Don’t worry, I’ll get over this Twitter thing very soon, but for now I want to address all of the ill informed coverage that stifles use of Twitter because it can’t see beyond a) celebrities using it and b) the Facebook-style status update thing.
If you’re struggling to think of what to talk about on Twitter, here are some suggestions:
- What you are doing right now – clearly the most obvious one, and the easiest one, but also the least interesting. Let’s move on…
- What you will be doing later – more useful, as people may be interested in the results, or want to meet where you’re going.
- A useful link you’ve found – easy and useful. If others find it useful they might pass it on, introducing you to more followers. Which brings us on to…
- Retweet something interesting someone else has tweeted – again, pretty easy – and in fact many Twitter clients like Tweetdeck and Twhirl allow you to retweet with one click. The more people you follow, by the way, the more likely you are to come across something useful.
- Something you’ve done – many people use Twitter as a way to alert people to their latest blog post. You can even automate this with an RSS-to-Twitter service like Twitterfeed or Pingvine.
- Something you’ve seen – upload your pictures to Flickr and post a link, or use a service like Twitpic which will do it for you. If you have Shozu on your phone that will allow you to upload images directly from it to Twitpic.
- A message to someone else on Twitter – Twitter is a social medium, not a broadcast one, so conversation is part of the deal. To talk to someone just put @ in front of their name (e.g. @paulbradshaw) and they will be able to see it when they click on @replies on the right column of Twitter (if they use a client like Tweetdeck they will get an audio alert).
- A quote – by someone else, or one of your own
- A question – this is where it gets really useful. Twitter allows you to put a question out to everyone who follows you – meaning access to a wealth of experience and knowledge. You may get the right answer – you may get a range of interesting answers. You can also ask people to retweet it in the hope of finding the person who can answer it best.
- A call for assistance – equally, Twitter is a great organising tool. Arrange a meetup, a demonstration, a protest (real or virtual) by tweeting what you want to do, and asking followers to pass it on.
One great thing about Twitter – and this is why it is so useful for student journalists – is that after a while it trains you to look for interesting things around you (and think how you can communicate that in 140 chars). Those who write off the minutiae of Twitter need to realise: it’s the writer who makes it interesting.