What is Twitter?
Michael gets job postings delivered right to his smart phone. Erin gets local economic news and keeps herself on the forefront of trends that might affect her customers. Sean gets unfiltered political news as it’s happening on the ground.
That’s right, they’re all on Twitter.
So one thing can do all that? What is it, magic? Actually, it’s just conversations going on all over the world, right now. And you can be a part of that, right now.
But what is Twitter, really?
- a combination of instant messaging (IM) and blogging
- a way to quickly send–or resend–news directly to people interested in you or your organization
- real time postings, with the emphasis on what people are saying now
- a way to generate buzz about your company or product
- a way to monitor–and respond–to what people are saying about you or your company
- a way to keep on top of world, local, and professional news
No, seriously, what is Twitter?
Okay, how about this:
- It’s like being at a cocktail party where you get to pick the guests, and then walk around listening to (and participating in) the conversations (–Stowe Boyd).
- It’s like a fast-moving river of thoughts and news (inspired by Salman Rushdie).
- It’s like being a fly on the wall, listening to people you might never have the opportunity to talk to in person
This isn’t helping.
Well, try watching this video (you might want to lover the sound, the beginning is noisy):
But how is this interesting? I don’t need to know when my kid brother gets himself a cup of coffee. I have a life, you know.
Twitter is often criticized by people who join, and who then only follow self-obsessed celebrities, or boring acquaintances who just talk about things like their poodle’s adorable new pink rhinestone collar (although in fairness, we saw it and it really is pretty cute). For these people, the Twitter experience is ridiculous at best and painful navel-gazing at worst. Smart Twitter, dumb Twitter–what makes the difference? Easy: who you follow, and how you interact with them.
So how do I find the interesting people?
Look around. See what looks good to you. You can search Twitter to find the fascinating and interesting conversations. Of course, everyone has a different definition of “interesting.” Your second cousin Suzanne might be genuinely riveted by what Carrot Top has to say. Try not to judge her too harshly.
So what is Twitter like?
- It’s public by design. Anyone who thinks you might be interesting can follow your posts. It is possible to change your settings to make people request access, but if your goal is the widest possible broadcast, this is probably unwise.
- Unlike Facebook, you do not automatically follow the people who follow you.
- Posts (“tweets”) are limited to 140 characters.
- It’s possible to include links to photographs and video, but Twitter is primarily a text-based form of communication.
- Twitter is hardware-neutral, meaning that you can tweet from your computer, smartphone, or basic phone–you don’t even need an internet connection.
What you’re about to click on is a link to a Prezi presentation. What’s a Prezi? It’s a presentation tool that allows you to follow the text as it moves, turns, and zooms. If you haven’t used it before, here’s what you do:
- Click on the Play button (in the box below) to start it.
- Once the Prezi is loaded, click again on the “Play” button each time you want to move forward through the slides.
- When you get to the end and the Play button disappears, scroll down to the “Discovery Exercise” below the Prezi to get back to the class. That’s it! No, really that’s all there is to it. Enjoy.
Not working for you? Here are some Prezi alternatives:
- Are you using an iPhone, iPod or iPad? Download the free Prezi Viewer app and go to the Twitter Prezi online, then return to this blog when you’re finished.
- Is the Prezi too zoom-y? You can also view the Twitter Prezi as a PDF, which has no motion.
Get your feet wet!
- First you’ll need a username, the shorter the better. A Twitter username can only have 15 characters, but try to get one shorter than that. There are a lot of tweeters, though, so don’t be surprised if you don’t get your first choice.
- Come up with a short, snappy way to describe yourself. People do think about your username when they are deciding whether to follow you or not. Don’t stress out about it too much, though. The most important thing is to have interesting tweets.
- You’ll need a password, too. It could be embarrassing to have a stranger start making up tweets for you. Or possibly thrilling, depending on how much of a risk-taker you are.
- Optional but really you should do it anyway: find something you can use for an avatar. If you don’t know what an avatar is, check out class #3 on avatars.
