The other day my friend asked me about twitter and I was getting a headache from all of her questions. It's not like she's the first... she's just the youngest (27). And it was making me weary. I didn't realize there was so much to say about twitter until I started typing this up so this will be a multi-part excursion. I'm keeping it to two for now. This is going to be extremely basic then moving to more specific to try to cover the most frequent questions I get when people learn I've been tweeting for more than 3 years. Of course I have a lot of opinions about twitter (that you can and should take with a grain of salt... I have a low annoyance meter about some things. It's a problem. I'm working on it.) but many of these things are norms and mores I've picked up along the way.
What is it? A microblogging site. Essentially it's a 140-character thought you have & share with followers (like friends on facebook except it's quite acceptable to interact with strangers and celebrities). It's shorter than a blog post. Hence microblogging. It can really be about anything that flits through the transoms of your mind. I tweet about food and being hungry A LOT. It's basically like a 24/7 Monday Mindspacing post up in that piece. I rarely TMI it but there are people who like to do so. Other common topics include technology, coupons, shopping, fashion, your day, television shows (live tweeting makes (almost) EVERYTHING WORTH WATCHING!!), your location (which you can use in conjunction w/Four Square or a similar program to autotweet it for you). Basically anything you're interested in, there is a community of tweeters waiting for you.
1) What's a timeline? A stream of the tweets of the people you follow. Essentially it's just like the news feed on facebook.
2) Who to follow? Friends, bloggers, I don't recommend coworkers if you tweet about work (work tweets should generally be kept to what you wouldn't mind your boss seeing per usual even if private), people you like or think are funny (tho many celebs are funny on tv but not on twitter... why??? IDK), people who have similar interests or talk about things you want to know, a news organization or 20 so you can be up on the stories other people are talking about.
3) Retweeting. When you either hit the 'retweet' button or manually copy and paste the tweet with RT in front of the person's name.
Ex. RT @oprah A lot of ‘lasts’ today. I’m really feeling like it’s the end. Still all sweet, no bitter.
You don't want to overuse this feature because then you're essentially sharing no thoughts of your own but just everything everyone else is saying. If I wanted to know what they were saying, I'd follow them. So retweeting should be saved for the best/most interesting/funniest tweets. If you RT every tweet you see (with or without your opinion attached), no one wants to read that. And please don't retweet things filled w/typos and grammatical errors. You look as crazy as that person. Ahem HU homie... lol
4) Trending topics or TTs. The most tweeted topics at a given time. You can customize it by world, U.S., or city (the biggest ones are on there). They range from funny to offensive with overlap in both categories. A lot of people add their voices to TTs once they pop up, making them stay up longer. Popular dead people are always TTs they day they die and sometimes a while after and sometimes it comes around again on their birthday or the anniversary of their death i.e. Michael Jackson, Bob Marley, Malcolm X. There is also a phenomenon known as black twitter that can get kind of racist and/or ridiculous. Basically a TT stays on twitter forever (12 hours or more) because tons of black people are thought to be talking about it i.e. #thingsblackpeoplehate. One non-black writer amusingly admitted to being slightly obsessed with it.
5) A hashtag, notified by #, is a way to join others in on your conversation. By using #, twitter hyperlinks your hashtag. It can be a word or a group of words. You can't use spaces or symbols. You can start one or add on to the conversation in progress i.e. with a TT. (Look how much you're learning!) #fail was one of the most famous early ones, used to signify bad behavior or something along those lines. They get funny when they're a sentence or song lyric like in one of Rashan's recent tweets: FB comment: "But whats down in the dark always comes to light" #toturnaphraseincorrectly
6) Amount. In general, if you need multiple tweets to express your point, you need to take it to a blog post, a note on fb or a phone conversation w/someone who loves you. If you do this once a week or less and it takes less than 6 tweets, it's fine but if daily you're using 10 tweets in a row for one thought w/o interaction, please go somewhere with that. The same applies to twitlonger. With this people can click a link to see the rest of your tweet. If you're using this for more than 10% of your tweets... Tweeting excessively to one person or a group is fine if you're @ replying those specific people. It becomes a problem (for some, not others) when you're tweeting ad nauseum. If you find yourself tweeting 40 or more times an hour 5 or more times a day, you have a problem. It's called addiction. And there's an app for that.
7) At replies or @ replies. These are essential for talking to a single person or a particular group of people. That's how you avoid wearing people out with your tweeting. I don't need to see your every conversation. @ reply that one person you're specifically talking to.
8) Private accounts. You use these if you want to control who sees your tweets. If you're a trash talker or in a high profile or sensitive job, you should go private. If you're anonymous and/or don't care who sees your tweets (which can open you up to some new friends), stay public. I used to go public for every Top Chef & Project Runway because there were VERY amusing public people and it was fun to interact. If your account is private, people can't see your tweet even if you reply specifically to them.
9) Please don't say twittering or twitterers. Or twitting or twits. (LOL @ that last one.) It's tweeting and tweeters. If people say to me, "Oh are you a tweeterer?" I say, "*blink blink* I tweet..." (Then pray they don't ask me for my handle aka twitter name.) There are many, many ways of i.d.ing your twitter followers i.e. tweeps, tweeple, twam (twitter family) and on and on. Some more ridiculous than others. I like tweeps and rarely tweeple but I'm not a most fan of the other names. Personal choice.
10) Add a picture. Even if you're private, use some picture of yourself, please. I need to know who I'm talking to. We all do.
P.S. There are some very amusing things happening on The Record Dish as our guys try to dress us this week.