You may have heard of this newfangled social media thing. Like me, you might be initially opposed to it. I thought that Twitter was mostly people talking about what they had for lunch (in 140 characters or less). I suppose sometimes someone mentions lunch. The breakthrough for me with Twitter came when a blogger I liked and respected (hi Anea!) suggested I ought to sign up for Twitter “because I seemed like I’d be fun to talk to.”
“People talk to each other with this?” I remember thinking. They do! It’s like a big IRC channel where WoW nerds hang out. Whether you are a blogger or an avid blog reader, a knitter, a runner, or just someone who enjoys MMOs, there are people who share your interests that you can talk to. You’d be surprised how many of those interests often intersect. I think there are many reasons to sign up for a Twitter account and start tweeting. Here they are, in no particular order.
1. You can unsubscribe from the major MMO news sites, because you’ll never miss news again. I’ve truthfully ‘heard’ more breaking news on Twitter than anywhere else. Of course, it’s not a ‘news source,’ (do your own research!) but if a new armour set has been released, if a Blue has said something noteworthy, or if some major change has been announced – you’ll usually hear about it in under a minute. Sometimes controversial news is marked by what I fondly think of as a twitsplosion – a flurry of incensed or astonished tweets from different people.
2. Get to know your favourite bloggers, or get to know your readers. Often, discussions on Twitter can be similar to blog comment discussions (albeit a bit truncated). Most bloggers and WoW folks have a Twitter account – everyone from Big Bear Butt to El from El’s Angling. (I really like fishing!) People use them to various degrees, but it can be really fun to see the person behind the blog or site, as most folks are a bit more personal on their Twitter.
3. Take advantage of a resource in its own right. Usually, if I have a question that Google doesn’t immediately answer, someone (or multiple someones) can answer it for me on Twitter. Does anyone have good links to warlock guides? Does anyone know of a holy paladin leveling guide? My guild has been wiping to phase x of fight z, can someone give us some pointers? The people on Twitter in my experience have been incredibly helpful. You can probably find anything from a recipe for a good bean soup to a boss strat just by asking, and there will be someone willing and able to help.
4. Find new reading material. Most bloggers will tweet about any new blog entry they make. People who read their list can then choose to “retweet,” or repeat that message to their own list of followers. In this way, you might see a blog entry whose name or subject matter catches your eye. I have found many new blogs via Twitter, just from following people who follow me, or clicking on interesting sounding blog articles. This doesn’t just have to be WoW-related, either – I also follow a few Canadian newspapers that tweet new articles as they happen. I definitely read more news because of this than I would otherwise.
5. Gather around the virtual ‘watercooler.’ Especially if – like me – you work from home, you’ll know that sometimes it can get a bit quiet on your own. Sometimes saying hi on Twitter in the morning can feel like strolling into an office, with fellow telecommuters and at-work people alike. There are people to commiserate with about the weather, or in my case to remind you that spring IS happening somewhere and will eventually come to the frozen north as well. (It did happen eventually. We have sun now instead of snow). If you have any kind of smart phone, you will find Twitter is a boon when you have to suffer public transportation or other boring necessities.
6. Customize your Twitter feed to suit you. By this I mean, you can follow five hundred people, or you can follow five. You can limit it to people you ‘know’ really well. I know people who follow three thousand folks, and people who follow forty-five. It’s entirely up to you how you choose to use it, and you can say as much as you like or as little. I guarantee you, it’s more fun if you join in the conversation, though. To find new people to follow you can always just look through someone’s Twitter friend list and see if there are any familiar faces. Don’t be shy; if you do decide to give it a shot, make sure you say hi to @_vidyala!
Hashtags: are used to separate subjects or topics people want to talk about and keep separate. For example, #wowarttrade2011 might be used for a specific purpose. Sometimes people use a hashtag ironically to comment on the subject matter they’re discussing or just to be silly. (e.g. #shitmyguildsays or #needcoffeenow). I don’t drink coffee, though, I’m just making this stuff up.
@s or “Mentions”: When someone ‘mentions’ a twitter name by including it in their tweet in its entirety, that tweet will appear in their timeline as a mention. You can mention multiple people in one tweet (reply all is the easiest way to do this). Even celebrities see their mentions and sometimes reply. Yes, I had a total fangirl moment when Brandon Sanderson answered a tweet of mine, what about it?! Anyway, make sure to check your mentions so you don’t miss when someone is trying to talk to you. It’s considered polite to reply if the tweet is a question, but depending on how many people you follow sometimes it’s not possible to reply to everyone.
DM or “direct message,” Twitter’s equivalent of a whisper. You can only direct message someone who is a reciprocal follower.
The specific tag “#FF” is used on Fridays to denote ‘Follow Friday,’ when people recommend others that you should be following. The Oatmeal summarizes what actually happens on Friday. For this reason I try to limit my #FFs and actually explain why the person is fun to follow.
Twitter applications: There are better ways to use Twitter than via the website. Personally, I use Tweetdeck on my computer and HootSuite on my phone. (Twitter itself has an app for the phone but it had a few bugs that were driving me crazy). These allow for more customization in the feeds and tags that you might follow, as well as easy ways to reply to everyone, block or report spam, etc.
Which brings me to: bots and spammers. Not everyone that might follow you on Twitter is a real person. It has more than its fair share of bots and spammers, unfortunately. I always go to someone’s home page and glance at their tweets and description. If there is no description, no avatar (the default Twitter ‘bird’), a page full of links with no commentary – or all of the above, then it’s quite likely they are a spammer. Tweetdeck has an option where you can block and report spam in a single click. On the persons’ avatar, it’s under Other Actions and then Block & Report Spam. Use this feature liberally. Death to spammers!
A final note about Twitter privacy and etiquette: You can opt to have your tweets “protected,” i.e. visible to only those you allow to follow you. Be aware though that if you want to acquire many followers of your own, this isn’t the best way to do it. If someone follows me and I have to request to follow them and I can’t see what their tweets are like, typically, odds are I just don’t follow them back. If you are uncertain about privacy, at least consider staying public until you find the folks you want to chat with and then go private later.
Remember: if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all, and nothing you say on the internet ever goes away. Your tweets are searchable, so I’d advise not saying anything about someone you wouldn’t say to their face. But that’s just plain old life advice anyway! The only trouble I’ve seen on Twitter are when people start talking about religion, politics, and sometimes mages vs warlocks. Don’t assume that everyone who also likes to kill internet dragons shares your politics, and above all be respectful. If someone really bugs you, you aren’t obligated to keep reading what they have to say. The number of people you will love reading greatly outweigh the few though, I think.
What do you think? Are you still a Twitter holdout? Are you thinking of giving it a try?