February 12, 2013

Twitter for Dummies




Recently I've found myself having to explain and justify Twitter to friends and family because it's not very popular here in Barbados. It's catching on slowly but the little birdie still has a long way to go. As a social media junkie I feel compelled to write this 'Twitter for Dummies' post and if we're going to talk geek, we may as well do it properly. 

 So, to break it down, let's start with the basics of Twitter:

Who: Twitter - why the name?
"...we came across the word 'twitter', and it was just perfect. The definition was 'a short burst of inconsequential information,' and 'chirps from birds'. And that's exactly what the product was." – Jack Dorsey (Chairmain & Creator)
What: Tweeting, to send a tweet (verb) or 'to follow' on Twitter
Twitter is considered microblogging. Tweets are 140 character messages sent through Twitter. It's a place where you can send quick little snippets of information about what you are doing, thinking or feeling.  You can also reply to what other people's 'tweets', create a conversation and share information that you find interesting.  It is a bit like Instant Messaging with the world or updating your status on Facebook or LinkedIn.  Some find it a lot more fun than blogging because you can have real time conversations with people.  Also, you get little glimpses into people’s lives, such as celebrities, that you might not see just from their blogs or other social media profiles. Because it's in real time, often tweets are more personal and informal than other sites because there's no delay in editing or formatting something before it goes live.
When: Anytime you want to share something with your 'followers'
Most people have a Twitter app on their phone, so that they can share photos, quotes & snippets throughout the day. Some people go cray with it though & post a ridiculous amount of tweets a day...but that's a different story.
Where: Everywhere. 
To date, Twitter has over 20o million users worldwide.  In case you've been living under a rock, Twitter has been used to organize everything from parties and meetings to protests, sometimes referred to as "Twitter Revolutions", such as the 2011 Arab Spring. It's really simple to use and a great way for people to connect and get messages out to an enormous audience.
Why: A lot of my non-geek friends have turned up their noses at the mention of Twitter.
"Ugh, seriously, what's the POINT of it?"
Well, for starters, it all depends on what your interests are and want to get out of it, just like other social media sites. 
For example, male friends often use it to follow football players, managers & other sports related celebrities. Twitter keeps them up to date on what's going on, when it's going on.
Blogger friends follow other bloggers, because many of them have twitter linked to their blog...same goes for fashionistas, artists, actors, politicians & everyone in between. The list goes on and on and on...It's a cool way for people to connect and contact certain people who would otherwise be out of their reach. You can tweet at politicians and companies directly and depending on the content, you're likely to get a response.
Twitter becomes a lot more fun and useful as you follow more people and they follow you.  The larger the number of people you follow and who follow you, the more likely you are to have questions answered and to learn interesting things.  The more people you are following the more opportunity you have for conversations and to develop relationships. 
How: Here's how you can make the most out of Twitter

1.Set up an interesting profile - include a photo and a mini bio of 160 characters. Use key words (including hastags) which sound interesting and will grab the attention of people with similar interests.
2.Embrace the hashtag! - Hashtags, simply put, are key words which help define certain topics on Twitter. By 'hastagging' key words within your tweet, you'll enable others who are looking for tweets relating to that topic to find your tweet and interact if they want to. For example, if I tweet about Barbados, it will look like this: 'Beautiful sunset in #Barbados today!' Anyone who's interested to find out about Barbados can search within Twitter for the #Barbados and a whole stream will pop up. The same applies to following certain debates or discussions which may be going on pertaining to a certain topic or event. 

3.Connect & collaborate - See something you like and want to share? You can do one or all of the following commands: 

ReTweet it so that it shows up on your profile for your followers to see
'Quote' a Tweet and add your own text to it
If you see something that you think a Twitter friend will like, you can tweet it AT them by entering '@+ their name' into the tweet and they'll get a notification letting them know that you've shared a tweet with them (Similar to tagging in Facebook)
Sidenote: Twitter is about connecting with others, nobody likes a narcissistic Tweeter who just posts about themselves all of the time

4.Learn Basic Twitter Etiquette: I'm no expert by any means but I think there are some basic things that everyone should know once they start Tweeting, such as following those who follow you (Unless they're spam or really, really boring!) try not to post TOO often (Such as saying 'Good Morning Twitter!' every day) and generally sharing TMBI (Too Much Boring Info) Think before you tweet: If no one else can relate, laugh, reflect, learn or appreciate your tweet, what's the point?
Hope this helps! There is A LOT more that can be said about Twitter but I've really tried to focus on the main points that can help you get started. If you think I've left something out or am just plain wrong, please let me know in the comments below! Once you get the basics, you need to spend some time looking around and feeling it out for yourself. It's not for everyone but there's good reason why the Twitter bug has caused such a stir : it's fun, easy and another great tool in connecting people around the world.
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3 comments

  1. I still don't have a twitter because I was trying to avoid the social media overload but I've been thinking about crossing over to the dark side lately so we shall see :)

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