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Twitter for Dummies – part 6: The Most Frequent Questions You Will Be Asked

Posted on Jul 12th, 2009 by

What are Twitter replies for?

This series all started from the basic question “How do you explain Twitter to someone who is completely ignorant about micro blogging and social media?”. We went through the moves of explaining the social networking side, what you can use Twitter for, the software components that make Twitter work, the technical syntax of tweets, and how to tweet effectively.
Often though, you will hear the same questions coming back. Here are some I am asked all the time:

1. Is Twitter one more tool to overload me with information?

There is no ‘have to’ with Twitter. Just like the Internet as a whole, you use Twitter as and when you like. All updates from the people you follow are optional reads. Some days I am pretty active on Twitter, other days I hardly touch it. Sometimes, I only use it to look up information…

2. How should we regulate the use of Twitter in our organisation?

If there would be one rule, it would be the same rule applying to any web presence of your organisation: If you have a guideline governing official web sites, your organisation’s blogs, or the official use of social media in general, then it can apply for Twitter too. If the Twitter account is in the name of the organisation, of course.
If the question is about people’s personal Twitter accounts, then most probably other guidelines apply, assuring the employee does not break any non-disclosure rules. Other than that, there is little an organisation can do and should do to regulate the use of Twitter.

3. Will Twitter replace Email?

Although Twitter has the possibility of sending public messages (“Replies”) or private messages to individual users, it is unsuitable as an Email system: You can only send a direct message to one person at a time, you are limited to 140 characters, there are no discussion threads, nor can you embed graphic elements etc…..
As with many features and possible uses of Twitter, users will define how they can and will use it. It won’t be long before new Twitter-ers will find out the difference between Email and Twitter for themselves.

4. Will Twitter replace Skype or other Instant Messengers?

Twitter is mainly used for ‘broadcasts’ of messages to your social community. Surely, you can use ‘replies’ and ‘direct messages’ to “kind of chat” using Twitter, but it is rather clumsy because of the 140 character limitation and the delays which occur in posting messages. In short: Twitter does not even come close to the functionality of an Instant Messenger.

5. Will Twitter take up a lot of my time?

As part of your official duties in your job, I’d say: ‘Twitter is optional’, use it up to the level where it fulfills a purpose in your job. For the rest, use Twitter as you see best fit. You can drive a Ferrari at 10 mph, but you can also race it over the German Autobahn. You can spend one minute per day on Twitter, and be happy with a social community of 10 people, or keep on going until… until you have a million followers.

6. I still don’t understand what to use Twitter for.

Even after explaining all the bits and pieces as we have done in this blog series, some people still don’t grasp what Twitter can do for them. My only – and final – advise is: Give it a try. If you don’t like it, forget all about it.
It took me a few months to figure out how to use Twitter for my own purposes, and hey, I am a social media freak.

Cartoon courtesy Geek & Poke

2 Comments to “Twitter for Dummies – part 6: The Most Frequent Questions You Will Be Asked”

  1. Mike says:

    Thank you for all the useful tips in setting up a twitter account. I was put in charge of setting up a twitter account for my organization, which is a non-profit. Do you have any tips for acquiring followers?


    • Peter says:

      Hi Mike,

      Good question…. Maybe I should address that in a separate post. Let me answer on the fly here:

      1/ I found that getting to that first tipping point of 100 followers is the most difficult. After you get about 100 followers, people will start re-tweeting your tweets, and THEIR followers will pick up your twittername, and screen your tweets and follow you in turn. Once after the 100 first followers, your account will grow automatically (if you have interesting content)

      2/ Start first (just like on a blog) by creating interesting Twitter content. don’t just tweet content with links to your own site

      3/ Make sure you spend time to properly fill in your Twitter profile (website and what you are about).. Is one of the first things people look at when they want to follow you.

      4/ I found the easiest way to build up to the 100 first followers, is to look at the followers of Twitter account from an organisation similar as ours. Or a twitter account which assembles people interested in the topics your organisation works in, and follow them (on your twitter account, the fastest to follow is with the syntax “F accountname”).
      Often people will follow back. Build it up to the 100 followers, and be VERY active, so people get encouraged.
      If anything, a heap of the “good and willing” are assembled around one of my Twitter accounts: @aidnews
      Also check the Twitter tools in this post: .. in order for you to find quality people to follow.

      5/ Interact with your followers. People don’t like accounts which are just fed with “Twitterfeed” posts. Comment on other people’s posts,

      6/ come back to me and tell me if it worked, will you? will make an interesting post!


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