Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Twitter Q&A Part One

Rachel of Punch Presence answers my questions about Twitter
As I've mentioned, I'm a Twitter newbie. I had been skeptical about Twitter from a personal standpoint, so never really looked into it. However, I stumbled upon an article on Next Scientist about 7 Habits of Highly Visible PhD Students and read about the benefits from an academic and professional standpoint.  His advice seemed sound, so I decided to give it a try.

Aside from reading another Next Scientist article about Creating a Sexy Twitter Account, I haven't really looked into how Twitter actually works. I feel like I've bumbled around a bit and I'm figuring it out as I go along. I don't think I've made any huge faux pas in my adventures, but I'd like to avoid future ones.

I happen to know the creator of Punch Presence, a consulting company dedicated to improving companies' use of and impact through social media. Rachel, naturally, is very comfortable with Twitter and offered to answer any questions I had. I figured why not formalize it and allow others to benefit from my journey to master the intricacies of Twitter? I've written up her answers and some tips of my own in a multi-part series, which starts today. UPDATE: You can also read Part Two, and Part Three.

Getting Started
The basics are pretty easy, so I didn't bother Rachel with them.. Go to or install the Twitter app on your mobile device and create an account. Next Scientist has some great advice on setting up your profile to have the most impact from a scientist's perspective. Twitter's support page has some details on how to actually perform the customizing.

I realized early in my discussions with Rachel that I don't even know how to talk about Twitter (Tweet, handle, profile, twit? twitter...ers?). What's the language, and what do the various terms mean?

Rachel: Twitter lingo, in my opinion, is what adds to the culture of this platform. 

A Tweet is the post that you write on Twitter. 

The profile name that you set up on Twitter can be referred to as your “handle” or maybe just your “Twitter profile name.” I usually just tell folks they can “tweet @punchpresence.” Any time you want to Tweet to someone, you will use the @ symbol. 

 As for the people on Twitter who follow you -- I call them “followers,” but sometimes celebrities or other active users with a lot of followers will refer to their followers as something fun or quirky like “tweeps” or “twits.”

Hash tags
What ARE they? What do they do? What happens when I click on one?
When should I use a hash tag - when is a word "worthy" of a hash tag?
Should all tweets have a hashtag?  How many hash tags per tweet is too many?

Rachel: This is a great set of questions, and not something that’s always addressed.

The hashtag (or pound sign: #), when used in a tweet, helps to catalog what you’re talking about. Let’s look at this tweet from National Geographic

Those two elements there - #pod and #photography - if clicked on, will provide a list of any other “hashtagged” items of the same name, from all over the Twitterverse. The hashtag also acts as a search tool and will likely bring up any other tweets that include that word.

This is a great way of finding Twitter conversations to jump into, subjects that are trending in your field, or events that people are talking about.

Adding a hashtag to your tweets is a great way of joining that topic, or it can help to punctuate what your Tweet is really about.

You can add multiple hashtags, like National Geographic did, but too many hashtags is a little overkill. You are, after all, limited to only 140 characters. Twitter actually recommends no more than 2 in a tweet.

In the next post in this series, Rachel will explain replying, retweeting, and other ways of interacting.
In Part Three, we talk about different strategies we might take as users of Twitter.

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