How many times have you heard that?  People say it to me all the time, generally accompanied with a sympathetic look that says “You’re a bit of a geek.”

So I try, again, to explain what it’s all about, and even to my own ears it sounds a bit rubbish, and the more I go on the more I feel myself shrinking, Alice like, falling into the rabbit hole, trying and trying to climb out and make sense, and failing miserably.

To prevent further embarrassing stand-offs I’ve decided to retreat to my communication medium of choice: to write down my explanation to any future enquirers and hand out little pieces of paper with this URL scrawled on it when they ask.

So, what is Twitter?

Well, erm, you see it’s *ahem*  (oh no, here we go again…)

OK, you see that word cloud there?  Isn’t it pretty?

That is a very quick collation of all the things that are being talked about as I write by the people I follow on Twitter, and it changes you see, it changes all the time.

And the best thing is that it’s real people talking about these things, and you can talk right back to them.  That’s right!  How web 2.0 is that?! A multi-stakeholder dialogue* going on right at your finger tips about the things that you want to talk about.  The only thing it requires from you is the time to make an effort and find the people you’d like to have these multi-stakeholder dialogues with.

Let’s break it down into 10 bite-sized pieces:

1. Twitter is not a monologue. That’s the crucial part. When we first join, most of us ‘follow’ celebrities.  Stephen Fry is widely recognised as the Twitter cherry popper but there are many more.  At first it’s fun to get this insight into their world but ultimately it’s unsatisfying because, whilst you might get the occasional glimmer of recognition from the sleb circus, all it really does is reinforce your proletarianism.   So finding real people to follow and be followed by is vital, it’s only then that the transformation begins…

2. A Tweet is 140 kernels of you-ness. That’s all you get, it’s not much to form a complete thought in but you get surprisingly adept, if not anal, at writing exactly 140 characters.  Acronyms help (LOL, LMAO, ROFL, FFS, BTW, ATEOTD etc etc), as does text speak but there’s only so teenage that most of us are willing to get… remember if you can barely make out what you’re saying, then no one else is going to bother.

3. Converse, converse, converse. Twitter is not about broadcasting, although there are a lot of people doing exactly that.  Engage with others, reciprocate when people respond to you and soon enough you’ll be *gasp* making friends and building a *bigger gasp* social network. Ricky Gervais famously tweeted 6 times before giving up, saying on his blog “I just don’t get it I’m afraid”- how could he? He’d have been better off signing up under a pseudonymn and having ‘normal’ conversations than spending all his time blocking the stalkers and fending off the sycophants.

4. Your twitter ‘feed’, the comments you make and the responses you send, is public. It can be searched (easily) and collated….it’s a point worth remembering!

5. DMs no longer refer to your best cherry red student boots. Direct Messages are offline conversations, private messages sent about more confidential topics. If you constantly DM people though, rather than engage in the public timeline, they ‘might’ begin to think you’re a perv #justsaying…which brings me nicely onto;

6. #Hashtags An excellent route to finding new friends, or like-minded souls.  Hashtags are Twitter’s internal chatroom, a Twatroom if you will (hmm, no that doesn’t really work). By inserting a # followed by a word or phrase into your tweet, you can click on it to view an instant snapshot of other people using the same #.  Some examples are #amwriting #secretpostclub #thishashtagservesnousefulpurpose…

7. RT Meaning literally to repeat, the Retweet function is generally a good thing.  It can be taken as a compliment that someone thought highly enough of your tweet to repeat it.  Of course there are those who RT themselves, but that’s another discussion… To make it easier to be RT’d, keep your tweets to 120 characters or less. Yes I know I said 140 earlier but really, who needs that extra 20?

8. Businesses beware! Twitter is not the place to out and out sell, it’s the place to engage with your target audience, to get instant feedback and an excellent complement to the marketing mix.  Don’t make the mistake of assuming that because it’s free that it deserves no investment….a consistent tone, some intellect and minimal users are all vital components in preventing yourself from ‘doing a Vodafone’.

9.  #FF – ooh, look another hashtag! Follow Friday is a way of recognising the people you enjoy talking with and recommending them to others.  If people are lovely enough to reciprocate it’s a great way of extending your network and bringing new people into the conversation.  It’s also one of the most torturous days of the Twitter week: working out who to #FF, wondering if anyone will #FF you.  What if you forget someone after you’ve said that was the final #FF? Can you squeeze in another or will it be obvious?  NOT FOR THE FAINT-HEARTED!

