I think most of you will agree that there is an incredible amount of media coverage and currency that Social Media tools like Twitter and Facebook are presently enjoying, all over the world. As a result, those of us who don’t have an account, are busy signing up in a rush, to see what the fuss is all about!
Now, with Facebook, that’s relatively easy to do. Sign up for an account, and the system offers you multiple ways to “connect” with friends from all the other services you may be using. A few clicks later, your Facebook homepage is lush and green – complete with all the status updates of the world showing up in your News Feed, without requiring any effort from your end! But, Twitter? That’s a different story altogether…
What is Twitter?
Well, the founders of the service describe it as “a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent messages. People write short updates, often called “tweets” of 140 characters or fewer. These messages are posted to your profile, sent to your followers, and are searchable on Twitter search.”
The easiest way for me to describe it is in relation to Facebook – It’s a lonely world on Twitter when you first begin to tweet. There is almost nothing on your homepage unless you immediately start “following” a vibrant community of twitterers. I repeat: Nothing. My guess is that that may be the single biggest reason why most people never go beyond the first few tweets.
What can you do with Twitter?
Tom Lambert has posted an easy-to-understand explanation of the typical Twitter Modes that emerge from the use of the platform:
1. Broadcast Mode – Basically, a soapbox that matters
2. Network Mode – Reading and replying via Twitter
3. Journal Mode – “Me” mode i.e. write what you want… for yourself
4. Listen Mode – Actively soliciting opinions
You can read the entire post for details of the various modes, but you’re beginning to get the picture, right?
How do I use Twitter?
If you ask me, I basically use Twitter as a combination of Broadcast+Journal.
It’s a platform for me to connect to a wide audience (without the permission they need to connect via Facebook), on subjects that matter to me. So, in Broadcast mode, I use it to auto-post blog updates from all my various blogs (5 and counting!) so that any one who wishes to keep track of my writing can do so by “following” me on Twitter. I also end up tweeting about links I find interesting during the day’s reading, which serves as a my Journal and complements my Broadcasting, since it’s usually about stuff that matters to me.
So yes, my “followers” list is a function of how much I’m connecting with my audience. But I’m not obliged to follow every one who decides to follow me. And, there’s no reason you should be obliged to follow anyone reciprocally.
I don’t particularly fancy using a ‘public’ platform like Twitter to have entire conversations with my friends (or followers), so I avoid using @Replies and tend to use Email/Chat/Facebook for that.
How should you use Twitter?
Guy Kawasaki, over at OpenForum, has posted a very readable list of things to avoid when using Twitter. One of the points he eloquently makes on that post is how you should avoid telling others ‘how to tweet’:
There is no right and wrong with Twitter. There’s only what works for you and what doesn’t, so telling people how to use Twitter is as laughable as telling people what kind of websites were acceptable in 1980. Twitter is a platform – do with it what you want, but don’t tell others what to do.
Sensible advice, there. So I’ll refrain from prescribing how you should use the platform. What I’ve attempted to do with this post is to demystify some of the workings of Twitter, and make it a little more comfortable for newbies to work with it. I only hope it has been of some help to you…
See Also: Facing the Truth (related post on Facebook)