Some call it micro-blogging, others relate the concept to a Facebook status update, but most just refer to the Internet phenomenon sweeping the country as “tweeting.” If you haven’t heard about Twitter yet, you will soon.
Twitter is quickly becoming the fastest growing social networking trend in the country and you better believe, some day soon you will jump on board. Twitter.com is a new breed of social networking that offers users a chance to literally, tell the world what you are doing in under 140 characters. Simple enough right?
News networks from the NY Times, CNN and the Palm Beach Post have created Twitter accounts. You better believe PBA Local has one, as does our beloved school’s administration. President Barack Obama was an active tweeter during the campaign period and news has it that his counter-nominee, John McCain, has joined the Twitter movement. (Interestingly enough, Mr. Obama hasn’t touched the twitter scene since his Inauguration into office.)
Celebrities are even boasting twitter accounts, including MarthaSteward, MC Hammer, Britneyspears, and Kanye West. Even new Late Night host, Jimmy Fallon, used Twitter to draw more viewers to his opening show. After promising followers that he would be tweeting in between tapings, he was met with over 10,000 new Twitter followers. (via)
Twitter has even saved lives. Last April, free-lance journalist James Karl Buck, was arrested in Egypt for covering an anti-government demonstration. On his way to the police station, Buck took out his phone and sent out a one-word tweet, “ARRESTED” for all his friends to see. Within hours, fellow journalists and friends in the United States received the message, contacted a lawyer, who then contacted the American embassy and Buck was eventually released. (via)
A similar story involves two skiers who lost in the Alps mountains during a ski trip. One of the skiers, Jason Tavaria, used Twitter and his iphone to send a GPS navigation signal to rescue searchers and was eventually found. Unfortunately, his companion 29-year-old British entrepreneur Rob Williams, was not found alive. (via)
In the heat of the three-day coordinated terrorist attacks that shook Mumbai and left nearly 100 Indians dead, tweets and cell phones became the medium of choice to communicate the tragedy as it unfolded. Residents, journalists and even hostages in the Mumbai hotel used their cell phones to rely messages to authorities and families via twitter and text messages. (via)
So how does one get started? After sifting through the thousands of Twitter tips published on the Internet, here is a list of the top ten suggestions I have for virgin tweeters.
- How to sign up: First, head over to http://www.twitter.com and sign yourself up for a free account. Follow the instructions. I really can’t get more in-depth than that.
- Find your friends. You can either use your e-mail contacts to search for friends who are using Twitter or you can simply search for names. Don’t limit yourself to following people you know. Look up celebrities, politicians and news organizations. Chances are, your favorite author, athlete, comedian or political affiliation has a twitter feed. Follow it!
- Start posting. Since you are limited to using only 140 characters, share something meaningful. Watch a great mid-day re-run? Tweet it! Have an awkward run-in with a former significant other? Tweet it! Catch a great movie? Tweet it! Basically tweet anything that was interesting to you within the last two hours and keep it up for the rest of the day.
- Don’t tweet for the sake of tweeting. As more and more people join the twitter movement, your home page will start to look a little overwhelming with tweets from people you sort-of-know with information you don’t really care about. If you have nothing to say, don’t say anything. But remember, sometimes the best tweets are about things with little relevance, but are packed with entertainment value. Try to always communicate a message with your tweet.
- Ask questions. The nice thing about twitter is that you can get instant feedback from your followers. A time-effect relationship that rivals even those pesky instant messaging applications. Working on a project and need to borrow a Humanities text book? Ask your followers if anyone has one to lend you! Twitter can become a “community” if you treat it like one.
- Respond to tweets. On the right hand side of your tweet feed is a tiny gray icon. If someone tweets a message worth a response, click on the gray arrow to reply to the tweet and the following “@ USERNAME” will pop up. Type your responding message and your current status tweet will show up as a response. Or simply type in, “@” followed by the friend’s username, and your corresponding message. Trust me, it sounds a lot more confusing than it is.
- Post links and pictures. To add a link to your tweet feed, simply copy and paste the link into your status box. To attach a photo, some extra work is required, but don’t worry it’s worth it. Sign up for an account at TwitPic.com. Enter in your Twitter username and password to allow the site to access your Twitter account to post a feed directly from TwitPic. Upload a photo from your computer or your cell phone and post an accompanying message. The message will follow your twitpic link where your friends and followers can see the glorious picture.
- Use other sites to post Twitter updates. There are a host of completely separate Twitter affiliates you can use to post a Twitter update. Yes that’s right, you don’t have to load twitter.com to update your Twitter account. In fact, most twitter users don’t! Free sites like Tweetdeck, Twitterfeed, Twhirl, Twitterific and my personal favorite, Hootsuite can manage your account for you. Some even offer a desktop icon users can upload that sits on your desktop all day for easy access.
- Use your cell phone. If your phone has Internet accessibility, use it to access your account and update your status through out the day. Even better, if your mobile has a camera phone AND Internet accessibility, you’re completely equip to update your twitter feed with twitpics and entertaining posts throughout the day. But for the rest of us, don’t be discouraged. Twitter gives you the option of setting up your mobile phone to submit tweets via text message. Standard rates apply.
- Try it. Yeah it seems like I threw a lot of information at you. But I promise you, it’s a lot easier if you just try it out yourself. Forget the rules and have fun posting funny pictures, great quotes or updated news. The most important element to the Twitter revolution is versatility. Let loose and have fun with it.
Are you an expert Tweeter? Send us your tips at firstname.lastname@example.org