Do you know what Twitter is? Maybe you have heard words like tweeting or tweeps and wondered what the fuss is all about? In this article I am going to explain Twitter using a couple of analogies.
Twitter is a micro-blogging service on the Internet. What does this mean? A blog is like a diary where you write things and publish on the Web. This article you are reading is published in a blog. However, each of my blog articles are planned and take a little while to write. Facebook is also a blogging service where you post text and pictures, however these updates can only be seen by your Facebook friends. Twitter is different – anyone can read your messages and find you, so be careful what you say.
A micro-blog is one where you wrote just a couple of sentences at a time, something like a text message. Twitter is similar to a global text message service where you type up to 160 characters, send into cyberspace and hope that someone reads it.
If you know someone is sending out messages you can follow there conversations by listening to their messages. The simplest way to do this is to go to the Twitter web site (www.twitter.com), set up an account, find the person you want to follow then click the Follow button. Once you have a Twitter account you can send messages by typing into the browser and clicking the Tweet button.
Twitter can be accessed on a smart phone but be aware of the data usage! You could use a lot of mobile network data to follow your list of people.
Every message you send is processed by Twitter and your content is processed in such a way that people can search for keywords. The power of Twitter is being able to tag your messages in such a way that other people can find you.
When you prefix a word with the ‘#’ sign, sometimes known as a “hash” sign, you create a “hashtag”. Now your message is searchable. If you posted the message “Excellent new #Japanese #restaurant in #Chatswood – Superb Sushi” other people could find this message when searching on any of the tags – Japanese, restaurant and Chatswood.
How do you choose a tag? It is really a matter of guess work and searching for that tag to see if has been used. Some tags will be obvious – example #Bjork (the musician) or #iPhone.
The Twitter web site tells you what tags are popular, giving you an indication of what people are tweeting about.
A common practice now is publish a hash tag for a conference or a specific event. This allows people to write about the event, include the hash tag and others can then find the conversations. When people tweet at an event using this hash tag, a conversation starts and this is known as the “back channel”. Presenters at conferences can check the messages for this tag and gauge the interest of the audience or listen for questions.
You can include URLS in your tweets but since these take up a lot of space, there are web services such as http://bit.ly where you can created shortened URLs.
I use Twitter to announce my blog posts. For example, I could announce this article with the text “Published article on how I use #Twitter – #global #textmessages URL”
Tweet And You Will Be Found
Twitter provides programmers with tools for searching all the messages being posted around the world. I once tweeted about the Wolfram Alpha web site and withing 30 minutes, I received an email notification that Wolfram Alpha was following me. It was quite eery to see how fast this happened.
Twitter Is Like A Global Cocktail Party
Have you ever gone to a cocktail party and wonderered who to speak with? You listen to the various conversations and listening for conversations on topics of interest. Maybe one group is talking about Japanese food – another is discussing a book you read. Meanwhile another group are talking politicss, so you decide to avoid the group.
All these conversations are like “tweets” with keywords. You can follow this conversations on Twitter by following people who talk abou things you are interested in, or you can search for a hashtag and save this search.
The Positive Side
Twitter is a useful communication channel for getting information from people and organisations of interest. Many companies, schools, universities, musicians, artists and industry groups post useful information. PetrucciMusic Library informs me of new music scores, Android Digest gives me news of mobile computing, Nancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds keep me updated in presentation and communication skills. Maria Popova announces updates to her wonderful Brain Pickings web site. Madman Entertainment informs me of new DVD releases.
I like to explore and experiment with new technology and that is why I use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, and other “social media”. I have stumbled upon some very interesting information found in a tweet.
The Negative Side
There is an incredible amount of rubbish out there. I am sure you have read about celebraties tweeting – follow these people if you wish (and your peril,). Follow people of interest, but if you don’t like what they are saying, just hit the Unfollow link. Many people use Twitter to promote their own businesses, multi-level marketing or other get-rich schemes. Be prepared to be followed by spammers and other nasty inhabitants of cyberspace. Don’t follow them – just ignore.
It is easy to spend too much time reading all the tweets. I tend to look at the Twitter web site once or twice a day for five minutes or so. Sometimes I don’t look at it for days (or weeks!).
You can also get swamped with updates. Regularly Unfollow people you are no longer interested in, and just focus on your main areas of interest.
Who Should You Follow?
You could start by following a friend or search for an area of interest. Look at who they are following and Follow people of interest. Click here to see who I am following, or click here to see who is following me. Look at who these people are following and follow people of interest.
Articles on web sites often give a Twitter address to follow. Look for the message “Follow me on Twitter” and click on the link.
How To Promote Yourself and Practice Responsible Tweeting
Maybe you are happy just following other tweeters. These are my suggestions forbeing a responsible Tweeter.
- Tweet useful information but don’t post too often. I once followed someone who posted dozens of “inspiring” quotations every day. I hit the Unfollow button very quickly!
- Include your Twitter name in your email signatures.
For example, Twitter: @ozcaveman
- Include your Twitter URL in articles you publish on the web. These will be your twitter name added to the address for twitter.comfor example http://twitter.com/ozcaveman
- Sometimes you will read an interesting article on the web and there is a link to encourage you to tweet and promote the article. Do so if you think your followers will be interested.
Click the birdie……