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What is Twitter and Why Should I Care?

What is Twitter?

Twitter is an online social networking tool in which users post 280 character updates (tweets) of what is going on in their lives along with links to things they think are interesting, funny, or useful to their followers (“following” being essentially what “friending” is on other sites). People use twitter in many ways, some as a newsfeed by following prominent people or networks, some as a pseudo-chatroom by limiting their followers and whom they follow to close friends and family, and some as a microblog for updating people about the work they are doing and their personal lives.

How is Twitter Different from Facebook?

Twitter networks ideas and topics while Facebook networks people. Twitter focuses on quick, “real-time” information allowing people to use #Hashtags to easily connect ideas an topics. The #Hashtag feature makes searching for information very easy.

It may take news agencies some time after an event to write and  share an article on Facebook but up-to-the-minute updates could be found on Twitter as soon as the event occurred. An example of this would be real-time updates on scoring plays during the Super Bowl versus waiting until the game is finished to find out what has occurred or finding out who won an event at the Olympics seconds after the event is completed. You can also receive updates on Breaking News, traffic, and weather related events as they are occurring versus having to wait for longer articles to be published, posted, or reported on other forms of social media or on TV.


How it Works:

Followers and Following:

Twitter users choose who they do and do not follow. You have total control of what tweets they see in your home feed. Your “Home feed” is what you see when you first open the twitter app (or open twitter in the browser). Here you will see updates from the people news agencies or oganizations that you choose to follow. This is different from your personal twitter feed (essentially your “profile” twitter.com/yourusername or the “Me” tab on mobile) which contains all tweets you have created. You can have an unlimited amount of followers, but only follow a select few people if you want, making it easy to stay in touch with the people you care to stay in touch with. You cannot control who follows you unless you set your account to “private”, in which case you would need to approve every new follower. Generally, even if you have a public account with lot of strangers following you, it doesn’t alter your experience very much as most will not directly engage with you.


A tweet is similar to a Facebook status update but your tweets are limited to 280 characters (increased from the initial 140 characters first offered).



Retweeting is used when you want to share a tweet from another user your followers (for instance something you found funny or a link to a helpful article). There are two ways to do this, a Retweet (which just reposts a user’s tweet to your followers) or a Quote Tweet in which you comment along with a link to their original tweet. This is similar to sharing a post on Facebook where you can either share the post by itself or share it with your comments showing above it.


Hashtags are a way to label tweets so that other users can see tweets on the same topic. Hashtags contain no spaces or punctuation and begin with a “#” symbol. Many times at events like conferences or concerts, the organizers will tell attendees to add a particular hash tag to their tweets to gather opinions about the event and unite people at the same event.

Twitter users create trending topics by using hash tags. For instance, a user might create a hashtag as a fun way to start a conversation or to give updates on a breaking news event. These make events and topics easier to search for. For example, during the Olympic Games you could search the hashtags #Olympics #TeamUSA or #FigureSkating .



Information obtained from: www.momthisishowtwitterworks.com and webtegrity.com.


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