Ace still gets a lot of questions about Twitter, even though we’ve done several concept pieces on “why twitter matters” and that sort of thing. (You can search on Twitter here on the site for more backstory.)
Several times this week (at LFUCG and at Ace Book Club), the questions were very specific, and related far more to “how to.” One reader asked if we could put together a “Twitter for Dummies.” Well, Ace Readers are no dummies. But there do seem to be a few myths and misconceptions still floating around that maybe we could clear up.
Why does Ace Tweet? For the same reason Ace does everything: to build a Better Lexington.
That’s what Ace wants.
It’s what Ace has wanted for 20 years.
It’s what the Ace Readers want.
A Better Lexington is good business and a good quality of life.
It’s why we celebrate the BEST of Lex.
It’s why we all get together to push the same rock up the same hill.
Twitter is just another Tool in our toolbox.
It allows us to talk with the Ace Readers (not just TO the Readers) 24/7.
This is how we do it…
Anyone who complains that Twitter is a navel-gazing guide to informing the world about when you brushed your teeth misses a couple important points. First, they must not be following the right people. Second, Twitter is far more about listening than it is broadcasting. This analogy comes up a lot, so refer back to the 70s for a moment:
Twitter is not a radio station where you broadcast, it is more like a 1970s CB radio where you have dialogue (with flashmobs, instead of convoys).
What follows are some basics that will get you started, and then some Lexington-specific information.
First up, just go to http://twitter.com and it will lead you through establishing an account.
Choose a Screen Name:
Here are a few helpful hints. Keep it short (you only get 140 characters in a tweet—no one wants to waste them spelling out @UniversityofKentucky). Do not use Numbers or Underscores in your screen name. They are unwieldy, especially for people using Twitter on their phones.
What is this @ Symbol?
The @Symbol is what prefaces everyone’s Screen Name. If you want to talk to someone on Twitter, you address them with their screen name, or they won’t necessarily “hear” you. A sample tweet might read “what’s the Midnight Movie @KentuckyTheater?”
Again, for anyone who remembers the 70s, think of it like a CB radio. Your screen name is your “handle.” You will always be addressed by this “handle” and you always use other people’s handles when you want to talk to them.
Once you are logged in, you’re on. Complete your Profile (just like you would for facebook, or even for an email account). Don’t feel compelled to overshare, but if you’re introducing yourself, people will want to know a few things about you: maybe it’s just the industry you work in, if you don’t feel comfortable identifying your employer. Maybe you’re a Mom who’s into Knitting, or a budding social activist, or a Foodie, Keep it simple. A few keywords are fine. DO list the city you live in, and say something about who you are or what you do. If you don’t, people may accidentally identify you as spam or porn and block you. (You’ll learn more about blocking in the Intermediate Tweaching Session. This is the Beginner’s Session.)
Twitter will then suggest a default array of celebrities for you to follow, ignore them. (Unless you want to know when Britney Spears is brushing her teeth.) For beginners, Keep it Local. (More on that in a second.)
From here, Twitter becomes very intuitive—think of it as Facebook with JUST the Status Updates, and without all the annoying MafiaWars and FarmTown intrusions. In your status update, you might share links about something great you just read, or a photo, or a great idea about what to do tonight in Lexington. If you feel compelled to tweet about brushing your teeth, no one will stop you.
At the Right of the screen, you will see:
@YourScreenNameHere (your “handle”)
These are important.
Click on the @YourScreenName and you will see people who are talking to you, or about you. This is how you have conversations on Twitter. Again, think of it as your “handle.” This is where you click to look at anyone who’s using your handle. If you want to say something back, try “hey @ukcoachcalipari, I would like to touch the hem of your garment at a book signing.” (He doesn’t typically answer Tweets. Neither does @MayorNewberry.)
