A Twitter Primer

There’s been a lot of talk about Twitter this week on Geek Force Five, but I know that there are still many of you out there who have no idea what the service is all about. And then there are those of you who understand what Twitter is supposed to do, but just don’t get why anyone would want to use it. That’s why I decided to put together this quick, five-point primer.

  1. Twitter is like the status updates feature in Facebook. But, you know how you can comment on people’s status updates in FB? Yeah, that’s the main point of Twitter: the conversation.
  2. If Facebook is like a daily class reunion, then Twitter is like a daily trip to the pub, or the bar, or whatever other gathering place you might frequent offline. Facebook is (mostly) about staying within the walled gardens of your established social circles. Twitter begins in the same place, but goes further, encouraging you to meet and greet new people.
  3. As wine and social media afficianado Gary Vaynerchuk says, interaction on Twitter is like a handshake. You can meet as many people as you want, or as few. And then it’s up to you whether you “follow” them (the Twitter terminology for friending someone up).
  4. Twitter, like any good conversation, is just as much about listening as it is about speaking. Watch what the people you’re following are saying. If they say something interesting, something that prompts a response, send them an @reply (which you do by beginning your message with the @ sign and the person’s Twitter name). And, every once in a while, visit Twitter Search and search for a topic that interests you. If there are people out there geeking out about the same things you are, don’t hesitate to get in touch. The world can be smaller, more friendly (and, in the end, more peaceful?) if only we reach out. And life’s too short to pass up the opportunity to meet all of the other people out there who are as passionate about Alf
  5. We’re all just people on Twitter. Sure, there are users with thousands and thousands of followers. But they only got there by being interesting, by saying interesting things, and, most importantly, by listening and responding to the people speaking to them. You can do the same thing. (“You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and goshdarnit, people like you!”) So, there’s no reason to be intimidated by anyone,regardless of their celebrity status. Hollywood stars have been flocking to the service as of late, but most of them are there just to hang out, just like you and me. So, if you have something to say to Demi Moore (@mrskutcher) or Soleil Moon Frye (@moonfrye), then say it! There’s a chance that you’ll never hear back, since they’re just as busy as the rest of us, but there’s a chance that you will hear back. A pretty damned good chance, actually. And why not take the chance? What’ve you got to lose?