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A Newbie's Field Guide to Twitter for Business: 29 Questions (and Answers) About Starting Out

by Beth Harte, Ann Handley  |  
July 28, 2009

So you've heard that Twitter is a great tool for connecting with customers in ways that haven't been previously possible. But you still don't get it, right?

As Steven Berlin Johnson wrote in his Time Magazine cover story on Twitter in June, "The one thing you can say for certain about Twitter is that it makes a terrible first impression." The service allows you to send 140-character updates to your "followers," he writes, "and you think, Why does the world need this, exactly?"

Not only doesn't it make obvious sense, but it's also marked by protocols and terms that can be perplexing to anyone new to Twitter. With a hat tip to Forrester's Jeremiah Owyang for inspiration, below is a comprehensive field guide to Twitter for business.

1. What is Twitter?

Twitter is a free social-messaging tool for staying connected in real-time. It is sometimes called a "micro-blogging service" that enables its users to send and read other users' short (140-character) updates, known as tweets.

2. I don't get it... What's the value?

Twitter by itself makes little sense. Its real value comes in following others and having them follow you. When you are connected to people you know or want to know, or with whom you have something in common, the platform can offer a rich experience.

3. Why does everyone talk about what they ate for lunch?

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Beth Harte is the Community Manager for MarketingProfs.

Ann Handley is chief content officer of MarketingProfs, author of Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Ridiculously Good Content, and co-author of the best-selling book on content marketing, Content Rules. Ann co-founded, one of the first sources of interactive marketing news and commentary.

Twitter: @MarketingProfs and @AnnHandley.

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  • by Don Lafferty Tue Jul 28, 2009 via web

    Good stuff. It's amazing how deep the Twitter playbook has already become. Every time I think I have the basics articulated, I realize there's an even simpler level of information people need in order to wrap their heads around Twitter's uses and strengths.

    Even this list of basics can be overwhelming for a newbie, but after a little bit of exposure to Twitter, this is a great resource for understanding the stuff you'll run into out there in the Twitterverse.

  • by Judy Bryan Tue Jul 28, 2009 via web

    Just a comment about SMS limitations. SMS allows for 160 characters, not 140. However, with Twitter, when you receive the messages via your mobile, Twitter has allotted 20 characters for who the message is from. That's why the actual message can only be 140 characters.

  • by Michele Miller Tue Jul 28, 2009 via web

    A very thorough and thoughtful introduction to Twitter. Thanks for this!

  • by Brian Sweeney Thu Jul 30, 2009 via web

    I will be putting this into practice, our new website will be making the most of twitter.Great article.

    You can visit to see how we get on once launched.

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