Direct Message: Don’t use this when you’re getting started. Click on it to check for “mail” there, of course. But think of it as “Private” Message. Now, think, would you be comfortable seeing this “private message” on the front page of a newspaper (not Ace…necessarily…just in general). If you wouldn’t, don’t send it. It isn’t so much a case of security as it is know-how. Twitter-Rookies invariably think they’re sending a “Direct Message” to a spouse or co-worker about something that should be Private, and they end up sending it out as a Tweet that might become a source of embarrassment…or a grand jury indictment. You’ll get the hang of it, but at the beginning, just steer clear.
Twitter Etiquette is really pretty simple, and it boils down to this: don’t be a jerk. (That’s been edited. In real life Tweaching Sessions, we use a better word than that.)
Twitter is a friendly community, so treat it that way.
It isn’t a broadcast forum for mini-press releases, and, contrary to a host of websites and local “Twexperts” who will advise you otherwise, you should not be there to sell stuff.
Think of it as a Cocktail Party.
Are you the guy who walks in and does nothing but talk about yourself?
Well, the same thing will happen to you on Twitter that will happen to you in real life: no one will like you.
Would you walk into a cocktail party and immediately try to sell everyone a house?
If you did, people would stop inviting you to cocktail parties.
Would you argue loudly with everyone at a cocktail party?
Well, if you would, stop it. It’s trashy.
By all means, if you sell things for a living, disclose it in your profile. (Ace sells Ace Advertising, and there’s a phone number and an email right there.)
But a good cocktail party guest will observe for a little while and get the lay of the land to see if they have something interesting to contribute to conversations-in-progress. Try that.
Go to “Find People” (at the top right of the screen) and sign on to follow a few locals.
Now, just LISTEN. Because that brings us to WHO you will follow.
Friday is a great day for Beginners on Twitter because it’s “FollowFriday.”
Fridays on Twitter are known as “FollowFriday”—that means people will recommend fellow twitterers, often with a line of reference. “FollowFriday” is a common Twitter “hashtag” which means you’ll see posts like this:
#FollowFriday @AceWeekly for local news, arts, entertainment.
Or you might see a Tuesday/Thursday tweet from Ace that will say “GTV3 is on! #LFUCG.” (The hashtag “LFUCG” is for anyone who wants to identify and follow the LFUCG proceedings.)
This is a very, very abbreviated list of a few people Ace can recommend. To see everyone Ace Follows, when you sign on, just to go http://twitter.com/AceWeekly and click to see the people we follow.
Here are a few examples…
@DougMartin10th (the only person in LFUCG who’s caught on so far as to exactly why, and HOW to use Twitter)
Flu panic? Follow the @LFCHD
The Mayor, the Vice Mayor, and Council Members Lawless and Martin are the only representation the horseshoe currently has on Twitter.
For the past 18 months, Ace has been strongly advocating for Twitter Transparency in LFUCG. Email your CouncilMembers@lfucg.com
@UnivOfKentucky is UK Public Relations.
The UK twitter you might know is @UKCoachCalipari. His is the BEST Lexington Twitter according to Ace Readers; he also has the Best Lexington Facebook Page; and is the Best Burger and Best Taqueria in town (perhaps you’ve heard of him?)
A Few Non-Profits (there are dozens; this is a sampling)
@SeedLeafLex (voted Best Grassroots by Ace Readers, Best of Lex)
For Kentucky Government
@MillerKy (Jonathan Miller, KY Secretary of Finance, is number 8 on Ace’s Top Ten Follow List)
@KellyFlood (state rep)
The REAL Lex Twexperts
These are people who have mastered the fine art of Tweeting, and are good examples of this form of communication:
http://twitter.com/AllanThinks and http://twitter.com/AliThinks (voted Best Twitter PowerCouple)
http://twitter.com/KYMargueritte and http://twitter.com/horninF
http://twitter.com/mrtoastey (host of @wrfl’s Trivial Thursdays and a Best of Lex blogger)
They are good role models, and from them, you will get spirited or friendly discourse, as opposed to anyone trying to sell you anything.
Now, GO FORTH and Tweet.
Once you are signed on, introduce yourself. Say something simple like “Hi @AceWeekly, I’m new to Twitter and I like gardening.”
Here is an excellent link to a post called: Mom, This is How Twitter Works.