Tweets, Twits, the Twittersphere… what’s all this Twitter Twatter we’re hearing all over the web these days? Well, just as Facebook exploded in 2008 as the social networking bandwagon to jump on, 2009 is shaping up to be the year of the “cute little blue bird”.
Chances are you’ve heard a little about Twitter here and there and, like me (at first anyway), you can’t imagine Twitter being useful to anyone other than the hard core geeks and web nuts out there. A closer examination under the surface, however, reveals an ultra handy service that can save you an immense amount of time in your endless pursuit of entertainment and enlightenment online, or a savvy business tool that can help you unleash viral promotional messages to a devoted fan base.
It’s real easy to get started on Twitter. All you have to do is follow these few easy steps.
- Go to www.twitter.com and click on the “Get Started Now” button.
- Sign up making sure you come up with a username that is applicable to you.
- Click on the “Settings” link in the menu at the top right of the page and make your way through each tab of options. If nothing else, be sure to click on the “Picture” tab and upload an image to represent yourself with.
- Read through the following tute and arm yourself with all you need to know to…
- …START TWEETING!
So what is Twitter?
Well the easiest way to think of Twitter is as a micro-blogging, messaging, alert system that allows you to send and receive text-based posts up to 140 characters in length. If you’re thinking that Facebook already provides you with the same thing with its “Status Update” feature, then you’re quite right. The difference is in the fact that Twitter cuts out all the surrounding fluff and provides a platform from which you can extract so much more than it’s FB cousin.
How do I use Twitter?
Twitter can be used in any number of ways depending on the needs and desires of its users. You can use it to post deep philosophical gems that you dream up, post links to weird and wonderful content you find on the web, or simply use it as a quick and easy way to send short succinct messages to particular contacts. It’s totally up to you!
Who am I in the Twittersphere?
You would have been asked for a username when you signed up. In the world of Twitter, your identity is governed by this username along with a little “@” symbol placed at the front. For example, my Twitter identity is “@masey“. If you want to post something to me publicly, or mention me in a Tweet for whatever reason, all you need to do is include @masey in your post. But I’ll touch on this a little more in a minute or two.
What’s a follower?
This is a pretty easy concept to grasp once you think of Followers in the right manner. Followers are not the same thing as friends. “Followers” may indeed be people you know on or off the web, but in a broader sense, followers are individuals who sign up to be notified when you post a Tweet. Why? Because for whatever reason they find your musings entertaining, helpful or otherwise. Likewise, the list of people you choose to follow can be found when you click on the “Following” link in your profile.
A QUICK TIP:
Although there are Twits out there who suggest that it’s good etiquette to always follow those who choose to follow you, DO NOT! It’s this kind of culture that will generate a healthy community of spammers who have nothing better to do than to bombard you with absolute crap. Only follow those who you find interesting, entertaining and helpful, those who provide you with some value in your Twitter schedule each day. Simple.
Who or what should I follow?
Here’s some examples of who you should follow:
- Close friends. Twitter can provide you with a neat alternative to emailing and even text messaging, especially when one of the many mobile Twitter applications available out there are used.
- Bloggers you follow. As an alternative and/or supplement to your RSS reader, you can use Twitter to track the release of Blog posts released by your favourite Bloggers. The Bloggers in question must be signed up to Twitter, of course, but this is a pretty common practice these days.
- News services. There’s no quicker way to receive breaking news than by following the Tweets of news services like @news_com_au or @cnnbrk.
- Latest celebrity news. Many celebrities, bands and solo artists out there are finding that Twitter is the ideal way to deliver tour and other news items to their fans. check out www.celebritytweet.com for a realtime list of Tweets being released by celebrities from all over the world.
- Product updates and releases. There’s plenty of web services and software applications out there that have their own Twitter accounts to communicate updates, bugs etc to their users.
With all that being said, here’s a few of my favourite Tweeters to follow:
How do I post correctly on Twitter?
Once you have the few options available to you locked away in your cranium, you’ll be Twittering up a storm. Here’s what you need to know.
- You have 140 characters to communicate your message. DO NOT, if you can help it, resort to that moronic text messaging shorthand crap. “LOL – 2morro will b 2 gd!” There’s a time and place for that kind of thing, so use sparingly.
- If you wish to publicly reply to someone’s Tweet or post a Tweet that includes someone you follow, simply type in their username preceded by the “@” symbol. eg. @masey I agree with you totally, I can’t wait to see that movie next month as well!
- If you wish to send a private, or direct message to another Twit, simply place a “D” at the start of your Tweet. eg. D masey, can you meet me at the cinema at 7pm on Saturday?
- If you wish to forward on a great Tweet that you received, onto to your own list of followers, it’s good practice to reference the original Tweeter by simply placing the letters “RT” at the start of their Tweet. eg. RT @masey: Woot! Canucks score to go ahead 5-2 against the Flames at GM Place!
- There’s going to be multiple occasions when you’ll want to Tweet a link from the web. As you know, some URL’s are rather lengthy and will swallow up your character count if you don’t use a URL shortening service like http://bit.ly or http://is.gd. Those two are very popular and will easily do the job for you. eg. http://www.news.com.au/story/0,27574,25042176-1243,00.html can be shortened to http://is.gd/jfgx.
What’s an example Twitter conversation look like?
To illustrate some of the points I have made so far, here’s a quick example of how a typical “conversation” may go:
- @masey posts a tweet to @kat_drex:
@kat_drex Check out this fantastic 360 panoramic of the #Blackcomb Glacier – http://bit.ly/1234
- @kat_drex posts a tweet replying to @masey:
@masey That’s awesome. Do you know the people in the pic? I’m going to forward this on.
- @kat_drex reTweets (forwards to her followers) @masey’s original tweet:
RT @masey: @kat_drex Check out this fantastic 360 panoramic of the #Blackcomb Glacier – http://bit.ly/1234
- @masey sends a private message to @kat_drex:
D kat_drex I promise to take you up there next time we get up to Whistler! xx
How do I easily post music, video, and images to Twitter?
- Video is pretty easy. Find the video you like on YouTube, get the URL, shorten it using http://is.gd and post.
- Music is dead easy too using the http://twt.fm/ or Twisten.fm services.
- Like music, there’s a quick and simple service available for images too. Simply go to http://www.twitpic.com, login using your Twitter login, upload your pic and share away!
Twitter bird icons by Gopal Raju.