OK, I admit it: I’m a techno dinosaur. I didn’t own a cell phone until a few years ago and I didn’t have a BlackBerry until last year. I’m not on LinkedIn or Facebook, and I don’t spend my free time blogging or building my own Web site. (I work full time and I have three “boys”–a husband and two teenagers–so I don’t have any free time.)
Nevertheless, I recently joined  Twitter, and I now see the light of social networking.

Green building pros, too, are turning to Twitter because it can help them follow industry news and develop online connections with potential clients and green experts–and best of all, it’s free. Some users quickly become addicted to Twitter, including Katy Tomasulo, EcoHome’s deputy editor, who says the site lets her view feeds from her favorite green Web sites and people all in one place while also sharing EcoHome’s and her own expertise.

Twitter isn’t easy to define. Essentially it’s a Web-based service that shares qualities with blogging, social networking, instant messaging, and chatting, but is not exactly any of these things. Twitter provides an easy, quick, and cheap way to deliver messages by allowing you to broadcast 140-character “tweets” to your followers from your computer or cell phone–everything from what you’re doing right now (“at Starbucks having a latte”) to posting news about and links to your projects (“Florida home certified LEED Platinum”) to interesting links you want to share. Users choose which people, companies, or organizations they want to “follow” to create a customized news feed. And joining is free.

A few weeks ago, our sister Web site, Builder Online, began posting its stories and blog entries on Twitter, and Builder’s senior editor, online, Alison Rice, “tweets” every day. EcoHome’s senior Web producer, Ian Blyth, set up a Twitter page for EcoHome soon after, and as of today, it has 105 followers. Other groups, from Starbucks coffee to super-star cyclist Lance Armstrong, have thousands of followers.

I think it’s a waste of time to tweet “having dinner with Bart and talking stuff,” which is what Armstrong posted last night, but I recognize Twitter’s usefulness to EcoHome magazine and Web site, and more importantly, to the green home building community. A lot of green pros and eco-friendly groups are using the site to exchange information about issues and programs and to answer questions from homeowners about green products and energy and water efficiencies. One home builder, who goes by the Twitter name GreenDecoder, is very active: he gets his name out there by commenting on news items and posting links to his own blog that contains all types of green info and links.

Like traditional builders and remodelers, green pros are grappling with the ailing housing market and sinking economy, so Twitter also is an inexpensive marketing solution to promote your expertise and your services. For instance, I’ve seen green builders offering tips while driving readers to their Web sites to learn more about their green building practices. Pulte Homes markets its promotions but also offers supplemental information such as “Selling your home? Try these new techniques for making your home more attractive for buyers. http://tinyurl.com/66rn3z.” The Home Depot also tweets, with its representative offering tips about making houses more energy efficient. The posts aren’t ads, but the Home Depot logo is prominently displayed.

What I really like about Twitter is you can only post 140 characters in a single message, which I think forces Twitterers to make their point fast for all of us who have no free time. In next week’s issue of EcoHome Update, Jeff Lee will have a full report on what Twitter means to green housing pros. Until then, get tweeting.

Jean Dimeo is Chief Editor, Online, for EcoHome. Follow EcoHome on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ecohomemagazine.