I had occasion today to talk to a friend today (ok…knock off all the “You have a friend???” jokes) and by chance the topic of Twitter and tweeting came up. And my friend said “I just don’t get it. I am really not sure if I am doing this right.” And like that, poof, we were off into the Twitter arena. So I thought I would share what we discussed, and maybe help any of you who might be a little confused about Twitter.OK. So let’s just dive right in. Twitter is designed to accommodate 140 characters. So let’s say I want to tweet out something about 2014 Instructure Conference I went to in June. My tweet to the Twitterverse might look like this:
I had a great time at the 2014 Instructure Conference in Park City Utah.
Now, the only people who will see the message above are those Twitter users who are “following”me. They will see it in their “timeline”. If you count the characters, you will see I used 72. That means have 68 characters left. So let’s see how we can enhance this tweet and make it more accessible to the world.
Let’s say I want to “mention” another Twitter user in my tweet so others who are not following me can see it. What is a mention, and how do I do it? To mention a user you simply enter their Twitter username in the content. You must use the “@” sign with their username. Say I want to mention the main Instructure twitter account in my message. my tweet would now look like this:
Hey @canvask12 I had a great time at the 2014 Instructure Conference in Park City Utah.
You will notice the Canvas Twitter name in the message. Because I listed the Canvas account in my Tweet, it now means anyone who is following MY account OR the Canvas account will be able to see my message. So just by adding another user’s account in my tweet, I have reached more folks. And, you can mention multiple Twitter accounts in the message, subject to the character limitations. Pretty easy so far huh. It brings my character total to 87. But I want to make my tweet available to anyone who wants to view any posts about the Instructure conference, even if they do not follow a particular Twitter account. I have 53 characters left to work with. How do I make this happen.
Use “hashtags”. Hashtags are key word or phrases preceded by the “#” sign. A hashtag is not owned by anyone. Any individual can decide what hashtag to use in the tweet if they want to use one. A hashtag DOES NOT have to be about a certain conference or topic. It can be any phrase or word you wish to use. It can be #RIP if someone has died. It can be #HappyBirthday. It can be #AreWeHavingFunYet. You simply decide what phrase you want to use to have group tweets, or make them searchable. In order to make all posts about the 2014 Instructure Conference accessible to anyone on Twitter, Instructure decided to use the term #InstCon as their hashtag for the conference. So to make my post available to anyone to locate, I would do this:
Hey @canvask12 I had a great time at the 2014 Instructure Conference in Park City Utah #InstCon
Now my character count is up to 95, and my post contains the following items:
- A message that anyone who is following me on Twitter can view
- A mention of another user, using the @Username info, which then shows up in their time line for anyone who is following them to see
- A hashtag #InstCon that is used as a keyword so users can search for and view any posts about that topic
All that, and I still have 45 characters left. So I could add more hashtags, or a URL (which Twitter shortens to 20 characters) or a picture (which again, Twitter shortens to 20 characters) or additional Twitter users until you run out of characters. The good thing: Twitter lets you know your character account all along.
Below is an example of a tweet I posted from the conference.
— CraigJackson (@CraigJackson) June 19, 2014
If you look post above, you will see I posted a message, included a picture, added a hashtag so anyone could search for it using the right hashtag, and mentioned two Twitter users by adding their account names using the “@” sign. And all under 140 characters. And anyone could retweet the post by simply clicking the RT button in Twitter or whatever Twitter client they may be using.Pretty sweet huh!!
Here is another example; this one has multiple hashtags.
— CraigJackson (@CraigJackson) June 20, 2014
Click on any of the hashtags in the post above. You will be taken to Twitter, and can view all tweets containing that hashtag.
What is REALLY sweet is that you can use free web services such as TWUBS to allow user who do not have Twitter accounts to follow along via hashtags. Click on this link to view tweets with the #InstCon hashtag.
I hope this gives you a better understanding of how to use Twitter. It is a powerful social media tool that can enhance your programs or conferences.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me.