My passion is to help others in the community, young, old, and everyone in between, find relevance and joy in learning, performing or listening to classical music.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Making heads or tails out of Twitter

Photo by Lordnikon, from Wikipedia Commons
First I want to insert a brief explanation for why I'm writing all these posts about twitter.  It's pretty simple, really.  There are a few individuals in my life that I would really like to start using twitter, partly for selfish reasons but also because I think they'd really like it.  I think these dear people are scared and intimidated by the whole twitter thing, understandably so.  So to those friends and family members, this post is for you ;-)  

In my previous posts I have shared why I love twitter and how I started figuring it all out. In this post, I thought it would be helpful to share some other things about twitter that I have learned to help demystify the experience a bit more.  

Twitter terminology and symbols:
  • Follower – someone that is interested in your tweets
  • @ - the @ sign before a person’s name creates a link to their account. That particular tweet will show up in their “mentions” column which means they will easily see that you have mentioned them, are asking them a question or wanting to interact with them in a public way. Don’t want it to be public? Then Direct Message them (DM them.)
  • Mention – you actually don’t see this word very much but it’s there and it’s the name for when someone mentions another person in a tweet. Some people call them “shout-outs.”
  • DM – stands for Direct Message and is like a personal e-mail within twitter. Some twitterers do not respond to DMs because they don’t believe in DMs; they believe that twitter should be a public form of communication. I don’t feel this way, myself, but it’s good to know that others do and to be sensitive to that.
  • RT – stands for Retweet. People often retweet a tweet that they like and want their own followers to see. Sometimes I RT a tweet but opt to edit it so that I can add my own comment on to the original tweet. You can also RT a tweet when responding to a question from someone in order to cut down on the confusion on what you’re responding to. This can be tricky though because of the 140 character limit.
  • # - this is a hashtag. See the next point for an explanation of hashtags.
  • #FF – stands for Follow Friday. There is a tradition for folks to recommend twitterers to follow. Not everyone does this but it can certainly be nice to be mentioned in this way. If you choose to do a FF, it can be especially nice when doing so to mention why it is you recommend a certain person. It is also very encouraging to the person you’re recommending – a sort of affirmation that is very welcome in twitterville since politeness, courtesy, and encouragement are keys to unlocking twitter, at least in my neck of the woods.
  • #MM – Music Monday – Another tradition in twitterville. On Mondays, if someone wants to recommend some music to listen to, they often do it on Mondays, with the hashtag #MM.
  • Tweeps – a term used for people with whom you tweet; generally these are your followers and those you follow.

#s, aka “hashtags”
What’s a hashtag? They’re everywhere in twitterville so it’s good to know what they are. People use hashtags for at least two different purposes. They can be used as a sort of tag, to help folks keep track of a certain line of conversation. For instance, one day, a group of twitterers initiated a day long conversation in which conductors tweeted one another about various topics of interest and other folks, musicians and non-musicians, tweeted in questions for the conductors to respond to. The hashtag for this event was #askaconductor.

People also use hashtags as a form of humor, cleverness and commentary. It’s hard to explain, but keep your eyes open for them. People can be very wry with their hashtags and they can really be quite entertaining.

Etiquette (Tweetiquette)
At least among the tweeps I hang out with, the standard practice in twitterville is to be polite and generally to follow the golden rule. If someone mentions me or retweets one of my tweets, a simple “thank you” is the norm. If someone asks me a question and I can answer it, then I do that to the best of my ability. If I quote someone or mention a link or idea I got from someone else, I am sure to mention him or her in the tweet.

The importance of being honest
It is amazing how much one can learn about another through their tweets. It is pretty easy to figure out who is being themselves and who is trying to be someone they’re not. And what I’ve discovered is that people value honesty, transparency, humor, and genuineness.

Creating lists in twitter has been a lifesaver for me. As soon as I had more than 100 people that I was following I started creating different lists as a way to organize my timeline. I divided them by the obvious…pianists, writers/critics, instrumentalists, singers, etc…but I also created one list that is made up of the folks I find really wonderful to follow, for whatever reason. I go to the timeline created by these folks first.

It can also be helpful to look at other tweep’s lists in order to find interesting people to follow. For instance, if I see that someone has a list of pianists, I’ll sometimes look through that list to see if there’s anyone in there that I have missed.

Organizing it all
Twitter can become overwhelming pretty quickly. Early on I downloaded an application called “Tweetdeck” to help organize my twitter life. I’m definitely grateful for its existence and highly recommend it or something like it. There are some other applications out there that others use but I’m not an expert since I’m a tweetdeck junkie.

It can be quite easy to be consumed by twitter, especially when people start noticing you and when conversations start to become a normal activity in your twitter life. I’ve found it’s important to remember to relax and to not worry too much about tweeting mistakes. There are so many tweets tweeted each minute of the day that mistakes and foot-in-mouth situations flow in and out of the twitter timeline quite rapidly. And like I said, twitterville is a forgiving place. As long as I stay honest and carry out my twitter life, missteps are quickly forgotten. When I get overwhelmed, I simply back off for a while. A break now and then does wonders for me.

To read other posts on Twitter, check out:


  1. This is such a great post. Thank you so much for sharing this information as I am still a newbie to twitter and am learning the ropes!

    Best wishes,

  2. Thank you for your comment, Natasha. It's great to meet you and your blog :-) And I'm so glad that you've braved twitterland and are making some sort of home there. It really is a wonderful place to be and is well worth the time and energy.

    Happy tweeting and blogging!