The Common Craft video on Twitter.
Twitter is one of the fastest growing sites on the web, and it's also one of the hardest sites to explain. Why is it so hard to explain? Well, this is largely due to the fact that people are using Twitter in so many different ways. You can't really boil Twitter down to one short statement. But we're going to try!
(For those of you on Facebook, Twitter is almost exactly the same as your status updates.)
At its heart, Twitter is like a blog with very, very short posts. It's sometimes called "microblogging" because each post can only have up to 140 characters. If you think about it, that's not very much. Some of the folks who don't like Twitter complain that, like texting, Twitter is dumbing down how we use the Internet by forcing us to be TOO concise. However, if you look at it, there are some very interesting ways people and companies are using Twitter.
When you sign up for Twitter, you can add your own posts, just like on your blog. On Twitter, these are called "tweets". Much like with Facebook, you can "follow" other people. When you log in, you'll be seeing the most recent "tweets" posted by the people you are following. Some people don't post much, but merely use Twitter to follow others. In fact, a Twitter feed works just like an RSS feed - you can subscribe to one in Google Reader just like any other RSS feed. This means you don't even have to join Twitter to get the benefits.
Okay, so how ARE people using Twitter?
* Posting useless facts about their day ("I just had a burrito for lunch." "This weather is making me cranky." "I can't wait to go to happy hour tonight!")
* Linking to an article, a video, or even something they want to buy online (Did you see the video of that Wedding Entrance Dance that was eventually parodied on The Office? Guess what - it originally gained popularity because people were Twittering about it for DAYS and it literally exploded in popularity to the point of being featured in People Magazine, and then The Office.)
* Breaking news (You can follow CNN, The New York Times, and other major news outlets, where they post short blurbs about breaking news stories.)
* Emergencies (When everyone was afraid that the 6 year old boy was flying over Colorado in a homemade balloon? Everyone from regular folks like you and me to major news organizations were posting updates and their feelings on Twitter. When the plane crashed on the Hudson in January, eyewitnesses posted photos and observations as it happened, way before those pictures and observations were on news sites like CNN, the radio or TV news stations.)
* Space Missions (NASA won blogging awards in 2008 when it created a Twitter feed for their Mars Phoenix Lander, which posted observations as if the robotic interplanetary explorer was writing them itself, all the way up until the end of the 152 day mission.)
* Protests and Politics (in the 2008 Presidential campaign, candidates used Twitter for publicity, news reports, and polling. And on the other side of the coin, regular people are gaining voices in protests around the world. When authorities in Iran blocked Facebook, text messaging, YouTube, and the BBC during the contested election earlier this year, they overlooked Twitter, and it became a connection for Iranian citizens to the outside world - and to each other.)
* Finding and posting jobs (Companies and recruiters are now posting job openings on Twitter, and in a way, by finding the job on Twitter, you're showing them that you already have a basic understanding of new web tools. Think about it!)
* Being a fan of your favorite sports teams (You can subscribe to news feeds from ESPN, local sports stations like SNY, radio hosts from WFAN, sideline reporters who update during the games... and surprisingly enough, the NFL has had to issue new rules that prevent players from tweeting during games.)
A Few Important Twitter Terms
Following: like friending on Facebook, when you "follow" people, you see their updates on your homepage. (You don't have to follow everyone who follows you! But you certainly can.)
RT: This is short for "re-tweet", and it is sort of like forwarding in email. When you RT something, you're re-posting something a friend of yours already posted.
Replying/@someone: In addition to writing your own messages, you can reply to someone else's message. This shows up with an @ symbol before their Twitter name, and then shows up in their feeds so they can see it.
(Here's another more detailed glossary of Twitter terms.)
Other Twitter Extras:
* You can post to Twitter from the web... but you can also set it up so you can send a text message from your phone directly to Twitter.
* Fancier phones like iPhones and Blackberries have Twitter applications, too.
* If you use Facebook, you can configure Twitter to post your status updates for you.
* You can add a little box to the sidebar of your blog that shows your most recent Twitter posts.
To complete Thing #12, here's what you have to do:
- Go to Twitter.com and click Sign Up Now! You'll then be prompted to put in your name, a username, a password, and your email address. It doesn't have to match your blog address or include your real-life name if you don't want it to.
- Once your account is all set up, follow the OCL Web Challenge Twitter feed. If you go to http://twitter.com/OCLWebChallenge, just click Follow under the OCL logo. We'll follow you back!
- Post an update or two.
- Blog about your experience!
Feel free to follow more people on Twitter! Here are some of our suggestions:
OCL's own Nancy Marino: http://twitter.com/NanMarino
The Asbury Park Press: http://twitter.com/AsburyParkPress
CNN Breaking News: http://twitter.com/cnnbrk
Library Journal: http://twitter.com/LibraryJournal
School Library Journal: http://twitter.com/sljournal
Try out this list of the 50 Most Popular Celebrities on Twitter. Check out Lance Armstrong, George Lucas, Shaquille O'Neill, Britney Spears, or William Shatner.
WeFollow is another way to find new people to follow on Twitter. It's a directory of topics and people that are popular right now (this minute!) on Twitter (including more celebrities, musicians, bloggers, etc!).
PS. Here are a few helpful links related to job searching on Twitter. These may come in handy as we are so often helping customers with job searches lately...
The LIST: Companies Recruiting on Twitter (compiled by Susan Strayer, a well-known author on the topic of careers and job searching)
Feeds for Job Openings, Job Postings, and Job Leads around the world (there are a TON here, but if you scroll down to the list for the U.S., there's a lot of good stuff.)
Tweet My Jobs! is a site that compiles Twitter job postings into an easily searchable interface that looks a lot like more well-known job sites like Indeed. It organizes them by industry so it's easier to browse.