Three weeks ago, Ted Koppel was the guest speaker at a luncheon at The Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas. He was taking all the listeners on a trip back over 40 years ago to the Vietnam War, and how his news coverage made the journey into the homes of Americans. After interviews and footage was shot, it was taken to a nearby twitter-radar1airport and put on a plane to Hong Kong. From Hong Kong the next stop was to Tokyo, and then on to New York. The footage and recordings were rushed into the city where they were edited and prepared for the evening news to be broadcasted out to millions. The journey from the war zone to the evening news took 2.5 days on average. And then Mr. Koppel said, “but with Twitter I can find out what happened two and a half minutes ago.”

We waited to bring you a post on Twitter, and can confidently say this is not a passing trend. Here’s what it is and how it works, and how to use it efficiently so as to not take up too much time:

Tweets, Tweetups and Tweeple – the lingo

Tweets: The message written within the 140 chacter limit

Tweet-up: Sending out a message to your “followers” letting them know to meet up for a cup of coffee, or an important charity event that you want to help spread the word.

Tweeple: Twitter + People = Tweeple

It sounds like an ewok language, or perhaps something ornithologists would find interesting. But, Twitter just hit the 18 million users mark in October of 2009 and is projected to grow to 26 million users in 2010, according to Mashable.com. Many people have tried to avoid dealing with Twitter in their business strategy, but at some point, you have to wonder—what is going on and am I missing the boat?

The Long and 140 Characters Short of Twitter

Twitter is a broadcasting tool that allows you to follow people based on what niche subjects you find interesting, and also allows you to broadcast your short messages to people who follow you. Some call it “micro-blogging” but really it is more like mass instant messaging.

So Oprah does it, Should I?

Tweeting is time consuming and it has been reported that there is a 40% drop out rate for new accounts. In the digital industry we would say that it is not too sticky. But for those who become converts, it becomes a way of life. In our “Brand Called You” society, this type of narcissism could be seen as marketing. Or it could just put you in touch with:

People Who Suck

It is the “GIGO effect” —Garbage in, Garbage out. If you choose to follow vapid people or businesses and are not discerning about your followers the results will not be good. Yet, we have all heard of massive successes. Twitter is a world where Ashton Kutcher beat CNN to 1 million followers. Twitter may be that gnat you keep swatting at but won’t go away. Or you can see it as an amazing 1-to-many platform for getting the word out for new products, services, openings, and other types of news.

(People Who Don’t)

  • How about immediate updates from the FDA?  Or, you can follow the FDA’s alternate Twitter account that only posts on matters involving women.
  • Never got the chance to follow the Grateful Dead?  Learn new facts and stay up to date on emerging music.  Rolling Stone magazine is great too!
  • Lance Armstrong, Time Magazine, National Public Radio, or Jet Blue’s latest special on airfare
  • And as for Ashton, he’s actually in this category.

Strategic Time Management and Meta Social Networking

What is happening in the world of social networking is that there are amalgamated services that can take time out of updating profiles, getting followers, and analyzing social media reach. Here are some programs and sites on the Web that can make using Twitter more efficient and less of a time toilet:

TweetDeck: Installs in a minute on a desktop and allows you to update Twitter, Myspace and Facebook with the click of a mouse. That’s killing three birds with one stone!

TwitterSheep: Allows you to see the most prevalent tags of your followers in “cloud” format.

SocialOomph: Schedule Tweets, track keywords, and automate ads and follows.

Twellow: Lists of the most followed Twitter accounts by subject matter. If you are in a specific industry, choose to follow the top 20 or so.

Whether you are a sheep or a shepherd, try these tools to see if Twitter works for you.

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