[Note: This post is written for those who are newcomers to the Twitterverse. For those who are experienced Twitter users, please feel free to leave encouraging comments below for those who are thinking of joining Twitter. What do you think are the best reasons for joining Twitter?]
Why Should I Use Twitter?
I get this question a lot from my friends. Whenever I pry into the reason for their question, it has to do with the fact that most people want to “get” Twitter before using it.
I think this is a terribly flawed way to approach this form of social media, because Twitter is something you have to experience to find out how it can be valuable to you personally. While Pinterest or Instagram make perfect sense from the get-go (“Oh, you share pictures! On one I share whatever images I want to with my friends and on the other I share my own pictures? That makes sense” *Runs off to download the app*), Twitter takes a bit more explaining. Perhaps it’s because a picture is worth a thousand words. Perhaps it requires a bit more effort to justify to folks the value of writing in 140 characters or less.
There are many, many blog articles detailing why young professionals and businesses should have Twitter accounts. Just Google it, and you’ll run into a myriad a professional reasons why you should be on Twitter right now. (Right now!) But if you’re like I was not so long ago and feel that you’re looking for that precise reason or reasons why you personally should be on Twitter . . .well, let’s talk about them.
1) It’s Not Scary
Contrary to what I think must be some subconscious conviction, Twitter will not bite. You can create an account in just a few steps and then you’re free to explore. I often feel that when I meet folks who are not yet comfortable with technology, what holds them back is a fear that something is going to go wrong. Now, there are times in the technological world where this fear is justified. But I’m here to tell you that in this case, with this form of media, it’s ok. Deep breath now, and say it with me: It’s ok. You will not break the internet (or you computer/laptop/iPhone/Android, etc) by creating a Twitter account.
2) It’s Free
For those who don’t find technology complicated and a bit intimidating, but still need a reason . . . well, if Point #2 isn’t one of the best reasons to try out Twitter then I don’t know what is (aside from perhaps point #3 below). It costs absolutely nothing to test this form of social media. Many of us rush at the chance to jump on the free bandwagon (side note: did you know there is a Twitter account dedicated to free stuff? @free. Actually, I’m quite sure there’s more than one Twitter account dedicated to information on free stuff … all of which you would have access to the minute you create a Twitter account). Don’t let Twitter be your exception!
3) It’s Easy
It really is. All you need is an email address, an idea for your Twitter handle (that’s the name of your account that follows the “@”-symbol, e.g. @Raysa_Leer), and (if you want to seem a little less “It’s obvious I’m new to all this”/like a newbie) a simple picture added to your profile so people know you’re a real person. I recommend a simple headshot.
All About Twitter in 2012
Twitter 2012: The Freshest Statistics on the King of Microblogging Services by Infographiclabs
Now that we’ve gotten past all the reasons that will lead you to the actual point of creation, let’s talk about why having a Twitter account is useful:
4) You Don’t Have to DO Anything. You Can Simply Follow Others and Read Their Tweets
Many people are held back from Twitter because they can’t think of what they’d write in 140 characters or less and can’t see why they’d follow anyone else writing that way either. After all, who wants to get a live stream of snippets of information about someone’s day or what they’re eating or the cute thing their child just said? Isn’t that the problem with Facebook status updates these days? (“When I was your age, a Facebook status was preceded by the word ‘is’ and you had to be actually DOING something to update, or you looked like an idiot. Now you can say anything you want! Harumph!”)
Ok, point taken. But with the large number of people, businesses and organizations on Twitter you can choose who to follow. You can only follow professional, well-written Tweeps (another word for people who use Twitter…and no, you don’t have to use it if you don’t want to) or folks who write entirely in abbreviations. Whatever makes you happy. You have the power of choice in this.
No one requires you to tweet once you have an account. There is no daily, weekly, monthly quota of tweets you have to meet. Contributing is entirely up to you. If you want an account solely for the purpose of reading the content of others, there is nothing wrong with that. Jump on, follow a bunch of accounts and read away! (I will say, however, that once you’ve been on Twitter for a while, odds are you will want to join in with thoughts of your own. Reading everyone else’s tweets will inspire you to add some of your own. It’s like joining in on a big party!)
5) You Can Keep Up With Your Favorite Friends and Family Members/Artists/Sports Team/TV Shows/Movies/Political Groups/etc.
This is what clinched the deal for me. I believe I first started to use Twitter to follow accounts connected with a TV show I was watching at the time. Then I realized I could search for anything that interested me! Before long I became connected to a many of my favorite TV shows, political figures, favorite authors, local concert halls, and various social media-related accounts. Everyone and everything seemed to be on Twitter! Truly, these days I’m more surprised by what I don’t find on Twitter than what I do.
