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By Ed Nicholson
Another in a series about social media and how those engaged in the issue of hunger might use them to build community.  If you’re already using these tools, this will be elementary stuff.  If you’re not, I encourage you to try them out.

Twitter is a social media tool that’s seen explosive growth recently. Kind of a cross between instant messaging and blogging (sometimes called “micro-blogging”) Twitter allows you to send updates—“Tweets”—of 140 characters or less to a network of “followers”  Tweets can be received either via the Web or an instant-messaging device. 

Twitter is used to inform, promote, stimulate discussion, build networks, and communicate among friends.  Its most effective adherents use it for all of these.

I won’t go into much detail about how to effectively use Twitter.  Too many have already done a great job of that, and some links are posted below.

There are a number of other Twitter-like applications—Pownce, Plurk, and others, but Twitter is the most widely-used.

Twitter is definitely an acquired taste. I can almost assure you, you won’t “get it” when you first sign up for it.  In order to understand its potential, you’ll need to begin following several people. A recommended “starter list” is included below.  It’s also important that you send updates of your own.

I believe you will be using Twitter, or a Twitter-like application someday.  Might as well start now.  Go to http://twitter.com and sign up (it’s free).  You’re welcome to “follow” me.  Do that by going to http://twitter.com/ederdn and clicking the little "follow" button under my name.  Then send an update that includes @ederdn, and I’ll follow you back. Let me know that you read this message.  Let’s see if we can build a group of Twitter users within this community.

A few randomly selected articles on twitter (there are hundreds–Google "basic twitter" if you want more)

Twitter for Beginners

9 Ways to Find People to Follow on Twitter

Power Tweeting: 101 Everyday Uses for Twitter

Get into Twitter or Get Outta Public Relations–Todd Defren

These are good people to follow as you start out. Don’t be shy. Go to these links and hit the "follow" button.

http://twitter.com/chrisbrogan  Chris Brogan

http://twitter.com/kanter  Beth Kanter (blogs about social media and non-profits)

http://twitter.com/jowyang Jeremiah Owyang

http://twitter.com/steverubel Steve Rubel

http://twitter.com/daveiam David Neff–social media guru for American Cancer Society see also:

http://twitter.com/AmericanCancer How a national non-profit reaches Twittering stakeholders

http://twitter.com/clarknwark Michael Clark

http://twitter.com/ederdn me

You might also try putting your geographic location in Twitter’s search bar to see who in your area is using Twitter.

If you have a good instant messaging plan, I recommend turning the "device update" on for one or two of those you follow.

Good luck and let me know how it goes.