Twitter – the myth explained!
Twitter is a social media platform where the users share their ideas, thoughts, news and information in a maximum of 140 characters of text or less – known as a ‘tweet’.
Twitter facilitates the global exchange of ideas and the information is generally made public (unless a private profile setting is selected), so that anyone can read and comment on what is written.
Users of Twitter ‘follow’ each other, with the aim of seeing what everybody writes and what is being said about what is written. It is possible to ‘follow’ someone without addressing them personally. ‘Followers’ and ‘following’ are seen on the home page of the user’s Twitter feed. The Twitter feed is the sequence of the tweets they write or are mentioned in.
What do you think when someone asks if you use Twitter? You may already be a regular user, but a common answer is: "I can't be bothered with that. Why would I want to ‘follow’ a load of celebrities?"
Please just take a few minutes to read this short article and then hopefully you may change your mind...
There has been a lot of media news about the use and abuse of Twitter and I would like to alleviate some of the potential misgivings you may have about using it, allowing you access to an extremely powerful and professional media tool with huge potential to increase your knowledge on practically any subject you choose.
To start using Twitter, you need to go to the Twitter website and create an account. You will have to create a name which describes who you are. I chose ‘Lynne Omar’ . Then you need to choose an address where you can be found. I chose LynneOmar@LynneOmar, which is a straightforward name and address but you can choose anything.
Do remember though that this is public information and if you want to be found, don’t be too obscure with your choice of name/address as this is what people will search for when they look for you and when they interact with you and/or include you in a conversation.
Next, a profile picture needs to be selected and uploaded and a short biography allowing you to depict who you want to be. You can be as creative/imaginative as you like when choosing your profile picture and header picture and these can be changed easily by clicking ‘Edit Profile’. Actual pictures and real names make it easier to be contacted by people who you know, but satires and spoof accounts are also used by people who want to remain anonymous.
To get started, it may be a good idea to ‘follow’ your friends and colleagues first. Use the magnifying glass icon to look for people and when you find who you want to ‘follow’ you can click on their username, then on the ‘follow’ box which will be highlighted.
When you have chosen a few people to ‘follow’, look to see who they are following and this may give you ideas of other people you would like to follow. ‘Following’ on the home screen shows the Twitter users who you have chosen to ‘follow’. ‘followers’ are people who have chosen to follow you. When you follow someone, they may chose to follow you back but it is not necessary for you to follow everyone that follows you.
The Twitter algorithm will randomly select people/contacts/interests that you may want to follow but this is optional.
If you have chosen to ‘follow’ someone, you can always change your mind later, then you can choose to ‘unfollow’.
If someone follows you and when you check their profile, you do not want them to follow you, then you can click on the wheel icon and choose ‘Block’. If they then try to follow you again, they will not be able to.
Some Twitter users want to build a huge following and follow everyone. They may be connected to a pastime/group/interest that you do not want to be associated with. so do not hesitate to ‘Block’ these people. You may be followed by a random selection of people but remember you are in control.
You can reply to someone else's tweet by clicking on the tweet and then on the backward arrow. You can then write your reply. If you want to include or acknowledge someone in the tweet you are writing, use the @ followed by their Twitter address. You can also use magnifying glass icon to search for subjects, # and @name.
Once you have seen what the people you are following are writing about and how the conversation is created,you may decide to write a’ Tweet’ yourself using the quill icon. A tweet is a 140-character message. If you have more to say you can label your tweets 1/2(one of two) then 2/2 to continue the tweet.
A tweet can be a message about something you have seen/read/heard/done and by writing about it you can then begin to engage with other tweeters. You can also reply to a tweet by clicking on it and then click on the reply arrow. If you are looking at someone's feed, when you write, their @(name) will come up and they will automatically be included in your tweet.
A tweet can be an original thought or idea or you can ‘Retweet’ by using the two arrow icon. If you retweet, the original tweet will be displayed on your Twitter feed. Retweeting does not necessarily mean that you agree with the tweet but you are sharing the tweet so that your followers see it.
‘Quote Tweet’ can also be used where you quote part of someone else's tweet and then add some original text.
You can ‘Favorite’ a tweet by clicking on the star icon. This usually means that you like what has been tweeted but have chosen not to share it with your followers.
Tweeters who you have retweeted will be notified that their name has been mentioned by a number appearing over the ‘Notifications’ on their home screen. You might also notice a vertical blue line connecting some tweets. When two or more users you follow are involved in a conversation, Twitter automatically groups those messages together on your timeline, displayed chronologically from when the most recent tweet was sent. Up to three messages in the conversation will appear on your timeline, connected by the vertical line. If there are more than three messages in the conversation, click on any one to view the entire conversation.
If you see a number appear over your notification box, click on it and you will see which of your tweets have been retweeted or favorited.
When you have tweeted, you can still retrieve your Tweet and if you have changed your mind or have made a mistake, if you click on the tweet and then on the dustbin, it will be deleted. You will be asked to confirm this action so it cannot be done by mistake.
When you first start using Twitter, there is no pressure to write your own tweets. Many people follow and read other peoples tweets for a while before they feel that they want to write something. There is a real art and poetic license to writing tweets and you will develop your own style and shortcuts to enable you to fit in all you want to say in the 140 character limit. The running number of ‘tweets’ you write are displayed on the home screen.
# is a way to refer to a topic of conversation. This enables participation in a larger linked discussion (eg, #radiotherapy, #radiography). A # is a tool that allows others to find tweets, based on topics.
By clicking on a #name it is possible to see all the tweets that mention it in real time – even from people you don't follow. This is particularly useful for conferences, study days or lectures where there is a specific # for the event (eg, the recent CoR Radiotherapy Conference was #RTConference14). Any event can be given a # and it allows those who do not attend the conference/event to see what the attendees are tweeting about and it also allows others to comment on the tweets and include other people (eg, @SCoRMembers).
These # can also refer to an idea (eg, #patient safety). # can also be seen on TV programmes where the # is seen on the screen (eg, BBC Question Time - @bbcquestiontime - #bbcqt).
A troll is a person who starts arguments, upsets people, provokes, harasses and deliberately causes grief to Twitter users. Unwanted followers can be blocked (as previously explained) and I personally check who all my followers are and if I am at all suspicious – I block them. People may not always agree with what you have to say but this is quite different to being a troll.
Once you feel confident, you may want to start interacting with more influential Twitter users. Twitter gives you the power to directly connect with anyone. By @mentioning specific people, they will be notified that you have mentioned them and slowly the conversations will increase. They might even respond or retweet to their own personal audiences.
Private Message (PM)
You can send a private message to someone you follow who is also following you. This allows you to send a 140 character message privately. Only that person will see the message and it cannot be viewed on your Twitter feed or theirs, unless one or the other of you writes it in a tweet.
I really hope that this article has given you some help on how to start a Twitter account and how to use it.
I have listed some Twitter sites that I find useful and I would be really interested in hearing from anyone who has other sites to recommend. Ideally, this is the first part of a series of Twitter articles and if you would like to write about a feature of Twitter, please let me know. Happy tweeting!
My top nine professional sites are:
SCoR Members – @SCoRMembers