Yesterday, Twitter celebrated its birthday, five years since the first Tweet was sent. Did you celebrate yesterday? No? That’s okay, you can do it today. Just sign up for Twitter and you’ll be all set.
Why Join Twitter?
Twitter is instant. If there is breaking news, it is on Twitter and it appears there fast. People will tweet as events are happening and, if you are on Twitter, you will learn about events much faster than people who aren’t on Twitter. People were tweeting about Japanese earthquake as it happened. Tweets with videos showing the destruction of the tsunami were posted immediately after it hit.
With the recent iPad 2 launch, people were tweeting how long the lines were at various stores and how many iPads stores had in stock. Searching Twitter was an efficient way to find out where to get your iPad on launch day.
“I don’t want to read about what someone ate for lunch,” you protest. “Isn’t that what Twitter is all about?” Not at all. Twitter is a website where people share messages, 140 characters at a time, including spaces and punctuation, so tweets need to be brief. Precise. Thoughtful. Inspirational. Informative. Funny. A tweet can be all of these things, some of these things or one of these things. If a tweet is none of these things, then it is a waste. Tweeting what you had for lunch is a waste. If you want to be followed, tweet with these criteria in mind. If you want to follow people, they should tweet with these criteria in mind. If someone has wasteful tweets, don’t follow them. Simple.
Which People to Follow?
What types of people should you follow? You may have different categories of people to follow. Maybe you are interested in cooking and follow people who tweet links to recipes. Maybe you like to follow celebrities and see what they are tweeting about. If you’re a Survivor fan, follow the host @JeffProbst, who tweets about Survivor episodes as they air. (If you follow a celebrity make sure that their name has a blue check mark because that shows Twitter has verified that the celebrity really has registered the account and is not an imposter.)
Whatever interests you might have, you will find tweets on that topic. Try searching keywords in your areas of interest and see who is tweeting about your favorite topics. If you find someone who tweets about what you like, follow him, see who else follows him and whom he follows. That’s a very efficient way of finding people to follow.
Interested in politics? Follow your favorite politician. Follow her opponent. Follow people who comment on your politician. Read what the buzz is. Find out the latest as it’s happening!
Twitter isn’t Facebook. There is no need to follow your friends unless they have worthwhile tweets on topics you are interested in. Maybe you have a friend who is an expert on electromagnetic induction and tweets on that topic. No need to follow her on Twitter if you aren’t interested in that topic.
Following people on Twitter is interesting, fun, informative and all that, but following people is only half the fun. To thoroughly enjoy Twitter, you should tweet. Let the world know your thoughts, opinions, insights, expertise, and passions. Have you ever felt really strongly about something and wanted to let the world know? Twitter is your chance to do that. Tell the world how you really feel, what you think about an issue. The amazing thing is, chances are someone agrees with you.
If you just finished a book that moved you, tweet about it. Are you passionately in favor of a bill on the floor of Congress? Tell the world. Join Twitter and see if you can make a difference.
Re-tweeting: The Ultimate Form of Flattery
When someone wants to share your tweet with the rest of the world, they re-tweet your tweet. You then get the satisfaction of affirmation. Someone agreed with you enough to re-tweet your tweet. The thrill may be tiny or huge, depending on how you really feel about your tweet and who re-tweets you. But when you get a major re-tweet, well, that’s a great reason to smile for the rest of the day. What’s a major re-tweet? Either someone significant in the field re-tweets you or you get re-tweeted a lot. This may not happen often, but when and if it does, savor the feeling.
#FF or Follow Friday: Another Form of Flattery
Follow Friday is a weekly ritual where people recommend others to follow. People usually do this on Fridays, but not always. Sometimes a #FF tweet is a long string of Twitter ID’s and other times people just mention one or two twitterers to follow with reasons why. Either way and whenever it is done, being mentioned in a #FF is very cool.
Give to Get
How can you be a good twitterer? Craft tweets that are meaningful, that you would enjoy reading on your Twitter page.
Re-tweet when you see a worthwhile post. People really appreciate being re-tweeted and may repay the favor.
Mention twitterers you respect on Fridays with #FF and their name. Even better, provide a reason why they should be followed.
To get started on Twitter, you need to understand the importance of using hashtags: # = hashtag. On Twitter people use hashtags to let others know that a word in their tweet is a keyword. For example, if you’re writing about Apple computers, you would use a hashtag before the word “Apple” to show you weren’t talking about the fruit. Your tweet might look something like this: “#Apple computers function much more efficiently using Mac apps.” Someone searching for tweets on Apple would search #apple to avoid reading about the fruit and hopefully find your tweet. No need to use hashtags with unique words such as iPhone, Android, or iPad, just with commonly used words.
What if you find a great link to a website that you want to share with the world on Twitter, but the link is long and tweeting it would use most of your 140 characters? No worries, head to Bitly, a site that will shorten your link to a shortlink. For example the shortlink for this blog post is http://wp.me/p1kzFb-oO. Warning: Bitly translates your link into a shortlink that is unrecognizable outside of Twitter. If you see a strange-looking link outside of Twitter, say, in your email, avoid it like the plague. Those are the sorts of links that contain viruses. While shortlinks look a bit creepy outside of Twitter, within Twitter shortlinks are used frequently.
Great! How Do I Sign Up for Twitter?
Easy! Just go to Twitter.com and enter an email address. That’s it. Twitter will send you a confirmation to that email address and you will be all set to go. You should do things like fill out your profile information and add a picture on Twitter, but you can do that later. First, you should explore and find people to follow. Then the real fun begins! For a thorough “how to” guide on using Twitter, check out Mashable’s How To Guide on Using Twitter.
Want someone to follow first? Check out @carpathia16. That’s me, as you will see if you click my Follow Me on Twitter link on the right side of this blog. I will try to be worthy of your follow. After that, check out @whitehouse and @barackobama, if you want updates from Washington. If you’re a big CNN fan, follow @cnn, @andersoncooper, @sanjayguptaCNN, @davidgergen and @piersmorgan. You get the idea. Now get a Twitter account and let the fun begin!
Still not convinced? Check out this video and then head to Twitter to sign up:
Are you on Twitter? Let us know your Twitter ID below so other Wonder of Tech readers can follow you! (Props to my dear friend @kathyf who introduced me to Twitter over two years ago, yet still claims she is a technophobe.)
* Image by SweetTweet