An Introduction to Twitter for the Cookeville Crowd

I have noticed that, for whatever reason, Cookeville doesn’t really seem to be a Twitter town. Maybe it’s because we’re not a big city. Maybe it’s because new technology is slow to catch on here (for instance, when I arrived at Tennessee “Tech” in 1999, we were still using this convoluted system for e-mail, and our music department didn’t make the switch from Digital Audio Tape to CD until 2000). It’s certainly NOT because we disdain social media… this community practically lives on Facebook!

Twitter might not be for everyone, but I’ve found it to be a useful tool. Today, I thought I’d take a moment to explain a few things about Twitter in case you might like to try it out.

First of all, there are some things you should NOT do with Twitter:

  1. Follow 10,000 people and try to read every tweet that passes by
  2. Give constant updates of the mundane details of your life
  3. Tweet while driving
  4. Send lewd photos to college students across the country (especially if you’re in Congress)

Of course, like any other form of social media (I’m looking at you, FarmVille users), the misuse of Twitter can lead to addiction and cause you to fail to interact with people in real life (just ask David Crowder). However, used properly, Twitter can be handy, informative, and fun!

People use Twitter in a lot of different ways. Here are the primary ways I use it:

  1. Communicating with friends
  2. Keeping up with developing news stories
  3. Following blogs I enjoy reading
  4. Learning about upcoming local events and sales
  5. Help drive traffic to my blog (thanks for dropping by!)

So, want to give Twitter a try? Let me help you get started.

Step 1 – Sign Up

This part is easy. Just head to Twitter.com, type in your name, e-mail address, and a username. You might have to get creative with that last step… there are a LOT of Twitterers and each one has to have a unique handle! Be sure to fill out your profile. It’s a good chance to practice being pithy: you have 160 characters to describe yourself!

Step 2 – Who to Follow?

Most of this will depend on what you hope to get from Twitter. You can search for personal friends, your favorite celebrity or politician, news services, restaurants… follow whatever and whomever you like! Here are a few suggestions that I follow:

LOCAL FARE — Who to follow if you’re in Cookeville

REGIONAL NEWS – News sources for Middle Tennessee

NATIONAL NEWS – Keep track of breaking stories from around the world

BLOGS TO WATCH – Quick access to lots of interesting things

  • 22Words – Self-described web scavenger. If it’s unique, funny, bizarre, etc., it’ll most likely end up here
  • Stuff Christians Like – Sometimes insightful, always humorous blog about Christian culture
  • Challies.com – Original content plus daily “A la carte” to point you to good links
  • Between Two Worlds – Round up of everything from the Christian Blogosphere
  • Kingdom People – One of my personal favorite Christian bloggers just happens to be from Middle TN

And, of course, make sure you follow me!

Step 3 – Start Tweeting

And now you’re off! You have 140 characters to say whatever it is you have to say. That’s not a lot; soon you’ll get the hang of being economical with your words!

A few special Twitter terms and symbols:

  • @Mentions — The “@” symbol followed by someone’s Twitter name is called a “mention”. It’s the primary way conversation happens on Twitter. For instance, if you Tweet, “Everyone should follow @honeylocusts”, I’ll probably respond, “Thanks, @newtwitterfriend”
  • Re-tweet — Like something someone said? Click the “re-tweet” button to send it to your followers (which will also @mention the original poster)
  • Hashtag — Tweeters use the “#” symbol to take part in a larger conversation. For instance, those following the NHL playoffs use the hashtag #StanleyCup to discuss hockey news. You can also make up your own hashtag… just don’t use spaces!
  • Direct Message — This works similar to a text message. Simply type the letter “d” before someone’s username (example: d honeylocusts) to send a message that does not go out to all your followers. As Anthony Weiner just found out, though, these are NOT private! Anything that goes out on Twitter is public, archived, and accessible to search engines, so watch what you say!

Step 4 – Twitter Client

This step is optional, but I recommend it. There are a couple support tools (called clients) you can use to help manage your Twitter account, along with other social media. I use HootSuite to monitor three Twitter accounts, my blog, my Facebook account, and several Facebook pages. These clients can also tie in other social media such as LinkedIn and Foursquare (but if you don’t have Twitter I’m assuming you probably don’t have those, either!) giving you one-stop access from your computer or smart phone. I almost never actually visit Twitter.com; I do everthing from HootSuite.

What I like best about Hootsuite is that it allows me to draft and schedule Tweets and Facebook updates. This is nice because it limits my time spent on social media. Often people think I spend all day on Facebook because I typically have posts appearing every couple hours. In reality, I try to plan out all my Tweets for the day at one time, and schedule them to show up at pre-planned intervals.

Many people use a different client called TweetDeck, which does the same thing. You could also use Digsby, Seesmic, twhirl, or a number of other similar clients, but you don’t need more than one of them!

Final Step – Leave a comment here

Have you signed up for Twitter? Already had a Twitter account? Know of any other local “must follows” that I’ve left off this list? Leave a comment on this blog so I (and other readers) can follow you, too!

2 comments on “An Introduction to Twitter for the Cookeville Crowd

  1. […] on Twitter should also follow @cookevillewxguy for great weather-related coverage in our area. (Click here for more recommended local […]

  2. […] I get to the list, here’s a link to a Twitter primer I wrote last year. If you’re considering signing up, this will give you the basics, and some […]

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