Twitter is the biggest (if not the first) micro-blogging service that enables short posting of text up to 140 characters. You can include shortened web addresses and upload pictures. It has about 100 million users.
Quick to post and quick to respond, Twitter is now mainstream, making the news as much as commenting on it. All the major news networks monitor Twitter for breaking stories – the Arab Spring, deaths of pop singers and results of election campaigns. Although some of them broke the rules of good journalism and run unverified stories sourced from Twitter!
Moreover, every movie, TV show, radio show, political campaign and product has a Twitter feed. It has become one of the great viral media platforms.
On Twitter, you don’t post, you tweet. Not just a verb, the posts you make are also called tweets (as a noun).
Twitter is powered by ats and hashes – @’s and #’s. The @ identifies users by their Twitter handle, ‘at handles’ and replies to Tweets using ‘at replies.’ The # symbol prefixes any thing that may be used as a hash tag – a way to categorise and classify Tweets.
You gather ‘followers’ to your Twitter feed, which can feel disturbingly like founding your own cult or religion, with people eagerly hanging on your every post. Lady Gaga broke the 20 million follower mark last week. Followers drop off rapidly unless you have something pithy and relevant to say to them and say it frequently – whatever frequently means for you. You don’t have to be Stephen Fry tweeting 20 times a day.
Starting on Twitter
- Register for on Twitter.com. Create your Twitter ‘handle’ (the name you’ll be known by). Use your own name or your business name but make it something memorable or easy to type, preferably a name connected to you, your company or what it is you do. The shorter the better.
- It helps to follow other Twitter users in your subject area or field of expertise; friends, colleagues, customers. Like minds and common interests generate the best Twitter streams.
- Try to get onto #FF (Follow Friday) lists; these recommend other Twitter users follow you
- Recruit followers; let people know you’re on Twitter; post your Twitter handle to your website, Facebook page and to any other social media platforms to which you belong. Edit your account profile pages every where you can that has a Twitter name field.
You can get into public conversations over Twitter. To reply to a tweet, start your post with @ then the tiwtter handle of the person to whom you’re replying (“@twitterhandle”) to reply directly to them and both their followers and yours (the intersection of both sets of followers). Starting a post with anything other than @ even a period (“.@twitterhandle”) broadcasts to everyone.
Twitter is a broadcast media; conversations are in public and are searchable, so don’t say anything private or libellous you wouldn’t say in the street or in a letter to your local newspaper. This is the Internet, data persists. You can’t really delete Tweets once they’re out there. AJS