Social media seem to be catching the imaginagtions of some imaginative colleagues. It remains to be seen when they will begin to touch fogey untouchables, but from Obama to the Telegraph all sorts of people and organisations are on the game now. Twitter is becoming not so much a website, more a way of life — or, to use the jargon, a Platform.
Getting the best out of Twitter?
Take this lunchtime. Cooking with friends at half term furious disputation arose about feeding spring onion stalks to Lara, our neighbours’ rabbit. Do spring onions make rabbits, er, windy? Theories and counter-theories raged around the room, so I twittered it. Within 3 minutes reply came from Alexander Chow in Los Angeles, ably assisted by Mr Bunny & Pumpkin. Rabbits are OK with spring onion, friends, and unless you are kind to neighbours’ rabbits, the Great Rabbit Paw in the Sky may Finger you. All in under 140 characters.
Now thoroughly convinced of the power of Twitter, off you go. I’ve been on Twitter a wee while, and after a few wilderness weeks wondering what the point was, the penny dropped in December. People with an instinctive feeling that my Twittergrade may now be as high as 97·9 have been asking me about getting the best out of it.
What do I know? You just sign up, dive in, explore, network, have fun. That said, Trimmings have their uses, and I’ve got a few suggestions to help the curious make themselves into more compleat (or “Upper Class”) Twits.
Start with Twitter, and play much with its Twitter Search. Enter a subject that interests you, and pick stuff out of the Tweetstream, and follow the authors. Easy. Next, if you’re using Firefox, beef up your basic Twitterpage with PowerTwitter. This fluffs out the information (names, pictures, movies) and puts a bit more on the page; not necessary but perhaps desirable. Next, if you have a blog, head for Twitterfeed. That will automatically feed your blog posts into the twitterstream, and to Facebook (if you do that). Finally, you need to find a way to get Twitter onto your desktop without having the fag of opening a fresh page? (For Mac Users Twitterific will do this in an elegant occasional column, and it’s probably the best iPhone twitter client.)
This next bit is very important. Whatever you use, Mac, PC or Linux, head straight for TweetDeck and install it. T/D will allow you to filter tweets, search easily, handle replies, find people to follow. It also has a simple facility to shrink URL’s — very useful when you're stuffing them into your 140 character limit. Alternatively, try Twhirl: less resource hungry, if that’s an issue, single column, but better for multiple accounts.
After a while you wonder who’s following you. To find out, follow Mr Tweet, who will come back with suggestions based on your profile and recent record. Check out those elite influencers with Twidentify. TwitterCounter will tell you simply, but for deeper analysis and pretty diagrams, use Tweetstats. This also has a screen to alert you to general trends in what people are talking about in the twitterstream. If you get hooked and want historic data as well, check out Retweetradar.
But who are these people following you, really? Check their websites and blogs (given on their profile pages) when you get the email alerting you to the fact they’re following you. Or look for trends, and Round up your TwitterSheep. Are you getting any good at this? Find out on TwitterGrader. Do you come over as a miserable old so-and-so, or what? Find out with HappyTweets. Still in the Affective Zone, you can empty all your fears and worries into the dark, secret confidential dustbin of Secret Tweet (useful for illustrating talks on Prayer, too.) It's like confession, but without absolution, note. If you want to find out what people think of anything (“ask the audience”) use twtPoll.
Finally, the Top Shelf of twitter widgets. I do not really approve of all of these, but, heck, its half term... Half the fun of Twitter is the 140 character limit. Haiku is crude by comparison. However some playmates can’t bear to stop talking. Twitlonger allows you to churn out longer tweets. use with care. Tweetlater enables you to schedule future tweets; a marketer's dream, but if you annoy people by semi-spamming them, they will unfollow you.
There you go: 17 key twitter applications and widgets. You won’t want all of them, but you may well want most of them. The one to die for, the Must-have? Two, actually: Tweetdeck or Twhirl.
Enjoy, people, and may the Lord have mercy on your soul... !