Twitter Basics

Introduction

Twitter is a realtime micro-blogging public social media network. It has a 140-character limit for a Tweet, but recently removed the same limit for direct messages (more about those in a moment). Like most social networks, Twitter is free to join and can be joined by anyone. I’ve been on Twitter since 2010, and currently have 354 followers, and I follow hundreds of accounts. I also continuously read and learn about Twitter and other social media networks and run a curated board about Social Media for Business on Pinterest.

Getting Started with Twitter

To get started with Twitter go to Twitter.com and choose the new account or getting started link then follow the prompts. You’ll need to provide very little information to join the network, and you’ll need an valid e-mail address as your login. When you create your account you’ll be prompted to create your Twitter Handle – this is your username on Twitter and how you will be seen by others. You can use your name or a variation on your name (15 character limit). I found that my full name was too long for a Twitter handle and I had to use a diminutive instead. Besides using your name, you could also use your company name, your personal “brand” name, a nickname, the name of your cat, etc. but remember that your handle is your public face. When you create your account you should immediately replace the default “egg” avatar with a picture or some type of icon. You can also add a profile picture to the top your profile page. And finally, you’ll be asked to provide a profile page description and your website or blog address. The website isn’t required, but if you have one – fill it in.

Twitter as a Professional Networking Tool

Twitter has many sides to it, which is why it is not the most immediately intuitive social network to use, unlike Facebook. Since anyone can get an account on Twitter – the network is used by different people in different ways. Many celebrities are on Twitter, including writers, comic book artists, actors, musicians and people in the music business, directors and people in the film and television business, news agencies, businesses, etc. Even though the mechanics of the network are the same for everyone – different users emphasize different things with how they use Twitter. For example, many businesses use Twitter as word-of-mouth advertising. When a business does this they are concerned with “engagement” a metric that tracks how much customers interact with the business through social media including Twitter. This isn’t simply only traditional brick-and-mortar, corporate, or even internet businesses, however. Television networks such as the CW and USA require their creative teams to have a Twitter presence. Here’s CW Public Social Media Directory – note it includes all their shows and most creative people for those shows. Actors and other involved creative people who tweet about their CW shows are spreading positive good will about the show and hopefully, in CW’s eyes, increasing viewership. No longer do monolithic networks put out a product and expect the masses to absorb it without opinion. Now television viewership is more of a two way street. Viewers can express both positive and negative opinions about what they are watching – immediately, and without censorship or interpretation by a third entity. But many other companies are finding that Twitter can help improve brand reach and influence and even help bring in new customers.

However, Twitter can also be a professional networking tool – even if you have yet to start your own micro-business or small company, I’ve found that by following leaders, experts, and simply just other professional people in your business or profession, you can quickly build a professional network. And as you follow others, some of them will follow you. Also, by tweeting on professional topics, you will gain followers. Twitter, like Linked In, is the place to be in the professional sense, especially if you behave in a professional manner. And because Twitter lets you have as many accounts as you want (unlike Facebook per their terms of service) you could even create multiple accounts for different roles. Personally, I keep everything in the same account, but I don’t manage multiple accounts for others yet.

Twitter is a Public Social Media Platform

All tweets on Twitter are public (except some DMs discussed below). Everything you say in a tweet can be read by everyone else on Twitter. There is no difference between “friends” and “public”. This means you do have to think about what you’re saying. This means, for example, if you are currently job hunting, you might want to be a little careful about the content of your Tweets. It also means, if you don’t want something known – don’t tweet about it.

