Overview: twitter is a microblogging application that is more or less a combination of instant messaging and blogging. twitter has quickly established itself as a powerful tool for communicating news, market trends, questions and answers, links, and a whole lot more with numerous benefits for business and personal use.

Defined: For many users, twitter is a strange and worthless application for the first month or so of use. However, once users become accustomed to the world of microblogging they quickly become ambassadors for this fast growing application, with so many new users that twitter is still struggling to keep up with capacity. The basic premise of the application is that users receive a customizable profile page and can “tweet” short updates of less than 140 characters that answer the question “what are you doing?” These updates are then compiled on the profile of other users that decide to follow your updates and you’ll see their updates as well should you choose to follow them.

Here’s a quick screen shot of what it looks like:

Now at first you may just be tweeting all by yourself, but very quickly other people will find your profile and decide to follow your updates based on any number of reasons, usually because you share a similar interest or location on your profiles, which are searchable. Over time, your network of followers will become much larger and you’ll be able to send and receive communication with all your contacts at once or individually with direct messages. People can tweet as often as they like, sharing information as simple as “headed to work” to more detailed and engaging tweets such as “anyone seen that story about the Somali pirates taking over an oil rig? here’s the link …” It may take a little time, but you will soon create your own network for communicating and engaging with people and businesses about whatever you want to share.

It’s up to you to choose who you’d like to receive updates from, it could be news updates from CNN or beer release dates from your favorite brewery, personal tweets from your coworkers and friends, or maybe just random people who share your passion for a particular sports team. You can use twitter to ask general questions to your followers, share links to your favorite sites or personal blog, or just keep others updated on your activities throughout the day. You can become as engaged as you see fit and communicate however much or little you feel comfortable with.

Business Applications: twitter has wonderful value for business and is already being used by thousands of organizations around the world. With twitter, businesses can update their customer base about new happenings and events, ask for feedback, share links to drive traffic back to their website, communicate with employees, expand their brand, and much more. twitter is a smart and effective way (not to mention free) for companies to engage current and prospective customers and gives your organization a higher level of approachability. One of the most interesting business uses that I’ve seen is live coverage of events, where someone is tweeting from inside an exclusive event and keeping the outside world up to date with what’s happening just seconds after it happens. There are countless other ways for businesses to utilize twitter, some advanced uses of twitter include UPS shipment tracking, polling, and an alarm clock feature among many others.

Recommendation: In my own experience I’ve found twitter to be an excellent communication tool for both business and personal use. While twitter may seem worthless at first, I recommend giving it a try for at least a month. It’s true that twitter can become a distraction for some, but with so many benefits and uses my opinion is that twitter is well worth investing some time into.