Tech Geek — Why You Should Be Twittering

Posted by & filed under Social Networking, Tech Geek.

Twitter. Tweets. Tweeple twittering. Its all over the place like the yellow pollen covering every inch of your car and house. You can’t escape from it. Twitter (wikipedia) hit the mainstream and is no longer just some silly geek toy with a silly name.

In the past couple of months, Twitter has gone from geek-stream to main-stream in a big way. It literally has exploded into its own mass-media.

Get used to it folks. Twitter is here. And you need to join in!

WTF are you talking about? What is this “Twitter” you speak of?

Have you been under a rock? Okay, perhaps you have so here is a little background. Back in the day when you had to walk to school in the snow uphill in both directions, if you wanted to be heard on the Internet you had to play on mailing-lists or forums. You used sites that other people owned and managed.

Then the blogs came.

You now had the ability to have your own site and deliver your own content rather easily and others were permitted to comment on your content telling you how much they love your work or how stupid you really are. The later part, called “Trolling” has been around since there was anonymous Internet communication.

But blogs were still a bit of to setup and maintain and they didn’t handle the mobile world very well. So we needed something new. So in 2006 the world was gifted the wonder’s of Twitter. But it was obscure and people used it to connect friends together and let them share what they were doing using messages that worked with cell phone text messages, which means they are limited to 140 characters (plus overhead to make it into a 160 character SMS message).

Now you could blog, albeit short posts, in a very simple to setup and manage service. So now anyone can share their thoughts and read everyone elses going ons.

Well 140 characters doesn’t let you say much and its early utility was for friends to keep up with what they were doing:

Bill: I’m at the Coffee Shop, come on down!
John: I’ll be there around 10am!
Jill: I wish I could make it

Well it served a niche, but it was of limited utility. But people started using it to share real information and eventually breaking news:

jkrums: There’s a plane in the Hudson. I’m on the ferry going to pick up the people. Crazy. http://twitpic.com/135xa

And its utility to report breaking news came to fruition. So now every one is using it to get news, tell news, share information and with the addition of good search features, its now a strong research tool.

Thats a Nice History, but why do I want to be involved?

Frankly, if you’re not into using the Internet for socializing, you probably won’t get the maximum benfit from it, but if you have found MySpace or FaceBook, then Twitter is an obvious expansion of your resources.

Twitter is very similar to Facebook Status updates and in fact many people use utilities to post their twitter posts to FaceBook. But the utility of Twitter over FaceBook is that FaceBook updates are limited to your friends. Twitter status updates go into the public where anyone can see and search for them.

FaceBook is driven about finding people you know personally, friends, workmates, your high school crush, etc. Twitter of course lets you network with friends and such, but Twitter makes it eash to network with strangers who share common interests.

I’m not into social networking

Well don’t run away yet! Twitter can be useful in other ways. You don’t even have to participate either. Its more fun if you do, but twitter as become a great resource for finding things. You can go to http://search.twitter.com and put in something you’re looking for like say “coupon“. You will get a list everyone who has twittered about coupons lately. Many will have links to coupon sites or great deals. Just as we would use Google to find things, Twitter becomes another resource.

Now if your into a hobby like couponing, you can then use this search to find people who are posting things you like and then you “follow” those people. You don’t have to contribute (its better if you do). You can just be a consumer.

Twitter is a great resource for news too. Your local newspaper or TV stations likely has an account that they publish breaking news to, so you can follow your newspaper and keep up with that’s going on. Maybe you are not interested in news so much, but you want to keep up with your favorite sports team? You can find people who post news stories and commentary about your team or the enemy team!

Some sites even create specific twitter accounts for special events, such as Myrtle Beach’s Bike Rallies

And a natural extention from this is the Celeberty traffic. What to know what’s going on with Coldplay? Brittany Spears? You can follow them and read about their day to day musings, concert information, etc. Even Oprah is now twittering.

So there is plenty of content being produced on Twitter waiting to be consumed.

Still twitter wouldn’t be as powerful as it is with out its members creating content.

Okay, I need to check this out. Where do I start?

Thats easy. Go to Twitter’s Web site and click on the green “Get Started – Join!” button. You will need to enter just a little bit of information: Your real name, a “Twitter” username, a password and an e-mail address and you’re all set.

Next, you can explore around Twitter’s “Find People” option to find friends who might already be on twitter, find the popular celeberty and information accounts, etc. Then to find people who post things your interested in, go to http://search.twitter.com and find people saying things your interested in and follow them.

You follow people by going to their twitter page, by clicking on their photo associate with each tweet, then read about them in their profile, and click on the “Follow” button to add them to the list of people who you are interested in.

Then you visit Twitter’s Web site, login (or stay logged in) to visit your profile page. There you will see a list of messages your followers have produced and you can read to your heart’s content.

Getting Involved

At 140 characters, some messages will be a little terse and maybe your have a question or want to get more details. Maybe someone says something you know to be wrong or that you have better information on. Its very easy for you to contribute. You can reply to someone easily. When you move your mouse over a tweet you will see a small curved arrow. Click on that and your status bar the top will have the person’s name with an @ sign in front of it. This is called a “Reply”. Type what you want to say to them and click the “Reply” button.

Twitter replies are public. They are searchable and anyone can see them. Think of it as standing around the water cooler at work and replying to something somemone said.

Twitter allows you to send private messages directly to someone. You do that by typing the letter “d” and their name at the beginning of the status, then your reply, and click reply:

d MiracleMan Thanks for this blog post, its really helpful

would send that message to me and me alone. My twitter is also setup so that direct messages also come to my Cell Phone as text messages.

Eventually, you may want to say something of your own and you use the status block to post your own message.

The power of Re-tweets

Lets say you follow me and I return follow you. You will have a group of followers and I will have a group of followers, but they are likely to be very different and not have a lot of overlap. Lets say for instance that I have 200 followers and you have 100 followers. You post something I think is of value to my followers, I can “Re-Tweet” it and now my 200 followers will see your message as well, so its now going to be seen by 300 people. Then if one of my followers passes it on to their 500 followers, in two actions, you’ve communicated your thoughts to 800 people.

To Re-Tweet, you type RT in the status bar and cut and paste the message into the status form and click reply.

RT @MiracleMan Thanks for this blog post, its really helpful

The RT doesn’t do anything magical, its just a short “code” for people to recognize it. You always want to give the original poster credit for their tweet.

Stepping it up

When you first create your twitter account, it is very basic. You provide a name and nickname that’s publicly visible. They provide you with a colorful twitter blue bird themed background and you have an “Avatar” or small icon/picture that you can use to represent yourself. At a minimum you should upload your avatar photo. The default brown block with light blue circles is a signal to people who would follow you that your a “n00b” (newbie or new user) and can be a turn off. It doesn’t have to be a photo of you, though many people do use pics of themselves.

Secondly, you can visit your “Settings” and fill out the rest of your profile. There is a place to put in a web site address. This could be your FaceBook page, your personal blog or any other online presence that you have. If you don’t have one, you can leave it blank. There is also a “One line Bio” where you have 160 characters to let the world know who you are. It could be something as simple as “Coupon Queen” if your into couponing. Or you could put “Father of 2, Hockey Addict” or whatever describes you to those who would want to follow you.

Enjoy!

Twitter is a fun, educational and informational environment that you can take advantage of regardless of technical ability or experience in social networking. Go try it and ave fun!

You can follow me at http://twitter.com/MiracleMan.

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