Also, because of the character-limited nature of Tweets, most items on Twitter aren’t necessarily original Tweets. They are Retweets, Links, occasional pictures or video, auto-posted content from other sources such as Instagram, Vine, a personal blog, or others. A Retweet (RT) is when you click the RT button on the bottom of someone else’s Tweet. This will post that Tweet to your Twitter as an RT. You can even RT a retweet someone else retweeted. So for example, my Twitter handle is @JackieOMoleski. If I see a Tweet I like, or find interesting, or even a link to a post or news article I want to read later, I’d click the Retweet button, so for example, if I RT a @BlackGirlNerds Tweet, it will appear on my timeline but as a Retweet. Similarly, if that tweet was a RT, it will show. Here’s an example:

ReTweet_ex

Here I’m retweeting @BlackGirlNerds, who are in return Retweeting @InHollywoodland. On Twitter it’s always easy to tell something is a RT, and to track who the original Tweet came from. Therefore, there should be little misunderstanding about who’s content the Tweet actually is.

By contrast, here’s an original Tweet by me – on the same topic:

Tweet ex

The difference is obvious.

Twitter also has DMs which stands for Direct Messages. A Direct Message is sent from one Twitter user to another directly, with the implication it’s private. DMs start with @username (handle) at the beginning of the Tweet. To send a DM you must follow the person you are messaging and they must follow you. Also, see the little left-pointing arrow at the bottom of every tweet (see pictures above) – clicking on that will let you reply to the Tweet. Note, however if you have any characters before the handle in your DM – the message will post to all of Twitter as a public Tweet, this includes a simple dot or period prior to the handle.  Dot@User (handle) can be used to send a message to a particular user while simultaneously sending it to your timeline as a public tweet.

It is very important to remember that Tweets are public. Don’t make the faux pas of engaging a troll, and embarrassing yourself in public.

Tweetspeak

There are a lot of acronyms, terminology, and even slang that is used on Twitter – here are a few of the most common and necessary ones to understand.

Handle – Twitter slang for your username or identity on Twitter. It’s always preceded by the @ symbol.

Hashtag – The # symbol prior to any word or group of characters without spaces makes that topic searchable.

Trending – Twitter keeps it’s own statistics about how the site is used and hashtag topics that are extremely popular at any given time are said to be trending. Marketers and even fans often will try (sometimes successfully) to get a topic to trend. Also, when a hashtag gains popular use over time in the context of a political statement such as #Icantbreathe or #blacklivesmatter it’s often said to be a “trending topic” though this is a different usage than the Twitter metric or statistic.

Retweet – Explained in detail above, but a copy of someone else’s tweet sent via the RT (retweet) button to your own activity or timeline space with attribution to the original sender.

DM or Direct Message – Also explained in detail above, a “private” message between two Twitter users.

Dot@user (.@handle) – the most common way to copy a DM to your timeline, thus making it public. Another way is to place the username or handle any place in the Tweet (the end is also common) other than at the very beginning with no characters before it.

Live Tweeting or Live Tweet Event – Tweeting simultaneously to an event at the time it happens. For example, last Monday I live-tweeted the Supergirl pilot; in other words, I Tweeted reactions as I was watching it, as did many other people on Twitter. Live Tweet events normally have an “approved hashtag” (such as #Supergirl) that everyone uses in their tweets so they are linked and a search will bring up all such Tweets. Live Tweeting events sometimes include people associated with the event also live tweeting it, or answering questions. And Live Tweet events are also a lot of fun. Yes, one could live tweet from an irl event, such as a sporting event, parade, trade show, (fan or professional) convention, etc. Essentially, what makes live tweeting so much fun is the instant sense of community and the variety of perspectives. It’s also a great way to “meet” new people, find accounts to follow, and gain new followers.

Favorite – For a long time, Twitter had a “favorite” button (a star), rather than a “like” button. Twitter users used it to bookmark great Tweets. This week, Twitter change to a heart-shaped like button. My observation is that some users were upset by this. We’ll see if it lasts, and users adapt or not.

Social Media Master Post

Social Media has become a buzzword, in the last few years, but it is often misunderstood. I have been using various social media platforms for a several years and I am active on several of them daily. This gives me a little bit of authority to say that I know what I’m talking about, though I learn new things myself if not daily then weekly. There is a lot of confusion and this post is meant to clear up some of that confusion.

