Twitter is a social network that allows anyone with a mobile phone or computer to post or read "tweets" - text of no more than 140 characters. Tweets can include links to photos, video, or webpages of any type. New functionality allows photos and videos to be embedded in tweets as well.
Individuals or Organizations can create a free account to begin tweeting or simply reading other users' tweets. Each user "Follows" other users to be able to read a customized "Newsfeed" of the most recent tweets of everyone they are Following. Following does not have to be reciprocal; that is, you can follow a particular user's tweets, but they may not Follow yours.
Twitter is a great tool for learning more about topics you are interested in, or connecting with people with similar interests. Twitter allows users to search through billions of tweets to find content and twitter users that are most valuable.
For an individual, Facebook is where people who already know each other in real life connect. Twitter is where people find new people and content they are interested in; they may never connect with these people in real life.
Note that Twitter profiles are public by default (Twitter profiles can be made private, but that defeats the purpose of expanding your network and outreach efforts.). Even if you don't have a Twitter account, you can search Twitter for content or find specific users. For example, you can search Twitter using hashtags to find out who has tweeted about Jewish Camp recently. You can find JCamp 180's recent tweets at http://www.twitter.com/jcamp180.
Who's on Twitter?
As of December 2012, Twitter had 200 Million active users worldwide. 50% of all Twitter users are found in the U.S. Twitter last reported in June 2012 that 60% of users access the site via mobile device. More than 400 Million Tweets per day are posted on Twitter.
More than 60% of Twitter users are female. Twitter users also skew slightly young, with 60% of users younger than 35 years old. Twitter users are more affluent than average internet users - 58% of Twitter users have an annual household income of $60,000 or higher.
How Do You Get Started?
Sign up for an account at www.twitter.com and start tweeting! Some tips for getting started with your Twitter account:
- You can sign up as an individual or as your organization (or both). There are a number of tools that will allow you manage both an individual and organization account. They can also help multiple staff members tweet to a central organization Twitter account. Check out www.hootsuite.com or TweetDeck for two of the more popular tools. There are also great Twitter apps for iPhones or Android smartphones to help users read tweets, search for tweets, and post to Twitter.
- Even if you have an organization account, be authentic! Engage with others: respond to their tweets and retweet (RT) interesting tweets from others (a way to forward someone else's content). Make your interactions personal, just like with other social media.
- Find and Follow other users on Twitter. When you Follow another user, you'll see their most recent tweets in your own personal Twitter newsfeed when you open Twitter.
What Does it All Mean?
More than other Social Networks, Twitter has its own unique lingo to learn. Here is a quick primer to help you get started:
Follow/Unfollow - You can decide whose Tweets you will see in your own personalized Twitter newsfeed by Following them. You can also Unfollow someone if you aren't interested in what they are tweeting anymore. You can always view the list of people you (or another user) Follows and is Followed by. For example, below is a screenshot of the list of Twitter users Following @JCamp180.
@replies - When you put the @ sign in front of someone's Twitter name (i.e., @jcamp180) at the beginning of a tweet, it means you are speaking directly to that person/organization. However, that tweet is still public. If someone follows both you and the person you mentioned in the tweet, they will see the tweet in their newsfeed. And if someone goes to your Twitter profile, they can view that Tweet as well.
Finally, anyone can search Twitter or Google and find that tweet. Below is an example of JCamp 180 tweeting to @CampInc.
- If you mention a user's twitter name within a tweet (not at the beginning), all of your Followers will see that tweet.
- If you mention a user's twitter name within a tweet (not at the beginning), all of your Followers will see that tweet, not just the person you mention.
- *Note: If someone mentions your username in a tweet, it will show up in your personal Notifications tab in your user profile; depending on your notifications settings, you will likely be notified that you were mentioned as well.
#Hashtag - Putting a hashtag (#) in front of a term allows you to "tag" or categorize a tweet for easy searching. For example, #jewishcamp is a hashtag that allows people to easily find all tweets tagged as being related to the topic of Jewish Camp.
- Hashtags are often used at a conference, where all participants are asked to use the same hashtag while planning for and participating in the conference. For example, #gijp2012 was used during our 2012 conference (before the name change!).
- Hashtags are also used during live tweetchats. More about tweetchats below.
- The following picture shows a tweet that includes the hashtags #jewishcamp and #gijp2012.
DM (Direct Message) - Direct Messages are private messages sent to another Twitter user. These messages are not searchable or viewable by anyone but the recipient. They are similar to an email sent between two people.
- *Note: Although these DM's are not public, the recipient can always copy the content and share it as well. Be careful with all online communications.
Lists - Any user can create a list of Twitter users. Lists simply organize users by category and can be used to filter your Twitter newsfeed to only show tweets from the Twitter users on a particular List. For example, below is a List of Jewish Overnight Camps on Twitter. Users can view which camps are on the list or the most recent Tweets from those particular Camps. Twitter users can also Subscribe to a List from another user.
What Else Should You Know?
Twitter Search - Twitter's search functionality (http://search.twitter.com) is a great way to find people talking about topics of interest. For example, here is the result of a search for #jewishcamp:
Tweetchats - Tweetchats are a way to organize real-time conversation on Twitter. An organizer sets a specific time and a specific hashtag to have a discussion on a specific topic. For example, Likeable Social Media holds a tweetchat (#Likeablechat) on social media topics every Tuesday at 2 PM EST. There is also a weekly chat about Jewish Education using #jedchat. Some camps have held tweetchats for new parents or other purposes as well. Users can join the conversation in real-time or search the hashtag after the live chat. The best tweetchats continue the conversation long after the chat.
Make it Fun and Conversational! - Twitter is the ideal platform for conversation. Use Twitter to engage your audience with fun content. Ask questions and respond to users who send tweets to you. URJ Camp George has experimented with Mad Libs, Fill in the Blanks, So True…So False, and other fun ways to engage their Followers. Check out the URJ Camp George Twitter Profile for some ideas you can use at your camp.
Need help getting started on Twitter or making it successful? Contact Technology Program Manager Kevin Martone
to help you use Twitter strategically to reach your goals.