“Twitter is stupid. Who cares?”
This was me one year ago. I never understood the point of Twitter. To me, Twitter was for people who were overly obsessed with celebrities and wanted to be able to keep up with their drama-filled lives and potentially connect with them in some way. Other than that, I had Facebook for sharing updates on my own life and keeping up with my friends’ lives – why do I need Twitter?
At the time, I had just started another graduate class and one of our first assignments was related to social media. We had to participate in a social media platform that we had never used before and talk about it. I took this opportunity to finally start a Twitter account and see what all the buzz was about!
I admit that even after a few months, I still thought it was stupid. I was tweeting about my experiences and using the hashtags but I was only doing it for the assignment. I didn’t think anyone was reading what I had to say. No one was interacting. It was like I would just post a thought and it floated out into space, never to be seen again. So why do it?
Well, in September I started a new job as a search marketing specialist at an agency. This new job requires a little bit (meaning a lot) more online interaction with the industry than my last one did so I’m getting a lot more interactive on many social media platforms. And believe it or not, I’m actually starting to like Twitter. I’m starting to see more of the purpose behind it, the networking abilities, and how much fun it can be when you know what you’re doing.
Super Bowl Sunday was just a week ago and I’m sure you noticed all the hashtags included in commercials so I thought to myself, there’s got to be so many people out there who are still clueless about Twitter and just don’t get it. I’m not saying that it’s for everyone or that you should start your account today. But maybe just understanding it a bit better can help you to join the conversation when your friends start using the words tweet and hashtag around you.
Twitter is a social media platform in which people can post short messages (140 character max) that anyone on Twitter can see. You can “follow” people that you are interested in (but this is not necessarily reciprocal – just because you follow someone does not mean they follow you back). Following someone means their updates will show up on your account homepage in a feed.
Your account’s “screen name” is called a Twitter handle. It’s how people are able to find you. It is preceded with an @ symbol. For example, my Twitter handle is @KelsC14.
You can also use these Twitter handles in your tweets when you want to call out a specific person/brand/company. Like this:
Thanks @Company123 for sending my free sample! I love it!
Had dinner @SomeBurgerJoint tonight – best burgers in the state!
Once you tweet something, these are the interactions people can have with it (not just your followers but anyone on Twitter):
Retweet: This means that the person has chosen to display your exact tweet to their own followers. It’s a way to spread information to a larger audience.
Favorite: This just means they like what you said. (Similar to a Facebook like)
Reply: Someone comments on your tweet in a reply. Their reply is shown to their followers as well as added below your original tweet.
Once you’re past the novice stage and start following hundreds of people, you may have some people you want to keep up with more than others. Maybe you’re like me and you have a wide variety of accounts you follow for different reasons like thought leaders in your industry, celebrities and TV shows, news update accounts, your real-life friends, family, co-workers, spoof accounts, etc etc. In this case, it’s helpful to create lists for these categories so your feed doesn’t get all junked up with nonsense. To do this, just click on “Me” in the top navigation, then click on “Lists” in the left navigation. Create your lists here. Then when you want to add someone to a list, you can do so here:
Going forward, if you’re only interested in reading updates related to your close friends, you can go directly to your list for that group and see only their updates.
What is a hashtag?
Hashtags use the # symbol. The symbol is placed before a topic that you are talking about. Essentially you use it to tag your post with the topic so that others can follow what’s being said about that topic. A simple example is when hashtags are used for live events, like when you’re commenting on the Super Bowl (#SuperBowl) or the Grammys (#Grammys). While you are watching this event, you can follow a feed of live comments from everyone else watching. Hashtags have also developed into more than just specific topics, and tweeters have gotten more and more creative with their use. Sometimes they’re simply used as a punch line to a joke or a funny addition to what’s being said. Here are some more contextual examples:
Trying some new recipes out for the #SuperBowl today! #GoHawks
It’s been three days and still no power in our neighborhood #HurricaneSandy
2 hours after arriving to work, my legs still haven’t thawed out from the walk #WisconsinWinter
Found $20 in my jeans this morning #MorningWin
Made out like a bandit at @BostonStore today – new shoes, jeans, dresses… I love the #GoodWillSale!
