As I have invited a few more friends to use Twitter, I usually get in response, "What is Twitter?" Though it is not clear why they may want to use Twitter, they do make an account. My first piece of advice is to think of Twitter as having conversations. Like conversations, there are few rules.
However, they often don't find the potential right away because they are using the Twitter web page only. To have conversations, there must be others to converse with and there must be some sort of flow. My advice to Twitter beginners.
1. Make an Twitter account.
2. Follow people you know.
3. Follow some people who your friends are following. Find these people by looking at your friends' pages.
4. Send updates from your personal friends and close colleagues to your phone via SMS (text message).
5. Install a desktop application to get "real time" updates. Examples are Twitteroo, Twhirl, or Twitterific. I recently switched from Twitteroo to Twhirl.
With time, Twitter conversations will move from just small talk conversations to sharing links, resources, and ideas.
I use Twitter because I find people interesting. To understand different perspectives, you must converse with them, and mostly listen. Simply, I like to learn. I follow people who represent different professions and interests. Truly, it is fascinating to see different perspectives.
I have not been worried about how many people follow me or how many I follow. When reading Twitter updates, I have found that I pay more attention to my colleagues than from general Twitter friends. Though, I take more notice to links and resources if different Twitter friends mention them.
I did have all updates coming to my phone. When the sheer number of text messages became irritating, I turned off all updates with the exception of my colleagues and a few people I follow who I find interesting, yet they don't update too often. I use Twhirl as my desktop application to get constant real time updates. I also use a news reader to glance at any Twitter updates I might have missed in Twhirl.
Sol Young used Robert Scoble's post on The secret to Twitter as inspiration to increase the Twitter flow. Sol has increased the Twitter flow and written about the number of Tweet he reads in a minute, Sol uses twitter.com web site, Quotably.com, Adium as an XMPP/Jabber client, and email.
Twitter ‘Flow’ - Day 4 - Application Ideas and Metrics
‘Flow’ - day 3 - the volume is up
‘Flow’ - day 2
Scoble’s Secret to Twitter - I call it ‘flow’ (Day 1)
I am not sure I am ready to increase the flow to the same degree that Sol has, but certainly having the opportunity to learn and hear even more different perspectives is appealing.
Still confused about Twitter, maybe these links will help.
Wow, fast user-generated content
Advantages of Twitter
Twitter is My Village
Why is Twitter Exploding? Because it's A Conversation Ecosystem
The Big Juicy Twitter Guide
Can Twitter Be Used For Business?
If You Can’t Let Go, Twitter - New York Times
How To Use Twitter How To Split An Atom
48 hours of twitter - Google Search