Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Twitter Turmoil

Ever feel left out of the digital conversation? Stumped by status updates?

Status updates are used on sites like Facebook and Twitter. But what is their purpose? Sure, it's a way to "keep in touch" with friends and family. But then updates can turn into mini snippets of bragging material. "Laying out in Mexico! This is the life!" or "Headed off to an awards my honor." 

And then there's a different kind of update. I'll call it the "members only" status.

You read a twitter status and can almost hear the Twitterer saying, "Oh, sorry, guess you had to be there. You missed out. How can you not know that [insert clever, obscure factoid or joke here.]"

I recently perceived the effects of my Twitter updates (which are automatically forwarded to Facebook). My Facebook friends responded to one of my updates with mass confusion.

A few days ago, I was participating in a live chat with the Poynter Institute, a non-profit that trains journalists. I was excited to ask questions, which could be submitted via Twitter. So, employing my clever Twitter abilities, I posted a question that looked like this: "#poynterchats What the best way to keep in touch with former internship contacts?" 

If that looks like a foreign language to you, read on.

In my example above, "#poynterchats" was a search term I created while doing a live chat with the Poynter Institute. Poynter suggested I add this prefix to my twitter status so they could search for my status and then post it in the live conversation.

That day two Facebook friends who commented on the post because they were confused. "I never really understand what your status is about. Is that normal or am I just being really stupid?"

Yay for reality checks. It reminded me that not everyone uses Twitter, and therefore not everyone knows why @, #, and RT are used in sentences. 

One follower, @copyblogger, said in a post, "How about you add value instead of engaging in veiled "conversation" you mistakenly think makes you look good?"

Well gosh darnit, he's right. The Twitter elitist in me needs to think more carefully about the "conversations" I have with others in the so-called Twitterverse. It may make sense to me, but not to others. And then, this vehicle created to help with communication, is actually putting up walls.

Duncan Alney, of Firebelly Marketing in Indianapolis, posted some social media etiquette tips on his company's Web site. Not a bad thing to review. 

Brief Twitter Jargon Decoding

@ - place this symbol in front of a person's Twitter name. Use this when you want to mention something to that person. It's a direct, but public, message.

# - place this symbol in front a word. Then if you search that word in the search box, your update will be included. This helps define "trending topics" which are the most tweeted about subjects on Twitter. 

RT - means "retweet." I use RT when I see a status I like (usually with a cool link) and want to share the info to others. 

Links - when you post a link into Twitter, it compresses (remember, there's a 140-character limit), so the URLs look funny. For example:

And there it is, in a nutshell! Feel free to post comments or other questions you have.


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