“I don’t read your tweets. Everything on Twitter looks like it’s written in some sort of code that only the cool kids understand.”
This statement, made not too long ago by my younger sister, is one I’ve heard echoed by many others, including many colleagues in preservation. Since I’ve spent a couple of weeks making lists of why social media is important to our work and how to find the time to do it, I thought a quick primer on Twitter might be a great next step.
Bonus: This is actually two lists of 10 wrapped into one. Each explanation comes with an example from a local preservationist or preservation organization that’s worth following on your own account!
1. Feed: The main item you see when you’re logged into your Twitter account. The feed is made up of the latest tweets from the people you follow. The feed for @PresNation looks like this:
2. Following: The users whose tweets you have chosen to see. A good way to find new people or organizations is to look at who other preservationists are following; for example, check out who @FHLouisiana (Foundation for Historical Louisiana) tracks on Twitter. You don’t have to follow everyone, of course, but it’s a helpful way to discover like-minded folks.
3. Followers: The people who follow you. There is no requirement to follow everyone who follows you, but if someone looks interesting, by all means, follow them back! Here’s an example of a list of followers from our @PresNationLive account.
4. Tweet: The message you send out. The maximum length is 140 characters, including links to websites or images. Twitter automatically shortens any link to 20 characters (no matter how long it is!) and you can upload photos from either the Twitter website or its mobile applications.
— Preservation NPS (@HHPreservItNPS) September 18, 2012
5. RT: Short for retweet, which is the term used for sharing a tweet created by someone else. Retweets can be done two ways:
- Using the retweet button, which sends the entire tweet in its original format to your followers.
- Using the quote tweet option (alas, only available on mobile applications), which allows you to add a comment before or after before sending.
— Matt Cole (@urbanmatt) September 14, 2012
You may also see MT, rather than RT. This stands for modified tweet, and is used when editing someone else’s tweet:
6. @mention: Using someone’s Twitter handle in a tweet so it links back to their account.
7. @reply: Replying to a person’s question/comment; others' @replies show up in your feed only if you follow both the sender and the receiver. If you'd like your @replies to be visible to all, add a period before the @.
— PrattHistoricPresOrg (@PrattHP) December 13, 2011
8. #hashtag: Using a “#” before a word makes it a clickable search term in Twitter. We often use #preservation, #savingplaces, #PresConf, and #builtheritage. If you’re planning a campaign that uses Twitter, such as #SavePrentice, it’s a great idea to come up with a hashtag in advance and do a quick search on Twitter to see if anyone else is using it.
— Save Prentice (@SavePrentice) September 18, 2012
If a hashtag or other term becomes wildly popular, it is said to be trending -- and appears in a box on your main page, to the left of the feed.
Additional note about hashtags: they are also often used to denote a side comment or sarcasm. So, if you see a hashtag like #nerdswithcameras, it’s not really meant to be a search term.
9. Direct message: Twitter’s non-public communication channel. It can be found via the envelope icon on most mobile apps or in the same drop-down menu as settings on the Twitter website. You can only send direct messages to people that follow you.
10. Twitter chat/Tweet chat. A designated time for folks to discuss a topic, using a hashtag to gather all the conversation together. We host one monthly on the #builtheritage hashtag, and @JennWelborn, a public historian, has pulled together a list of other history-related chats on her blog.
Did I miss anything you find incomprehensible about Twitter? Let me know in the comments, and I'll follow up.