Recently, I’ve been asked how to use Twitter.

I’ve already written on Twitter for Fundraising and Twitter for nonprofits. But these questions were much more “tactical,” how-to type questions so I thought I’d share with you what I’ve been telling folks.

The questions work into 3 basic categories:

  1. What do you use to tweet?
  2. How do I find people to follow on Twitter?
  3. What are “hashtags”? And should I care?

Today, I’ll tackle the first question.

What do you use to tweet?

One of the neatest things about Twitter is that there are so many ways to use it. From basic text messages to websites to full-blown desktop programs, you can experience the full benefits of Twitter without ever going to the site.

I’m currently using a web-based app called HootSuite [affiliate link]. HootSuite lets me easily switch between my multiple Twitter accounts (@marcapitman, @inlandfound, @twestivalmaine). It allows me to see my tweet stream (the updates from the people I follow), my “mentions” (tweets that are addressed to me or mention me), and my direct messages (private tweets) all on one screen.

A very popular desktop program I’ve experimented with is TweetDeck. This allows you to do all the same things but from a program on your computer. I’m working from a couple computers every day so a web-based app like HootSuite is much more convenient.

When I’m using my phone, I love Dabr. This site is accessible right from your phone’s web browser, so it doesn’t need to install on your phone like PockeTwit or TinyTwitter.

Dabr allows you a quite robust list of features. On every tweet you are easily able to reply, favorite, retweet, or direct message. And it’s optimized for your phone so rather than having to hit the tiny “replies” link, you can just press the “1” on your phone.

Another great thing about Dabr is that it can be used from your desktop web browser too. I often find myself having Dabr open even when I’m using HootSuite. The nicely linear format of Dabr allows many more tweets to fit on the screen than anything I’ve seen yet, and makes them easy to read.

When Dabr is down due to Twitter having technical issues, I’ve found Slandr to be helpful when tweeting from my phone. It’s not as robust as Dabr but it does get the job done.

Another interesting way to read your tweets is TweetMiner. It has the aspects I like about HootSuite and Dabr, but I’m liking it even more! I’m surprised, because unlike all the the other, free versions, this is a paid service. Definitely worth checking out. I find it much easier to keep track of my lists and searches with TweetMiner.

And finally, there’s the actual Twitter site. I’m quite impressed with the enhancements they continue to make over time. I find myself using this every once in a while. It’s also one of the only places you can actually delete DMs (direct messages). But now that HootSuite allows for deleting DMs, I am frequenting the Twitter site less.

I’ve been tweeting since mid-2007 and have typed over 11,000 tweets, but I still feel like a relative beginner. If you’re already on Twitter, please use the comments here to share with everyone what tools you’re finding helpful to tweet from.

[This is the first in a series of 3 Twitter 101 blog posts. The next is about how to find interesting people to follow on Twitter.

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