"The arms that you wield now are not such as your forefathers wielded; but they are infinitely more effective, and infinitely more irresistable" ~ Cymru Fydd leaflet, 1890

Sunday 27 May 2012

How to use twitter

Click to follow @WelshnotBritish

What is twitter?

Twitter is an online social networking and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read text-based posts of up to 140 characters, known as "tweets". It was created in March 2006.

Twitter Inc. is based in San Francisco, with additional servers and offices in New York City. The Twitter website is one of the top ten most visited on the Internet.

Twitter has been cited as an important factor in the Arab Spring and other political protests.
Source - Wikipedia.

Why should I use twitter?

Twitter is quite possibly the single best weapon anyone on the internet has to get their point across and build a following of like minded people no matter what your interests are and this is why I wrote this brief guide.

If you are a blogger and you are not on twitter then you really need to address this. For an indepth look at the many protests, revolutions and cases of civil disobedience that are accredited to twitter see here.

How do you use Twitter?

Firstly you need to register an account at twitter.com. It takes a few minutes and once set up your ready to start. Twitter has it's own terms and I shall explain them one by one which will give you a good foundation to work from. Please note I am deliberately not listing these alphabetically.

- When you post a message it is called a tweet, you tweet that message, you tweeted the photos. Someone was tweeting all night. Tweets are made up of fewer than 140 characters. So be concise. All tweets are saved and have their own unique link. I'll explain this later.

- When you hit follow on another accounts page you are then following that person. All their tweets will show up on your time line.

- Your timeline is the page you see with all the tweets from the people you follow.

Reply - You can reply directly to a tweet by clicking the single arrow below the message.

- RT is short for retweet. When a tweet or retweet shows up on your timeline you are able to retweet it to everyone that is following you. When someone you are following retweets someone else, the name and photo of the person who originally sent the tweet will show up on your timeline and not the retweeter. Although it will also show the name of the person retweeting. To RT just click the double arrows below the tweet. When someone retweets you your tweet will be visible to everyone following the person who retweeted you. So it's a great way of building followers.

Manual RT - Alternatively you can manually RT by copying and pasting the message into yours, if you must do this it's good manners to put RT at the start to show it's a RT and mention the original tweeter. Personally I find it much easier and polite to just use the normal RT method as doing manual retweets just looks like you are trying to take credit for another persons tweets.

Mention - To mention someone in your tweet you simply add a @ directly followed by their twitter account name. As an example, @WelshnotBritish. Remember that the @username may be different to the screen name. If you click the connect button on the top of the page you can see your mentions. If I am posting a link to someones blog I will usually mention them. It's good manners and a way of letting them know you like what they are doing.

Screen name - Or real name is the name that displays in large writing followed by your @username. You can set it to whatever you want or keep it the same as your @username.

Followers - Followers are the people that are following you. Sometimes you will have people follow you so that you follow them back. Sometimes as soon as you do this they will then unfollow you. A good site for combatting this is who.unfollowed.me. I will explain how this site works below. One thing you will notice as you use twitter more is that the more followers you get the more likely you are to attract more followers and retweets. Imagine a flat stretch of road that slowly starts to go uphill. Gradually getting steeper and steeper. This is how I would describe this curve. I'm sure there's a fancy term for it, but the main thing is that rightly or wrongly you are seen as a more interesting and/or useful person to be following.

Unfollow - This is when you stop following someone, or they stop following you. Maybe they were just trying to get you to follow them or they didn't like your tweets. Maybe they unfollowed you because you weren't following them back.

Follow back
- Follow back is straightforward term used on twitter where if you follow someone they will follow you. Someones people say follow for a follow.

- Follow friday is a curious tradition that apparently began in 2009. The concept is simple, you suggest to your followers the names of people you follow that you think they should follow. Follow friday tweets usually include a follow friday hashtag or a #FF for short.

- # is a hashtag and is a very important tool on twitter. When you place a # before a word you turn that word into a hashtag and it becomes a clickable link. Some hashtags are used simply to add depth to a tweet but usually they are added so that anyone clicking on that hashtag in another tweet might see yours. Please note you must leave a space before the hashtag and using any punctation marks will end the hashtag. As an example, #Wales's water will tweet as written but show up in a search simply as #Wales and might be a better hashtag to use than #Welsh water as more people will use and search #Wales. You can use a hashtag anywhere in the tweet, this saves repeating the same word.

Grammar - People generally aren't too fussed with spelling and grammar on the internet, especially when cramming your thoughts into 140 characters. Most try and avoid text speak when possible but will slip the odd one in when needed. And let's face it, on a mobile phone it's very hard to be Chaucer.

- Trending is what they call a popular topic and is made up of keywords with or without a hashtag. You can change your settings to show what is happening in different countries and what is trending will show up on the left of your screen. There isn't a Wales only setting so the nearest you can get is UK.

Favourites - When you see a tweet you like or want to save for later you can favourite it by clicking the star below the tweet. This is handy for checking links, videos and photos later or simply for keeping a tweet that made you laugh.

