What’s in a 140 Characters?

Twitter has fundamentally changed the manner is which millions of people communicate.  Its impact on society has been profound.  If you are not engaged on Twitter, then you are missing out on this evolution and revolution in media communication.

So, What Exactly Is Twitter?

Twitter is a simple platform for electronic communication.  You are only permitted to type a maximum of 140 characters, yet able express whatever you like.  You have the ability to type in a status update on what you are doing at the moment, share an opinion, or a link to a blog or article that you like.  Incredibly, Twitter provides an outstanding platform to share breaking news updates concerning world events.  For example, twitter users were able to share Tsunami warnings in Japan by providing second by second updates that informed at-risk victims and aid workers, perhaps saving many lives.  But for many, Twitter, with its millions of users, provides the ideal platform to stay informed on major media events and trending topics.

What’s In A Hashtag?

The hashtag symbol, “#,” provides a great way to seek out information on an endless amount of topics.  By searching #eurocrisis, you can get information from twitter users on their thoughts about this current global event.  It provides a great way to see and read divergent views on matters.  Or, if you want to find people with similar interests, you can search #yoga and find people who share your passion for this exercise form.  The hashtag becomes your vessel to search out information to satisfy your curiosities and connect with those who share your interests.  Once you find people who share your interests or seem interesting, you then have the ability to follow them.

Why Do Twitter Users Want Followers Anyway?

Those new to Twitter may be confused by the concept of “followers.”  It is important to remember that followers are not the same as stalkers.  Followers are people that have searched profiles or tweets of people who they feel share common interests or think are interesting.  In other words, these people want to be your friend. But, don’t worry; you do not have to follow them back.  In the end, look at every new follower as someone you can potentially connect with.  Every time you receive a new follower, you should check out their profile and tweets to see if this is a person you would be interested in following.

Getting Started

Getting started on Twitter is free, easy, and takes only a few minutes.  You simply register your name, email address, create a password, and pick a twitter handle, or name.  You then fill out a profile, limited to 160 characters (which still confuses me as to why you get an extra 20 characters).  But, feel free to take advantage of the extra digital real estate.

Finally, you can then tweet your first message.  This is critical, because what you first tweet will determine whether anyone will ever follow you.  Okay, I am totally kidding, have fun with it and type whatever you like (well, maybe not?)

Twitter Can Censor What You Say?

Twitter is a great way to express your opinions on an endless array of subjects.  However, recently, Twitter has come under fire for its ability to “censor” tweets in certain countries.  According an article in USA Today titled “Twitter may censor tweets in individual counties,” Twitter has refined its technology to allow for the censorship of topics that local governments do not want its people to read.  It is no secret that countries like China, which currently blocks Twitter, and others around the world filter media sites.  Many groups are protesting this technology as they feel Twitter should protect First Amendment rights everywhere in the world.

However, while I am a champion of First Amendment rights, I see nothing wrong with Twitter filtering this content in other countries.  Twitter must follow the laws of other countries when doing business in those countries.  If countries like China want to filter content, then that is their right to do so!  We cannot impose American First Amendment rights on other countries and have our corporations break laws in these countries in the pursuit of freedom.  If the people in these countries want unfiltered content, then they need to take it up with their country leaders.

Reference

Scarff, Oli. (2012, January 27). Twitter may censor tweets in individual countries. USA Today Tech. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/story/2012-01-27/twitter-censor-tweets/52811702/1.

Article written by Joshua Sutterfield.  Known in the Twitter world as @SavvyJosh.

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10 Responses to What’s in a 140 Characters?

  1. Savannah Wall says:

    Hi Josh,
    As a fellow Twitter fan, I appreciate your post about my favorite social media site. When I first joined, I just didn’t “get it”. Now, almost three years later, I am completely obsessed with Twitter and shamelessly admit that it is the source where I find a lot of my daily news. It is so easy to catch snippets about our world on Twitter without having to even read full articles to keep up-to-date on numerous categories of life from sports to politics to catching up with college friends. Since I work in sports, I have to “follow” many of the athletes my agency represents to ensure that they do not say anything which would cause too much of a stir, and just this week I had an incident at work involving Twitter. The president of my firm carelessly tweeted his support of one of our QB clients while inadvertently discounting the athleticism and credibility of one of his teammates (who is not our client), so through the debacle I learned much about the Twitter world. While his comments were immediately regrettable and admittedly done without forethought, they caught fire on Twitter and he soon got replies from every corner of the country and in one day, he gained over 200 “followers”. It is pretty amazing how much people love controversy, and Twitter is as guilty as any other social media platforms at providing a space for people to fuel that love and create controversy.

    • jsutterf says:

      Savannah,

      Thank you for your comment. I can certainly relate to your Twitter experience. It took me some time to figure out Twitter at first. While Twitter itself may have a simple interface, it is a world of its own. You are absolutely correct about it being a great resource to gather the daily news and keep up to date on trending topics. It really is a powerful platform.

