Whenever Twitter comes up in a conversation most of my friends say they just don’t get it. If I explain the basics of Twitter the usual reply is along the lines of “What???”.

There you are, I reply, if you get Texting you will get Twitter. Think of Twitter as real time mini status updates in Facebook.

After the slap in the face I usually go on to explain it like this:-

Twitter is a micro-blog, It’s a way of letting people know what’s on your mind but in a very limited number of characters (140). This is just like a status update in Facebook but it is sent in real time to all your friends.

So why not just use Facebook?

This is a good question and of course there is a good answer.

Twitter is much more than just a micro-blog it’s a messaging service, a source of news and information. It can be used for social marketing. It is even being used to map out market trends and is even being incorporated into software for analysing stock trends!

What is Twitter? Twitter as a micro-blog

Micro-blogging is for people who cannot be bothered with writing a blog. Instead of a carefully crafted essay on any particular subject, micro-bloggs just let your friends know what is happening right now in as little a number of characters as possible. Limiting the number of characters to 140 means you have to get creative! However unlike a phone text it costs nothing to send them! J

What is Twitter? Twitter is a messaging service.

Using the direct messaging (DM) service on Twitter you can let all your friends know exactly where you will be on a particular night. You can remind them of important events and places they should be. Now that Twitter is integrated into most new cell phones it has become the perfect tool to manage a group of friends and enable you to interact anywhere.

What is Twitter? Twitter is a news service

The power of Twitter as a news disseminating service reached new heights in the UK recently when it was revealed the football (soccer to my buddies across the pond) star Wayne Rooney wanted to leave Manchester United. Not only was this one of the highest trending topics on Twitter (UK) but the tweets of fellow Man U. Star Rio Ferdinand were reported on the evening news…. as part of the story. More and more Twitter is being accepted by the media as an outlet for news stories. All the major news networks can be followed on Twitter for up to the minute and breaking news stories.

What is Twitter? Twitter is a marketing tool.

The term social marketing is being used more and more. But what does it actually mean. Well in terms of Twitter it is a way of quickly interacting with like minded individuals for mutual benefit. In other words it can be used as a sales tool. There is no faster way of getting your message to an interested group than Twitter. If you have a new product, website or service Twitter delivers fast.

For politicians and celebrities Twitter has become an integral part of their self promotion. This was epitomised in the last U.S. presidential election when Barack Obama’s team used Twitter not only to drum up support but to galvanise local volunteers to rally to his cause.

Researchers at Indiana University and The University of Manchester recently reported that stock market trends could be roughly predicted up to six days in advance by analysing Twitter feeds. There are still bugs to be worked out but can you imagine how much this information will be worth when all the kinks are worked out.

So what is Twitter? Twitter is all of the above and a whole lot more that has not yet been discovered. You better get with the trend my friends and get tweeting before Twitter gets you!