10. Simple- ENJOY IT! Because, duh that’s what it’s all about! Like anything else it takes time to find your kind of people and to build up relationships, and if you just don’t have that time then it’s probably not for you, but it is worth it.  Everyone has their own analogies for Twitter, mine is that it’s like the best kind of local pub, the kind that when you walk in you know pretty much everyone and they’re all pleased to see you.  You can have a quiet drink at the bar and take it all in, or you can join the biggest crowd and get a bit raucous, and if someone new comes in, they’re introduced to everyone and welcomed.  And the best part of it all is that you don’t have to get a beer scooter home…

So, that’s it! D’you get it now? Stop looking at me like that! I’m not a geek…..just a little bit addicted.

*aka Conversation

I just don’t ‘get’ Twitter.
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32 thoughts on “I just don’t ‘get’ Twitter.

  • February 27, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    Brilliant! Am going to send a link to this post to each and every one of my friends who ‘just don’t get it’! xx

  • February 27, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    LOL, thank you!


  • February 27, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    hahahahaha @ twatroom I like that A LOT!!!

  • February 27, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    I just couldn’t resist it!


  • February 27, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    Love it! It’s exactly why I tweet! Am following @Englishmum & sending this link to everyone who thinks I’m mental for loving Twitter.

  • February 27, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    Am laughing, while agreeing with you. So many people have said to me that they don’t get it and I am only just passing the ‘terrified but trying’ stage myself. I am going to post this link on FB, this is where most of my ‘even more terrified than me’ friends hang out:) Jen.

  • February 27, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    Great summary, but what about the feeling of being in on stuff? I’ve never heard news so fast, it’s now a competition between me and my 17yr old dd as to who is most up to date!

  • February 28, 2010 at 7:49 am

    aww man, this is the best thing I have read all day! Well, okay apart form my emails it’s the only thing i’ve read all day but you know, still bloody brilliant!

    Love twatroom – genius!

    This is such a good explanation – I think i may get business cards printed out with just this URL on to hand out to people that ‘don’t get it’. i may even go and stand in the street and just hand them out to random strangers…too far?

  • February 28, 2010 at 9:58 am

    Fab – you made me laugh out loud a couple of times!

    And DMs – yes, of course, that’s why those initials sounded so familiar…

    Loved your #ff angst – I’m still feeling guilty about leaving someone off this week!

    Claire 🙂

  • February 28, 2010 at 10:13 am

    Thank you SO much. Succinct and marvellous. As someone who is fairly new to Twitter and has been ranting on about it to unconvinced near and dear this is a god send!I shall be forcing everybody to read it!

  • February 28, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    I have phases with Twitter. I was into a lot about a year ago and it was, for me, because I work from home, the kind of company you get in an office with the added benefit that I could choose who I spoke to and could walk away from it any time I chose without offending anyone.

    But I do find that it can be a bit distracting and makes the day a little bitty. I found I was not getting into big projects, not settling to thing, because I’d just check Twitter, or whatever.

    I am also a bit of an anti-clique person and I guess Twitter by its very nature does get a little like that after a while.

    But that’s just me being odd. And it is a good way to find all the other “odd” people scattered about the world and be odd with them.

    I do use it now but more sparingly and I have to say that it is definitely lower down my favourites list than blogging or emailing and I think, although I waver a bit here, lower than Facebook where the comment box allows for longer bits of text and more direct interaction. But I change my mind regularly about which I prefer of those two.

    It’s good to have them all really. And I know when I was a mother at home with tiny children, Twitter would have been a lifesaver.

  • February 28, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    Hahaha! I love it. But I think we’ll never convince the nay sayers…

  • February 28, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    Ha, thanks Emma, maybe it’ll persuade a few of the naysayers to give it a try…


  • February 28, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    I never knew that about you Jen… it certainly isn’t what comes across. Deffo jump in with both feet in future- it’s the only way! xx

  • February 28, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    Oh, you’re so right and it’s one of the things that i love most about Twitter. I’m so rubbish at reading a paper, in fact the closest I get is reading the Style magazine on a Sunday, which is laughable given the state of me, and I hardly ever watch the news. And yet, I pretty much keep up to date with what’s going on ‘out there’ thanks entirely to Twitter.


