(As published in the Racquette newspaper)
You have 140 characters of text to get your message across. You can choose to reference people or topics directly through “tagging.” You can include links to photos, videos or web content. The name of the game is Twitter.
As with most new developments in social media, Twitter was quickly adopted by younger individuals and second-guessed by many others. “Honestly,” some argued, “who really cares if you just enjoyed a cinnamon raisin bagel for lunch while listening to Coldplay?”
Soon after the launch of Twitter, marketing professionals and a few keen individuals began to realize the potential of this new form of social media. Twitter grew from a means of sharing your dietary habits to sharing information, communicating with other members of a community and marketing yourself.
As with most forms of social media, Twitter allows users to “follow” other users, similar to “friending” someone on Facebook. As soon as you start following another user, all of their “tweets” show up on your Twitter feed.
Users can reference each other, regardless of whether or not they are following each other, by simply including a username preceded by the “@” symbol. As a result, the tweet will appear in that person’s feed. This makes direct communication quite simple. Users may also make use of direct messages, a private form of the previous technique, by including the username preceded by the letter “D” and a single space.
In order to broadcast tweets to a greater population of people, the “#” symbol is used directly before specific pieces of content. This is called “hashtagging.” Tweets related to a certain physical location often hashtag the local three digit airport code. Users can search for tweet based on hashtagged content.
In the fast-paced environment that we live in, it’s difficult to tell whether communicating in 140 character soundbytes is bringing people closer together or further apart. It seems that people are more apt to respond quickly to a tweet than they are with an email, especially when responding to a stranger.
A variety of Twitter applications can be found for mobile devices as well as personal computers. TweetDeck allows users to view content from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn in a simple column-based browser. Columns can be added for a wide variety of specific content within each network. Short pop-up notifications alert the user to recent updates. TweetDeck checks for updates in content every 60 seconds.
While many may choose to dismiss Twitter as a passing fad for self-indulgent individuals with far too much time on their hands, those who learn how to incorporate this form of social media into their lives will likely benefit from the increased connectivity that it makes available.
The Racquette can be found on Twitter as @Racquette.