You have 140 characters remaining. Your fingers are poised over the keys as your mind mulls over the message you want to send out to friends, coworkers and a whole bunch of strangers you've never met. The character counter stares up from the screen, issuing a tacit challenge: Cut out unnecessary words. Shorten that hyperlink. Use contractions. Your message is complete, and the character counter has turned red. Four characters remaining. Success!
Twitter is a social network like no other: It encourages brevity and operates on a system where popular and/or interesting people have many followers. While some use bite size Twitter messages to quickly inform the world every time they eat a banana, the tweeters with thousands of followers use the medium to entertain or spread interesting information and commentary.
Part of being a popular Twitter personality comes from recognition. What have you done? Who do you know? Can you comment on the technology industry or crack a great joke? Do you draw comic books or work for a popular company? If people have a reason to follow you, it's up to you to give them a reason to stick around. That's where learning to tweet comes in.
Post messages with poor grammar and boring content and your follower count will probably stay fairly stagnant. But post on trending topics, put thought into your tweets, share stuff you find really cool, and you might be surprised by how much your social circle grows. Know your audience: Do they expect Indiana Jones references or sharp analysis of Wall Street trades? More importantly, find a good rhythm for tweeting. Tweeting infrequently is fine, but you may not see much follower growth if you're only posting a message a day or every several days. Posting too often is much worse: No one wants to see their Twitter feed clogged up by a single person, especially if that person is repeatedly spamming the same link over and over again to drive traffic to a Web site.
Don't worry too much about making a mistake -- though Twitter messages go out instantly, they can easily be deleted and re-posted with a correction. Over the next three pages we'll break down the important elements of a tweet like links and hashtags, explain how to compose a good tweet and list a few tools that can help you become a better tweeter.