1.  Social Media is not One Thing – Got that? Social Media is several different things, that have similarities and differences. Not only do different Social Media platforms work differently – they have different best uses, and different limitations.

2. Social Media is not just a business tool – One of the best things about Social Media is that using it is free and how you use it and the content you post is pretty much up to you. I’ve seen lots of posts on-line from various “Social Media Experts” about growing your business with Social Media – and although that’s possible, it isn’t restricted to business people, the Forbes 500, the elite, or any other privileged group. Anyone with a computer or an Internet-capable mobile device can use Social Media.

3. Having said that, Social Media is about more than business or advertising – if you do own a business, especially a small business, and you aren’t using Social Media, you should be – it’s free advertising. And especially if your customers are young, or professional, or in any way part of the modern world, at the very least get a website or blog, a business Facebook page (not a personal one) and a Twitter account and use them.

4. Creative professionals and non-profits also really need to use Social Media, though what platforms you use and how will very by “industry” and even the level of your career. But writers, musicians, bands, artists, photographers, actors, – anyone in a creative field, and anyone trying to break into a creative field needs Social Media. It’s a great networking tool, a place to find others in your profession, a place to find mentors, a place to find a job, and a place to get excited about your work and your career.

5.  Social Media isn’t just for kids and teens anymore. I’m tempted to say ‘Nuff said; but on-line research shows the single biggest new group to join Facebook are senior citizens; and the largest and most influential group on Twitter are young and relatively young professionals as well as creative professionals. Get over the idea that Social Media is “a kid’s toy”.

Specific Social Media Platforms

Live Journal:  This blogging site is the first one I joined, in about 2005 – 2006. LJ’s was developed as a community site as well as a personal blogging site. It’s completely volunteer run, has been around for close to twenty years, and in terms of trivia, if you saw the movie, The Social Network, it was the blogging site Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, used while studying at Harvard. Live Journal was designed to allow users to keep an on-line journal, join communities (posting boards) that fit their own interests, and even post photographs. The site has an impressive amount of individual blog designs, and allows individual “userpics” or icons on each post or community post. It’s an oldie but a goodie; however, having been around for such a long time – it has problems caused by legacy code, and lack of server space.

Facebook:  Most computer-literate people know at least something about Facebook. The easiest way to describe it is, it’s like a perpetual on-line high school or college yearbook. You post (write) on your “wall” or visit your friend’s page and post on theirs. It’s very image friendly – not only for posting your individual pictures, but for creating photo albums. It makes sharing easy – and much of the content comes from the cross-posting and sharing of content posted by others. And it’s full of ads.

Business owners, especially small and micro-business owners, should be aware of Facebook Organization (business) pages. A business or organization page is an open page – with no content locked as “Friend’s Only”. Think of it as a Yellow Pages ad without the space limitations. The wall of a business or organization page should only contain relevant, focused posts. However, that doesn’t mean it should only contain ads. Relevant information is the key. Customers should want to read the page, not feel they are being bombarded with spam.

Linked In:  Linked In is like a combination of a Mega Job Search site like Monster and Facebook. This is another site I have been on for a really long time. When I originally created my site, and Linked In was still fairly new, it wasn’t much – you created a profile, then filled in sections that basically created an on-line job application. Yes, you could upload a picture, an write a short summary of who you are – the on-line equilvalent of the “elevator speech”, and connect to others, but there wasn’t much to it. Linked In has offered more services recently, however. You can now join career-focused groups on Linked In, a great way to keep up to date with your professional career. You can network. You can attend events. Linked In now has it’s own Timeline – you can post career information there, or relevant news about your professional life. And, from what I’ve read, Linked In has made it easier to post an professional portfolio to the site. I highly recommend it to college and high school students. I also highly recommend it to career changers, or people who have been out of the job market for awhile and are suddenly looking for employment.

