“What the Tweet?!” + Twitter (Part I)

130731 Twitter 101 cover photo

If you have visited our blog prior to this post, you may notice some changes! Rebecca and I were fed up with Blogger’s unpredictable formatting and lagging RSS feed updates, so we made the not-so-difficult decision to graduate to WordPress. So, apologies for the short pause in posting, but we didn’t want to publish any additional content until we had overhauled Tech in Real Life and made it shiny and new. And since Rebecca was in NOLA last week, we figured it would be easier to handle the migration together in person rather than over a NOLA→LA Google Hangout. Good news: this DID significantly help productivity. Bad news: we went through four pints of ice cream in two days while working on it. But, we think it looks better, so we hope y’all do too. It will still be a work in progress for a couple of more days, so please bear with us!

This “week’s” post is going to be a series of three posts related to Twitter. I’ve had this one in my back pocket for a while, and have just been waiting for the right time to write it. So here we are.

Part I: An introduction to social media and why I feel compelled to write something in-depth about Twitter

Part II: Twitter 101 (terminology, basic tips to make Twitter useful)

Part III: How Twitter can be used in every day, real-life situations – after all, that IS the driving force behind this blog 🙂

I love Twitter – it’s an agile platform whose power lies in its simplicity. One could claim I’m slightly biased because I worked there, but for the record: I went to work at Twitter because I was passionate about the service – I didn’t become passionate about it JUST because I worked there. Of course I did come to love it even more after being on the inside. I think it is only natural to gain a greater appreciation (or hatred) for something when you can see first-hand the motivation behind its creation, the mission that drives it and the amazing people that are a part of the Twitter Flock.

Introduction to Social Media

Part I doesn’t dive into the nitty-gritty of Twitter (just yet), but instead takes a “bigger picture” look at social media, and will set the stage for the deeper dive that will occur in Parts II and III. I didn’t want y’all to experience information overload, but hopefully this short intro will encourage you to dip your toe in the water and come back to learn more over the next few days. Read all three parts all at once. Read them in chunks. Or don’t read the intro at all and wait for the 101. Ok no, read some of it at least 🙂

It’s no secret amongst my friends that I am a social media addict. I use almost every mainstream site/app/platform out there (and even some that are slightly less mainstream). To be fair, I HAVE spent my entire working life in digital and social media, and I have a genuine personal and professional passion for it, so hopefully you won’t judge too harshly.

If I were going to rank where I spend most of my social media time these days, the list would go like this:

1. Instagram – when I first started using Instagram I was primarily focused on posting and pretty-ing my own photos. But recently I’ve really started to get into the social network side of it, and realize how much more I enjoy looking at beautiful, funny, creative photos with small amounts of text – over a feed filled with words and clutter. A picture does tell a thousand words, and these days, a story that I’m more excited to engage with. Instagram’s design and interface is so simple and easy to use, and (IMO) the addition of video has not been as annoying as some predicted it would be. And even though there’s technically no paid advertising on Instagram, it’s not surprising that brands are doing some amazingly innovative things with their Instagram accounts (see Oreo, Warby Parker, Starbucks, Free People, Sharpie, Target Style, Taco Bell, Jeni’s Ice Cream). I would definitely recommend venturing outside of your network of “real” friends and checking some of them out.

2. Twitter – I absolutely love Twitter. Love, love, love. It is my information network. I check it constantly. Sometimes I don’t even REALIZE I’m checking it (as I type this I realize how troubling that sounds). It fuels my self-diagnosed A.D.D. and leaves me with a severe case of FOMO (fear of missing out) when I am unable to access it. It has become my go-to for news and current events, sports reporting and live scoring, study break procrastinating and hilarious color commentary on just about ANYTHING I’m interested in (or didn’t even KNOW I was interested in). It truly is my second screen, and my second worst addiction behind donuts.

3. Facebook – I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. If Twitter is about the information I care about, then Facebook is about the people I care about. It is a network filled with people that have directly touched my life in some way throughout the years. High school friends, college dorm-mates and sorority sisters, old tennis buddies, former coworkers and of course, my family (and yes, I am Facebook friends with my Mom). So because of this, despite the tortured, complicated relationship I seem to have with it, I don’t think I could ever give it up.

Fortunately, I have a fantastic network of friends with beautiful children and adorable pets, and friends who take incredible vacations, have accomplished amazing things and are actually pretty darn funny and witty the majority of the time. I even don’t mind the occasional selfie taken from the wheel of your (hopefully idle) vehicle. So keep it all coming. P.S. None of those photos are from any of my ACTUAL Facebook friends.