Links - If you want to post a link (to a site/photo/video) in twitter then you can just paste it as you normally would paste it anywhere else. Remember the 140 character limit applies to links aswell, they will appear shortened when tweeted but when before.

Link shortening
- You can shorten links before adding them using sites such as bit.ly. These are very handy when you want to add a comment with the link you are posting. I will explain how to use bit.ly below.

Photos - If you want to add a photo from your PC then click on the camera icon below the message, find the picture you want to share and ok it. This will be uploaded and appear in your tweet as a link and not as an attachment in an email.

Location - Next to the camera icon is the location icon, depicted as a cross hair. If you click it you can select your location which will appear next to your tweets.

Direct Message
- A 'DM' is a a way of privately messaging someone where only they can your message. You can only DM someone who is following you and make sure you are following them otherwise they cant reply. Be careful with links in DMs, see below for details.

Viral - One phrase you hear a lot on the internet is about a story going viral. It stems from the real world way that viruses spread. If one person with a bug enters a room with 10 people, each of those may catch it and pass it on. In the same way news stories, pictures, videos or tweets can go viral just by being shared. Each time you share something you "spread" it to your followers and allow them the opportunity to share it with their followers.

Good sites to use to compliment twitter

- When you log in using your twitter account this 3rd party site notes who you are following and who is following you. There is a paid version available but the free version is incredibly useful and quick to use and that is what I use. When you next log in you can click who unfollowed me and if anyone has recently it will show a list and give you the option of unfolling them directly from this interface. This is what I use to combat the annoying tendency by some to follow you so you follow back before unfollowing you. You can also show people you are not following back over all and those not following you back.

bit.ly - Bit.ly is free to use and you do not need to sign up although if you do sign up (for free) it gives you more functionality. The site shows you a box, paste your long twitter unfriendly link into this box and it will generate you a short link of bit.ly/ followed by about 6 random characters. This link will then redirect to the original link. If you create an account you can customse the links and also track the click throughs, that way if anyone shares the link on other sites you can see more info on it.

Twit Longer - Again you have to sign into this 3rd party site but it allows you to send large tweets. You enter the text in the box and hit send. Your tweet is sent as normal but it only shows a small amount of text followed by a link to your twit longer tweet. The whole concept of twitter is to be concise tweet within the confines of 140 characters. Sometimes this just isn't practical or possible and this is where twit longer comes in. Used sparingly it can be an excellent tool to get your point across.

Follow friday helper - Another 3rd party site that you have to log into with your twitter account. It identifies the people you have interactive with over the last week via  retweets, replies etc. Once logged in you see a text box with a hashtag followed with the word follow and whatever day it is. For the sake of space you might want to delete that and just type #FF. Below this you will see a list of people you have interacted with and why they are listed. Click on the names of the people you want to add and they will automatically be added to the box. This site adds a link to itself at the end of the message so you have less that 140 characters to start with. Despite this it's easier than doing it manually and a good way of showing your followers who you recommend they follow and it's a great way of thanking people for retweets etc.

SnapBird.org - Another 3rd party site you have to log into with your twitter account. If you have ever tried searching for a specific tweet by yourself or someone else then this is the tool for you. You just enter the search criteria and it quickly scans all the tweets sent by that person until it finds possible results.

Stay safe

The DM Scam - Occasionally you will get a DM saying something along the lines of "someone is spreading rumours about you" followed by a link. If you click on the link it will take you to a page telling you that you have been logged out and that you need to log back in. This is not a twitter page, look at the address bar, it will resemble twitter but it's not twitter. No matter what you type in it will re-direct you back to twitter. Then you will either carry on as if nothing happened or have to enter your details again. It's a variation of the bank details scam. When you enter your details into the fake site it saves them and redirects you. It relies on you doubting whether you entered them correctly the first time.

I'm not sure what exactly happens to these accounts once they are compromised but one thing they will do is start sending DMs to your followers with the same scam. So if you recieve a DM with this scam then just reply, tell them what has happened and that they need to change their password. You may also like to check what applications can access your twitter account from time to time too.

I made a twit longer version of this explanation that you can share with anyone whose account is compromised, just send them this link http://www.twitlonger.com/show/his5f5

Using twitter on your site

Tweet bookmarks - As mentioned earlier, all tweets are saved and can be viewed at any time via your tweet history. All tweets have a unique link to access that tweet. I have recently started using this feature on this site. Next to articles, pictures, graphs etc you will see a "Tweet this..." link. The link directs the visitor to a tweet that I have already made on that subject or containing that graphic. The visitors only have to click the retweet button to share that with all of their followers. Example, tweet this. There are ways of embedding the tweets if you so wish but I prefer a simple text link.

Apps - On the right hand side, near the top is my twitter app. It's called a widget and it and and be found here. It allows you to customise the look of it so it matches your site better before finally giving you the code. You enter the code where you would like it to appear. If adding it to a blog like this then add it as HTML/Javascript.

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