Julie's Twitter Guide
This post is dedicated to @angiedelong and other professionals who dabble in Twitter but need some clarification.
Twitter is a social network, like Facebook, but everything on Twitter is 100% public, 100% of the time. This makes it very useful for virtual networking. To participate on Twitter, you post short messages of up to 140 characters. Some people compare these to Facebook status updates, but that's not strictly true--you can use messages to broadcast all sorts of useful, relevant information. My messages are a mix of personal comments, responses to people I find who could use help with bookkeeping or Quickbooks, and links to things I think are interesting.
Disclaimer: this guide is not intended to be exhaustive. There is a lot about Twitter that I don't know, either--I'd just like to give our clients and readers a place to start.
@ is the symbol used to denote a person's name or pseudonym. Mine is @bkydbookkeeper. If you respond to a person, you begin your tweet with their @name, and it will show up on their twitter account as a message to them.
RT: when a tweet begins with "RT", that means it's a forward or "retweet" of someone else's message. An RT also should include a @ reference to the source. It's a way of sharing something you think is interesting or useful, or helping someone by forwarding their request for help.
DM: Okay, not everything is public on Twitter. DM stands for "direct message" and gives you a way to, say, send someone your phone number without broadcasting it to the world. You are still limited to 140 characters and can only DM people who follow you.
# is a hashtag. This is a way of marking tweets about specific topics. For example, when we went to the Community Foundation of Utah event, we were told at the beginning that the marker we should use is #cfu. On twitter.com, you can see a list of "trending topics"--what people are talking about most on Twitter.
There are some third-party applications that can help you navigate twitter. These download your tweets, notify you when you get a reply or message, allow you to monitor topics of interest, and let you sort the people you follow into groups. I personally use TweetDeck, which simplifies my life.