Many assume that Twitter is a passing fad for teenage girls who post incessantly about their boy troubles, mundane drivel about how people “feel” and the kinds of sandwiches they’re eating, or businesses trying to market themselves to young people. They wouldn’t be far off. After all, what value can you possibly pack into 140 characters?
To the uninitiated Facebook User, Twitter can seem like a jungle they’d rather steer clear of in the realm of social media. It’s not strange for freshly made accounts to slip into disuse. A lot of these people just make one to enter a contest or take advantage of a promotional offer.
But, if you’re the type who has a lot to say, frequently refreshes your Facebook news feed, or wants a more convenient way to stalk that girl/guy you like than following them home from work, then maybe Twitter is for you. But before you make the perilous leap into the realm of Twitter, you ought to learn the laws of the jungle.
But before we dive in, let’s get the boring basics out of the way:
@Mentions: A Tweet is directed to all of your followers by default, but to tag specific Twitter accounts we use “mentions”. Not unlike Facebook, a mention takes the form of @username (@braveenk is mine).
#Hashtags: Remember when “#” was just a number sign? Well now they’re tacked onto phrases to make an umbrella term for all posts to fall under. Hashtags create open conversations that anyone around the world can join. Popular hashtags trend, and you can easily see what different parts of the world are talking about at present.
RT Retweets: The Retweet is a way of sharing someone’s post on Twitter. Anything retweeted is seen by all your followers.
Favourites: The Favourite “star” is the Twitter equivalent of the Facebook Like. It’s a good way to show your appreciation for someone’s tweet, and logs it in a public collection of your Favourite tweets.
Put it all together and this is what a Tweet looks like:
Now, with that out of the way, we’re ready to tackle the beast that is Twitter. Let’s start off with the first and foremost law of Twitter:
1. Twitter is not Facebook
Facebook is a social network; Twitter is more like a micro-blog. It’s fraught with people’s thoughts and doings but with a greater posting frequency than an actual blog. Quantity is often king; quality is entirely optional.
At its best, Twitter is a great networking and promotional tool that spreads information like nothing else. At its worst, or “other best” as I like to think of it, Twitter can be a diary-ah of people’s thoughts— reality TV that you can read.
Twitter’s community is also more lenient with what you can say. All manner of opinions get expressed here that you likely wouldn’t see on Facebook. Tweets are fleeting and you’ll never be the dumbest tweet on twitter for more than a few seconds; chances are that impulsive post about how you cried during Finding Nemo will soon be eclipsed by a slew of others’ unwise posts. Don’t believe me? Check out Amanda Bynes’ or Gucci Mane’s account. But you should still be careful for reasons I will explain later in this guide.
2. What to say in 140 Characters?
With its 140 character limit, Twitter makes it hard to express most thoughts, but relinquish the urge to use dis knd f spllng. Also relinquish words like “relinquish”. Keep it short and sweet.
“But I have nothing important to say…”
I hear you, but consider this: only 9% of tweets actually have value worthy of passing on and– conversation, promo, spam, and news aside– as much as 40% of tweets are mundane fluff. Apparently, there’s also a sign somewhere on Twitter that says “please direct all your complaints here”. But that’s not all there is to it.
During the big game, Twitter lights up with commentary. What game, you ask? Any game. Even curling enthusiasts probably sweep Twitter with their comments on Ben Hebert’s broom-form or a referee’s controversial call on illegal broom-lifting.
Something else people often tweet, as I’ve observed, is unoriginal content. You’ll likely experience the most engagement on Twitter (RT and Favourites) when you say something unoriginal.
But that’s no reason to copy and paste everything you see. It’s your voice, and it’s more satisfying if people engage with your content when you say something unique to you, especially about things you do or see as you go through the wonderful journey we call life.
3.There Are Followers and There Are… More Followers?
On Twitter there are only followers, and they follow one another. Yea, I don’t get it either. Who should you follow? It’s up to you. If you’re promoting yourself, follow anyone you think might be interested in what you’re doing and vice versa. Or, just follow those whose thoughts and posts you’d like to read on a boring commute or in a waiting room. I recommend against following everyone– as #teamfollowback is proud to do– or you’ll pollute your feed and miss out on the good stuff you actually want to see.
Those you follow can even include companies or your favourite celebrities. Are you a big fan of Drake? Follow him. You can even holler at him for a feature on his next track. I’ll give you some fair warning: attempts to converse with celebrities will likely be one-sided.
4. Spray It, Don’t Say It
Facebook’s threshold for frequent posting is relatively low; if you make 5 posts in 10 minutes, you might annoy some folks. But on Twitter, with only 140 characters, you are encouraged to post more frequently than on other platforms. Aside from the risk of people unfollowing you because of frequently bland tweets, the sky is almost the limit— there is a thing called “Twitter Jail” that locks you out if you Tweet more than 100 times an hour or 1000 times a day. I’ve never been, though I doubt it adds to your street cred.
5. Privacy Smivacy
As I always say keep your Facebook Friends close but your parents blocked. Twitter, however, is public by nature. It doesn’t have Facebook’s accommodating privacy options. While it is possible to make your account private, this defeats the purpose of Twitter. It’s like whispering into a megaphone.
But remember that tweeting is like sending a mass text to the world, and sometimes people will say things here that they probably shouldn’t. That being said, there are also those who say you should never tweet anything you wouldn’t yell from your front porch. Then again, I don’t know many who’d shout “What an intense workout!” for all their neighbours to hear. Just be responsible and ready to own what you say.
The lack of privacy can be intimidating (a point proven by much of the South Asian female demographic tweeting with private accounts) but it opens up the opportunity to interact with people around the world, and that’s one of the best parts about Twitter: it brings a world of conversation to the palm of your hand.
You’re now ready to head off on your own to fill the internet with more pointless babble. But before you do, I offer some parting advice: Twitter is only fun insofar as you and others are hooked on it. And believe me, if you are, your Facebook account (like mine) might begin to gather dust.
Are you surprised I haven’t asked you to follow me on Twitter yet?
Don’t worry, I won’t resort to sly tactics like that.
Instead, Like my Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/thewrongkindofwrite
I bet you didn’t expect that!