6) You Can Follow Your Favorite Topics
Twitter allows you to keep up to date with your favorite topics. Are you interested in education? What about nursing? Are you a business professional, looking for the latest information in your field? What if you have personal hobbies such as writing, sewing, hiking, kayaking, wine tasting or traveling? Twitter allows you to follow accounts that match your interests.
And it isn’t only about following specific accounts. Some of you may have seen the “#”-symbol floating around, perhaps in a friend’s Facebook status or even being used in text messages. On Twitter, the “#”-symbol is called a “hashtag”. What are these? When I first started using Twitter, I had to learn what hashtags were and how to use them. Twitter gives a brief explanation here. Other sites go even more in depth, like here. Hashtags are used before words or phrases that are relevant to your tweet and make that word or phrase searchable on Twitter. Users can look up topics of interest by hashtags (e.g. “#education” or “#winetasting”) in the Twitter search field to find tweets about those topics. Twitter is a one-stop shop for all kinds of information.
7) You Can Get Information in Real Time
Facebook is great, but how often do you realize you’ve found something out on FB an hour or half a day after it has happened? If you want to know the instant your favorite band’s concert tickets have dropped or get a blow-by-blow account of your favorite sports game, TV show, etc, having a Twitter account is a great way to get information in real time, as things are happening! This has many practical applications as well. For example, you could choose to follow accounts that will give you updates on local news, traffic, weather or city/regional events in order to better plan your day or make the most of your weekend. And all that information can be found in one place, saving you a search across multiple websites!
Reviewing Our Reasons, One More Time
So what are the reasons you should be on Twitter?
- It’s not scary
- It’s free
- It’s easy
- You’re not required to do anything once you have an account. What you do it up to you.
- You can follow people and things (friends and family, TV shows, music groups, sports teams, etc)
- You can follow accounts and tweets related to your interests (personal or professional)
- You can get information in real time, right away
The possibilities of what you can do with Twitter seem to be expanding all the time. Not everyone uses Twitter the same way, and that’s ok! Twitter is what you make of it, and there’s no right way to make Twitter your own. Who knows? Perhaps, after some time, you’ll find you want to add your two cents to the online discussions. If so, that’s great! We’ll talk more about ideas for what you can tweet about later.
Where to Start When You Have an Account
I’m sure we’ll talk more about this in upcoming posts, but for those to take the leap and create an account, here’s what you can do to start with:
- Find your friends and family. Connecting to people you already know allows you to have a personal connection with what’s being posted and to see how they’re using Twitter.
- Think of 5 topics of interest (personal or professional) you want to know more about. Search them out in Twitter, both by keywords and by hashtag searches.
- Consider searching for accounts that relate to local interests and issues (accounts related to the neighborhood or city or state you live in). A good example is searching for local news accounts. Also, search for accounts related to your hometown, especially if you no longer live there. Reading about news from where you grew up helps you feel connected to the community.
- Search out groups you have a connection with. Maybe there’s a Twitter account for your church, your softball league, your club, your alma mater, your professional industry. You might be surprised at what you find!
- Download the Twitter app to your SmartPhone. Reading tweets on the go is a great way to stay informed and an excellent time-waster.
If You’re Going to Tweet, What Not to Do
- Don’t share private, personal information! This includes the obvious: passwords, DOB, SSN, credit card or other financial information, telephone number, and email address you don’t want made public, etc.
- Don’t say anything you don’t want getting out publicly. This is the internet. It’s a very bad idea to bad-mouth your boss or backstab a friend in a tweet. Even private tweets aren’t safe because one of your approved followers might still share what you post. Use common sense!
- Don’t tweet dates you’re traveling or are on holiday. It’s a great way for burglars to know when you won’t be home! This also means you shouldn’t post too much about your daily schedule. (Also, something that’s just my own personal preference, but I would suggest that if you have a foursquare account that you NOT share every check-in on Twitter. That is far too much information about where you are all the time for those who wish to do you or your property harm. The odd share now and again probably won’t hurt, but be thoughtful of how much you share publicly).
- Don’t be offensive. Yes, free speech is great but certain posts can get you kicked off Twitter. No violence or threats directed towards others, no pornography. You can read the Twitter rules here. No one can stop you from posting your views or opinions, however extreme, but you might want to consider how far what you post could spread before saying certain things.
- Be careful when talking about others in your tweets. Some folks prefer working in a world of anonymity online and may not want you to splash their real names all over your tweets. I prefer referring to individuals by their Twitter handle (e.g. @usernameX) rather than by their real name. Make sure you know what your friends and followers are most comfortable with before mentioning them in your posts.
That’s all for now. I hope this post has given you some reasons to join and some places to start. Comment below if you’re a new user that has decided to join Twitter. What convinced you? If you’re still thinking about joining, tell me what’s holding you back? I look forward to hearing your feedback!