Twitter:  Twitter is a bit different from other Social Media sites, in that you don’t really have a page to design per se. You can put a banner profile picture on your page, fill-in a brief description of yourself, and upload an icon picture of yourself, and that’s about it. Twitter is the first micro-blogging site – it limits you to 240 characters – not a lot. But the attraction of Twitter is that it works in “real time”. Thus if a topic is “trending” on Twitter – that means it’s suddenly become very popular, and lots of people are using that hashtag at a particular moment. A hashtag is the Number Symbol on a standard keyboard (#). On Twitter, a Hashtag makes a term searchable, thus #SocialMedia, makes the term “social media” a searchable term – anyone who searches the term “SocialMedia” can find the post that includes that hashtag. On Twitter the @ sign is used to send a Direct Message (or DM).  Therefore, @SocialMedia would send the message to the account “SocialMedia”. I recently learned that when a @ sign is placed at the beginning of a Tweet – the Tweet doesn’t even post to your timeline. To fool Twitter if you want your DM to also post to your timeline, place characters before it, even a dot (.) will work.  (Shout out and Thanks to @TweetSmarter the best resource for learning about Twitter that I’ve found.) Because Twitter is significantly different than other sites, I found it had a steeper learning curve – I’ve had my account for three years, and I’m just starting to really understand it.

There are three things about Twitter than make it fun:

  1. Following celebrities and Notable People in your industry, career field, or even hobby. Lots of famous people are on Twitter – you can follow their Tweets, without needing to be invited to their page or liking their page or anything. It’s PR for them but also interactive – and for you, it’s fun.
  2. Twitter is real time – want to know what is going on Right Now – look to Twitter.
  3. Because of the character limit – it tends to be light, fun, and you can read lots of posts in a short amount of time. The other common thing on Twitter, is that because space is limited, people often simply post the link to longer content such as a news story or a blog post.

Tumblr:  It’s the blog counter-point to Twitter. Like Twitter it’s Real Time, though when you go to your dashboard you’ll see a number of new posts to you from the blogs to which you subscribe. You read them on your dashboard. Anything you “reblog” will re-appear on your own Tumblr page. But I first became aware of Tumblr, because I noticed that if someone wanted to post longer content (or, originally – pictures or video, before Twitter added that capability.) to Twitter, they first posted it to Tumblr, then posted the link to Twitter. Tumblr has a very active feel to it, and a lot of back-and-forth – through notes, reblogging, mail, etc. It’s a type of blogging site.  The only thing I don’t like about Tumblr is your actual page is so limited. I would like to be able to see a list of my tags, a list of my posts, and a calender of my posts – like I can on Blogger or Live Journal. And even if a calender would give it a more static feel – at least a list of tags (labels) would be useful.

Blogger (by Google):  Blogger is another Blogging Site – and it’s my favorite of the three I use regularly. What I really love about Blogger is that it doesn’t assume the user knows anything about HTML or CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), Java, Flash, .Net, C++, or C#. In other words, you don’t need to take a computer science course, prior to using the site. Setting up my Blogger page was easy – everything is drag and drop, and What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get. And if you’re in doubt, you can have the design studio open in one tab and your blog open in another, and then all you do is refresh the blog page as you tweak.  Also, once you’ve set your page up, the individual “Widgets” and/or sections of the blog can be edited separately, for quick updates. I’ve added, and occasionally deleted, names from sections like “Favorite Directors” and “Favorite Current TV Shows” — without having to re-design the entire blog. Blogger, like most sites (but Twitter) has several themes and skins to get you started in designing your blog. But it also has different options (3 column, 2 column, etc), besides simply the background image.

The second thing I like about Blogger, is it supports a full service RSS Reader that not only imports other Blogger blogs, but it imports any blog, on any RSS-compatible service. The only problem is, as far as I can tell, all the mobile apps do not support the RSS Reader. That means, you can only read the blogs you’ve subscribed to on your computer screen, not your phone or tablet.

