Monday, May 04, 2009

How to Use Twitter (Once you've already learned the basics)...

Because my previous article, "How to Use Twitter (a Beginner's Guide)", generated so much positive feedback, I wanted to follow it up with an article for readers on what they should do next.

Once you've already learned the basics, meaning that you've created an account and have set up a rudimentary network of followers, there are a few additional things you'll probably want to do in order to really enhance your experience and participate in the Twitter community.

First, the place to start is unquestionably the Twitter search engine. It's pretty self-explanatory. By searching for keywords or phrases, not only will you discover what people are currently talking about on a given topic, like swine flu, but you'll also find more people to follow who are writing about topics that you find interesting.

For example, the next time American Idol is on television, search for "American Idol" in the Twitter search engine and see what everybody is saying about it. There's no need to wait until tomorrow morning for analysis, or even until the broadcast is over. Read and leave comments as the show is still happening.

Try this activity with any other topic as well. Yankees games, Phish concerts, Obama's televised addresses to the nation, etc. More than anything else, using the search engine will demonstrate to you the public fascination with Twitter.

Second, and by request, might I also make a few personal recommendations for people to follow. This is not an authoritative list by any means, but rather they are just a few of my personal favorites...

Which brings us to a third fundamental element in the Twitter experience... hashtags. Basically, anytime you see a hashtag sign (#) in front of a word, it means that there's an entire conversation happening around that specific topic. It helps organize Twitter into more meaningful dialogues, and people use the hashtag to make sure that their post is part of that larger conversation. For example, someone's Twitter post might read, "The thought of Taylor Hicks gives me shivers... #americanidol". (actual message)

Hashtags have also become a cyber phenomenon whereby people use them to organize Twitter events in a viral manner. Some of the more interesting ones include...

By understanding and making use of hashtags and the search engine, you'll be well on your way. The whole point of Twitter is to cultivate meaningful conversations on the Web, and the way it will become most meaningful for you personally is if you use these tools to shape your twitstream into conversations that you find most interesting.

Build a quality network of people, know what's being discussed, and engage with people about those topics. Doing all of this might not make you a power Twitter user yet, but at least you'll start to see what all of the fuss is about.


At 4:06 PM, Anonymous sallyannlady said...

Question: I searched "Taylor Hicks fans" and found it. I left a comment on that page. When I went back to my own page, my comment showed up on my home page and my profile page, but NOT on the "Taylor Hicks Fans" page. Did I do something wrong? Should I have actually used the words "Taylor Hicks fans" in my tweet for it to show up?


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