Tweet Tweet: Twitology 101

    By Jeremy Tuesday, May 26, 2009

    Ah, Twitter.

    I've been on Twitter for a while (yes, even before Oprah), but only recently have I become very active. I also just set up a new Christnology Twitter account both for traffic purposes and discovering Christian related technologies.

    But, convincing people that Twitter isn't just a nerdy tech tool is quite difficult. There are a lot of misconceptions and myths surrounding twitter and my Tweet Tweet series of posts are aimed at correcting these.

    Some things I'm looking to discuss include:

    • Twitology 101
    • Twitter vs Facebook vs Google
    • Twitter and Christianity
    Twitology 101

    Twitter Etiquette

    Before we go into how to use Twitter, there are a few things to keep in mind. Think of these as the Unwritten Twitter Laws, if you will:

    • Don't tell me what you had for breakfast. I don't care. Unless it was ridiculously delicious and looked amazing. In that case, TwitPic it. Your Tweet fails without a picture.
    • Don't change your name. If you have to (once), apologize profusely and never do it again. Ever.
    • Accidentally broadcasting a DM because you used the wrong syntax is embarrasing. Don't plead ignorance, you know how it works now.
    • I don't care if Red Sox vs Mets reminds you of some euphoric childhood baseball state of mind. It's not worth Tweeting about. See #baseballsucks (next week's trending topic).
    • Don't spend your 140 character limit describing some politically ironic scene you think is funny only to be cut off by the inevitable "..." and look like a TwitterNupp. Just take a picture, add your funny caption and hope for some chuckles.
    • Just because there was some friendly celebrity banter going on with @the_real_shaq challenging @lancearmstrong in a joke race and you happen to own a blog about running without shoes on, doesn't mean you should tweet them begging to be included in the race. They won't read it. And you're that much closer to being moved to my un-followed list for making me read it.
    Needless to say, my good friend, @naderalfie, provided some inspiration for writing this by being a great example of what not to do. He defines TwitterNupp. Here's hoping he picks up a thing or two from this blog post...


    Messaging on Twitter


    There are several different methods of talking to people on twitter, but it all basically boils down to two conventions: @ and DM.

    When to Use @

    When replying to someone directly and the message could be of benefit/interest to people that follow you or your friend, start the tweet with @TwitterDude and then your message.

    When the message starts with @TwitterDude then only the people who follow both you and TwitterDude will receive/see the message. When @TwitterDude is found anywhere other than the very beginning, everyone that follows you will see the message even if they don't follow TwitterDude and TwitterDude will see it on his @ mentions page. You do not have to be co-followers (you follow TwitterDude and he follows you) to send people @ messages. So yea, go ahead and @the_real_shaq all you want, he might eventually challenge you to a foot race. Maybe.

    You can also mention multiple people in a Tweet, like so:

    Hey @TwitterDude @TwitterGal @TwitterFreak check out this site: christnology.com 
    In that case, all 3 will see the message on their @ mentions page. (Be sure not to start the message with an @ mention since that will restrict the message's notification level if not everyone follows the person you're mentioning first.)

    When to Use DM

    Send someone a Direct Message (DM, or just D) when you don't want anybody else to see the message. Your message should be constructed like so:  

    D TwitterDude Message. 
    Notice there is no @ before the username (TwitterDude). You can only send direct messages to people who co-follow you.


    Other Commands

    Twitter has it's own set of commands that can be sent right from your phone. Virtually everything that you can do through the graphical web interface or from the plethora of desktop and phone interfaces can be done right through a tweet. This includes such functionality as following new people, turning on/off SMS notifications, etc. Some of the more helpful commands include:

    • ON / OFF: Turns ON or OFF all phone notifications.
    • ON username / OFF username: Turns phone notifications ON or OFF for a user.
    • FOLLOW username / LEAVE username: Follows or Unfollows a user.
    • TRACK term / UNTRACK term: Receive/stop receiving notifications for a search term.
    • More here...

    Commands sent with the right syntax won't be visible to anyone or shown on your Twitter page. Remember, the message must start with the command. They are not case sensitive.

    Retweeting

    Retweeting is actually the highest form of flattery on Twitter. If someone finds your tweet particularly useful, noteworthy or otherwise remarkable, they will Retweet it to their followers citing you as the original author.

    Retweeting isn't exactly a standard part of the Twitter API, but it is a widespread convention used on most twitter clients. This is how it works:

    SomeDude: Learning some Twitology on Christnology.com, check it out!
    OtherDude checked it out and decided to spread the word to his followers (users that may or may not be following SomeDude), so he retweets like so:

    OtherDude: RT @SomeDude Learning some Twitology on Christnology.com, check it out!
    RT for a Retweet, @SomeDude cites the original author, followed by the original tweet. If the tweet is noteworthy enough, a viral effect occurs and it could even become a Trending Topic, especially when used with a widespread # hash-tag/channel.

    Trending Topics (Hash-tags/Channels)


    This is what makes Twitter so unique. At any given moment, there is a list of the most talked about topics right now on Twitter. You can view these topics right on your Twitter homepage on the Trending Topics side-bar, or on http://search.twitter.com/. There are also several third-party Twitter Trending Topic Trackers that I'll try to cover in another post.

    Hash-tags (or, Channels as some like to call them) are a way for twitter users to collectively discuss a current topic. With everyone using the same hash-tag, it's easy to see what everyone is saying about a given topic. There is no official central directory of these hash-tags (unofficially: hashtags.org and wthashtag.com), so you may not really know what hash-tag to use, but with some common sense and if the topic is popular enough, the right hash-tag will catch on and it may become a Trending Topic.

    There is also an unwritten designated hash-tag per day of the week. For example, Monday is #musicmonday, where people discuss songs/artists that they like and want to share. Tuesday is #charitytuesday (right up this blog's alley) where people discuss what charities they're into or are helping to raise awareness for. And, arguably the most popular is #followfriday where people suggest @users that they really like and want to suggest to their followers to follow; another really nerdy way to complement someone.

    140 Character Limit

    The beauty of Twitter is actually in its simplicity. Tweets are limited to 140 characters, which is even less than the standard SMS length of 160 characters. While this may seem like an overly restrictive cut-off, it is actually a good thing. This limitation forces people to get straight to the point and cut out the excess.

    Amusingly enough, where there is a limitation, there are always those select few who have too much time on their hands and want to exploit it: case in point.

    URL Shortening Services

    Submitting a link on Twitter will automatically shorten the URL using a URL shortening service, such as bit.ly or whatever your Twitter client is set up for. This is useful both to keep messages under the 140 character limit and to track the most popular URLs by using Bit.ly's URL tracking feature.

    Twitter Clients

    There are hundreds of Twitter clients, enough to fill another blog post, but I'll suggest the ones that I find to be the best all-around on their respective platforms.

    • Twitterrific - Probably the best iPhone Twitter App. It's free, looks great and has all the features you'd need. There is both a free and paid version, the only difference being unobtrusive ads in the free one.
    • TwitterBerry - The definitive BlackBerry Twitter App.
    • TweetDeck - One of the most popular Desktop based Twitter applications. It runs on Adobe AIR so it's cross-platform and has all the Twitter features you'd need including easy Retweeting and topic tracking. It also includes the ability to post to your Facebook status.
    • TwitIQ - If you're going to Tweet from your web-browser, this is probably the best place to do it. It has all the basic features of the official Twitter.com web interface but includes so many more useful tools and advanced functionality.
    Until next time... tweet tweet!

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    1 Response

    1. I have had some classics, too! I am rewriting the laws of Twitter! Stand back! By the way, you can't just list all my (great) Twitter moves and then say "don't do this."