A Twitter Primer


The acceptance of social media in recent years is stunning. Everything from news programs to cereal boxes prominently display their various links. In many ways it’s a strange new world, but to many of us it’s quite normal.

I’ve heard it said that Facebook is like a reunion. People get to connect at length with friends, family or classmates they haven’t seen in years. Some say Twitter is like a water cooler. You have a short time to exchange ideas with a wide variety of people on a wide variety of topics. To carry the comparisons, blogs are like living rooms. The fact that you visit or subscribe to a blog shows that you have an interest in the specific topics and/or personalities. Blogs are the place where Facebook and Twitter topics often settle down for more serious discussion.

Most people are accustomed to Facebook, and the fact that you are reading this shows you are familiar with blogs. I still find that Twitter’s acceptance is not as widespread, so I’ve prepared this overview and included some links for the uninitiated.

Twitter has a few things that significantly differentiate it from Facebook.

  • It is driven more by information than by graphics
  • It requires much less time
  • You can ‘follow’ the posts of other people regardless of whether they follow you
  • There is no cap on how many can follow you

These differences make the nature of Twitter very unique. Here are some of the things Twitter excels at:

  • Q&A – This is awesome. There are experts in every field who are happy to help. I’ve gotten help with WordPress, gotten information for work, and found resources for blogging on a variety of topics – all from my Twitter followers. Before you know it, you’ll be answering questions too!
  • Resource Sharing – I hear about conferences, web sites, free books, and more from Twitter. And I use it to point others to ones I’ve found.
  • Sharing Quotes – Twitter is a great place to shoot out inspirational quotes that others might appreciate. I often find quotes here that I stash away in my own collection.
  • Reach – Twitter has the potential to reach many more people than Facebook does. This makes it a great place to spread your message.
  • Conversation – Twitter is much more conversational than Facebook. And because you’re limited to 140 characters, people are forced to make their replies concise. Facebook replies often become incoherent essays of angry agendas.
  • Responsiveness – I’ll often post questions in various forums. Without exception, Twitter replies are fastest.
  • Mobile – Facebook and Twitter both have mobile apps, and both may be updated via SMS (text messaging). However, because Twitter doesn’t have the overhead of loading pictures, videos and Farmville requests, it loads much faster than Facebook.
  • Relevance – I understand the appeal of posting the trivialities of life. I do it myself. But if I’m on the run or if I’m interested in information, I don’t really want to read about recipes or what someone’s dog did in the kitchen. Twitter shines at showing me the things I’m interested in, and few people use it for the same sorts of things that are on Facebook.
  • Brevity – In just a couple of minutes, I can scan my Twitter feed and see if there is anything of interest. Facebook can take over your life. Facebook is often called a vampire or a time suck because of how it draws people in. Twitter is no less engaging, but I’ve never looked at the clock and wondered how I spent so much time on Twitter.

If you are on Twitter or you’re checking it out, you might as well add me! Shoot, why not connect on Facebook too.

Some other resources for more info:

QUESTION:  How do you use Twitter?