There's no shame in being hesitant to join Twitter. Yes, it's without a doubt time to take the plunge and witness the benefits for yourself, but few people have enthusiastically signed up; almost all of us dipped our toes in with hesitance. Most start off with a tweet along the lines of: "This is a waste of time. I'm only doing this because everyone tells me I have to." It's pretty much the Twitter Rite of Passage to be skeptical at the beginning.
And that's fine, as long as we're willing to change our minds when someone throws a light bulb at us. For those starting out now, here's a carton of 100-watts to light the way.
In a pinch, Twitter found a longshot source: A story of how Twitter saved me late on a Sunday night when my story looked hopeless.
New to Twitter? Here are 12 tips from the community: Vadim Lavrusik asked his followers to come up with advice for Twitter beginners.
Twitter for Newsrooms: A slightly more advanced guide that'll help answer why you're doing this.
Before you do anything, make sure you've filled out a short biography (mention who you work for, and it'd probably help to mention your beat). Send a few initial tweets to say who you are, what you want to accomplish here, and maybe link to an interesting story you read elsewhere.
Now to start following people. Here are some journalists to get you started and give you some ideas.
Kristen Graham, Philadelphia Inquirer: @newskag
Tom Fitzgerald, Philadelphia Inquirer: @tomfitzgerald
Jeff McLane, Philadelphia Inquirer: @Jeff_McLane
But you don't want to stop at following other journalists, as listening is far more important on Twitter than broadcasting. To find some people in the Philly area to follow, you can start with my list of Philadelphia-area users. Pick some that look interesting to you, follow them, and they might follow you back. The important thing to remember here is you won't see any benefits until you build a network, which does take time, but those benefits will make it worthwhile.
For now, don't worry about advanced things like hashtags (consult Twitter pros like Sam Wood or Kristen Graham for more specific questions on that, and I'm happy to help out, too). Just focus on being interesting to your followers and building your network.
You can also ask your Twitter followers for help, because they love offering it.
I sent that tweet right at the beginning of our lunchtime Twitter session, and every response that follows came back within the hour. Notice how many different sources we heard from, and imagine that kind of helpfulness and diversity of thought applied to your stories.
I then switched gears and asked for an answer to what several people asked: How to build followers. Here are their responses.
(Be sure to click "Read More" when you reach the apparent bottom, as there's more behind the jump.)