"It is kind of like a chat board," says Technology Bytes radio show host Jay Lee. "It has taken that whole forward your joke in an email to another extreme. Instead of me sending an email to all of my contacts with the latest funny video I've found, via social media I can share this with ten, twenty, hundreds, thousands of people that are interested in my sense of humor or political leanings or whatever it is that I am into."
Twitter is called micro-blogging. Instead of typing up a full blog post with multiple sentences or paragraphs, Twitter lets you post a quick 140 character or less message. The messages, called Tweets, only go to the people who are following you. That can range from five to thousands of people. It all depends on how much you follow or make an impression on others to click a button and follow your feed.
What would you post? Tweets can range from breaking news to where someone went to lunch. It's really up to you. You can gauge interest by how many people follow or unfollow your account. KTRK has a full range of Twitter accounts offering Tweets like news, weather and sports. We cannot give you the full story in 140 characters so you see a summary and a link to the story on abc13.com. Click here to see the full list.
@KTRKHouston follower Mary Sias told us she loves Twitter because of the connections she has made.
"Twitter is way better than IM to me," Sias told us. "I love being turned in to the world, the news and things that matter to the general population of the world. Twitter keeps me on the cutting edge. It's the greatest thing for those [who] are home bound."
Jessica Kroll, who also follows @KTRKHouston on Twitter, says she likes to keep track of pop culture.
"It's an easy way to follow your friends and to see what everyone is talking about," Kroll said. "They have the trending topics on the side, and you can see what the big moment is like the Rockets winning or something trivial like apple shampoo. I also love that some celebrities and behind the scenes people such as makeup artists, [a] director of photography, and prop guys [working] on TV shows such as Heroes are online. You can get info straight from the source and some celebs will even tweet you back!"
Some use Twitter for more than just entertainment. Businesses have found that the service can be a new way to reach current and potential customers (the same for Facebook).
"Twitter allows us to promote our services and develop new relationships with an audience we hadn't previously pursued," equipment rental communications specialist Heather Schlichting told @KTRKHouston.
One thing you hear over and over again, take time to explore the service and follow people who write about topics you are interested in. You can simply start typing keywords into a Twitter search engine to find folks to follow.
Then there is Facebook. Facebook started off as a site for college students but eventually opened up the doors to everyone else. It is more similar to a site like MySpace with Twitter features.
"You can read as your friends and as your contacts on Facebook start to populate it with their actions, their web sites, their links, their songs," Lee told us. "You can follow along and you can comment back and kind of have a social interaction as a result of the contacts you have on Facebook."
More than just updates, Facebook also offers applications or "apps" that you can download to your profile to give you more features.
"It is an interface to the web that allows you to play games, which allow you to interact with other people, you can play against your friends or with your friends in a cooperative manner," Lee added. "You can also share photos, share videos that you've taken yourself that you can upload there so it's a hosting site or a repository for any number of things you do in the digital world."
Facebook has gained a reputation as a place to reconnect with old friends too. Once you sign on, you might be surprised at the number of friend requests you receive from names in your past.
One thing to be careful of with both sites is your reputation. Many stories have been published about scandalous photos or stories being published on social networking sites that catch up with the user later. For example, would you want a current or potential boss seeing photos from a wild party on Austin's 6th Street?
Overall, don't take the sites to seriously and know that you can stop following someone if they annoy you or post too much.
"Its an extremely personal thing how people use it," Lee said. "And it's just like anything else, if somebody wants to promote themselves - it's up to us to determine whether or not we are interested in what's being promoted. So, the nice thing about Facebook and Twitter is that someone maybe Tweeting a million miles a minute and it's the most inane drivel you've ever seen [but] you don't have to read it, you don't have to participate."
If you feel overwhelmed by the number of message vying for your attention, there is no rule you have to read them all. Limit your time on the sites to a couple of times a day if you feel overloaded.
Just be warned, you might become an addict or at least less productive at work.
"I like Twitter because I can load it on my iPhone and goof off at work," a person told @KTRKHouston who did not want to be identified.
Don't worry, your secret is safe with us.