How to Use Twitter to Create an Information Sharing Network

Twitter is a Social Networking website that is unique in that the communication between it’s users is limited to 140 characters. No matter what you have to communicate, you need to do it 140 characters, so Twitter is not for folks who like to expound on their thoughts.

(Twitter is often referred to as a micro-blogging network, due to it’s 140 character “blog”, or Tweet. On Twitter, “Tweets” are also referred to as “Updates”.)

Twitter is a simple platform that enables users to create their own unique Social Networks. There really is no limit to the kinds, and types, of networks that can be created, so long as they comply with the Twitter Terms of Service, and fit into the 140 character Twitterverse.

Without getting into too much detail, here, a Twitter network consists of folks who “Follow” you, and receive your Tweets on their home screen. If you “Follow” them, you receive their Tweets on your home screen. Folks who follow each other are Friends.

The effect is that you have a continuous stream of Tweets from those folks whom you Follow.

If you have created your network correctly, you will have a virtual ticker-tape of information flowing on your home screen that is tailored to your interests, whatever they may be. Your personal information IQ will sky rocket because, instead of you spending your time hunting, and searching, and mining the Internet by yourself, you have a small army of network friends who are sharing information with you.

It’s really cool. With Twitter, you’ll find scores of sources in your Twitter stream that you couldn’t possible find on your own.

And if you have a question, or need some information, just ask. Someone is bound to know the answer, and/or point you to the solution.

Hints for Creating a Quality Twitter Network

Setup a Twitter Account:

1) Decide on a single topic, or subject that you like; do not try to cram several subjects into a single Twitter account.

2) Create a clever, but clear Twitter Username that reflects your subject. For instance, if your subject is about Rail Road Trains, your Twitter name could be “RailRoadTrains”. Twitter names are limited to 15 characters. (This name is not set in stone; you may change it at any time.)

3) The set-up asks for your Full Name. You can use your real name, or a nick name, or a clever “handle”. For instance, if your topic is “Trains”, you might have a name such as “Engineer Bill”, etc Nautrally, real names are more friendly.

4) Create a textual profile that describes your interests. If it is about Trains, you might say that you live in a Caboose, or wish you could. Think carefully on this; you are limited to 160 characters. Look as it as being an introduction by yourself.  Be sure to include buzz words, or key words; it’ll make it easier for  like-minded Train folks to find you. The Profile can be modified any time; you may want to refine it as you gain more experience Do not leave the Profile blank.

4) Be sure to upload an avatar/image to your account. The default Twitter avatars are boring. A photo of yourself is considered most friendly; though it is not required.

5) Eventually, you may want to jazz-up your screen background. A locomotive in the background, or a train track, etc, would work. With the recent changes to Twitter, the background images have lost their previous prominence.

Start Building Your Network:

1) First, before you start searching for folks to follow, post some Tweets (also called “Upates”) of your own so folks will know what you are about; maybe dozen, or so..  Folks will judge whether or not to follow you based on your Profile, and your Tweets.

(See “Creating a Tweet“, below, for hints on creating your Tweets)

In general, the best way to begin building your network is to search Twitter for like-minded folks, and then read their profiles, and Tweets, and, if appropriate to your topic, click their Follow button to include them in your network. (The Twitter search box is found at the top of your Twitter page.)

At some point, your new “Followe” will be notified that they have a new Follower, and they can visit your Twitter page, and decide whether to follow you.

2) Give credit, where credit is due. Tweets that you receive can be re-Tweeted to your followers by clicking a Retweet icon below the Tweet. Since your netowrk is about learning, and sharing, when you read a valuable Tweet, be sure to share it with your followers by re-Tweeting it to them.

You will find that many of the Tweets you recieve, have been re-Tweeted by folks you follow; a single Tweet can be propagated and seen by thousands of followers of followers.

Re-Tweeting is also a way of recognizing another person’s efforts. Folks appreciate the recognition, and you’ve made a new friend.

This is a great way to encourage new follows to follow you. When you find someone new to follow, try to re-Tweet them; they will be more likely to follow you back.

3) As you start to accumulate Followers, view their pages, and see who they follow, and follow the same folkes, if appropriate.

4) Be patient; it can take some time, at first, to accumulate followers, but it eventually snow-balls. In a short time, as your network, and your reputation, grows you will be spending more time vetting new followers, than searching for followers.

5) Do not get hung-up on trying to amass thousands of Followers. Concentrate on creating a high quality network, not a high quantity network. You’ll get more quality information, and enjoyment, from a small group of the right people, than a large group of strangers.

The number of follows/followers depends very much on the topic. A network that concentrates on “Vowel Sounds” would probably garner a few hundred followers, while a network about politics will garner a few thousand.

Realistically, while you may have 1,500 followers, there may only be a core group of steady, and consistent users that numbers in the hundreds.

