Twitter: The how to get started guide for businesspeople

Don't miss out on useful information and professional connections

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What you can gain and share with Twitter

If many Twitter evangelists looking to broaden the service's demographic had it their way, they might want to change the site's official branding a bit. When you go to Twitter to sign up, it says, "Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co-workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?"

"The best way to make the most use of it is not just answer what are you doing now," says Owyang. "Instead, answer: 'What's important to me?' That changes the conversation and makes value. It takes away some of the minutia and shows you want to talk about something that's more useful and interesting."

In other words, the "I'm running to the store" messages might not be as compelling amidst the noise of Twitter messages as "I just read a book on [insert some topic that's interest to you]." If you have room in the 140 characters, state an opinion or analysis of it.

It's about "what has my attention right now?" Fitton says. "The point of Twitter is what do we have in common or having some kind of shared experience."

How to sign up for Twitter

1. Go to Twitter.com. Click on the "Join the Conversation" button in middle of the page.

2. Fill out basic information. This will include your full name, preferred user name, password and e-mail address. Remember that the user name is what people will see with an "@" symbol in front of it.

3. See if your friends are on Twitter. After you fill out basic info, you'll be prompted to look for friends in your Gmail, Yahoo, MSN, Hotmail or AOL accounts so you can begin following them if they're already on the service.

4. Look at Twitter's suggestions. Twitter will suggest some people for you to follow as well. Check to see if anyone of them are relevant.

5. Set up your profile. Click on "settings" in the upper right corner of your Twitter home page. You'll be brought to a tab-based menu that helps you build your profile and adjust settings.

6. Fill in the fields. Of particular importance is the "one line bio" under the "Account" tab. You have 160 characters to present yourself to the Twitter community. Many people choose to state their profession, and then maybe something outside of work that interests them as well. CIO's C.G. Lynch ( @cglynch), for instance, has the following: "Staff Writer at CIO, New England Sports Fan."

7. Start looking for followers. Regardless of how many people you found through e-mail search and Twitter's suggestions, start looking around for people you might find interesting. Use search.twitter.com.

Who to follow on Twitter?

The early users of Twitter have turned the issue of followers into a bit of popularity contest, and the PR and marketing professionals follow thousands of people in some cases to help tout their brands over the service.

But following a lot of people can create unnecessary noise that will render the service useless to you.

"Each person I chose to follow brings something compelling to my life," says Fitton, who follows individual people on Twitter separately from her consultancy's account . "I feel sad people think that's important to follow a ton of random people or have people with a lot of followers to be important or get value from Twitter."

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