Monday, July 18, 2011

Twitter for Newbies

One year ago I went to the biggest blogging conference in the land, BlogHer. A conference that is fueled by Twitter and the incredible connections and conversations that happen there.

I didn't understand it.

I didn't want to understand it.

And, I certainly had no interest in tweeting.

It's a shame when I look back. I had an awesome time at BlogHer '10, but I can't even begin to imagine how great it could have been had I been actively engaged in Twitter. I met someone who was/is pretty influential in blogland the first day of the conference and she wanted to share a cab to an event the first evening. She asked me to tweet her when I was ready to go. Too embarrassed to say that made no sense to me. I missed out on making a really great connection.

So this post is for the Twitter wary among you, bloggers and non-bloggers alike.

It's not Facebook.

I'm going to assume that if you are out here reading blogs, that you are probably on Facebook. Facebook is like that old friend from your neighborhood, so comfortable. She's known you since the beginning days of social media. She's held your hand, made things easy on you. I get it, change is hard.

But meeting someone new, Twitter in this case, doesn't mean you have to leave your old friend behind. There is room in this crazy social media world for more than one BFF. And, Twitter is my sparkly new BFF--she knows all the cool places and all the cool people.

Where Facebook connects you with all the people you know in real life and fills you in on the nitty gritty that is their everyday existence whether you wanted to know that they eat the same thing for breakfast everyday or pole dance every night (true story). It's all there for you to read it -- the good, the bad and the WAY too personal.

Twitter can be about bonding with the people that are in your "real life" social circle. Although I have to say, that for me anyway, it's more about meeting people online and creating a friendship via your computer. Friendships that can be incredibly robust and meaningful. Which leads me to the next point...


Twitter is an amazing place to build a community. You can ask Twitter almost anything and get an answer one way or the other.

Want an idea for dinner tonight? Ask Twitter.

Want ideas for what to do on a rainy day with a kid? Ask Twitter.

Want to find a great vintage of wine or have a drink with some fabulous ladies? Ask Twitter. Or, join the #wineparty.

Had the worst day in history and need a pity party? That's right, someone will join in and bring the virtual cake too....TWITTER!

The @

You can tweet out a message a few ways on Twitter.

You can post a message out (in 140 characters) as is.

You can send it to someone(s) specifically by using their Twitter handle. Example:

@mommaneedsabeer You'd love Asheville! There are microbreweries everywhere.

If you click on "reply" to someone's tweet, Twitter will automatically type the @ and their username for you, then you can just type your message. See? Twitter is friendly like that.

Or you can Direct Message (DM) someone which sends them a private message that no one else in Twitterville can see. Pull up someone's profile page and click on the little "letter" icon to DM them or go to your messages tab and type in their username.

Check out your friends' friends.

So you might be wondering at this point how do you exactly create these connections, this community as it were? There are a couple of easy options.

If you are reading blogs, you will often see an option for following them on Twitter listed off to the right or left side of the main content section of their blog. (Mine is at the top to the right of the content.) Click on that icon and you'll be taken to their Twitter page, where with a quick click on the "follow" button you'll be privy to all their fabulous tweets.

You can search for folks by name or Twitter handle (often the same as their blog or email handle).

But, my favorite way to search happens after you have found a few folks to follow. Zip on over to the profile page for the folks that you follow and look for the little box that says "following" and click on that. Scroll through the list of folks that they find interesting enough to follow and see if you can find some new folks to follow yourself. Under most usernames you will see a short bio that can help you determine who might be interesting to you.

Mine for example says:

Mom. Wife. Blogger. Interpreter. Diet Coke addict. Ska music lover. Fantastic jelly sandwich maker.


A hashtag can be a way to follow a particular event or activity such as #blogher11 #worldcup or #dietcoke so you chat with other folks that are interested in talking about the same topic. This often happens with conferences or where it is anticipated that large groups of people will be together talking about the same topic. Our outdoor movie festival in town has a hashtag to build buzz around their events. Many folks also get on Twitter to talk about TV shows as well. I often tweet while watching Amazing Race via the #amazingrace hashtag, (Notice no spaces in hashtags.)

Another way that hashtags can be used are for what I call "under your breath comments" such as:

Why is it that people can't seem to use their blinkers. #stupiddrivers 

Ahhh, my first soda of the day. #dietcokeheals #nectarofthegods

Large groups of people aren't going to follow these silly hashtags. But they add a bit of lightness, humor, etc. to my tweets.

Share the Love (aka RT)

What the heck is RT? RT stands for retweet. Say someone tweets a quote that really speaks to you, a link that you really like, a great piece of information, or you agree with my odes to Diet Coke. You can certainly @ me or you can reply with a RT which sends my message to all of your followers too. It's a really nice way to pay it forward and spread the love.

You can RT two ways. One is to just click on the ReTweet button and the message will be sent as is out again giving credit to the author as the original sender.

The other option is to add a little something of your own and add the RT to give credit to the original author of the tweet. Using an example from above,

Drives me crazy too! RT @havestroller Why is it that people can't seem to use their blinkers. #stupiddrivers

*Keep in mind that if you are hoping people will retweet a particular tweet, give them room to do so. Since Twitter caps each tweet at 140 characters, perhaps stop your tweet at 110 or 120 characters to allow them to add a comment at the beginning if they want.*

Twitter Dating

I don't mean date the people you tweet with? That could get you in trouble, especially if you are married.

This is my own personal Twitter philosophy. In high school I figure the average relationship tanked around 90 days. So I'll follow just about anyone back for at least 90 days, "try them out" as it were. I think it takes about that long to figure out if someone is going to drive me insane. If they do, I can always unfollow them at 90 days or sooner if it's warranted. But you never know who might be your next great connection, so give everyone that you think isn't spam a go for a few months.

Have any other great Twitter tips to share?

Or, more questions?

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