Twitter Talk: How to use Twitter

For the uninitiated, Twitter can be like walking into a party where you don’t know the people nor the strange jargon they speak. Just like any new cultural change comes new language, but once deciphered, Twitter talk is pretty easy. So let’s not put it off any further,  let me hold your hand and walk you into the Twitter Party.

Sit, Watch & Follow
Just like walking into any party, it’s sometimes best to first grab a drink and observe the room. See if there are people you know, people you want to meet, conversations you want to be part of.

Once you’ve surveyed the ‘room’,  start listening to the people/businesses’ conversations that are of interest. Follow them to see what they are saying, how they communicate within the ‘party’ and with who.

Following someone allows you to see what they are saying (their ‘Tweets’) in real time. If they want to listen to your conversation, they will follow you back. Understand, though, that your presence can get lost in a big group, so don’t be disheartened if they don’t follow you back. But most Tweeps (Twitter people) will reciprocate in kind, especially if there are synergies.

Start communicating with etiquette
After listening to some conversations, it’s time to bite the bullet and start letting people, your Followers, hear your voice. So let’s define the Twitter jargon.

Tweet: As mentioned, this is the chat of the party. You’re limited to 140 characters (not words!) so be succinct and on point. If you like, think of the people at the party who shine with the one liners.

Retweet (RT): Often we want to pass on conversations that we have with others: “Issy said that she loved her time in India”. In Twitter this is a Retweet. With an RT you can also add your own comment before, eg “So happy RT @Issy: Loved my time in India”. RTs are fabulous goodwill, which is a key to Twitter success. And I dare you not to smile when you get your first retweet.

Mentions: The ampersat (@) is key to talking or acknowledging people. You can either talk directly with someone: “@Joe What do you think of the article I wrote?”. If you want to acknowledge someone more publicly, put their Twitter tag name in the middle: “Thank you so much @Joe for your comments on my article”. The first mention is like talking to someone directly, whereas the latter is acknowledging the person to the entire party crowd.

Mentions are as powerful a goodwill tool as Retweets. It is also often used to acknowledge new people to the party: “Great to have @Joe following me. Check him out!”

Hash tag #: If you’re at a party, someone may shout out to the entire room “Hey everyone! Issy wants to say thank you for attending the party”. The hash tag at theTwitter party brings everyone to the one conversation. In this case it may be #IssyParty, so anyone wanting to talk with everyone interested in this event/topic will put this into their Tweet: “Can’t wait to hear what Issy has to say #IssyParty”.

Essentially it is a call to action, which is why so many media outlets now use a hash tag, think of TV shows who now interact in real time through Twitter. The hash tag is also how trending (popularity of a topic) is calculated.

With definitions complete, let’s tweet off
@MeganBarrow: Don’t be scared, u now know ur RTs from ur #’s, so get on Twitter now – it’s where people spread real time #information, #news & goodwill.

Yes, summarised in less than 140 characters!

Update:
Since writing this article in February 2012, a new addition to the Twitter chat dynamics was added: Favouriting. So if you click the little star (recently updated to a heart) below a tweet it lets the tweeter know you like their tweet. You don’t love it enough to RT (and share with your followers), but you want to give them a high-five or like for tweeting the post. Whilst it doesn’t help tweets get seen by other people, it is good for “social proof” – people who see the post will see how many faves a tweet has received (like RTs).

Confused by anything in this article? Drop a line.

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