Well, Twitter and Facebook may both be social networking sites, but they are quite different. Facebook is officially a ‘private’ space, where you interact with people that you already know, whereas Twitter is a public space, giving lots of opportunities to meet new people. If you have a smartphone, it’s even easier to use Twitter!
What is Twitter?
Whilst Facebook has been around since 2004, Twitter.com first came on the scene in 2006. It’s a form of microblogging, based on text messaging, so every message (known as a tweet) is limited to 140 characters. Messages are displayed on your profile page, and read by subscribers, known as ‘followers’ (rather than ‘friends’). Messages usually aren’t as personal as Facebook statuses… “I had toast” tends not to work… unless you’re a celebrity (find them on: http://www.celebritytweet.com/)!
Twitter is great for “meeting” others with similar interests, as it’s easy to search for particular words. Twitter also uses #hashtags which make it easier to find specific interests. Take, for example, if you were looking for the TV series “Lost”. If you search for ‘lost’ you will find all the tweets where people have lost things, but if you search for #Lost you are more likely to find people talking about the TV series. Users often repost other users messages, known as a ‘Retweet’. The message then gets circulated to their followers, spreading the message much wider. This is the basis of the power of Twitter.
So, that’s what it is, what can you do with it?
We’ve already said that Twitter is great for following celebrities, and for making new contacts. I find it much easier to work out what someone is interested in on Twitter, as people tend to write more frequently and more ‘openly’. Twitter has few rules, but does have a strong etiquette, and the tone is generally friendly, genuine, with people engaging where their passions are. It tends not to work if you’re not interested in something!
Once you have a decent following, you can seek feedback and questions (as Stephen Fry famously did when he got stuck in a lift!). Want to be the first in the know? News stories tend to break first on Twitter, including the plane crashing into the Hudson River, and the death of Michael Jackson.
What about if you want to get serious?
Twitter is great for reputation building, and with every Tweet being treated as a separate ‘page’ by the search engines, your name will jump up Google, and you’ll be easier to find. Just think what it’s appropriate to post!
If you want people to follow, and continue following, you, you need to make yourself interesting, justify their investment of time. Give them insights into the real you, your passions, and a touch of humour. Some of the big companies are on Twitter, and you can get discounts, support, competitions and an idea of what’s new? Look at how Radio 1 use Twitter, all part of building a relationship with their audience.
Do you need to be on it?
If you need to network, before an event, or when job-hunting, Twitter is great for this. You can have great conversations with people before an event, and it makes it easier to say hi, and then carry on the conversation afterwards! If job-hunting, demonstrate your passion for a field, and an awareness for the latest news stories, and the key people in the field.
It’s important to accept that it takes time to build up a following, and that you need to put time into chatting to others. It can take time for Twitter to make sense, and, one final note… your followers will come and go – don’t take it personally!
Digiexplorer (not guru), Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing @ Manchester Metropolitan University. Interested in digital literacy and digital culture in the third sector (especially faith). Author of ‘Raising Children in a Digital Age’, regularly checks hashtag #DigitalParenting.