- Bookmark this page or open a new browser window or tab (File –>New Window, or New Tab) and go to the Twitter homepage.
- Sign up for an account.
- You’ll be asked for your real name, your username, an e-mail, and a password.
- You’ll probably have to try a couple of times to get a username you want. It’s ok, it happened to me, too.
- Fill in your profile.
- Tweak your settings to suit you.
- When your account has been created, use the search box on the right to search Twitter for something fun. Did you watch that video we put up? Go watch it now if you haven’t. Or, if you can’t think of anything fun, just try searching twitter for “Tucson.” Follow anything you see that you think sounds interesting.
- Hint: locals will generally follow you back if you follow them.
- For more fun, search Twitter for your favorite authors and follow them, too.
- Eventually it will happen that you follow someone who turns out to be booooring. You can un-follow, too:
- Click on the name; this will take you to their main page.
- Look for a gear-like wheel in their banner and click it.
- One of the choices will be “unfollow.” Click there. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt their feelings. Well, probably not much, anyway.
- To see what’s new and hot, try clicking on one of the “Trending Topics” (right hand side) and see what’s there. Be careful–some topics may be embarrassing to read at work (and even more embarrassing if you find your boss there).
- Start tweeting! You can say anything–hopefully something interesting. What do you have to say? What did you just notice that you hadn’t before? Did something hit your funny bone? Is there a triumph you want to share? Delicious cookies you just baked? A great (or horrible) book you just finished? Be creative, be silly, be yourself.
Hey, what’s this #@RT stuff?
Twitter users have developed shortcuts to help them search for and discover interesting posts without plagiarizing and still keeping it under 140 characters. That’s what we call win-win.
Here’s how to decipher the hieroglyphics:
- RT = retweet, a re-posting of someone else’s post more or less verbatim
- @[name] = someone’s member name
- #[word/phrase] = a “hashtag” is used like a keyword or to identify a topic of the post or keep the thread of a conversation together. It helps spread information as well as organize it because it is clickable, searchable. But don’t overuse them. Hashtags can be used at the end, or within a sentence. Example: I am #reading #GraveyardBook and had a laugh about what it said about cities and upkeep on historic buildings.
Want to try retweeting? Here’s how:
- Find a tweet you think your friends might like to read.
- Put your cursor over the post you want and look for the looping arrows labeled “Retweet.” Click it.
- A box will pop up with the message. If it looks good click the “Retweet” button again. That’s it!
Can’t get enough Twitter?
Here are some more videos about Twitter and how it works:
- Twitter in Plain English (video by Common Craft) focuses on using Twitter to keep in touch with friends.
- Social Media and the Workplace (video by Common Craft)
- Twitter Search (video by Common Craft)
Bone up on your Twitter etiquette (just please don’t call it Twittequette)
More on Twitter
Twitter made easier: several companies offer free software that makes Twitter easier to use: tweetdeck, hootsuite, seesmic, and buffer will all shorten URLs for you, make it easier to reply or re-tweet (RT), or schedule your posts to be published at a later date and time.
Twitter on your smartphone: more people access Twitter on their phone than via the website! Search your app store for the possiblities. The official app is pretty good.
Twitter news: One of the best sources for Twitter news is the blog Mashable, which also has a Twitter account.
Who else is tweeting?
- Pima County libraries: PCPL | Main Library | Wilmot Library | Woods Library | Mission Library | more
- Authors: Laurie Halse Anderson | Mo Willems | Luis Urrea | Neil Gaiman | Maureen Johnson | more authors
- Bookstores: Bookmans | Changing Hands | Third Place Books | Tattered Cover
- Tucson on Twitter
Woo hoo! Now you can use Twitter, too. We’ll be back again next week with that heavyweight of free technology, email. And specifically, Gmail. And if you already have a Gmail account, come on back anyway. We like having you around.
Drop-in Sessions: get help or ask questions about these classes: Schedule.
Comments & suggestions welcome: Jenn and I welcome your comments about these classes! Comment in the “leave a Reply” form below or via the tech help comment form at: http://www.library.pima.gov/contact/tech.php