How many times have you heard that?
People say it to me all the time about Twitter, generally accompanied with a sympathetic look that says “You’re a bit of a geek.”
So I try, again, to explain what it’s all about, and even to my own ears it sounds a bit rubbish, and the more I go on the more I feel myself shrinking, Alice-like, falling into the rabbit hole, trying and trying to climb out and make sense, and failing miserably.
To prevent further embarrassing stand-offs I’ve decided to retreat to my communication medium of choice: to write down my explanation to any future enquirers and hand out little pieces of paper with this URL scrawled on it when they ask.
So, what is Twitter?
Well, erm, you see it’s *ahem* (oh no, here we go again…)
OK, you see that word cloud there?
Isn’t it pretty?
That is a very quick collation of all the things that are being talked about as I write by the people I follow on Twitter, and it changes you see, it changes all the time.
And the best thing is that it’s real people talking about these things, and you can talk right back to them. That’s right! How web 2.0 is that?! A multi-stakeholder dialogue* going on right at your finger tips about the things that you want to talk about. The only thing it requires from you is the time to make an effort and find the people you’d like to have these multi-stakeholder dialogues with.
Let’s break it down into 10 bite-sized pieces:
1. Twitter is not a monologue. That’s the crucial part. When we first join, most of us ‘follow’ celebrities. Stephen Fry is widely recognised as the Twitter cherry popper but there are many more. At first it’s fun to get this insight into their world but ultimately it’s unsatisfying because, whilst you might get the occasional glimmer of recognition from the sleb circus, all it really does is reinforce your proletarianism. So finding real people to follow and be followed by is vital, it’s only then that the transformation begins…
2. A Tweet is 140 kernels of you-ness. That’s all you get, it’s not much to form a complete thought in but you get surprisingly adept, if not anal, at writing exactly 140 characters. Acronyms help (LOL, LMAO, ROFL, FFS, BTW, ATEOTD etc etc), as does text speak but there’s only so teenage that most of us are willing to get… remember if you can barely make out what you’re saying, then no one else is going to bother.
3. Converse, converse, converse. Twitter is not about broadcasting, although there are a lot of people doing exactly that. Engage with others, reciprocate when people respond to you and soon enough you’ll be *gasp* making friends and building a *bigger gasp* social network. Ricky Gervais famously tweeted 6 times before giving up, saying on his blog “I just don’t get it I’m afraid”- how could he? He’d have been better off signing up under a pseudonymn and having ‘normal’ conversations than spending all his time blocking the stalkers and fending off the sycophants.
4. Your twitter ‘feed’ – the comments you make and the responses you send – is public. It can be searched (easily) and collated….it’s a point worth remembering!
5. DMs no longer refer to your best cherry red student boots. Direct Messages are offline conversations, private messages sent about more confidential topics. If you constantly DM people though, rather than engage in the public timeline, they ‘might’ begin to think you’re a perv #justsaying…which brings me nicely onto;
6. #Hashtags An excellent route to finding new friends, or like-minded souls. Hashtags are Twitter’s internal chatroom, a Twatroom if you will (hmm, no that doesn’t really work). By inserting a # followed by a word or phrase into your tweet, you can click on it to view an instant snapshot of other people using the same #. Some examples are #amwriting #secretpostclub #thishastagservesnousefulpurpose…
7. RT Meaning literally to repeat, the Retweet function is generally a good thing. It can be taken as a compliment that someone thought highly enough of your tweet to repeat it. Of course there are those who RT themselves, but that’s another discussion… To make it easier to be RT’d, keep your tweets to 120 characters or less. Yes I know I said 140 earlier but really, who needs that extra 20?
8. Businesses beware! Twitter is not the place to out and out sell, it’s the place to engage with your target audience, to get instant feedback and it’s an excellent complement to the marketing mix. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that because it’s free that it deserves no investment….a consistent tone, some intellect and minimal users are all vital components in preventing yourself from ‘doing a Vodafone’.
9. #FF – ooh, look another hashtag! Follow Friday is a way of recognising the people you enjoy talking with and recommending them to others. If people are lovely enough to reciprocate it’s a great way of extending your network and bringing new people into the conversation. It’s also one of the most torturous days of the Twitter week: working out who to #FF, wondering if anyone will #FF you. What if you forget someone after you’ve said that was the final #FF? Can you squeeze in another or will it be obvious? NOT FOR THE FAINT-HEARTED!
10. Simple- ENJOY IT! Because, duh that’s what it’s all about! Like anything else it takes time to find your kind of people and to build up relationships, and if you just don’t have that time then it’s probably not for you, but it is worth it. Everyone has their own analogies for Twitter, mine is that it’s like the best kind of local pub, the kind that when you walk in you know pretty much everyone and they’re all pleased to see you. You can have a quiet drink at the bar and take it all in, or you can join the biggest crowd and get a bit raucous, and if someone new comes in, they’re introduced to everyone and welcomed. And the best part of it all is that you don’t have to get a beer scooter home…
So, that’s it! D’you get it now? Stop looking at me like that! I’m not a geek…..just a little bit addicted.