Early in 2007 people began sharing their lives 140-characters at a time. I remember everybody was blown away by this new Internet thingy, everybody signed up to be part of the latest buzz – and then many people never used it again.
Believe it or not, I don’t have a long-winded diatribe about why you should be using Twitter, and only Twitter as you main source of digital communication. What I will do is tell you what I use Twitter for, and hopefully you may see a common interest. Some people may find this information useful, and others may still have no need for Twitter – and that is OK.
First, let’s cover some of the terms and words you will see that may seem unfamiliar. Don’t worry though, there isn’t much Twitter nomenclature to cover.
Twitter can be a great source of information, although many people cannot see beyond the trivial nature of it. Your first thought is probably, ‘I don’t care what you had for breakfast’. I agree, those types of tweets are useless, and a complete waste of digital space. I use Twitter mainly to see what’s going on around my area, I watch for deals and spontaneous events, follow topics that interest me, and of course to keep in touch with friends.
The city I live in is physically divided by a river, and unfortunately I have to cross this river to get to work. There are two main ways to do this - a bottle-necked causeway at the end of an even more anxiety-filled journey through our downtown area, or a major highway. Naturally I use the highway to get there, but being a major highway there are also traffic accidents. I follow a feed on Twitter that does one simple thing – tweet traffic conditions as they are updated by other Twitter users and local authorities. This has saved me from sitting in an endless traffic jam while on my way to work. Many have probably heard the saying: there are two seasons in Canada, winter and road construction. This really isn’t too far from the truth. Twitter has also saved me on countless occasions from driving down a street that is backed-up because of construction, which seems to be happening quite often around my city.
Sometimes I actually pull myself away from all the social clutter on my computer and I feel like having a beer downtown, or something to eat – true story! Because our downtown area is filled with restaurants, pubs, cafe’s, coffee shops, etc. there is of course competition. A quick look on Twitter and I have found spontaneous deals at some of these places that are only announced on Twitter. These can be anything from buy one get one free deals, to insanely cheap-priced meals. Because of Twitter I have cashed in on many of these. I have also seen coupons for various places posted on my TL that don’t show up in any other media source.
And of course, I keep in touch with my friends.
There are also a few power tools I use while using Twitter, the first of these are Hashtags. You may notice some tweets contain a # sign followed by some random gibberish? When used correctly a hashtag can save you countless hours of searching for specific things. For example, it has become etiquette to use airport codes for city-specific things. Other hashtags that are common are those for events taking place. Here are a few practices to keep in mind when using tags:
- remember that a hashtag is being used in a search. Nobody is going to search for #thingsIdidtomyawesomedogonthursday or #hair#brush#mirror#selfie#loveme#iloveme#uloveme#kissy#kisskiss#lips#omg#narcissist
- don’t use spaces in hashtags, they break if you do. The tag #thisfriday becomes #this if you leave a space between the words.
- use trending hashtags. If the rest of the Internet is using #tbt for Throwback Thursday, don’t try to be cavalier and create your own #throwbackthur – nobody will be searching for it, or will really get it, when the rest of the world is using #tbt.
- don’t over-do hashtags. A tweet with two or three tags is considered plenty. Things look cluttered and have no relevance when you #start #tagging #every #word #in #your #tweet. It also makes you look like a drama queen – they tag EVERYTHING.
- keep your tags as short as possible. You may have to use a long tag now and then, but chances are you won’t even remember your 40-character hashtag.
When you look at your Twitter feed you may also notice a small section called Trends? These are the current topics and hashtags trending, depending on your location or who you follow on Twitter. These can be customized somewhat.
Another thing that can be very useful are Lists. A twitter list is a group of accounts in one common place. As an example, I have a list called Blackberry, and this list contains account names that are specific to Blackberry devices. When I am looking for a specific tweet, or just want to read through the latest tweets about Blackberry I just view this list. You can only read tweets of feeds in a list, you cannot mass-tweet a list.
There are many, many more examples of what Twitter can be used for other than pointless updates about every second of somebody’s life. Sign up, start following anybody and everybody until you get the feel of things. You can always go back later and unfollow feeds and customize your timeline to what you want to see.
Apps you can use
There are some apps and helpers that make Twitter easier to use, here is a small list. If you use something else to navigate your Twitter feed, please leave a comment below.
The default Twitter app – available for most mobile platforms, and available on the Internet at www.twitter.com.
Blackberry 10 – Twitter for Blackberry, Blaq, Neatly, Twittly.
Blackberry OS – Twitter app and UberSocial.
Android – Twitter app and Plume.
WinPhone – I haven’t used Twitter on a WinPhone, but if you’d like to recommend something …
PC – TweetDeck and Hootsuite