#whatsahashtag? Learn to Navigate the Twitterverse
by Ryan Jardine
witter — it is so important.
We’ve all been there before. Whether we are riding the light rail, walking down the 16th Street Mall, or eating at Sam’s No. 3, there are those times when we are compelled to share our innermost feelings, thoughts, and experiences with complete strangers.
"I’m bored right now."
"I wish there was a word to describe hanging by a thread."
"Look at my breakfast; it is soooo good!"
Close your eyes and imagine a world where you could actually share these and other important musings for everyone to hear and appreciate. Imagine this world where these musing have to be shorter than 140 characters. Now open your eyes, because the future is now, my friends, thanks to the wonders of Twitter.
Twitter graced us with its presence beginning in the summer of 2006. What originally began as an opportunity for small groups to communicate with each other has become a worldwide phenomenon. One of the founders of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, provided the first tweet to the world encapsulating all that Twitter has to offer: "just setting up my twttr."
Short, succinct, and informative — how else are we supposed to know what Jack Dorsey was doing on 12:50 p.m. on March 21, 2006?
Dorsey’s "twttr" eventually became known as Twitter. As he told the Los Angeles Times, "We came across the word ‘twitter,’ and it was just perfect. The definition was ‘a short burst of inconsequential information,’ and ‘chirps from birds.’ And that’s exactly what the product was."
Finally, after thousands of years, the world had found a way to share inconsequential information.
Sharing information of no consequence might at first appear easy and accessible to all of us. But first you must understand some specialized vocabulary so you don’t appear to be a twewbie (Twitter newbie).
These are some of the basics:
@[username]: Say you were walking through Park Meadows and you see your friends Pip and Estella. Of course you want to get their attention. That is the purpose of @[username] — getting the attention of a specific individual or individuals. In our example you would tweet the following, "@pip @estella Hi! just walked by you in Park Meadows." Pip and Estella would be specifically notified. This is also called a "mention."
Hashtag (#): The hashtag has two uses. First, it is a way to categorize your tweets, and second, it is a way to create a dramatic aside, à la William Shakespeare. Suppose while at a local steakhouse you are served the most delicious slice of carrot cake. Quick, put down that fork, moments are fleeting and the time to tweet is now. "Eating yummy carrot cake #dinner #cantwaitforanotherslice."
Follower: A follower in Twitter is someone who follows what you tweet. Followers receive your tweets in their feeds along with all the others they follow. When using Twitter you will be both a follower and be followed.
Fail Whale: I probably don’t need to tell you, but Twitter is very popular. More-than-500-million-users-popular. So popular, in fact, that sometimes the site crashes. When visiting Twitter at those times, instead of seeing tweets you will see an image of a happy cartoon whale being supported by a bunch of birds — possibly symbolizing the Sisyphean burden we all carry to report everything in real time.
Retweet: When you see a tweet that you want to share with others you retweet it. For example, while it is snowing outside @pip tweets, "FYI snowing outside #weather." @havisham, upon seeing this informative tweet, retweets it to all of her followers: "RT @pip: FYI snowing outside #weather #donewithwinter." Notice the dramatic aside — helpful and informative.
Tweet: A tweet is a single message on Twitter and it also functions as a verb to describe the act of sending a message on Twitter, as in, "Excuse me, I must be tweeting."
Now that you have a comprehensive understanding of the basic terms, the moment has arrived and you are ready to tweet. The first step is to go to twitter.com and create an account. As with all social situations, it is often best to get the lay of the land. You can do this by following people and retweeting.
To make it easier to find people to follow, Twitter has provided ways to identify your awaiting friends within the twitterverse (or Twitter universe). You can look at the tab "Who to follow," find friends, or even browse categories of tweeters by topics such as news, entertainment, funny, or fashion. There are even legal tweeters.
Following those that tweet legal news and commentary is one way to get value from Twitter as a lawyer. Other lawyers might appreciate the opportunity to connect on another level with other lawyers, individuals, corporations, or businesses within their industry.
In addition to providing lawyers with a panoply of benefits, Twitter serves a smorgasbord of digestible chirps for everyone.
Some consume topical knowledge and expertise relating to hobbies or interests, all in short 140 character segments. A little like Mr. Wonka’s Three-Course Meal Gum for your mind.
Others use it to get an inside look into the lives of the rich and famous.
Still others use it to get the latest breaking news.
But, like other social mediums, it’s the kind of platform with a shoot-first-ask-questions-later format, and one that can be prone to a game of telephone, where incorrect information — on anything from breaking news to celebrity death hoaxes — is tweeted and retweeted.
For all of the above reasons, Twitter is so important. I know what you’re thinking: "Ryan, do people really care about my life? It is of so little consequence."
In reply, I ask you to consider two age-old questions: "If you didn’t share it, did it really happen?" and "Are you willing to take that risk?"
I believe we all have a lifetime full of inconsequential information that demands the public square. Twitter to the rescue. D