Monday, 31 January 2011

Tips for the Twitter-curious 4. Getting-by in Twitter-speak.

Hello hello.

Welcome to Round 4 of
Tips for the Twitter-curious! If you don't know what that is, or you just want to catch-up on the previous lessons, they're all listed here.

After a whole weekend to digest the content and to experiment with the ideas I've offered up so far, tell me ... are you still curious?

  • is that curious-terrified or curious-brave?
  • Or are you like @gingersburns who said she used to curious-skeptical but has lost the skepticism after reading my first post [You see!! I could have been a lawyer after all!!]
  • Are you already Tweeting away like a canary?
  • An old-Tweeter-learning-new-tricks?
  • Or are you still a-firm-anti-Tweeter? What? Still??!!!

If I've still not whetted your Twittter whistle [trying saying that fast 3 times!] then the classes on Wednesday and Friday are definitely going to be worth dropping in for. I'll be going all-out [again!] to detail how Twitter can be used for some far more practical purposes than you might expect. I'm hoping to demonstrate how time spent on Twitter really needn't be [entirely] a frivolous frippery or a waste of your free-time. But that's for the days to come ...

Today were adding to the Twitter-vocabulary we've built up over the first 3 classes:

We've already run into some strange new terms and forms of grammar in previous lessons, such as:

  • the all-important grappling with @mentions and Timelines from Lesson 2; and ...
  • how and when to use the #ff hashtag from Lesson 3.

So let's now add-in a few more items to your Conversational-Twitterish phrase book! Starting with RTs ...

RTs - ReTweeting - or 'sharing the love'!

Retweeting is an easy way to share something with others;

  • This could be anything from a tweet which made you laugh to one with something you can help spread the word about;

Retweet anything you think deserves a wider audience or which helps someone out:

  • A question which someone needs answering stands more chance the more people pass it on by RTing;
  • A link to a friend's shop can drive new traffic in their direction; and ...
  • An event you think your followers will be interested in reaches the right pairs of eyes!

Beneath the tweet you want to share simply click Retweet and then everyone who Follows you will see it in their Timeline:

When people you are Following retweet something it's a good way for you to:

  • Build your network - people often retweet things by their friends. If you like the sound of their tweets - follow them too;
  • Expand your knowledge of the kind of people on Twitter - you'll see Retweets featuring people you never knew were on there! Once you know ... you can Follow them too!
  • Gain a broader picture of the personality of someone you Follow - based on the kind of things they Retweet you get to see what's important to them.

You can even see if anyone's RTd anything of yours under the Retweets tab on your Homepage!

Retweeting is definitely a useful tool to create a feeling that you're part of a broader conversation and is a simple way to show solidarity and support to others too.

Let's move on now to the hashtag ...

What's a hashtag and why should I use one?
The use of a hashtag is, like conquering the use of Lists and remembering to check your @Mentions page, another of the ways you can filter down the abundance of information on Twitter in order to focus on one simplified aspect. But what is one?

  • At it's most basic a Twitter hashtag is any phrase or word which has a '#' or 'hash' symbol in front of it.
  • Take, for example '#twittercurious' the hashtag I've been using whenever I refer to my class:

  • Anytime you use the '#' symbol before a word, you turn that word into an active link;
  • Clicking on the link will leadyou to a filtered list of all the times that specific hashtag has been used;

This is useful if you want to be in-the-loop and chat with lots of people about the same thing - so long as everyone uses the exact same hashtag and adds it to their tweet. For example:

  • People wrting about the new products etc featured at The Craft & Hobby Show in LA have been using the #CHA or #CHAshow hashtag to mark their messages;
  • Then anyone wanting to read about the same things can just click and see the whole gamut of CHA-themed tweets!

One amazing practical use for this is in exploiting the filtered Timeline you get by clicking on a certain hashtag ... to hold your own live web-chats like those organised by site:

To hold your own similar live chat all you need to do is:

  • Agree on the hashtag you're all going to use;
  • Set a date and time;
  • Sit down > tweet > include the hashtag each time;
  • Click the hashtag > go to the full list - which is ever-updating with new tweets;
  • Have a whole [free, inclusive] back and forth conversation!

