What Everybody Ought to Know About Twitter
In hallway conversations and chatting with friends I frequently hear the phrase "I just don't get Twitter." And frankly I didn't either until I decided to get more involved in the Personal Finance world and start blogging. I'm a techie so I do my best to stay up on all new and emerging technology; but for whatever reason I chose to ignore Twitter. I'll say now that I'm a full on addict and would be so bold as to credit my blogging success to Twitter for a number of reasons. One of the biggest drivers for signing up is connection with groups of like-minded individuals. And when I say like-minded, just pick your topic. Sure personal finance is my niche but I also follow some other specific tech areas and many offshoots of personal finance. Also Twitter is fantastic for timely information. Maybe not the largest selling point but I knew of Michael Jackson's death well before it was reported at a formal news agency. Lastly it's a terrific marketing tool for you or your business as long as you use it in moderation. A sure fire way to lose some followers is to be constantly self promoting without any real substance.
Twitter is essentially a constant stream of 140 character messages from people or information sources you choose to Follow. If don't already have an account head to Twitter and go sign up. Take this piece of advice: choose as short a username as possible that's relatively easy to remember. That's how people are going to refer to you. HeWhoShallNotBeNamed989 may sound great to you, but you'll use up a good chunk of anyone's 140 characters if they ever want to Mention you. Be sure to fill out your brief Bio and put up a picture -- anything but the default. Otherwise you can be virtually guaranteed you won't be followed by an actual human. Then be sure to follow @Wisebread (duh) and @FiscalGeek (me) before you do anything else.
Twitter has a great introduction video that covers the basics you might want to watch.
What's all this Mention and Following talk?
Following is the process of finding people whose updates you want to see. If the feeling is mutual then they will choose to follow you back. It's important to note that unless someone else is following you they won't see your updates unless you Mention them.
Mentioning someone means that when you type your tweet you include @username where username is the person you want to direct the message towards. So for instance say I want to send this tweet and direct it towards fiscalgeek: "@fiscalgeek Hot dog Twitter is the bomb hope to talk to you more!" Now when I login to Twitter if I look at my link @fiscalgeek in the menu bar I'll see your tweet and maybe choose to follow you as well. It's important to know that like all your tweets these messages are all public so your followers will see them as will anyone who searches for terms that may be in your tweet.
If you want to send a message to someone privately, you can choose Direct Message from the Web Menu or preface your tweet with d + username + message like: "d fiscalgeek What up dog?"
RT:'s, HashTags and Shortened URL's
RT: is the abbreviation used for Retweets. To Retweet is to cut and paste another's tweet because you think it's interesting, useful or you're helping to share someone's message. Common courtesy is to include the original tweeter's username which would look like: "RT: @fiscalgeek Thanks for Reading!"
A Hashtag refers to putting what's commonly known as a pound sign (#) in front of term. This is often used to denote a trend or categorize your tweets such as #followfriday or #ff. #followfriday or #ff is a Friday tradition of tweeting about those you follow and want to recommend to others. This is a good way to find other people you might be interested in following based on your current twitter friends. A tweet might look like "#followfriday @wisebread No end of PF usefulness."
Shortening a URL is the process of taking what otherwise might be a long URL like: http://www.fiscalgeek.com/2009/07/debt-snowball/ and then changing it into something much shorter to not use up your precious 140 characters. So if I used bit.ly it would change our same long URL to: http://bit.ly/4r2HxM . The nice part about bit.ly is that it will also give you some tracking as to how many people have clicked on your links. There's a plethora of options like is.gd and tinyurl just to name a few.
Much of the time it will be as if you are tweeting a monologue. Many of your followers will be content to just follow along and read your tweets. Obviously if you have a collection of people you already know it will be different than if you are following complete strangers. Over time you'll get to know your tweeps a little better. It's almost like you are auditioning and you need to take that into account. Just take it all in for a bit to see what's going on and join in the fun.
How can I possibly follow more than 100 people?
You'll hit a point where you've got information overload and can't possibly keep up with the amount of tweets coming through. At that point you'll probably want to employ some tools to help you filter that information. Personally I use Tweetdeck, a free application that works on PC, Mac and Linux as well as an iPhone version. It lets you create groups which is a handy way to classify people you follow or to highlight a group of people you want to follow a little more closely.
What's This Got to Do with Personal Finance?
If you are serious about learning more about personal finance after reading Wise Bread and FiscalGeek you can follow some of the big names in Personal Finance as well as the smaller up and comers. Personally I've learned a terrible amount from my Tweeps. I think you'll also find they are incredibly helpful, whether you are looking for bankruptcy advice, debt reduction strategies, budgeting tips or investing ideas in 140 character snippets. If you'd like to find a comprehensive list to follow you'll want to check out Wise Bread's Top Personal Finance Twitterers That Will Follow You Back . Here's my list of PF homies that I keep in one of my groups in Tweetdeck. Do yourself a favor and start following all of them you won't be sorry.