Guide to Twitter for My Friends

Some of my friends recently got interested in Twitter, so I decide to do this post to get them started.

What's Twitter for?
Twitter is a platform where users post messages called "tweets", and followers receive these tweets.

Why do that?
Twitter allows you to
- talk about what happens to your life in 140 characters (microblog), not unlike Facebook.
- share information that is happening right now (e.g. a traffic jam at a road)

What if I have nothing to share, or if I value my privacy?
You can still use Twitter to follow other users so that you ("follower") can receive tweets in your account. You can also set your Twitter to private so that only followers you approve can see you tweets. But remember, that does not stop your followers from forwarding (retweeting) your tweets, so I always tell my friends who set their Twitter accounts to private that it doesn't mean your tweets are safe. The only way to guarantee privacy is not to even mention it on any social media.

Why should I follow Twitter users?
By following these users, you will receive tweets that they post. Note that many organisations or news agencies or interest groups use Twitter to share useful information like news, promotions, tips.

What's so interesting to search in Twitter?
You can search for the most recent tweets that users posted at http://search.twitter.com/ . For instance, during the recent floods around Singapore, I use Twitter to search and find who, what, where, when and how the floods occur. Some users even post photos. You can't find this news anywhere outside Twitter, until it's officially reported on the news sites. That is the wonder of Twitter, and this is made possible because of users like you who wants to contribute such information by tweeting.

So, the next time something interesting happens, you might want to tweet it so that people will find out (provided your tweets are public and you do not set your account to private).

How do I interpret and use the symbols on the tweets?
The "@" sign before a name (e.g. @musicdiary) refers to the Twitter User ID. When you use that, the tweet would be visible to the user. This is useful when you are mentioning something in the tweet about other users and you want them to be aware of the tweet too. If you don't do that, then the user would not know that you are mentioning him/her and would have no idea of your tweets, even if the user is following you. That's because the user may overlook your tweet among the dozens or hundreds of tweets he/she receives.

The "#" sign is a hash tag. It's basically like a tag or keyword that you often do on articles. It's useful if there is a popular (trending) topic that the Twitter community is heavily discussing or searching, so you can insert the hash tag to include your tweet to be part of the topic, e.g. #ndp2010. This feature is not really important, so don't use it if you don't know how to use it. I rarely use it, and I treat it like a short form (e.g. National Day Parade 2010) and many people must also use the hash tag in order to make it work. If only you is using it (e.g. #ilovendp) then the hash tag is meaningless.

Use "RT" to denote that you are retweeting (like email forwarding) a tweet from another user. In 2009, Twitter enhanced the "RT" feature to allow you to retweet in its entirety without having to include the tweeter's user ID in the tweet. This allows the original tweet to be passed around without having the retweeter to try to shorten the tweet in order to fit the entire tweet due to the possible list of previous retweeters' user IDs. The result is that the retweeter cannot edit the tweets, which might be rather handicapped as sometimes you want to include your comments before retweeting. This "primitive" method may still be allowed depending on the Twitter applications you use. So, if you want to do a complete retweet, just look for the "retweet" button and click it, which means no editing. If you want to edit before posting, look for an option to say "edit and retweet" (or something to that effect).

OK that's all. Leave me a comment if you have anything to ask or share. Cheers!

Labels: , , , ,