      With regard to your work, I can see how challenging in can be to follow athletes within your agency and monitor what they say. Twitter is about open dialogue, but you can certainly get into trouble if you are a high profile personality and make a controversial comment. But as you point out, controversy can have its benefits too. In Twitter Land so long as people are talking about you, you are doing well. Worry when they are not talking about you.

      Joshua

  2. bradleyw says:

    Joshua-
    Thank you for your blog about Twitter and how to get started. Social media marketing, such as Twitter, has become increasingly more important for businesses to engage prospects and potential customers. The company I work for, FileTrek, recently launched a cloud-based file sharing solution. Twitter was a key component of our launch strategy. We conducted a promotion campaign on Twitter, tweeted the media attention we received nearly in real-time, and continue to use Twitter to post our daily blog. Also, Twitter’s “promoted tweets” have been a successful tool to amplify our messaging to very targeted demographics and geographic locations. This has allowed us to increase our number of followers at an amazing rate – for a small expense.
    – Jake

    • jsutterf says:

      Jake,

      What a great example of how Twitter can be helpful to businesses. It sounds like your company understands how effective this platform can be and takes full advantage of its benefits. The promotion campaign sounds like a real success. It is great to see your company embracing this new form of media and realizing the new opportunities it provides. Thanks for sharing!

      Joshua

  3. Jake White says:

    Joshua-
    Thank you for your blog about Twitter and how to get started. Social media marketing, such as Twitter, has become increasingly more important for businesses to engage prospects and potential customers. The company I work for, FileTrek, recently launched a cloud-based file sharing solution. Twitter was a key component of our launch strategy. We conducted a promotion campaign on Twitter, tweeted the media attention we received nearly in real-time, and continue to use Twitter to post our daily blog. Also, Twitter’s “promoted tweets” have been a successful tool to amplify our messaging to very targeted demographics and geographic locations. This has allowed us to increase our number of followers at an amazing rate – for a small expense.
    – Jake

  4. EAlarcon says:

    Thank you for the brief yet detailed description and invitation to Twitter. A while back, I too jumped on the Twitting wagon but gave it up quickly as I found it way too fast to follow and way too superficial. However, as you noted this has changed and I am intrigued to signing up again. As you mentioned, the content has gotten more relevant and the choices more interesting. Now all I need is to remember my tweet ID and password – one more!

    • jsutterf says:

      Thank you for the comment. You are not unlike many people with first use Twitter. You still have to sift through a lot of tweets to get to good information at times. But, Twitter has become a major source of daily information for me. I can follow great sources like The Economist and CNET and get a healthy dose of relevant information. I am glad to hear you are willing to give it another shot.

      Joshua

  5. Christie Malamatos says:

    Hello Josh,
    Thank you for the “bird’s eye view”, forgive the pun, on Twitter. I can honestly say that I have never used Twitter and am further embarrassed to mention that I’m not even sure where to find it. Although, after reading your post, I am intrigued. The hashtag symbol is a great concept and seems quite simple to use. Although, I think that I will have to work at the 140 character limit. I am known to be a bit long winded. I think that I will definitely give it a try, as I do know of a talk show host that always talks of the “twit that tweets”. Thanks for welcoming me to the 21st century.
    -Christie Malamatos

    • Meg Spitzer says:

      No worries, Christie… I have never had a Twitter account nor have I sent a single Tweet. Although, truth be told, I will check out pictures and updates from people that are sent to me via a Twitter link… and by “people,” I generally mean Steelers that are giving away gear or tickets 🙂

      Josh: My company is desperately trying to become 21st Century and had their very own Twitter feed… although their content is kind of lame. Based on your post and the comments above, I think that your tweets have to be fast, fun and catchy in order to really make a business impact. We have step one–account creation–nailed down. Now we just have to find someone more interesting to talk about the exciting world of corporate real estate, investments and facilities management!

      • Jesus Torres says:

        Hi Megan,

        “Content is King” is a cliche but very true. Your company’s Twitter feed needs to be of value to someone. Ask, who will want to read my tweets and click on the provided link? And why? The best companies act as a resource of information for others. The folks with the most followers (aside from celebrities and athletes) are the ones that offer unique content. This is usually provided by a blog that you can drive traffic to from your Tweet. Also, Tweets can’t be sales-ly. That turns some people off. Instead offer tips, tricks, and insight on your industry. Lastly, by becoming a resource on Twitter, you slowly become a voice of authority in the topic you Tweet/write about. You become an “internet expert.” That’s a term I use for folks who haven’t really published anything or have PhD’s, but “get” internet marketing and sell themselves and their content well.

        I hope this helps.

        Jesus