Twitter was launched publicly in 2006 and is now a part of life for many. A household name, Twitter has integrated itself into the daily life of millions of users and people and businesses from all over the world ‘Tweet’ things about their life, business or hobbies. Celebrities, expand their ego and non-profits increase their reach. From being used to organise mass-protest to telling people what you had for dinner, Twitter has its many uses. But in todays current climate businesses have been jumping onto Twitter in an attempt to join the social movement.
What is Twitter?
Twitter is a micro-blogging service that allows you to display a message no longer than 140 characters, that could contain a link, an image or a video. It is a public forum, giving users the ability to contribute to millions of conversations around the globe. Users are able to ‘follow’ others and to be ‘followed’. Your messages can be open, or directed to a specific user or number of users. There is an option for users to privately message each other known as a DM or Direct Message. For this to work, both parties must follow one another.
Once you have a Twitter Handle; a username that starts with an @ symbol, you are ready to communicate to the world.
As you register for Twitter, you will be given recommendations of people to follow. This may be in the form of popular celebrities or sorted by topic, or maybe Twitter will recommend others based on your location or interests.
You can also search your current contacts to see which of your friends are already online.
As you begin to follow people, you should find that others follow you back, but it is not necessary etiquette to do so and you are in no way obliged to follow someone simply because they followed you. Twitter does not work that way. It is a ‘social’ platform, so you have to get social. You are able to search Twitter for subjects that interest you, or people who interest you and spark up a conversation.
As time progresses you will find your footing and establish your reasons for being on Twitter.
What’s a hash tag?
A hash symbol (#), is used within Twitter as a way to create a subject matter that links all tweets that contain that hashtag. This method was born organically by users of Twitter and was not something intended at Twitters’ inception. Placing a ‘#’ in-front of a word, makes it more searchable so you can join a conversation related to that hashtag. For instance you may wish to start a conversation about a particular subject and invite others into it, or you may wish to join a conversation that already contains a hashtag such as #cdpoli, which is all about Canadian Politics. You can also use a hashtag to increase your presence. If you are tweeting about a particular subject matter you can place a relevant hashtag in the tweet which will then make your tweet appear in that hashtag stream, exposing your tweet to whomever follows that hashtag.
Many people use a hashtag as a way of communicating how they feel or something particular to them. This is great fun and can be seen as funny, but if it is exposure you are wanting then this is a waste of time. Before you go ahead and type #cantbelievemyshoulderhurts – go ahead and search the hashtag first to see how popular the tag is. You can see the frequency of tweets too to asses if it’s a worthy hashtag to use.
When a hashtag becomes incredibly popular, it begins to ‘Trend’. This is why you will find trending topics on Twitter.
Twitter will suggest Trending topics based on your involvement in Twitter, what you tweet about and who you follow. So if you are following people who are of no interest to you as you decided to follow them as they followed you, then you will not be getting the most out of your Twitter account.
As you start to increase your social activity on Twitter, you will start noticing that people are mentioning you. This involves them placing your twitter handle somewhere in the body of their tweet. This means that every one of their followers may have just read a tweet from them, which is offering up a way for people to connect with you. This is great for increasing exposure and is similar to handing a business card of another to all your friends. You may find that a simple mention from a friend causes people to discover you and they begin to follow your tweets.
If you were to place the other users’ Twitter handle at the very front of your Tweet, this would be known as a ‘Reply’ and not a ‘mention’. Using the Reply style of Tweet causes the Tweet to avoid the public timeline and will therefore only be seen easily by the person it was intended for. It does not however make the Tweet private. The Tweet can still be seen by everyone on Twitter, they just need to have searched specifically for it, or be looking directly at your profile feed. If the reply also contains a hashtag, then the tweet will readily appear in that hashtag feed to all viewers.
Keep Private Conversations Off Twitter
If you are maintaining a business account, it maybe good practice to keep personal messages to your family members or friends out of the public eye. For this reason and at least until you begin to understand the workings of Twitter, keep private chatter out of the public forum. Once a Tweet is released, it could end up anywhere.
Do Not Feed the Trolls
There are people on Twitter that like to upset people, they will hound you and wear you down. They love to challenge your beliefs or are trying to discredit you or your company. Engaging with them is futile – don’t bother. Depending on your business, you might find that there are paid trolls that are deliberately encouraged to fight your cause, don’t give them the satisfaction, if you feed them, they will continue to keep coming back. They love nothing but a good fight.
You are able to place all the people you follow into specific self created lists. This enables you to specifically jump to one of these lists such as perhaps ‘Close Friends’, enabling you to remove all the noise from other Twitter accounts and focus on your list. Be careful though the lists default as ‘Public’ and people are notified when you place them in a public list. If you are creating a list of people you dislike, it would be wise to first set the list to ‘Private’.
Lists also come in very handy when you start using other valuable tools such as Hootsuite.
Now you have all the information necessary to get Tweeting, so what are you waiting for. As you progress with Twitter you will certainly see the benefits of its functionality. If you have a question, you can search for an answer, there are even more ways to search Twitter using the advanced search, so off you go, get tweeting!