Looks like its Ramen noodles for dinner again #collegekidproblems
It’s been a long week and a bottle of wine is calling my name #TGIF
Of course, as it always does, this online speak has moved into everyday conversation for many people. So now when you hear people using the word “hashtag” in everyday conversation, this is where it started.
Difference Between # and @ Uses
Use the @ sign when you want to call out a specific person/company/account.
Use the # sign when you’re talking about topics.
You might also notice that people will include links in there Tweets that don’t actually look like full links. Because of the character limit on tweets, people use these short links to save space.
How do you get this short version of the link? I use Bitly.com.
Why Were Hashtags All Over the Super Bowl Commercials?
Using hashtags in marketing gives consumers a topic to talk about and interact with. The Super Bowl is one of the biggest events throughout the year during which most of the country is sharing the same moment, so modern marketing capitalizes on this fact to create campaigns focused on getting people to share hashtag topics as well. A great example from this year’s Super Bowl was Bud Lite’s #UpForWhatever campaign. Bud Lite is using this hashtag topic to create buzz around their brand. Social media is all about bragging about the fun you’re having and how great your life is (right?) so it’s easy for people to use this hashtag when tweeting about their plans to go out drinking or travel or even just when they’re bored on a Saturday:
Got nothin to do 2day so I’m cuddling with my cat watching a movie. Text me if you’re bored too #UpForWhatever.
By creating fun hashtags, you can get consumers to join the conversation whether they like your product or not. From there, it just spirals into free advertising. If you can develop something long-lasting, your efforts won’t just be momentary, but could potentially become imbedded into common conversation. Bud Lite’s hashtag is still being used one week after the Super Bowl.
My best friend is in town tonight. We’re about to hit the bars and we’re #UpForWhatever!
So How Do I Benefit From This Twitter Machine?
Everyone has their own reasons for using Twitter, whether it’s just to keep on contact with friends, network with business-related contacts or follow the news. Whatever your purpose, here are some ways to get the most out of Twitter.
Stay in touch with friends/family – Tweets allow people to share quick thoughts and feelings about their day-to-day activities. Watching Twitter can help you stay in touch with what’s going on in your friends’ lives.
Recommendations – Twitter is a great place for recommendations and reviews. Reading your friends’ tweets about their recent dining experiences or online shopping purchases can help you learn about new businesses that you might want to try.
Share opinions – Twitter is the perfect platform for sharing quick opinions and thoughts. While you’re watching your favorite TV drama, you can post your thoughts on what’s happening as you watch. Or maybe you want to comment that you’ve heard Miley Cyrus on the radio so many times today you want to turn it off forever. Whatever your thoughts, share them and connect with others who feel the same way.
Networking – Twitter helps you connect with people that would otherwise be unreachable. Interacting with people from your industry can help you develop relationships that benefit your career down the line.
Stay on top of industry trends – Following people who are in-the-know in your industry can help you stay on top of recent changes and trends.
Twitter is a great outlet to have a voice. Positive or negative, your opinions can be heard on Twitter. Many companies want to know how their consumers feel and whether or not their product/service is satisfying their needs. Companies frequently turn to social media now to find out what their consumers are thinking. On Facebook, opinions can only be shared if you have friended each other. However, on Twitter, you don’t need to be connected with the company in any way and they don’t have to connect to you. All they have to do is search on their company’s name to see who’s been talking about them and what they think.
For those companies/brands that you do love, help them out! Give them some props in this public forum. Share why you love them!
Follow local news stations to keep up to date on recent news stories. You can also find out about important weather warnings. Check on the hashtag for your city to find more updates from other sources as well.
Share news stories that you find particularly interesting to spread the word.
Let’s Wrap This Up
So how are you feeling? That was a lot to digest. Hopefully you understand more about Twitter and why the heck it’s gotten to be so popular and why TV shows and commercials have been bombarding you with hashtags left and right. If you have any other questions feel free to leave them in the comments. Good luck with your future tweeting!