Google Plus:  Google Plus is Google’s attempt to get in on the Social Media action. Do I have a Google Plus account?  Well, yes, since I use Blogger and Gmail.  Do I use it?  Not really.  Part of the issue with Google Plus is that everything you “Plus 1” you are doing so publicly.  To me, there’s a difference to posting a link to my Facebook page as “Friend’s Only”, and putting my face as an advertisement on that link or page.  (“This link was Plus 1’d by: …).  It just feels so, phony.  And if someone wants me to hawk their products – they can pay me.

However, one cool thing about Google Plus, is that  when you take photos with your Android phone, those photos are automatically backed up to your Google account. And the photo editor for organizing albums is beautiful. It’s easy to use and makes sense.  Icons and words are obvious and do what you expect them to do. And those albums are yours – not public, unless you want to share them. But on the negative side, you can’t share your Google Plus album(s) to another site like Facebook. It almost feels like Google isn’t playing well with others.

Similarities of Social Media Platforms

All Social Media platforms and Web 2.0 sites do have one thing in common – user-generated content.  What that means is the content of a website like youTube is created by the youTube users themselves. Without the video makers – there would be no youTube. Yet visiting the site to watch videos doesn’t cost anything – it’s free. Getting an account on youTube (now, also through Google) is also free. From what I’ve seen, some video makers run ads on their videos and some don’t. Presumably, those users actually make money by allowing ads. And the site itself, like most Social Media Sites – is ad-supported.

Social Media is also social – it allows interaction with friends and family. It allows the free exchange of ideas. One thing I’m fascinated with is the idea of Social Media and Citizen Journalism. There have been several cases of Social Media having a definite impact during disasters and major events.

See this post  http://stories.dlvr.it/story/251441-twitter

– which in part inspired inspired my post.

Differences to Different Social Media Platforms

In my explanations of the different social media outlets, I’ve explained some of the differences. I definitely use different Social Media services differently. Live Journal is my general blog. I don’t use it much anymore, though lately I’ve been backing up some of my posts from other platforms there. Facebook is my general mailbox, and I’m a lot less touchy about what I will or won’t post there. Linked In is strictly professional – I don’t let anything auto-post to Linked In, and I don’t use the new time-line feature. Twitter is fun, and a place to plug my Blogger and Tumblr posts. Blogger is home to my movie review blog – I don’t let anything else clog up the blog, especially politics.

Also – Rans

These are services I know of, but do not currently use. This doesn’t mean they are no good – I’m sure plenty of people use these. Social Media is time-consuming, and you simply cannot do everything. Also, I’m more verbal than visual – and my creative, fun side – and my professional research side – thinks in words.

Dreamwidth – A blogging site with a close relationship to Live Journal. I’m seriously considering trying it out.  Sigh.

WordPress – Another blogging site, with a relationship to blogger. I’ve just joined it, and I’m still poking my way around, but so far I really like it.

Pinrest / Delicious – These are “Social Bookmark Managers”. Apparently, they allow you to save bookmarks and organize them. They are social sites, so you can share your bookmarks with others.

Instagram / Vine / Imgur – Social Image sites – I have the vague idea that the cool pics and .gifs one finds on Facebook? If they weren’t created as photosets on Tumblr, they started on one of these sites.

MySpace – Oh, dear, poor MySpace gets no respect. My impression is that it’s full of teenaged girls – and bands. Seriously, if you are a singer/songwriter, musician, or in a band – look at MySpace. It’s also been around for awhile. But I’ve never used it – and my impression might need tweaking, at least a bit.

Stephen King’s GoT posts

Note:  Mr. King is actually wrong.  LotR was originally published in the 1950s.  GoT was published rather more recently and George RR Martin is still working on the last three books.  Yes, this is a post found on tumblr.

fanboyin:

Stephen King being Stephen King

Game of Thrones spoilers, Twitter style.