There’s so much buzz going on about Twitter right now, especially with Ashton Kutcher beating CNN to 1,000,000 followers. I think I joined about a year ago, but hadn’t really heard much about it being applicable to me until RAGBRAI posted any tweets with the hashtag #RAGBRAI in them to the Des Moines Register’s website. I thought this was a creative way to share with everyone, basically from your phone while on RAGBRAI. Then like everybody else, I made a couple “tweets” that said, “Just trying to figure this out”. I didn’t really understand it, but liked to follow a local band and see what they were up to and where they were performing. Once I had followed them for a while, I started to learn how it works and some of the lingo. I felt pretty dumb trying to Google “RT” and what the “@” or “#” meant. For those friends of mine that aren’t on twitter, which you must not be, I only know about 10 people on there compared to the hundreds on facebook or myspace, “RT” stands for retweet. Which means, when someone in your network says something you like, then you retweet it to your network, trying to spread the word or show gratitude to the person that originally posted it. And it’s abbreviated to obviously save characters since you can only use 140. So back to the showing graditude and giving credit, when retweeting be sure to put a “@” before the person that orginally posted the tweet. You also use the “@” to reply to someone. So if you’re answering their question, or just saying something to them publicly then use the @. Next the “#” which is to note a subject or event that you want to point out. With search.twitter.com parsing every tweet this isn’t as important anymore until you are trying to point out something with a common name as something else less unique. I can’t think of a good example right now, so that’s not much help. Also if you’re going to use a hashtag, be sure to use the same one that everyone else is using so the tweets can be grouped. Often an event will have an abrieviated tag so that it’s shorter, those can be found on hashtags.org. Which brings me to one of the cooler features of Twitter. Twitter Search, which was acquired by Twitter from Summize, will show the most popular words mentioned in all tweets. Then it shows the top 10 “trends”, this will usually tell you what’s going on at the time, like earthquakes in California, who got kicked off of American Idol, or bombings in Mumbai. If your timing is right you will find out about stuff before it’s in the news. Here’s a twitpic from the plane that landed in the Hudson twitpic.com/135xa, it was a first hand picture taken among the many that made it to twitter before the news was on TV. Twitpic is an easy way to send pictures from your phone or computer and have them resize the pic, then automatically post a link to your twitter account with a note about it. The one from this link is probably the most popular twitpic ever, although I perfer this one from Ashton twitpic.com/2bj58. There are tons of other applications built by people outside of twitter that aggregate similar tweets, or messages from the same geographical area.
It’s a fun service, that has been popular in the tech area, but just went crazy when celebrities starting using opening up a whole new level of communication between celebs and their fans. There are a few things that bug me about twitter. For 1, I hate that some people make it out to be a big popularity contest. To be honest, who cares if Ashton has more followers than CNN or me as far as that goes. I think you get more out of it if you actually interact and read your feed instead of just trying to get the most people to follow you. I guess it’s kind of a cool feeling to be listed as a top for some catagory (http://wefollow.com/tag/omaha), but that’s not really my goal. This also leads me to how people try to use it to market themselves. Once again, it has been amazing the traffic that it has brought to my site, but I’m not out there saying how cool I am, and how good I am at stuff and how I can make you money. I just don’t get that, I guess maybe it’s cause I don’t have to rely on it for an income, but I just want to use it as a socializing tool, and yes find out about some new cool blogs and people along the way. The marketing part is real annoying people will follow you to get you to follow them back, then they will remove you from their list and just spam you with “how to make millions” messages. I’m pretty generous, I’ll follow anybody that looks like they are following me, because they are interested. I also go back and check to make sure that the people I’m following are following me back (http://friendorfollow.com/). There are quite a few people I will still follow if they’re not following me, but mostly it’s the people that added me first then removed me. There are a few tools that make it easy to follow as many people as you want and sort through them. I use Tweetdeck the most, but Seesmic or Twirl are other good ones. They allow you to create groups and follow a small number of people more closely. I like to follow people from the Omaha & Des Moines areas just to see what’s going on in the area. I’ve found out about some pretty cool startups and interesting entrepenuers. They also annouce local Tweetups, to get a chance to meet people in the area and network in person. I also have groups for celebrities, musicians, and “tech celebs”, I think they are the ones that really have brought twitter to where it is and have the most interesting ideas on how to use it.
Everyone has their own methods to get their tweets out. The most popular is the web, but Twitter was originally intended for using your cell phone to send and receive text messages. I use both of those, then also Tweetie on my iPod touch, PockeTwit on my Windows Mobile phone, then Tweetdeck on my computer and Friendfeed from the web. I’m still playing with using other clients from my desktop at home. I’m also still customizing Friendfeed. It’s actually a way to agregate many web services, but I use to to read my friends tweets, you can check out my web activities there at friendfeed.com/oneniner . I like to follow a lot of people and sort through their messages, but I don’t get why not everybody will follow back. I have the hardest time getting half as many followers as the people I’d like to follow. For some reason most of the local people I follow don’t follow back, I don’t really care since it’s not a contest, I just don’t think it’d be that hard especially with some of the ways I mentioned to group your friends. Pretty soon, I’ll reach the 2,000 cap and not have enough people following me to follow more people, but oh well, I guess we’ll wait till I get there. I was pretty excited that I finally got to 500 followers and I did it in a fair way, I wasn’t tricking people into adding me. It’s especially good since I don’t post as much as some people do. So if you like the status updates in Facebook, there’s a ton more cool interesting things going on around twitter, this is just the tip of the iceberg, but try it out, follow me, I’ll follow you back and just take your time getting comfortable, you’ll catch on pretty fast. Then it’ll be too late and you’ll be addicted.