As a quick introduction to readers who may not be familiar with Twitter, let me offer a brief explanation. Twitter is a micro-blog. People who use Twitter post “tweets” that are 140 characters or less in length. This limit is set to accommodate the 160 character limit in text messages, minus twenty characters (reserved for name space). Users have a profile, a home page that can be customized, and a user name (called a handle) that is commonly written with the symbol @ in front of it. For example, my handle is @KKellyMSU. Twitter is based on a system of “following” other users. When you set up an account, follow people you know, businesses you like, etc. This will give you a sense of what people use Twitter for. You can also follow complete strangers if you wish – you can often find lists of people who share your interests through newspapers and magazines or websites. Posts can be tagged using a hash tag (a word with the # symbol in front of it, such as #MSU.) You can search Twitter by hash tags to follow conversations on particular topics.
To increase your following, make sure people are aware of your handle. You can post your handle it to your other online profiles, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, or put it on your business cards or e-mail signatures. A user-created event, called Follow Friday, can help you to gain followers. The idea is on Fridays to tweet a post with the hash tag #FF or #FollowFriday, and a brief list of handles you think other people would enjoy following. You can also include a description of why you recommend following that person, if you prefer (i.e. #FF @KKellyMSU because her blog is really helpful.) You can also set up your Twitter account to cross-post to your other social networks using one of the options below.
- Facebook option A: Activate Twitter on Facebook. By adding the tag #fb to the end of your tweet the same message will appear as a status update on Facebook.
- Facebook option B: Activate your Twitter account as an RSS feed on your Facebook notes page. These notes allow you to tag friends on the tweets.
- LinkedIn: Activate Twitter on LinkedIn. This works similar to Facebook option A, but you add the tag #in. (You can do this along with one of the Facebook options if you wish to upload your Twitter feed to both accounts.)
There really is a lot that can be done with Twitter. Some individuals even use it as a news feed (news of natural disasters and historic events often breaks on Twitter first). For a quick read that I found very helpful, check out The Twitter Book by Tim O’Reilly and Sarah Milstein.