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getting a handle on twitter

by Geoff Searle

When it comes to social media I find most people get a grip on Facebook pretty quickly, but struggle when it comes to using Twitter. Our Social Media Manager, Matt Jones, previously wrote an article about his experience with Twitter and why it can be such a difficult medium, which I’ve decided to elaborate on.

I think part of the reason people find it confusing is because Twitter is used in so many different ways by people. Ask five people what they use Twitter for and you will likely get five different answers to your question.

That said, let’s try and solve some of the mysteries of Twitter for new users.

What is Twitter really?

Essentially it’s microblogging in an online social network. Users post 140 character messages called ‘tweets’. These messages can then be viewed by others and though they can be directed at people, they are usually public. There are a number of analogies people use to describe Twitter. I think the one that works best is “a room full of people all engaged in conversation”.

You can talk to everyone who wants to listen; you can direct your conversation at one person with others choosing to listen in; and you can have a private conversation with just one person.

What should I use it for?

While it can be great for general conversation or keeping in touch with friends and family, here are a few of the other things it can be good for:

– an up-to-date source of information. Often news breaks on Twitter while it is still occurring in real time
– a tool for education and learning with users gaining access to a large pool of knowledge and experts on various topics
– PR/marketing tool – ideal for a promotion that needs to reach a large number of people rapidly
– a virtual water cooler – particularly handy for those who often telecommute or work from home
– a tracking tool for following specific events like sporting events, elections, concerts, conferences, etc.

Whether you use Twitter passively to keep up with the latest news or actively to build up your online reputation, with a bit of time and effort you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it.

What about the jargon, what do all those terms mean?

Twitter is certainly guilty of using some unique jargon which can make it difficult to begin with. While I won’t go into detail in this article, there are about a dozen terms you need to understand when using the basics of Twitter. Explanations of each can be found in Twitter’s Glossary.

How do I get started?

Signing up for Twitter is pretty straight forward, and can be accessed on Twitter’s main page. Twitter profiles themselves are fairly light on detail. They include: a name (15 character limit), location, web site link, 160-character bio and a picture. Because Twitter profiles are so minimal other users do tend to read them. It can influence their decision to follow someone. Therefore it is a good idea to upload a picture to your profile and put some details in your bio.

The best thing about Twitter is that you tend to get out of it what you put into it, give it time and it can be very rewarding. If you’d like to see what we get up to on Twitter, feel free to follow us!

Keep an eye out on the iiNet Blog for more articles that help you get to know your social networks better.

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