Think of Twitter as a ticker tape of headlines. One of the positive and negative features of twitter is you only get 140 characters to “tweet” what you want to say so most people are making short comments or writing a headline with a link to the full article/additional information.
So as a business owner or individual, what do you do with Twitter (how do you use Twitter). The short answer is you get lots of information about something you are interested in. As an individual, to use twitter, you can follow the latest information about a favorite sports team, cooking or politics.  TIME has a great article on how the opposition used twitter during the election protests in Iran. As a business owner you use twitter to become a subject matter expert in your field. The impact of building credibility can be enormous is you use twitter correctly. It give you the ability to be at the cutting edge of your industry and as you start to read and follow you will begin to form your own opinions and start you own tweets.
Where to start:

  1. Get a twitter account. Go to www.twitter.com and sign up for an account. If this is a business account I would recommend a user name using a keyword or keyword phrase relevant to your business.
  2. Twitter is very light on information you can add to your page, but make sure to fill in everything you can. Use a photo of a real person, if you want to advertise the business possibly put the web address and/or name in text at the bottom of the photo (although the images on twitter are pretty small). People like to deal with people.
  3. Twitter does allow you to upload a custom background image. This is a great way to add additional information by creating a background image that includes text about you and/or your business. This is where you can really add quality information/build trust. NOTE: The content area on Twitter is approximately 760 pixels so you will need to make your image wider than that if you want the information to show.

The next step will take a little more time and work. You now need to start finding and following people that are “tweeting” about your subject of interest. There are three ways to start this process. First you can go through a list of top tweeters. www.twitterholic.com is a great resource for this. The second is to go to the Find People link at the top of your home page. There are several features but the easiest if you already have a Gmail, Yahoo or AOL email account is the “Find Friends” tab, it will go through your account and recognize twitter people you know. The third option is to start searching for your key term and see who is tweeting. When you find someone you think is good click on their icon and when the page opens up their will be a “follow” button. NOTE: before you decide to follow them, look at their following, follower and tweet numbers. You want to follow people that are active and have a lot of followers and follow a lot of people.
Tips and Tricks on how to use twitter.

Mobility – Most major brands of phones (iPhone, Blackberry, Android, Palm) have twitter apps that allow you to tweet and follow twitter from your phone if you are not at a computer very often.
URL Shortening – Because you only have a 140 characters, if you are going to include a link to a site or an article you need to keep it short. The best way to do this is by using a link shortening service. The most common one seems to be http://bit.ly/ . It is extremely easy to use. Paste your URL in and it will give you a shortened URL you can use as an alternative.
The Hashtag – people on twitter use the “#” symbol at the front of a subject phrase so others can easily find that information in a search. Example- #seo would be used to search information and tweets about search engine optimization.
The At sign – people use the [email protected] at the front of twitter user names to denote that user when they tweet about a person. Example – @darrensquires would be used if someone was tweeting about Darren Squires or if someone wanted to search for tweets that referenced Darren Squires.
Retweet – If one of the people you are following posts a interesting article you can distribute it to everyone following you by simply selecting the retweet button.
Favorites – You have the option to mark favorite tweets by clicking on the Star icon to the right of a tweet
Reply – Referred to as @reply in twitter. You can reply to a tweet by clicking on the reply to the right of a tweet. An alternate method is in your updates window at the top you can type @username followed by a message and twitter will recognizes this as a message to that user. NOTE: it will be a public message. See Direct Message for private conversations.
Direct Messages – You can only send direct messages to people that are following you. Twitter does this to keep spamming down. In order to send a direct message you can find the individual click on their image which will bring you to their page, then on the right hand side will be a link to message them. Alternately you can click on the direct message link on your side bar and the direct message page will open with a drop down of your followers.

Do not be afraid to Tweet !!!

This is not meant to be all encompassing, but as a getting started.  If you see anything that needs correcting or important information or tricks that were left out on how to use twitter, please leave a comment or shoot me an email.