For those of us who have been using Facebook regularly, whether it’s for business or personal use, Twitter may seem pointless. You can not only update your status on Facebook, but do a whole bunch of other things like poke people and play games too. What do you need Twitter’s silly 140-character-limited updates for? It’s just an extra step… isn’t it? It wasn’t till recently that we discovered Twitter ourselves (putting it off for the same reasons just noted), and once we discovered its true power, it has become one of our most loved social media tools virtually overnight. Read on to see what Twitter is all about and why it is a powerful addition to Facebook.
So what’s the big deal with Twitter, anyway?
The real power of Twitter, and what ultimately sets it apart from Facebook, is not just what it can do as a publishing platform, but as a consumption platform.
I would consider Facebook somewhat of a ‘closed’ communication platform. In order to communicate with people, first you need an account with Facebook, and second, you need to become their friend. This creates a barrier to making new connections (especially outside of your circle of friends) and makes Facebook really geared towards building on your existing relationships.
Twitter is much different in this aspect. In Twitter, by default anybody in the world (including search engines) can see what you post in your status updates.
Twitter’s search capabilities allow you to instantly find information posted by other people using keywords, locations, and other criteria. This makes it easier than ever to find people with like interests and connect with them. And if you find somebody who is posting things you are interested in, you can follow them and get their status updates delivered to your feed (much like the News Feed in Facebook). The beauty of it is they don’t need to approve you, so the process is very seamless, open, and fast.
Searching is another way you can find information that you are interested in. Twitter programs like TweetDeck (which is what we use right now) allow you to conduct ongoing searches on a topic. You can type in virtually anything you want, and the software will show you any Twitter posts that match your search instantly as they happen. One thing you can do is put in your competitors name (and/or products) in there to see what others are saying about them the moment it happens. You can also do it for your own name so you can get instant and real feedback from customers. It’s like having your very own spy agency!
Take a moment to think about the power of this tool to do research, get the latest news, and keep tabs on your competition. Most every news and media organization now uses Twitter to distribute news and updates. Many companies, from the large Fortune 500’s down to home based businesses, are posting regularly. Municipalities and governments are also using it. You can tap into the latest and greatest news about everything happening in your industry and your areas of interest.
The power of Twitter as a publishing platform
Being an excellent platform for consuming information ultimately makes Twitter an excellent platform to communicate information too. Because of how open Twitter is, information you post can spread across the world at an amazing pace. A worthy tidbit or piece of news can get out of control really fast.
How does Twitter accomplish this? Just as readers are able to discover you through searches on topics that interest them, they can also use a few simple tools to help you spread the word more quickly and widely than you could ever imagine. One of the first is called a mention – this is where somebody says something about you by including your name, or ‘handle’, in their Twitter post. This exposes you to anybody who is currently reading that person’s posts on Twitter, and allows them to also follow you. The second, and even more powerful feature, is called a Re-Tweet. A re-tweet is basically the same thing as forwarding an email to all of your friends. Somebody receives your Twitter post, likes it, and re-tweets it to all of their friends. Those friends re-tweet it to their friends, and so on. If you paid attention in biology class you will know how quickly cells multiply when they split into two equal parts over time. Imagine that happening to a message from your company!
Are you starting to see the potential here?
Taking the mystery out of Twitter
There is really nothing complicated about Twitter. I think half of the barrier for somebody new is becoming familiar with the terminology involved. Once you know the language it makes sense.
- Handle: This is your username or alias on Twitter. Same as your name on Facebook, or a username on a forum. Handles start with a @ sign on Twitter so you know it refers to a handle and not something else. Our handle on Twitter is @flauntomatic, for example.
- Mention: This is pretty self-explanatory. Whenever somebody writes your handle in one of their Tweets, they are mentioning you. It’s the same as being mentioned in a newspaper article. The benefit is it exposes you or your company to anybody who is following that person (or who has conducted a search for things that appear in their post.)
- Tweet: This is a status update. Twitter has a bird theme and when birds talk, they “tweet”. So do we apparently, when we use Twitter to send a message to the world.
- Re-Tweet: This is when you re-post somebody else’s status update to all of your friends. Think of hitting forward in your email program.
I think Hashtags are a topic that people get the most confused about. For this, I will direct you to an excellent article on Mashable which describes what hashtags are and how to use them.
How to get started on Twitter
The first step is to go to www.twitter.com and click Sign up now. Fill out the simple form and you’ll have an account in minutes. Once you have your account set up, check out Twitter’s wonderful Help information for more information about how to personalize and use your account!