I was watching the elections last night when my friend Jess popped up on Twitter. She’s someone I taught with in Haiti, but haven’t probably even been in the same state with since 2001. But through Facebook and reading her blog, I feel like we’ve kept up, as much as you can in cyberspace. So I was super happy to see her name on my Twitter feed. She said my post about why I love Twitter inspired her. Flattery or not, it’s awesome. And she asked for a tutorial…so I thought I’d give it a stab in the form of questions and answers. Maybe it’ll be helpful for others.
First, what exactly is Twitter? Why is it better than Facebook?
Twitter is like Facebook in that it’s social. You talk to your friends, share links, have conversations, etc. But, it’s all done in 140 character snippets (called tweets). It’s also a lot more fast-paced than Facebook. Because the communication is so short, it’s quickly typed and a conversation can go very quickly. Which can be dizzying at times, but it’s also nice because you can sneak in a quick tweet between students. Not that I’ve ever done that of course. :)
Because Twitter moves so quickly, I find that I use it more for right now stuff. If I’m in a restaurant and need a suggestion on what’s good, I’m much more likely to get a very quick response from Twitter than I am from Facebook.
Is it all public?
That’s up to you. For me, the only real difference between what I post on Facebook and what I post on Twitter is “privacy.” I put that in quotes because I think it’s naive to think that anything you say online is really private, but personally I have far fewer friends on Twitter than I do on Facebook. I also have my tweets “protected” meaning that they can only be seen by people I have approved.
What’s with the lingo?
There is a bit of lingo, most of which is explained really well here. The only thing I would add is that I didn’t really get the power of hashtags until I opened a second, professional account and started following the #slpeeps. By adding that hashtag to tweets about Speech Language Pathology, and then searching the hashtag, I found a whole new world of SLPs out there.
How do I get started?
I think the most important thing about Twitter is there’s a learning curve. At least there was for me. Give it a few days or a few weeks. Linger first if you want. Also, find a Twitter client. Seems kind of silly to do that before you know if you’ll like it, but the Twitter website itself is horrible to use. A Twitter client makes it easier to see what’s going on. A lot of people use Tweetdeck or Hootsuite. I used to use Twitter for Mac, and I currently use Tweetbot.
After you’ve found a Twitter client, pick some people to follow. You can always unfollow later. I will often find just one person I like, and look through the list of who they are following and pick some people out. I also search certain terms on Twitter, like “Sioux Falls,” and see who’s tweeting about a subject I’m interested in.
You’ll also want to decide if your account will be private (only people you approve can see your tweets) or public (this can be changed in your settings). When I started, mine was public, which is the easiest way to find people and let them find you. You can always make it private later. On my professional account, I’ve been unprotecting it before a conference to make it easier to communicate with people about the conference, but will close it after.
Another thing that is helpful is to check your notification settings. You can get emails for everything if you want (anytime someone sends you a tweet, or mentions you) or just for specific things (direct messages), etc. Setting them up how you want them makes it a) not annoying and b) easier to keep up if there are notifications you do want to receive.
The only warning I’d give, especially when you’re getting started, is to not put anything too public in an @reply or in a tweet. If I’m making plans with friends, and we start talking addresses and specific times, I always DM (direct message) them so that they are the only person who sees it. Like I said, there’s a learning curve, but give it a few days or week, and you’ll get the hang of it.
Twitter friends, any other tips for newbies or peeps who are thinking about trying out Twitter?