Some twitter basics.

The notes that I wrote on twitter basics about nine months ago are now largely obsolete, because Twitter has changed so much. It is a very fluid thing but here are some basics that will work right now.

Choosing who to follow.
You have already made a start on this. The best thing is just to follow where the trail leads you. Search on things that interest you. See who is saying something interesting, See who they are following and who is following them. I always read the profile, have a look at several pages of their tweets, take a look at their website if they have one.
Once you are following someone you will begin to see some of the other people they are talking to and one thing leads to another.

Choosing who to follow back.
If someone follows you I usually try and work out why. Sometimes they are simply trying to sell you something, sometimes they clearly collect followers, sometimes they are following because they think you have something to offer them. I tend to block the clearly pornographic ones. I usually follow unless I have a reason not to!

With breaking news stories, especially ones which sound to me like media hype (loads of it around) I use the search box to give me a quick overview of lots of different angles on a story. Searching is so interesting you need to set yourself a time limit!

This can be a bit of a mystery. Hashtags are used for different reasons. It can be a very short term way of gathering thoughts into a conversation. There was one the other night for a #twitpanto which got very confusing. It is the standard way of pooling information about events #cop15 was the tag for anything related to Copenhagen.

Eavesdropping on conversations.
One of the slightly confusing things about Twitter is that you can often only see one side of a conversation. You have to be following both parties in order to see both sets of tweets, or you have to click on the @xxxxxx in order to see what this person is saying.
So far, there is nothing to connect the reply to the tweet they replied to. – maybe that will come some day.

Replying is now much easier than it was. Just clicking on the reply button will put you into the tweet box with the reply address already there. “In the old days” you used to have to start the message with @xxxxx. Now you can put it where you like in the tweet. Sometimes the @xxxxx is used not as a reply, but to let other people know who you are talking about. – giving them their twitter persona
If you use @xxxxx it only appears in someone’s twitter stream if they are following you, but I think it does appear in their @ file anyway.

Direct messages.
Direct messages are a private message sent to someone’s email , and also to their message folder. It doesn’t appear in the twitter stream. You can only dm to someone who is following you.

Just a way to pass on something that you think is interesting. The simplest way is to use the retweet button. This is a very new development, only about a month old, and a lot of purists don’t like it. You can do it the hard way by selecting and copying a message, A RT done this way will read RT @xxxxx do it the hard way by selecting and copying a message.
Most people quite like being retweeted – and if you want a message to spread rapidly which happens sometimes when there is a campaign then re-tweeting is a very important tool.

Link to a blog.
140 characters can’t do everything. You will probably find you need to set up a blog. I have a free one in WordPress. Which does the job. You can link wordpress to Twitter, and if you post to your blog you can use the twitter link to tell people about it.

This is something I use a lot. If I am browsing on the web and find something of interest I will tweet about it. I use @tinyurl to shrink the web address so that it doesn’t use too much tweet space.

Lists are pretty new, and people are still taking their time on using them. You can do without, but if you plan to follow quite a few people, for different reasons, it is useful to start grouping them in lists.

Follow Friday
This is something that I don’t use but probably should. It is a way of telling other people about people on twitter you think are interesting to follow. You will see on Fridays ( ok maybe not this one!) that people will tweet lists #ff @xxxxx @yyyyy @zzzzz

hope this is useful!