How to Use Twitter for Social Media Engagement - dummies

How to Use Twitter for Social Media Engagement

By Aliza Sherman, Danielle Elliott Smith

With more than 140 million users, Twitter is a smaller social media provider than Facebook but has fundamentally changed how people communicate with one another. Twitter has impacted not only how individuals and companies communicate but also how people consume and report news. Nobody ever imagined that a service that limits messages to 140 characters could cause such enormous changes around the world.

Unlike Facebook, Twitter conversations are predominantly open to the public, unless you choose to make your Twitter account private. Most people go with the default public setting to share their updates — or tweets — with the world. Although private Twitter accounts are available, in order to engage easily and widely with others, your account must be public.

Twitter has its own way of organizing conversations and interactions on its network that can be confusing to new users. You can communicate on Twitter by posting one of these elements:

  • Tweet: A publicly posted message to your Twitter stream that also appears in the streams of your followers.

  • Retweet: A publicly posted message that repeats or restates an existing tweet from someone else that credits the originator and can be seen by your followers.

  • @mention: A tweet directed to someone specifically that appears in their stream.

  • Direct message (DM): A message sent to someone else privately if you follow them and they follow you back.

We both love Twitter and use it often. The shorter tweet lengths may not appeal to you, but they force you to be more concise and specific in your messaging. In this day and age of text messaging and smartphone use, being able to adapt your communications style to accommodate the smaller screens of mobile devices is a good skill to have.

From its early days, Twitter has allowed programmers to use its application programming interface (API), the behind-the-scenes code that makes up the network. This openness allows applications to integrate easily with Twitter, including tools to monitor it, manage it, measure activity on it, and post creatively to it. The same cannot be said about all social networks.

We both connect some of our other favorite social networks to Twitter, including Instagram and Foursquare. The image on the left shows a tweet from Danielle using Instagram; her Instagram account connects to Twitter, so she has the option to tweet to her Instagram account the photos she posts via her smartphone.

The rightmost image shows a tweet from Aliza using Foursquare; Aliza tweets her Foursquare check-ins sparingly, and she carefully provides context so that her Twitter followers have more to read than simply a place name with a link.