  • February 28, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    Thanks H, I’m sure you’re emails were bloody brilliant so I’m still riding high on your first sentence!

    Yes to the business cards! Anything that gets me a few more readers is great in my eyes 😉


  • February 28, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    I do it every week! And every week I tell myself I’m just not going to bother anymore because it’s all too fraught… but would that be worse?


  • February 28, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    Ha!Thanks Christine, I didn’t realise you were a relative newbie…glad you’re enjoying it, you’ve obv got the right attitude xx

  • February 28, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    Thanks RB, you sound a lot like me. I work from home and there are definitely times when I have to turn it off, but I love that there’s always something going on and I just don’t feel that about facebook. FB feels pretty static by comparison.

    I’ve always been a periphery bod as well and what I love about twitter is that you can step back and watch when you feel like it, without ‘having’ to get involved. I’m sure the day will come when I get bored but for now it’s top of my list.

    I agree with you wholeheartedly on the SAHM comment, my youngest is about to go to school but I so wish it had been around in those early days when it’s impossible to get out of the house before 2pm but you really need some adult contact.

    Thanks for visiting, Px

  • February 28, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    It’s an ongoing campaign! Not that I’m really bothered… if only they’d stop with the sympathetic looks 😉 xx

  • March 1, 2010 at 9:42 am

    Great, great post. A Twitter 101 if ever I read one. I wish I’d had this a while ago when I had to explain the subtler points to a newbie.
    I think Twitter’s problem is the basic “vanilla” Twitter experience is quite dull and not intuitive. Getting users into 3rd party clients such as Tweetdeck or Power Twitter makes it a much more enriching and useful tool.

  • March 1, 2010 at 10:36 am

    Thanks G, and you’re absolutely right. The basic twitter is rubbish and almost impossible to use effectively. To get any real enjoyment you absolutely need to be using a third party client… Tweetdeck is my fave so far.

    Maybe this should go into the advanced course?


  • March 1, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    I might have added too that Twitter really comes into its own on mobile devices. PC/laptop based is great but Twitter was invented for updating on the go.
    Ever thought of becoming a social media consultant? 😉

  • March 3, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    What I love is when my husband is in the room with them but they still come looking for me when they need something. Or how he can become deaf to their requests when they do ask so I have to intervene. It seems the need for peace is an universal problem for all mums! Good post.

  • March 3, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    Okay computer being funny and for some reason this has ended up under wrong post! It was meant to go under the 5 mins peace one. Sorry!

  • March 3, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    Okay I am now officially leaving a comment under this post! I think you have really explained what Twitter is all about very well. In fact I wish I’d had this “guide” when I first started. I have had to jump right in over the last month since starting my own blog. Everyone said it was a good way to get to know other bloggers. Which it is. And everyone has been really friendly. However, sometimes I feel it is a little clique in a similar way to the “school gates”. When there are already established groups it can feel like you are on the outside. It’s hard to know exactly when it is appropriate to charge in with your own comment. Particularly when you do and no one responds! So I can understand how people get put off. You have to be pretty confident to not let it slightly get to you. Or maybe it’s just me! Obviously a lot of the people commenting here have been twittering for a while but it would be interesting to get their (and yours) views on how they felt when they first started.
    Anyway, thanks for the post!

  • March 4, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    This is the first thing that I’ve read at Twitter that I can sort of understand. I’m still not been to the party but at least I know where it’s at. Only question now is are there enough freekin hours in the day..

  • July 18, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    Ahhhh, that actually helps quite a bit. I’m new and have considered deleting my account and sticking with Facebook a few times as I just didn’t get it.

    Now can you please explain all that text speak. Have just managed to bring myself to use LOL and I have had PMSL explained, but as for the rest……. 🙂

  • September 10, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    Love it! I’ve stopped trying to explain Twitter to people. Maybe one day…

  • September 11, 2010 at 10:14 am

    Very useful warning to companies i think about engaging not selling.
    I will take that with me when i go back to work!


  • September 28, 2010 at 9:52 am

    So you think I’m a stalker do you?

  • September 28, 2010 at 9:53 am

    I think the term I used was ‘perv’……

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