Thursday, August 12, 2010

Twitter in 10 Minutes

Awhile back I wrote a short, hopefully helpful piece called "Five-Minute Facebook," for everyone who 1) avoids Facebook because "I don't have time," or 2) Loves Facebook but hates the timesuck it can be.

Now, for the Twitter avoiders, here are instructions for how to get started on Twitter ... in 10 minutes.

First, some clarifications.

· You are right. "Twitter" is a dumb name, "Twitterer" sounds stupid, and "tweet" is something birds do. We didn't name the thing, so we just have to get over/ignore it.
· You'll often hear Twitter described as a "micro-blogging site." I disagree with that description. Some people do use it so--and those are the people everyone complains about, tweeting things like "I had a BLT for lunch." We are smarter, so we think of it as a cross between instant messaging/texting/status updating.
· You can sign up for Twitter, and never, ever tweet a thing yourself. In fact, I recommend it.
· You can sign up for Twitter, and never, ever visit the main Twitter page where you see tweets from everybody in the universe flying by. It's mesmerizing, offensive, fascinating, and mostly useless. We'll use Twitter lists instead, and follow only people who are sharing interesting information about stuff we care about.
· The web page is where we'll get started, but I'll recommend a couple better ways to follow a Twitter stream.
· You, grasshopper, are reluctant to even try, but after a day or are hooked. Information was never so immediate, and fun.

Let's get started:
1. Go to and sign up. Chose a user name that's short and/or funny and/or descriptive and/or generic. Use whatever you're comfortable with; Twitter will let you know if it's available. Guard your privacy--don't share your email, don't share your location, don't upload a picture, and DO check 'protect my tweets.' You can always change these settings if you want.
2. Now, find tweets to follow. Follow only people interesting to you:

· Twitter can look through your contacts to see if anyone you know is tweeting. If you are comfortable with this, go ahead. Your friends may be following people who are also interesting to you.
· To quickly get started, visit: You'll be asked to sign in; do so if you are comfortable; it makes it easier to follow people from here. Twitterers are grouped by subject into lists. Click on a topic that interests you; an expanded list will appear. Click on a interesting name and click 'follow.' You'll now see those person's tweets when you are logged into
· On any web site you visit frequently, look for the Twitter logo or the Twitter "T". Click it, and you'll be directed to a Twitter feed to follow.
· Twitter will begin recommending Twitterers for you to follow, based on your interests.

3. Done. You're on Twitter! You can now open, sign in, and watch the information scroll by. Remember, you can always unfollow anyone you don't like. You never have to follow Aston Kushner, Oprah, or Lady Gaga if you don't want to! And if you want to throw a tweet out there ... go ahead!

When you have more than 10 minutes, try these things:

· Read Twitter Basics>>
· Read about using Twitter Lists>>
· Use a different method to follow Twitter. I suggest Tweetdeck ( It's an easy-to-use, downloadable application that will let you organize Twitter streams better, tweet easier, and also has a directory. You might also look at Hootsuite ( It's web-based.

And feel free to follow me: 

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