This is a brief users guide for those curious about how it works, wondering about its value, and wanting to get the most from the experience.
What Is Twitter?
Twitter is commonly referred to as "micro-blogging." While this is an accurate description, I've found that it confuses some people (non-bloggers especially).
Imagine it is a post-it note. You don't have a lot of space (140 characters) so brevity is required. When you jot something down on your post-it note, it gets stuck to your refrigerator door, much like you might do at home. However, in this scenario, anyone can see the notes posted on your frig. And you can see anyone else's.
How Does It Work? Like most web 2.0 applications, the best advice is to just try it out. (You can't do it wrong and you won't break it - just give it a whirl.)
You sign up with a name of your choice. After that, find people you know or are interested in following. Twitter can pull from your email contacts to see if your friends and family already have Twitter accounts.
Twitter accounts are identified with an "at" symbol in front. So when discussing your Twitter account, you would say @YourName. Events use a hash mark. For instance, you can search for all Olympic tweets using #080808.
You can view anyone's notes (or "tweets") and anyone can sign up to view yours. Don't worry - you will get an email letting you know every time someone follows you.
And of course, all of this is free.