How Does Twitter Work – For the uninitiated

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How Does Twitter Work – For the uninitiated

Note: If you think Twitter is for kids and fools, read my post on Twitter and business here. I used to think that, but now I’m a believer.

Your twitter account is a list (twitter feed)  of “Tweets” that appear one after another from companies or individuals that you are “following”. When a company you are following ‘tweets’ it appears on your list. If you ‘tweet’ it appears on the lists of all the companies or individuals that follow you.   Pretty much instantaneously.

When you sign up for a Twitter account you have to select a ‘handle.”  It is preceded with an “at” (@) sign. Mine is “@jvhpt, Parking Today’s is @parkingtoday.  When you select a handle it should be uncomplicated and a direct reference to your company. @pieshow is better than @pieexpo2016.  Don’t date it.

When you open the twitter site and sign in, there is a place for a picture and background — pretty straight forward.  Use Settings to put what you want there. For a company your logo would be good. For an individual, you picture.

There is a little box with a quill pen in it. Click on that and a box opens where you can put up to 140 characters. That is your “tweet”. There is a tiny number starting at 140 near the box and it goes down as you type. When it reaches “0” you are done. You can insert URL links, but its a good idea to use a source like “tiny url” to shrink the length of the link. You only have 140 characters.

Handles and Hashtags

These help you search for topics in Twitter. If you put a hashtag (#) in front of a word or series of words without spaces, that word will become searchable using the “magnifying glass” search option. Click on the glass, a box comes up, and you key in the word you want to find. Voila — Twitters brings up all the tweets with that word. Try it. Its great.  You can also click on a hashtag phrase right in the tweet when you see it. I just noticed #specialolympics and clicked on it. Brought up hundreds of references.  This is a great tool

If you use a handle “@” in front of a phrase that is actually a twitter account (@jvhpt)  then when you click on it you will be taken to that account and see all its tweets. You can then elect to follow it (Click on the “Follow” box, it will turn to “Following”). Also, the account you mentioned in your tweet will be notified by email that you mentioned them. This is great for both of you.  They learn about your account (and may follow you) and you get additional recognition. If you want to “Unfollow” simply click on the “Following” and it will change to “Follow” and they are gone from your feed.

Of the two, hashtags are the most important. They begin a ‘conversation’ and let readers find you and interact with you. It is rather like twitter’s version of Google.  You key in a word or phrase and Voila — there is a list of people and links about that word.  You can respond, look, and learn.

Using hashtags and handles is important but don’t overdo it.  You can reach the point where the Tweet is unreadable.

Retweets, Favorites, and Responses

When you click on a tweet, you can see it and three little emoticons at the bottom.

The first, a little arrow, is a response.  You can comment on the tweet and when someone else clicks on it, they will see your response.

The middle one is retweet. This is important. If you like a tweet, you can “retweet.” That means that it will appear not only on your personal tweet feed, but also will be tweeted out to everyone following you. This is what is referred to as going ‘viral’.  Now if this happens only once, or twice, its not viral. But if 10 or 100 people retweet, suddenly that tweet is seen by tens of thousands of people. Its usually a cute cartoon or picture, or something extremely newsworthy (Donald Trump withdrawing from the GOP presidential race.)

The star on the right is for favorites.  You can favorite a tweet and the person creating the tweet is notified that you like it and it goes on their “favorites” list.  This is important. It helps the tweeter to know that caught the reader’s eye and how they can improve their ‘tweets’. Also this helps spread the word about the tweet and you — since the “Tweeter” is notified of the ‘favorite’. Nothing like recognition to get a person to ‘follow’ you.

And that, of course, is the goal. The more followers, the more impact, the more chance of going ‘viral’, and the more growth. @jvhpt and @parkingtoday have more than 1,600 followers (after only about 2 months of active tweeting) and are growing daily. Don’t expect a parking twitter account to explode like the Kardashians, but expect slow and steady growth. If we get a couple a day additional followers, we are happy.

How do you get growth. There are a lot of tricks but suffice it to say that “content is king.” If you tweet really interesting information, link to great stories, and make it interesting, well…  you could say:

JVH is blogging about twitter this week. Go see it at www.parkingtoday,com/blog.

Or you could say:

Mystified by Twitter. JVH strips away the confusion, twitter for dummies – tinyurl.com/oz4z7xq

Which one caught your eye?

There is more to Twitter – for instance – there are tweets that appear on your feed that you don’t follow and they aren’t retweets.  They are paid ads.  Put up with it, Twitter needs the money. And there are lists, and other interesting things. But that’s for another time, as soon as I understand it.

Twitter can be fun, and doesn’t have to consume you. Give it a try and start by

John Van Horn

John Van Horn

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