Flocking to Twitter

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One of the fastest growing services on the Web is a paragon of pith, and is playing an increasingly important role for businesses of all sizes.

On the free, microblogging platform Twitter, users share a wide range of thoughts, resources, and questions -- provided each posted update is no longer than 140 characters. While still a smaller number than on such online social networks as Facebook or MySpace, global visitors to Twitter rose almost fivefold to 5.57 million in September over 2007, as reported by Bloomberg.com, and corporate users include Starbucks, NPR, and NASA. Indie booksellers, too, are among those "tweeting" on the service, communicating with users who have joined their network of followers.

The service is easy to use. The first step is to set up an account and to create a profile, including enough pertinent information to make clear you are an authentic user and not a spammer. The next step is to begin "following" other Twitter users. ABA's Sarah Rettger has written a concise introduction to Twitter, which includes the URLs for a number of booksellers, ABA staff, and other interesting users. In addition, the service's search tool -- located at the bottom of Twitter's web page -- is another resource for discovering interesting voices and insights.

Business users of all sizes emphasize that the most important next step is to listen before you tweet. Once you begin tweeting, there are additional tools and service protocols that allow you to directly respond or reply to previous tweets and to further share an intriguing earlier post. (The ABA Twitter intro offers a range of tips and resources.)

Among other uses, booksellers note that Twitter can be used to announce upcoming events or new blog posts, to handsell a favorite title (with a link to the store website), or to brainstorm new ideas with peers.

And if you join the flock, ABA users hope that you will let us know so that we can follow you. --Dan Cullen