If you have 30,000 followers/follows, you’re doing something wrong, unless you are a rock star.

6) Be sure to “vet” (approve, or qualify) all of your follows/followers; don’t follow someone just because they follow you. If someone new follows you, vet them, and make sure that they will fit into your network. Read their Profile, and see what they are Tweeting. If they don’t fit, don’t follow them.

When you follow someone who follows you, you are Twitter friends. Friends make for a quality network, and a quality Twitterverse.

There is alot of spamming on Twitter. When someone follows you, you can either follow them back, ignore them and let them follow you, or you can block them so that they can’t follow you. 

I tend to block all spammers, so I won’t be bothered with future follows. And I often will not follow someone because I don’t think they will contribute to my network/topic, however, it doesn’t bother me if they simply want to follow me, anyway.

7) Review your network from time to time, and clean-house. If someone is not participating, or sharing, or staying on-topic, then just Unfollow them, and make room for someone else.

8) Enjoy Twitter, and be friendly, helpful, polite, respectful, and grateful (re-Tweet others). Tweet often, but not too much; don’t overwhelm your followers with Tweets. The quality of your Tweets counts more than the quantity.

Think quality.

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TweetCreate – Creating a Tweet:

When composing a Tweet, do not be afraid of the 140 character limit. Just create the ideal Tweet, regardless of length, and then pare it down to the 140 character limit. It can be challenging, but you’ll get the knack in no time at all.

Do not create Tweets that look like a personalized license plate; i.e., do not be so clever and cryptic with symbols and abbreviations, etc, that it takes a genius to discern the Tweet. Instead, keep it simple; keep it short; keep it clear in 140 characters.

Keep your audience in mind when creating a Tweet; make sure they can discern enough information to want to learn more (by clicking a link). Keep in mind that you want to share infomration with them, so that they will also share with you; so… focus on providing valuable information, and creating Tweets that will peak the curiosity of your followers. It’s fun.

Stick to your topic as much as possible.  For example, perhaps you know of a good website about Trains that you would like to share. You could create a Tweet that looks something like this:

I think this is a great website with tons of Locomotive specifications. http://greatlocomotivesoftheworld.com Must see !

To conserve characters, you should use a URL shortener to decrease the size of the web link (the “http://, etc”); it can make a significant difference. There are any number of shorteners available; a quick Internet search will provide many choices.  A quick scan of Twitter will reveal the most popular URL shorteners.

Anatomy of a Tweet

There is no particular format to a Tweet; it only needs to occur within the 140 character limit.

The Tweet format, above, which I use, is my favorite for sharing information. It is broken into three sections.

The first textual section, ” I think this is a great website with tons of Locomotive specifications.” is the subject/title of the Tweet, often an article, or blog, etc.

The second section is the URL. With Twitter, all URL’s are active links that can be clicked for access to the Internet site. (Be sure the links are correct, and valid).

The third section is optional; I use it for comments, or follow-up information. Something like “Must see” adds your personal stamp of approval. Folks don’t want just a list of URL’s; they also want to know if it’s worth their time.

What About Twitter Tools and Applications

There are a zillion third party software tools that are available for Twitter users; maybe more.

You don’t really need any, though there many that make your Twitter life better.

For instance, it’s nice to send a message to a new follower. You can do this manually, through Twitter’s Direct Message capabilities, or you can send a generic automated message. If you do it manually, it can become very time consuming, and your message doesn’t really change, so why not just send a generic message ?

While an automated message may not seem very friendly, most folks accept them as a given. I use a third party Twitter tool to send an automated message when someone follows me, to thank them, and tell them that I vet all my Followers.

I only use a couple Twitter tools, on a regular basis:

1) I use a third party web service, SocialOomph, to send the automated welcome messages, and track new followers, etc.

2) I  use TweetCreate, a desktop application, to help me create quality Tweets. (This is a tool that I cannot live without.)

Conclusion

Originally, I was a skeptic about the value of Twitter; after all, how can one build a true Social Network, 140 characters at a time ?  I was pleasantly surprised. You really do get to know your folks; their quirks, and opinions, and foibles, and strengths. And they get to know your’s, too.

And it does really broaden your knowledge, and perspective, because you are commiserating with a like minded group of folks who live in all parts of the country, and the world, and you find out that their concerns, and their problems aren’t a whole lot different from yours.

Twitter is fun.

Enjoy !

 

Spencer is computer programmer with extensive experience designing, programming, and maintaining IT/accounting systems from the ground, up. He is an avid user of online Social Networks, and created TweetCreate, a desktop Twitter tool, to enhance, and improve the quality of his experience on Twitter, and FaceBook, and other Social Network platforms. Spencer also maintains a Twitter account: TweetCreate on Twitter.


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