There's actually another, less easy to explain, way in which people use hashtags in tweets which I'm going to try to find words to describe in next Monday's [7th Feb] post about what I'm calling 'the artistry' of Twitter!

Until then let's look at 'Trending' which is where the use of hashtags becomes evident.

On your Homepage you'll see a list of things the most popular topics being tweeted about right here, right now:

Notice how many of them feature the # showing how people are talking about the same topic, using the same hashtag and joining in a inter/national conversation to the extent that it becomes one of the most popular topics on twitter at that moment in time.

While many of these popular hashtag conversations are nonsense, just for fun memes ... I'm relieved to say that the Trends list can also show evidence of more serious concerns and is, believe it or not, a good place to pick up on breaking news.

Many times now I've spotted a name or phrase trending and wondered 'Why are people talking about that right now? What's happened?'. Once I click on it you get taken to a page containing all the tweets mentioning that phrase and can discover what's happening ... then I often hop over to the BBC News page for the full story.

Again, as I've been pointing out during these lessons, it's yet another way in which Twitter brings the information directly to YOU!

OK so the term 'favourites' isn't that hard for a non-Twitter-speaker to have grasped ... so I mention it only to bring it to your attention:

The majority of the tweets I've added to my favourites are ones which have made me laugh - which is why I want to keep them in easy reach. [And after a quick skim through them now just to check ... I've also realised that many of them are ones I've written myself ... so ... I admit it, I make myself laugh ... there's no shame in that! I hope.]

But besides the narcissitic possibilities of laughing at your own jokes ... you can use the Favourites function as:
  • a noticeboard to pin tweets containing useful / interesting links to - so you can refer back to them later when you've got more time;
  • A diary, to store imprtant tweets with special dates or upcoming events in;
  • A place for tweets which you plan to use as prompts for future pieces of writing or to lift directly to add on a scrapbook or art journal page etc [On Thursday I'll share a few scrapbooking pages I've made which were based around Tweets];

OK, today's homework is pretty self-evident:
  1. Retweet something you feel is worth sharing;
  2. If you tweet about this class, include the #twittercurious hashtag in there;
  3. Cast your eye over what's Trending where you are; and ...
  4. If there's anything appropriate, Favourite something - it's just as easy to 'un-favourite' it later so don't worry about making any permanent grand statements with what you choose!

Right then, that's all for today.

Tomorrow will be my first 'Month in Numbers' post of the new year marking a whole year of recording my months in statistics and photos. [If you're new here and want to see what I'm talking about have a peek here.] As usual ... the invitation is there if you wish to join in ... I know at least one of the Twitter-curious is intending to do just that!

I'll see you then then.



  1. I'm an old tweeter learning new tricks :)

    The trending Hashtags usually make me smile, such as when "Toast" was on over Xmas. We UK twitters were discussing it using the hashtag #toast which began to trend, other countries saw it trending & began making toasts to people. It was nice to see how people interpreted the tag.

  2. This is a great class. Thank you for letting us join in.

  3. Great job on your post -- I bet you are really helping those who aren't comfortable with Twitter figure it out in a stress-free way! Thanks for mentioning #crafterminds - that was so nice of you.

  4. Oh my goodness - there is a lot more to twitter than I though there was!

  5. As a fellow Twitter obsessive I'm loving that you are inspiring people to embrace tweeting. It's funny tho' cause I've never been back to the twitter site since I joined (I use Tweetdeck on my desktop/laptop/phone etc) so the screen shots look like an alien landscape to me!

  6. You should *absolutely* have a section somewhere devoted to the aforementioned 'old tweeters learning new tricks'. It's so true.

    I had no idea (or had never considered the possibility) that you could use hashtags to hold a live chat. Such a clever idea, and so straightforward to do/set up. You know what I'm now thinking we could use it for, right? ;)


  7. Hi Julie, I'm still catching up on your series and you are giving us SUCH useful information. I do have a question about retweeting. How do you add text before the RT'd information? I've seen people comment before the RT but haven't been able to figure out how to do that. I'm sure it's super simple and I'm just not seeing it, but this is a whole new world :)

  8. I also meant to say that I LOVE the bird pictures you have used in this series.


Thanks for leaving me a comment, asking me a question, sharing your own story or just randomly saying hello.