What is Twitter?
You can send and receive messages, called tweets. A tweet can be a maximum of 140 characters. Tweets can be seen, and searched, by everyone unless you restrict them only to your friends. You can search for messages by a single person, by a word or phrase, or by a topic or hashtag, which is word, often abbreviated, with a # in the front of it. A tweet you particularly like can be retweeted to your followers.
Tweets can include links to websites, including blogs and photo-sharing sites. You are usually able to use a web address shortener to save some of those precious 140 characters, so that:
Why use Twitter?
You can also search for people. People in Twitter are shown with a @ in front of their name. In Twitter I am known as @CaroleRiley, and this blog is known as @SocialMediaGen. Once you have found a person you are interested in you can follow them. This means that all of their tweets will appear in your feed.
You can unfollow them at any time. You can also retweet the tweets that you like for your followers to read.
You can follow people you know to see what they have to say – journalists, commentators, politicians, comedians, conservationists, actors, religious leaders, social media experts – they all have something interesting to say to those who are interested. Here are a very few examples:
@mashable – social media and technology
You can also follow organisations that interest you – archives, libraries, societies, genealogy organisations, and so on.
Many organisations release news first on Twitter, and if they don’t then others probably will. Here is an example from recent posts by State Records NSW:
You can also follow people that are interested in the same things that you are. The best ones to follow are the ones that are good at collecting and retweeting information from other people and organisations, so that you don’t have to wade through a lot of stuff you are not so interested in. Some people are more addicted to Twitter than others, and they do the sifting so that you don’t have to!
Hashtags are used to keep conversations together. If you do a search in Twitter for the hashtag you can see everything that has been posted on that topic. If you watch QandA on ABCTV on Monday nights you can follow the hashtag #QandA to see what people are saying about the program as it is running. It’s more fun than it probably sounds, and as long as you ignore the comments about hairdos and so on it can be very interesting.
Hastags are also used when something big is happening. You have probably read in the news about how national revolutions such as the recent one in Egypt have been organised and spread through the use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
I was watching Twitter during the Queensland floods earlier this year and sitting in front of the TV. The news on Twitter was by far the most up-to-date. There was some mis-information, as there is on any TV news channel when news is only trickling in, but most of it was real, from people who were in the thick of it watching the water coming up, and from authorities telling us locals what was going on and what they should do. Even the photos and videos being shared through Twitter were hours ahead of the news programs, and many of the best ones were later shown over and over on the news, including the ABC.
It is also becoming more common for Twitter to be used for events such as the recent NSW Expo at Coffs Harbour. Presenters and visitors can all tweet about their experiences and what they are learning, and those who can’t attend can learn too, and almost feel like they are there.
Once you have a reasonable following of like-minded twitterers you can ask questions and get answers. I’ve seen people asking for advice on gadgets to buy, software issues, research problems, and recommendations for places to go, and they get good results. Yes, you can do this by email as well, but Twitter is quicker and behaves more like a normal conversation. You may get answers from people you don’t even know!
I don’t log in every day, but when I do I always learn something I didn’t know before.
Do you use Twitter?