Love it or hate it I think Twitter is here to stay. I realize we aren’t all techno web geeks but if you are into blogging you’ll be picking up a twitter account sometime soon if you haven’t already. (If you really don’t know what Twitter is or how to use it watch this.)
In my opinion twitter has done to blogs what blogs have done to web sites. It’s made them (rather their creators) more accessible and it’s taken the idea of online two way communication one step further. Think about it…
- First, there were web sites that were, for the most part static. People would visit them to gather information. That’s about it.
- Then, blogs turned the static web site into an interactive experience. Now web site routinely ask readers to comment, to participate, to have a voice.
- Now twitter takes that one step further and allows complete two-way conversations, very often in real time.
Notice web sites, blogs and twitter all live harmoniously together online. One hasn’t necessarily replaced the other but each have changed the way we interact on the web. Or at least has the potential to change it.
So how do we use this, fairly simple application?
Anyway we want!
That’s really the beauty of it.
But something that open ended causes confusion, especially when best practices and standards are emerging daily. Here are few tips for those just starting…
This is the number one question I’ve seen new Twitter users have, especially when there is a twitter event happening (and they do happen, pretty regularly.) If you ever seen something like #gno or #lost even #stimulus the twitter-er is categorizing her ‘tweet’ (what they call a message on twitter.) There are a few reasons to do this. First, you may be participating in a twitter party like GirlsNightOut (#gno). Using the #gno hashtag let’s other participants find you through twitter search. Simply search for #gno and it will pull all tweets that have the #gno hashtag in them. You can also use the search to find conversations happening around a topic. For example, I’m a Lost fan. While I’m watching I’ll search for #lost and find people discussing the show. Even if I don’t contribute to the conversations it’s a neat way to gage interest and a new perceptive on the show.
I took this same concept and started using the #tep hashtag for people who like to use twitter as a food journal. By using #tep you can find other food journalers. Possibly getting ideas for meals or finding new friends with similar goals.
You may be wondering how do you know what hash tags to use. Most of them are pretty logical, if you want to tweet about the stimulus plan use #stimulus. Talking about your new iPhone? use #iphone. Discussing your thoughts on the president? #obama Makes sense, right? Still not sure what #hashtags to use? Click here to check out the latest trends.
I should add there are 2 ways to use hashtags one is just tacking on the tag at the end of a tweet, like so…
Did you just see Jack on Lost? What was he wearing? #lost
It is also acceptable to mix the tag in the tweet, which saves room and typing like so…
Did you just see Jack on #lost? What was he wearing?
Either way provides the same benefits. I prefer the latter but sometimes the tag isn’t as useful mid sentence like in my Tweet Eat Post application (#tep)
I mentioned the twitter search above. The twitter search tool is an invaluable feature of twitter. It allows you to see trends, follow conversations around a topic and even keep tabs on who’s talking about you.
You could easily to a search with the default Twitter Search page. However there are better tools out there that allow you to track multiple searches simultaneously, like TweetGrid. Search by hashtag or keyword and TweetGrid will automatically update when anyone uses your search criteria.
Another symbol you may see a lot besides the # is the @. The "at" symbol before a name is used to address a person. For example, my twitter user name is RonisWeigh if you wanted to send a message directly to me you could start it with @RoniNoone and I would receive it.
It’s also general practice to refer to people using the @ symbol within in a tweet. For example if I wanted to tweet about working out with Carla (MizFit) I’d use her twitter id in a tweet like so…
Today I worked out with @mizfit We had a BLAST!
This let’s everyone know Carla is on Twitter too and they can now click on her name to see her Twitter page.
In my opinion #hashtags, @replies and searching are just a few things that make such a simple, open ended web application more useful. But they are also the things no one ever tells you about!
So please feel free to ask any other Twitter questions you may have. If you are a Twitter expert please share any other simple tips or best practices you are aware of as I’m still learning myself! :)
If you are looking for more practical advice on how to use twitter check out How to Use Twitter – Tips for Bloggers ProBlogger