Schools, news organizations joining in on Twitter

Twitter asks only one question – “what are you doing?”

That question has led to millions of people jumping on the Twitter bandwagon to not only answer that question, but to respond to what people are doing all over the world.

But is this a growing social phenomena or will it be a passing fad like so many others. The word “twitter” or “tweeting” has been splashed across newspapers and across television as the site grows. In a recent Examiner online survey, 73 percent of those who responded had never heard of Twitter or had heard of the site but never tried it.

For those who have never tried “tweeting,” here is a crash course, including an example of how one reporter might tweet about her day.

What is Twitter?

   I got to sleep in this morning thanks to my wonderful husband. Now I need to start working on my Twitter story before I go to work tonight.

Much like its predecessors Facebook and Myspace, Twitter is a free, social-networking site rising in popularity thanks to celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher. Launched in 2006, Twitter was created with the simple idea of finding out what others are doing using 140-character tweets, which are like text messages from the computer or an Internet-accessible cellular phone.

“I think a lot of businesses and bigger people like celebrities use it to connect with people,” said Ian Bailey, Independence. “It is a way to stay in touch with people you know.”

Who Tweets?

I am having a great lunch at CiCi’s with my husband and daughter. Then off to run a few errands before heading to the office.

 By answering that one question of “What are you doing?” the girl down the street, the senator of Missouri and the star of the latest hit movie can express to millions of people what they are doing at any given moment.

Businesses use Twitter to increase their marketing capabilities. President Barack Obama tweets as do celebrities such as Lindsey Lohan, Paris Hilton and John Mayer. School districts are also coming onboard. The Lee’s Summit and Fort Osage school districts tweet, and even news organizations such as KMBC-TV and CNN send out hourly updates of breaking news.

With thousands of options, those with a Twitter account can “follow” people and have followers themselves. Every time someone posts a tweet, it appears on the user’s home page, and they then can respond too it.

Here are some examples of celebrities and organizations that have been “tweeting.”

“I think we should all collabowrite a movie on twitter. These jokes are really great.” Ashton Kutcher, 2.43 million followers.

“Fireworks possibly started KC Apt. House Fire: Firefighters say fireworks may have caused a fire in apartment...” KMBC-TV, 1,689 followers.

“The House is voting on a historic clean energy bill today. Have you called your representative about it?” President Barack Obama, 1.56 million followers.

“Medical examiner orders additional testing done to determine how Michael Jackson died,” CNN, 2 million followers.

Twitter vs. Facebook.

I should be writing, but I got distracted by all of the Michael Jackson news. Can you believe that at 50, he died?! What a music legend.

With an estimated 17 million users, it ranks as third among social networking sites, behind Facebook with more than 300 million users and Myspace with 126 million users, according to research firm ComScore Inc.

But it does have the distinction of being one of the fastest growing sites in the last year rising from 450,000 users in 2008 to 7 million in February.

“I personally have never used Twitter. My friends and I are more Facebook people,” said Kate Martin, a senior at Fort Osage High School. “I like Facebook because it is a way to keep in touch with family who may not live so close and your friends. My mom also uses it to check up on me and my brothers.”

Why Tweet?

I finally made it into the office and finished my Twitter story. I like it. Then, my editor made a few tweaks to my tweets. LOL.

The appeal to Twitter is simple – it is easy to use. In just a few short words, users can tell someone what they are doing and receive a response.

Getting started.

Man, I hate this heat! But, I think I have made all of the revisions to my story. It is now ready for the paper. What do you think?

It is easy to get a Twitter account. Simply visit the Twitter Web site at and register.

Once registered, the site allows a user to search for people they might know with Twitter accounts through online e-mail address books. A search engine is also available that allows users to search by name, username or e-mail address. A mobile phone application is available for users to “tweet” via cell phone.

“I don’t usually get involved in a site like this until my friends are doing it too,” said Marc Crowley, Independence. “You want to make sure your friends are doing it.”