Twitter – The Basics

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Learning for Life Online tool #3:
The Learning for Life Online Twitter feed

What Is It?

Twitter is the most well-known example of what’s called microblogging – short updates of text, photos, audio or video are pushed out to anyone following your feed on the web, through email, or via their cell phone or PDA. Facebook updates are so short they might be considered the same kind of thing, and serve much the same purpose.

How Is It Useful?

Microblogging lets you quickly update and coordinate with many followers using a single post. For a personal feed, you can let your friends know what you’re up to and share snippets of your life. Companies use Twitter to send out information about their services and products (like Whole Foods) and to offer customer service and advice (Best Buy and Dell, for example).

Searching Twitter can be a great way to find out information and see the buzz about a new restaurant or movie. Just type in the name of the thing you’re looking for into the search bar at the top of the page and away you go. Try a search on a new tech gadget, hot news topic, famous restaurant or summer blockbuster.

You can follow feeds from celebrities, authors, publishers, famous weathermen and even news from the White House. Locally, the Boston Police Department and Boston Fire Department send out alerts and ask for information using Twitter. Boston Food Finds is a feed about all things food in Boston.

Hashtags – words or phrases prefixed with a hash symbol (#) – started as a quick way to link related posts together (try out #womenssoccer). Posters use these to coordinate posts from a large number of Twitter users (for instances, at library conferences) and occasionally as a commentary on their own post. You can search for hashtags in the main search bar to see what is being tagged with that phrase, or you can look at the “Top Trending” topics on the side of the screen.

Try It Out

If you’d like to sign up for a Twitter account, just visit the site, sign up and start posting. Follow anyone you know personally and find a few companies or famous people to follow. Be sure to look for “the official Twitter account of…” in the description to know you’ve got the real deal.

If you don’t want to sign up, start off with a search for the Boston Public Library or a certain kid wizard. Then try searching for anything that strikes your interest.

To get a feel for the possibilities of microblogging, check out a few feeds:

Help & Resources

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