A guide to Twitter for the unconvinced beginner. By Alice Sage
Do you find yourself muttering things like “oh look, Countdown is on” or “I think I’ll have a biscuit” or generally talking out loud when no one is around? Then Twitter is for you. The ranting crazy lady of social networking, Twitter is basically a neat kind of socially-acceptable thinking-out-loud.
If your friends use Twitter, then getting started is a no-brainer. Setting up an account is easy, as it is a simple case of picking a name, password and profile pic. Personalising your page is annoying but doable and really not that necessary. I spent a coupleof hours fitting a good photo for the background of my page, which now just gets on my nerves. However, if you don’t have lots of friends on Twitter then having fun with it takes a bit more forward planning.
Thankfully I have come up with five fairly-foolproof steps to making Twitter a worthwhile experience…
#1 Find friends. I know, it sounds stupid but there may be friends out there you didn’t realise used Twitter. Go to Find People in the toolbar up top, then Find Friends, fill in your email address and Hey Presto you’ll see anyone in your address book that has a Twitter account. People start up accounts and don’t use them. If a friend has an account but no picture and their last Tweet was several months ago, they might not add much to your experience.
#2 Follow a newspaper, or three. Following means getting their Tweets to appear on your page. Following a celebrity fills time, but some are more interesting to follow than others. They tend not to chat much. Getting regular Tweets from a newspaper, however, means you will be a) shockingly well informed, b) busy clicking on links and wasting time, c) getting annoyed and interested by the crap that’s in the news. This last point gives you interesting/annoying things to Tweet about, Re-Tweet, or reply to. Which leads us neatly to our next point…
#3 Tweet anything. From boring observations to tiny sweary rants, all Tweets can be interesting. Just like status updates on FaceBook (if that’s something you’re used to) you can use them to express yourself in funny ways. Tweeting and Re-Tweeting things you find interesting gives people a flavour of who and what you and your idiosyncrasies are. Without lots of Tweets, therefore, people have no clue who you are and won’t follow you. Don’t Re-Tweet everything. Leave a gap between Tweets. Or you’ll just be annoying.
#4 Follow anyone. Just like any Tweet has the potential to be interesting, so does any Tweeter. I have followed someone on a whim, seen an interesting Tweet from them about someone else, followed that person and ended up with really interesting blogs to follow, or games to play, or just new friends to chat to. People you follow don’t have to follow you, not even to be polite. They will follow you because you are interesting, funny, have Re-Tweeted stuff from them (possibly). People won’t follow you because you ask them to. That looks weird.
#5 Trend The right-hand panel on Twitter shows Trends. You can select your area where it says Trending and just see what’s trending where you are. Click on a trending word to see all Tweets about that subject. Sometimes stupid lists trend. For instance #cheesefilms. To join in you type #cheesefilms, then the cheesy film (East of Edam) in one Tweet. This fills time, plus gives you a chance to be funny and stupid and get used to how Twitter works.
Stuff you might want to know…
1 – A hash before a word makes it clickable. Click on it and you’ll see all other Tweets with that word in them. The hash has to be right next to the word with no gaps, and there have to be no gaps or punctuation in the word. For instance #squirrelsareshit is clickable # squirrels-are-poo is not. A mac keyboard shows no hash key (bastards) but it’s there. Just press keys alt and 3 at the same time.
2 – Putting @ before someones name makes whatever you say turn up on their page – useful for chatting! The same no-spaces rules apply. @Alicemcsage works. @ Alice Mc Sage doesn’t. My surname is not McSage, btw, that’s a nickname from when Ally McBeal was on TV. It also makes the name clickable, so you can click to see that person’s page or direct someone else to them…
3 – #FF is a trending topic, it stands for Follow Friday. People type #FF followed by @somepeoplesname to let everyone know who is fun to follow. Happens every friday, unsurprisingly.
4 – Only things you Tweet or Re-Tweet show up on your page, for everyone to see. Things you Tweet @people show up on your page, for everyone to see. Things people Tweet @you don’t. You see them on your page, other people can’t.
5 – Using a swish fancy internet phone makes Twitter as good as free texts, but funner. However, you can get charged up the backside for using your stupid swish fancy internet phone without free WiFi nearby (which I’m sure you know). You can send texts to Twitter which is just the cost of a text, which is cool, but you can’t see your Twitter page…obviously. You can get Tweets texted to you, but I don’t bother, so can’t advise!
There are a tonne of things that work with Twitter. TweetPhoto, for example, lets you put links to your photos in your Tweets. The clue is in the title! TinyUrl and bit.ly both let you shrink a web address down to a tiny car-registration sized link, for handy insertion in a Tweet. Indispensible, seeing as Twitter limits you to 140 characters per Tweet. Most people use bit.ly, it tracks how many people click on your links and the site looks nicer, though it doesn’t really matter. For more argument about Twitter dos and don’ts see Robin Brown’s contentious post.
…Get ahead of the game by clicking the little bird in the blue circle below, it will Tweet this post for you! 😉