A while back, I promised to write about Twitter for those of you who are not yet addicted to it. In the last few weeks, I have wondered what I could say about Twitter that was fresh, practical, and hadn’t already been said. Hopefully, I’ve found that magical blend and this post launches you into the Twitterverse.
What is Twitter?
Twitter is a message service that allows you to send and receive short messages within your Twitter community. You define your personal community by following other Twitter users. You see the messages created by everyone you follow. Other people decide to follow you, and those people see the messages you send out.
Messages (called tweets) are short, only 140 characters long, so they are easy to skim. Each message answers the question “What are you doing?” You may think that it would be boring to read what people have for lunch or about their commute in traffic. Fortunately, most tweets are not about those things. Instead, you learn small details about the lives of the people you follow. In fact, you may be surprised to learn the small details about some of your best and closest friends.
Here’s a short video created by CommonCraft that explains Twitter (length 2:23).
What Do People Tweet?
People tweet about the things they think about. Some of the more interesting people that I follow post tweets about the following types of things:
- Observations about life. (“I imagine that the street signs in heaven will be printed in helvetica.“)
- Interesting things to read. (“Today’s Bacon Salt case study on Adweek underscores the 100% targeted nature of social media. http://is.gd/4WdR“)
- New blog posts. (‘Annoyed by out dated websites and abandoned blogs? Join the conversation: http://kilobox.net/504/.”)
- A humorous take on life events. (“Who would have thought this granola-eating hippie with a liberal arts education would write a biz book? Life really is amazing.“)
- Personal news.
- Inspiring thoughts. (“I’m living proof that dreams can come true. I love my work/company/partner/employees. Its great to make a living doing what you love.“)
- Professional news. (“The NYT included my website in a list of just FIVE recommended grammar blogs! Wow! http://is.gd/2rSl“)
- Work-a-day life details. (“It’s so hard to entrust work to others, and yet so rewarding when they come back with great results. I need to delegate more!“)
- Business issues and challenges. (“ What if a fraction of the time spent talking about why social media is so spiffy and how to do it the bestest went into writing new content?“)
- Family life details. (“Excited for my daughter who made the varsity soccer team as a freshman.“)
I’ve discovered that the quality of my Twitter experience depends on whom I follow. I follow people for different reasons. Some are friends, some are part of my local community, and some are people whose work inspires me to be better. If you don’t like your Twitter experience, follow different people!
Your Twitter timeline is the list of tweets that you can see because of the people you follow. Your timeline shows up on your Twitter home page (http://twitter.com/home).
There is also a public timeline that contains tweets from everyone on Twitter. You can review the public timeline using the Everyone option under your profile.
How Do I Find People?
When I first started on Twitter, none of my friends were using it. I did name searches, and I let Twitter go through my email addresses to find people I knew. No luck.
I began looking for people in technical jobs located in my town. I used the Twitter search feature, searching for the names of each local Phoenix suburb. The search results included people who listed their town in their biography.
I hoped to find people I knew, but instead, I found total strangers. I reviewed each person’s profile, and looked at the website link they provided to get a feel for them as people. I also reviewed their Twitter archive. Some of them didn’t click with me, but I found a lot of people saying interesting things from the start.
After collecting a group of people to follow, I started paying attention to whom they followed. This expanded my circle even further, and soon I was following 30+ people.
Another way to find interesting people is to search for specific words in the tweet stream (all tweets posted by all Twitter users). This works really well if you are looking for something specific. I searched for people who mentioned specific software I use, or the names of favorite authors, or places I love to visit.
In my next blog post, I’ll cover more of the Twitter basics, including an overview of message types, setting up your profile, and how to pick an avatar.