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A Guide to Using Twitter

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Everyone by now has heard about Twitter and tweets. It’s all over the media and many of your Facebook and social networking friends probably use it. But how does it really work? I get this question pretty often and I thought I’d give my guide on how to use Twitter.

Twitter in its simplest form, is an online communication tool that allows users the ability to send and share information in bite size pieces of information – 140 characters to be exact. Kinda like a really big IM session with people sending out their thoughts and ideas. Users can subscribe to other Twitter users and follow their tweets. This allows you to read up on any information the user has to share and the messages and tweets are listed in a timeline form – very similar to your feed on Facebook. Twitter messages can share just about anything from your current status, links, news, etc. Some have even labeled Twitter a microblog, giving you access to news in very short form. What is making Twitter so popular is that it is not only free but works on your computer and your mobile phones, enabling you to share information anywhere and any time in the world.

Following Users

In order to make Twitter useful, you’ll need to find users to subscribe to and follow. Twitter has grown a lot since its birth in 2006 and by now, many news outlets, celebrities and your circle of friends may have a Twitter account. It’s now up to you to find the things that interest you to receive those respective feeds. Want breaking news? Follow @CNNBrk. Want to know more about your favorite celebrity? Follow @AshtonKutcher or maybe @Ellen_DeGeneres. What you’ll notice is that these users are all preceded with an @ symbol. All users are denoted with it in Twitter world. You can use the People Finder located at the top of the Twitter page to locate more people.

Twitter has also recently made it easier to follow your favorite people by grouping users into pre-categorized lists that are arranged in Twitter Lists. Interested in Technology news? You can automatically subscribe to well known tech blog writers and news outlets. All with one click. You can always manage your Follow list later but this is a great way to get started with a good list of users to follow.

What is a Retweet and #Hashtag?

One of the first terms you’ll probably see in your Tweeter stream is “RT.” This stands for retweet and is a very common occurrence. It is essentially a way to repost a Twitter message that you’ve seen and would like to share with other users. The nomenclature appears as follows :

RT@TwitterUser and then followed by the message.

It is a way to credit the tweet of the original user and share the information with everyone following you. This process allows tweets to spread real fast in a viral like manner.

Another symbol you’ll see often is #. The pound symbol is known as a hashtag and you’ll see it before words in some tweets. The hashtag is used to highlight topics and serves as a way for Twitter users to organize them to be easily searched.  Some companies and big events are using them now to help archive and manage tweets. Most recently, the NFL used the #SB44 hashtag to keep all conversation and tweets about the big game organized.

In addition to organizing, the #hashtag can help to quantify specific words and topics that are currently popular. Twitter organizes this and labels the top ten into Twitter Trending Topics. You can usually find this list on the right side of your Twitter page. It is a quick way to know what is currently the most popular topics of conversations in the Twitter world.

Real Time Search

With millions of users around the world sending out tweets about everything imaginable from current events, to what they’re up to, thoughts and ideas can now be organized and shared in a very quick manner. This is enabling users the ability to find out about things as they happen or crowd source information in an instant just by searching for it on Twitter. For me, I don’t really rely on TV news as a source for breaking information any more. Now, I can search topics right within Twitter and find out the thoughts and opinions of others regarding a specific event. In a simple phrase, word definitely can travel fast, now that we have Twitter.

The role of social media is expanding so quickly and Twitter is definitely leading the charge. Many corporations and businesses are now using the site to  market their products and as a portal to reach out to their audience. Use it to share news or use it to let the world know what you ate for breakfast. Either way, Twitter represents a huge way to communicate in this ever shrinking world.


Written by kietchieng

February 19, 2010 at 11:10 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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