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When I Finally “Got” Twitter

August 24, 2009

Twitter logoI admit that at first, like most people, I was pretty skeptical about Twitter. I’m a big fan of social media and blogging in general, but Twitter just seemed like a lot of trouble to go to for such tiny blog posts. How could anybody say anything in just 140 characters that would be worth the investment of effort for me to learn a whole new social media technology?

But then I attended a professional development conference recently, where they encouraged everyone in attendance with Twitter accounts to do live “tweets” during the conference using “hashtags.” At the time, I had just joined Twitter to see what all the fuss was about, and had only begun learning some of the vocabulary.

I’d started out “following” (meaning, subscribing to the Twitter feeds of) some celebrities, some charities I care about, some local and national news outlets I read, etc. And most of the “tweets” I read — when I bothered — were interesting. But I never posted any tweets of my own — what would I say?? — and I didn’t get why anyone cared that much. I also wasn’t too sure about these “hashtags.” What were they?

I gamely did what the conference organizers suggested, though, pulling up a Twitter application on my iPod Touch (I use TwitterFon) and plugging in the given search term. (Turns out, the “hashtag” was just a common search term that everyone at the conference could use to tag all our tweets, so all the news and chatter related to the conference would appear together on in a “stream.”) The search term was announced in advance by the conference organizers, so everyone just added the conference hashtag (a number sign followed by the conference name — sort of like this: #SNconf09) at the end of their tweets.

Well, I was impressed.

We were sitting in the plenary, and the keynote speaker was excellent — engaging, informative. I glanced down at the Twitter application open on my iTouch out of the corner of my eye — and what a surprise! It’s so cool! The keynote speaker had just remarked about something his university was doing that was working well, and others in the audience had “chimed in” via their tweets seconds later, that they, too, had tried that approach, and he was right that it worked!

A few minutes later, the speaker referenced the findings of recent study — and someone else in the audience immediately followed up, tweeting the link to the news article covering the study the speaker had just mentioned. This was so — well, convenient! For the rest of the plenary, the tweets just kept coming…we could all share our impressions in real time, with everyone in the room, building on what the keynote speaker was saying and going even further beyond.

Afterwards, for a few days, folks kept “tweeting” using the conference “hashtag,” and the stream of news and connections from the conference continued. Fellow attendees began “following” one another — even those of us at different universities around the state…we made connections, shared success stories, and learned from each other.

Twitter had more utility than I’d given it credit for, I realized. And then someone tweeted that they had just released a handful of super-special $20 Dave Matthews concert tickets for the show that night, if anyone wanted to claim them in the next few minutes. Wow — only Twitter could get the word out at 4:30pm for an 8pm concert! I told my coworker about it, she jumped in her car right then. She got the last pair.

One Comment leave one →
  1. mcswainstarrett permalink*
    September 18, 2009 1:39 pm

    Just stumbled upon this excellent step-by-step video “How to Start Using Twitter:”

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