are and lets you know) it's very possible that they'll respond. They do it all the time cause they @ someone who @'d them and you can read it cause you're following them. Don't get your hopes up too high. Some of these people have 2 million followers. There's no way they will be able to read all the tweets that mention them, but they know that randomly finding a mention and responding keeps their followers, well, following, so who knows? The next one might be you. Just get ready to have their 2,000,000 followers check you out to see why Elvis tweeted you.
Myself, I like finding someone in someone else's 'Who I'm Following' list that I would never have known existed. I found masarat (if you get on Twitter, follow her). She's a lady in India who goes to rural villages and starts what she calls The Eight Day Academy. It's designed to teach teachers to expand their base of instruction to help poor kids get a real chance at education, because there are so many who don't get any structured education - they're working at 6 years old! She tweets her thoughts, projects, successes and failures and it's truly amazing that I'm up to date on a brilliant woman's attempts to affect change in rural India.
So, the trick with Twitter is to FOLLOW people. Don't worry too much about 'DOING'. You don't have to be brilliant on it, just real. Start seeing how vast and astonishingly varied this world is, simply by hearing as many people as you choose, tell you about their day. It's simple but it's POWERFUL.