Navigating the social media minefield. What is Twitter?!

Social media or social networking is huge… understatement of the year, right?!

The most recent figures according to the Global Digital Report 2018 by We Are Social helps put things into context:

The number of internet users worldwide in 2018 is 4.021 billion, up 7 percent year-on-year

The number of social media users worldwide in 2018 is 3.196 billion, up 13 percent year-on-year

The number of mobile phone users in 2018 is 5.135 billion, up 4 percent year-on-year

There’s no getting away from the fact that technology and social media is big business.

If you’re taking your first foray into the big bad social media world then what platforms do you choose? And what exactly do they do?

We thought it might be helpful to take a look at the big 4 (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn) in a series of blogs to help you become more comfortable with what they are, what they do and how they work.

First up… Twitter.

Twitter is defined as a micro-blogging platform allowing users to send and receive tweets. But what does that mean?! Quite simply, it’s an American online news and social networking service on which users post and interact with messages known as “tweets”. It’s micro because it’s all about keeping people informed about what’s happening in your life or business (because you’re sharing your own information and that of others that you find interesting or relevant) without the need for lengthy blogs.

One of the major features of Twitter is its power as a social messaging tool. If you want to know what people on the ground are thinking and responding to, head to Twitter and check out the buzz. Watching a TV programme and you want to see what people think of your favourite character’s demise? Take to Twitter! Fancy telling a store about the excellent customer service you experienced from a member of staff? Tag the store’s Twitter handle and sing their praises! Written a top-notch blog and you’re dying to tell people about it? Tweet a link to your followers – not just once but a few times spread out over time to maximise exposure.

What to know about Twitter:

  1. There is a limit to the number of characters that can be used in tweets. This used to be 140 characters but in November 2017 this limit was doubled to 280 characters.
  2. Tweets are instantaneous, communicating a message immediately in the same way as instant messaging does. For example, in 2008 Mike Wilson was seen to become the first person to tweet about a plane crash in Denver – before any news channel or external agency even had any idea it had happened. How did he know? He actually survived the crash.
  3. It’s a public platform. Twitter really is a way to communicate to a wide audience in real time. But bear in mind it’s very public so if privacy is important beware!
  4. Because Twitter is very much real-time, remember that posts can be missed if users aren’t active at the time you’re tweeting.
  5. Tweets can’t be edited. Once they’re out there, they’re out there and you can’t change the content. The only thing to do if you don’t like what you said or made an error is to delete the tweet and start again.
  6. You can tweet a person by putting the @ symbol before their username.
  7. Hashtags help you keep track of a particular subject. You can also take a look at the top currently trending topics at a point in time. You can even create your own hashtag for a particular service or event and get others to join in.
  8. You can now have your Twitter account verified. In the past, only celebrities, brands and significant organisations could have their Twitter accounts verified. However, Twitter has now opened an online application form for anyone with an account to apply for verified status. Just bear in mind that they will only verify accounts that it deems are in the public interest, which means the opportunity is still limited.