Twitter for Skeptics

5 Ways You Can Use Twitter. Yes, you.

“Oh, I don’t tweet.” I’ve heard it more times than I can count. Whether they are skeptics, Facebook-loyalists, or just plain late adopters, people who aren’t on twitter don’t know what they’re missing. Twitter is changing the internet. Will you be left behind?

People who have never used twitter commonly think of it as another version of Facebook. “The last thing I need is another social network where people post every mundane detail of their day.” While there are some twitter users who tweet whenever they pick up coffee (please don’t), twitter is not just a collection of status updates from friends. Facebook and twitter are very different and can be used for distinct purposes.

Twitter is all about who you follow. Unlike Facebook, twitter relationships aren’t mutual, meaning that you can “follow” someone even if they aren’t following you. Fan of Lady Gaga? John McCain? BBC News? 30 Rock? Condé Nast Careers? Follow them on twitter. Your twitter feed will become a real-time news source that is tailored to your specific interests.

That’s when the fun starts. Stay on top of your personalized feed, and you’ll learn about events and giveaways that might not be posted anywhere else. I’m a huge fan of the New York Yankees, so I follow the players, fellow fans and all the sports writers who cover the team. On a day when I had tickets to a game, the beat writers wrote that three of the Yankees pitchers would be greeting fans who arrived at 4:00 p.m. Thank you twitter, for my picture with Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes.

“Oh, that’s nice,” says the skeptic.

“But wait, there’s more!”

You can build your own community by tweeting interesting links, articles and comments on others’ posts. John built a following by regularly posting his beautiful photos of New York City. Soon enough, his fans were clamoring to buy prints of his pictures. Voila, a business was born.

Twitter grants the average person access to people they otherwise may not be able to communicate with. You can send a message to someone, even if they aren’t following you. Just include the @ symbol in front of their user name. Your favorite actor/reporter/athlete just may see your tweet and write back to you, or start following you back.

When my friend’s stepdaughter went missing, I sent messages to several high-profile tweeters, hoping they would re-post it. New York City anchor Pat Kiernan replied that he would check in the news room for updates. To my surprise, actress Alyssa Milano wrote back immediately and asked for more concrete information that she could repost to her one million followers.

By adding a hashtag to my Yankees-related tweets (“Let’s go #Yankees!”), I found other passionate fans from around the country. Their tweets added another dimension to games. In real time, I could see their cheers and learn stats I might otherwise have missed. Two of the Yankees beat writers started following me back, and invited me to drop by the press box before a game. How else would I have gotten to do that?

Here are some recommendations to get you started.

For news headlines: @NYTimes, @CNN, @nprnews, @WSJ.

For a laugh: @capricecrane, @gordonshumway, @shitmydadsays, @thesulk.

Celebrity tweeters: @aplusk (Ashton Kutcher), @mrskutcher (Demi Moore), @rainnwilson, @sethmeyers21, @donniewahlberg, @mindykaling.

For interesting links from around the world: @ebertchicago, @patkiernan, @legalnomads @HAWTaction.

As for me, I’m @Julie_Stone.

If you’re already a twitter user, how do you use the site? Who are your favorite people to follow? What benefits have you had from using twitter?

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