4. Vine – Vine is new to the social media playground, so many of you might not know much about it. But you should, so we may dedicate a post to it (and a few of the other newcomers). Stay tuned. Twitter owns it, and essentially it’s a way to record very short (6-second) videos that run in a loop — and it has developed a cult-like following among creative-types. Sounds a tad gimmicky, but you’d truly be amazed by what people can create in 6-seconds. If you already have the app on your phone, search for “Meagan Cignoli,” “Oreo Cookie,” “General Electric,” and “Ian Padgham” to see what I mean.

5. Snapchat – I’m surprised when I mention Snapchat and still get a lot of blank stares. Maybe it’s more popular with the “tweens,” but my business school class is obsessed with it, so I’ve gotten to play around with it quite a bit over the last couple of months. In a nutshell, it’s a way to take and send “self-destructing” photos and then add text or drawings on top of the photo. You decide how long you want the photo to be visible for (anywhere from 1-10 seconds), and as soon as your chosen recipients open the photo, they have that amount of time to view it – and then it’s gone. Can’t view it again. Isn’t saved on your phone. It’s an interesting concept, and again, one we’ll probably write more in-depth about in a future post or app round-up.

6. Google+ – I can already see people rolling their eyes at this one. Again, maybe I’m the tiniest bit biased. But honestly, I REALLY feel like if G+ had existed in parallel to Facebook since the beginning, you’d see more of a split audience. G+ has some great features, a beautiful UI and some very loyal fans engaging in some very interesting and meaningful conversations – it just doesn’t have the user base because it came along a little too late to legitimately take on Goliath.

7. Pinterest – I’m sure many of you are familiar with this one. Pinterest is like a drug. In next week’s post Rebecca will go into detail about what Pinterest is, how to use it and why she spends hours of her life on it. Like I said, a drug. But it falls low on my list because if I don’t stay away from it, I log in during breakfast and all of a sudden I blink and realize I haven’t eaten in twelve hours and I’m still in my pajamas. If you look up “timesuck” in the (urban) dictionary, there really should be a little board filled with pictures of furniture made out of bottle caps, fifteen different recipes for 7-layer baked goods and ballet flats in every color of the rainbow.

I like some of these because of the user interface (UI) (a.k.a. they are PRETTY), and I like others because they are populated with more of the friends, connections or people I’m interested in – which therefore typically makes the content more engaging. However, I oftentimes make the mistake of assuming that because I am obsessed with social media, that everyone around me is too. To my great dismay, this is not the case. And even more troubling, my closest friends are not actively engaged with social media, which makes it harder for me stay connected when we don’t have the time to pick up the phone or fly across the country for a visit.

Now, y’all may disagree with me on this, but I poll people everywhere I go – school, work, close friends, family, complete strangers I meet at bars – and of all the platforms I consider to be mainstream, I have found that Twitter seems to be the most confusing to people. Confusing as in it is a black box that people are afraid to open. SO confusing that all I see is eyes-glazing-over as I overwhelm them with my love for tweeting, re-tweeting and hashtags. I do, however, agree that it is genuinely difficult for the average non-techie person to pick up without a little help and guidance.

This pains me because I worked at Twitter, love the mission behind the company and therefore still feel an obligation to be an evangelist for the service and get people to understand and embrace its awesomeness.

When I ask people about Twitter, the most common responses I get are:

a) “I don’t…get it” (fair enough, that’s what we’re here for – keep reading!)

b) “I don’t care what people are eating for dinner” (FAIL. Then I REALLY know this person has never even TRIED to use it)

c) “I already use Facebook or xxx other site, why do I need to use Twitter?” (Twitter is NOT Facebook – and besides maybe wishing it had the user base Facebook does – it is not trying to BE Facebook)

While it’s one thing to not embrace something (food, people, books, adventures) because you tried it and simply don’t like it, if you don’t give it a chance or even attempt to understand it, I think you can potentially miss out on a lot in life. So that is why I’m going to do my best to break down what I think are Twitter’s two biggest barriers to entry:

(1) The terminology/”lingo” that Twitter uses is very Twitter-specific and can admittedly be overwhelming when you see a endless number of RT’s, MT’s, O/H’s and h/t in your timeline.

(2) Even if you do understand the basics, you still need a compelling reason to use the platform regularly.  

The good news is, Twitter IS trying to become less opaque, and hopefully this post will only add to those efforts. The three-part post will aim to address both of the issues listed above, and by the end, hopefully I will have shown you that while on its surface Twitter seems to be a bit of a scary black box, you don’t need a PhD and a translator to understand it, use it and (hopefully) love it.

Check back on Wednesday for Part II!

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