Looking for a new job, Alexa Scordato didn't email or call her contacts about possible openings. Instead, she messaged them via the social-networking Web site Twitter.com.
Her brief message: "Hey there! Looking for a Social Media job up in Boston. Are you guys doing any entry level hires?"
Within a week, she had an interview. Within two weeks, she had a job.
The site, which lets users publish supershort updates of what they're doing, is a virtual meeting ground where a range of communities -- from moms to media professionals -- come to converse informally.
It's been criticized as a site for sharing mundane details about everyday activities. But people like 22-year-old Ms. Scordato, who used Twitter to privately message some people she'd met at a conference, show the site can be more than that.
"I would guess that if I had just sent them a long email with my résumé, I might not have gotten a response as fast as I did," says Ms. Scordato, who was hired by Mzinga, a Boston-area company that helps businesses use social technology.
Users, known as Twitterers, post short updates that appear in their online profiles. They can choose to follow each other's updates, called tweets, and respond either publicly through posts or privately via direct message. All entries must be 140 characters or less.
Twitter doesn't release user numbers, but most public estimates put the user base at around four million to five million, with about 30% or more being very new or limited users.
To get started, build a profile that shows your interests and start Twittering. Because you have no more than 140 characters to describe yourself in your bio, use key words that reveal your goals. Make more information accessible by linking to your Web site, blog or profile on a professional networking site like LinkedIn.
Amy Ziari, a 24-year-old looking for a public-relations job in San Francisco, links to her blog on her Twitter profile and lists her Twitter alias on her résumé to show recruiters she is "not a faceless résumé -- there's somebody behind it."
You'll find major companies and recruiters on the site, and should follow the big names in your industry.
Most users get emails alerting them about new followers, and may choose to follow you as well if your biography and tweets get their attention.
Initiate conversations with other users by responding to their tweets. You can share updates you find useful by reposting them on your profile.
Never twitter about anything you wouldn't want your boss or mother to see, and tell your friends to keep their tweets to you appropriate.
Be careful about publicizing your job hunt on Twitter if you don't want your boss reading about it. But if you're unemployed, sending an occasional tweet that explains the kind of job you're looking for could yield responses from recruiters. You can also seek jobs being promoted on the site by searching for phrases like "job opening."
Twittering about your personal life is fine, to an extent -- it's something most Twitterers do. But keep it to a minimum.
"I would rather see someone who posts good-quality information than what they had for lunch," said Lindsay Olson, who uses Twitter to recruit for Paradigm Staffing, a staffing agency that focuses on public relations and marketing.