By Amanda Maurer | November 26th, 2009
Twitter, a microblogging site, can be a great resource for journalists looking for additional ways to find story ideas and sources, as well as share content. It’s similiar to an instant messaging chat room in that you can interact in real time with millions of folks who share your interests. It’s a useful tool because it can show you what its millions of users are chatting about online.
How to sign up and get started:
Your home page, settings:
Welcome to your home page. The box under “What’s happening?” is where you’ll type and send your messages. Below that, you may see tweets, or messages, from another user. You can unsubscribe to those tweets later.
Along the right side of your home page you’ll see your username and a spot for your photo. Below your username you’ll see how many tweets you’ve sent, the number of users you’re following (subscribed to), the number of users that are following you, and how many lists you’ve been added to.
Going down the list, you’ll see a number of links. You’re currently at Home. Clicking @YourUsername will show you a list of all public tweets with your username in it. Direct messages will take you to your inbox and outbox for private messages. We’ll get to Favorites and ReTweets later.
You can fill out your account by clicking “Settings” at the top right of the Twitter page. Under Account, you can add a URL (can be your Web site or publication), one-line bio and your location (city). Click “Save.”
Under Notices you can turn off e-mail and newsletter notifications. You may want to turn these off if you plan to be active on Twitter.
Lastly, click Picture to upload an image.
There are several ways to find folks you want to subscribe to – or follow – on Twitter.
-Click “Find People” at the top right of the Twitter page. You can search by a person’s Twitter username or name; you can also find them by their e-mail account.
-Follow a user’s list. Visit Mashable to learn more about Twitter lists.
Removing friends: On your home page, click “Following.” This will show you a list of every user you’ve subscribed to. Click the cog button, then click “Unfollow.”
There are a number of ways for you to send messages on Twitter:
Tweet: A tweet is a message sent out to the Twitter community. These tweets can be read by your followers and those who visit your profile. These messages are limited to 140 characters, which can create some challenges, especially when sharing links. To help with this, try using a link shortener like bit.ly.
Sending a message to someone: You can send a message to other users by beginning the tweet with that person’s username.
Sending a private message: There are two ways to send a private, or direct, message. One option is to click “Direct Messages” in the right rail. You can chose who you want to message by using the pull-menu. The other option is to go to your home page and begin a message by typing a D followed by the username.
Retweet: A retweet is when someone copies, pastes, attributes and sends out another’s Tweet. Visit Mashable to find out more about retweets.
Favorite: You can Favorite, or save, tweets that you’d like to see again by hovering over the original tweet and clicking the star on the right side.
Other Twitter Tips:
Hashtags: Using hashtag terms are one way Twitter users organize Tweets. By using the same hashtag term, users can find Tweets about one subject easily in search. The more popular a hashtag terms become, the more likely it is to pop up in Twitter’s trending topics.
Lists: Lists allow users to organize their followers into certain groups. By adding friends to these lists, you can view a stream of just their Tweets.
-Twitter users may not automatically follow you. To build an audience, take the first step by following others with similar interests as you.
-Similarly, if folks do follow you, follow them back. (Of course if it’s a spam account, or something of that nature, there’s no need.)
-Twitter’s a two-way street. If you want people to respond to your Tweets, you have to respond to others’ Tweets.
-Be conscious of how often you Tweet. If you’re having a multiple-Tweet conversation with another user, you may want to direct message one another so you don’t clog up your friends Twitter streams.