A Facebook User’s Survival Guide to Twitter

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Many assume that Twitter is a passing social media fad frequented by teenage girls posting incessantly about their boy troubles, littered with mundane drivel about the sandwiches people are eating, and adopted by businesses for a “hip” marketing strategy. They wouldn’t be far off. After all, how much value can you pack into 140 characters?

To the uninitiated, Twitter may seem like something to steer clear of amidst the sea of social media. In fact, it’s not unusual for new accounts to quickly slip into disuse.

However, if you’re the type who has a lot to say, frequently refreshes your Facebook news feed, or are looking for a more convenient way to stalk that special guy or girl, Twitter is for you. But before you make that perilous leap into the realm of Twitter, you ought to learn the laws of the jungle.

First, let`s get the boring basics out of the way:

Tweeting 101

@Mentions

Typically, a tweet is addressed to the world. However, you can also “mention” specific Twitter accounts to direct your post at them. Not unlike Facebook, a mention takes the form of @user (ie. @tamilculture).

#Hashtags

Remember when “#” was just a number sign? Now “#” is also tacked onto phrases to create an umbrella term that all relevant posts fall under, creating a global conversation that anyone can join. Popular hashtags trend, and you can easily see what certain parts of the world are talking about at any moment.

RT Retweets

The Retweet is a way of sharing someone’s post on Twitter. Anything retweeted is repeated to all of your followers.

Favourites

The “Favourite Star” is comparable to the “Facebook Like”. It’s a good way to show your appreciation for someone’s tweet and it is logged in a
public collection of your Favourite tweets.

Twitter is not Facebook

Facebook is a social network. Twitter is a micro-blog. Twitter is fraught with people’s thoughts and doings with a greater posting frequency than an actual blog. Quantity is king. Quality is optional.

At its best, Twitter is a great promotional tool and spreads information like nothing else. At its worst, depending on how you look at it, Twitter can be a diary-ah of people’s thoughts—reality television that you read.

Twitter’s community is also more lenient with what you can say. All manner of opinions get expressed that you likely would not see on Facebook. Tweets are fleeting and rest assured that you’ll never be the dumbest tweet on Twitter for more than a few seconds. Chances are your impulsive tweet about soiling your pants at work will soon be eclipsed by a slew of other people’s unwise tweets. Don’t believe me? Check out Amanda Bynes’ Twitter account.

What to say in 140 Characters?

With its 140 character limit, Twitter makes it hard to express most thoughts. But please relinquish the urge to use dis knd f spllng. Also relinquish words like “relinquish”. Keep it short.

“I have nothing important to say though”

Consider this: only 9% of tweets have value worth passing on. Conversation, promo, spam and news aside, 40% of Twitter is mundane fluff.

Apparently, there is also a sign somewhere on Twitter that says “please direct all your complaints here”. But that’s not all there is to it.

During the big game, Twitter lights up with commentary. What game you ask? Any game. Even curling enthusiasts sweep Twitter with their comments on Ben Hebert’s broom-form or a referee’s controversial call on illegal broom-lifting.

Another thing that people often tweet is unoriginal content. You’ll likely experience the most engagement on Twitter (RT, Mentions, Favourites) when you say something unoriginal.

But that’s no reason to copy and paste everything you see. It’s your voice. And it’s more satisfying if people engage with your content when you say something unique to you. Especially about things you do or see as you go through the wonderful journey we call life.

There are Followers and There are…

On Twitter, there are only followers and they follow one another. Who should you follow? It’s up to you. If you’re promoting, then follow anyone you think might be interested in what you are doing and vice versa. Or just follow those whose thoughts and posts you’d like to read on your commute or in a waiting room. I would recommend against following everyone. Otherwise, you’ll pollute your Twitter feed and miss out on the good stuff.

Those you follow can even include parody accounts, companies or your favourite celebrities. Are you a big fan of Drake? Follow him. You can even holler at him for a feature on his next track. Some fair warning though – attempts to converse with celebrities will likely be one-sided.

Spray It. Don’t Say It.

Facebook’s threshold for frequent posting is relatively low. If you post five times in 10 minutes, you might annoy some folks. But on Twitter, with only 140 characters, you are encouraged to post frequently. The sky is almost the limit — there is a thing called “Twitter Jail” that locks you out if you tweet over 100 times an hour or 1000 times a day. And while I’ve never been on the inside, I doubt it adds to your street cred.

Privacy Shmivacy

I often say keep your Facebook friends close and your parents on private settings. Twitter, however, is public by nature. It doesn’t have Facebook’s accommodating privacy options. While it is possible to make your account private, this defeats the purpose of Twitter. It’s like whispering into a megaphone.

But remember that tweeting is like sending a mass text to the world. And sometimes people will say things here that they shouldn’t. That said, there are also those who say you should never tweet anything you wouldn’t yell from your front porch. Then again, I don’t know many who’d shout “What an intense workout!” to their neighbours.

The lack of privacy can be intimidating (a point proven by the preponderance of the South Asian female demographic tweeting with private accounts). But it opens up the opportunity to interact with people from around the world and that’s one of the best parts about Twitter.

Congratulations…

You’re now ready to head off on your own to fill the internet with more pointless babble. But before you do, I offer some parting advice: Twitter is fun only insofar as you and others are hooked on it. And believe me – if you are, your Facebook account might begin to gather dust.

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Author

Braveen Kumar

Braveen Kumar

I'm really just a jack of all trades. Except math, science, drawing and most sports. Is that a bad way to open? Let me try again. My name is Braveen Kumar, and I'm a writer of sorts. Before you ask, yes, I am Tamil and yes, that is my full last name. I do a little creative writing in my spare time, which you can read at The Wrong Kind of Write. You can catch me on Twitter too @braveenk. I also freelance on the side, if you're interested in a writer-for-hire.

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