Twitter is a 21st century phenomenon. Founded in 2006, its meteoric rise has seen it become one of the world’s leading methods of communications. Its blue bird logo and use of the # symbol are universally recognised, while Twitter’s ability to instantly disseminate information has given it an unprecedented role in political and social change. The majority of its traffic takes place on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, but Twitter.com is still one of the planet’s most visited websites.
For its users, Twitter is an essential method of communicating, learning, influencing and understanding the world around them. For the uninitiated, it can seem daunting and confusing, even though using Twitter is simplicity itself. To encourage wider take-up of this social media giant, a wide variety of Twitter courses around the country are focused either on basic training or business development.
Reading between the lines
In essence, Twitter is an internet-based conversation service, allowing users to share information or opinions, and communicate with each other in real time. Although each individual tweet has to be 140 characters or less, it is also possible to send photographs or links to websites, making this an ideal way of disseminating information. Tweets are instantly sent to all of the sender’s followers, who choose to follow someone by clicking an eponymous button beside their profile. Some celebrities have in the region of 50 million followers, allowing them to send a message to the equivalent population of England and Wales, all at once.
Power to the people
Twitter’s simplicity and immediacy has allowed ordinary people to take unprecedented control of global events. Its pivotal role in the Arab Spring uprisings saw Twitter used as the main method of communication among rebel fighters, as well as providing the world’s media with a steady stream of information that probably wouldn’t ever have been broadcast otherwise. Twitter accounts are held by David Cameron, Barack Obama and the Pope, while groundswells of opinion have had a direct influence on events in almost every country on the planet. In Japan, Twitter is more popular than Facebook, and it is often perceived as a more serious form of social media – allowing people to share news or observations, as opposed to Facebook’s focus on the opinions and activities of its individual users.
Getting down to business
Twitter has revolutionised the way businesses market themselves, transforming the way they deal with their customers. Critiques of a company’s service or behaviour can ‘trend’ –becoming a hot topic on Twitter – as more and more people forward on the original criticism or add their comments to it. As a result, although Twitter provides a superb way for companies to market themselves and engage with large numbers of people at once, it hugely increases the PR fallout from negative consumer experiences.
Mastering Twitter is an art, not a science, and it is notable that the majority of courses in Twitter are aimed at the business community. However, a number of Twitter courses focus on demystifying this fast-growing social media platform for complete beginners:
1. Twitter courses for individuals.
Assuming you know how to operate a keyboard and understand how the internet works, a beginner’s guide to Twitter will allow you to grasp the principles behind this communication method. Students will typically be told how to create a Twitter account, build a basic profile, find people to follow and gain a few followers back. There will be tuition on working within the size limitations of each message (the last sentence in this paragraph was exactly 140 characters – the maximum size for one tweet), with guidance about Twitter’s unique etiquette.
2. Twitter courses for business.
There is an urgent need for companies to understand Twitter, since it represents an opportunity and a challenge in equal measure. Many companies fail to grasp how Twitter can engage with their audience, viewing it as another form of passive advertising, when it is actually a fully-interactive communications and marketing tool. These courses will typically discuss effective business strategies on Twitter, ways to interact with followers, responding to public criticism, and avoiding some of the most common business pitfalls.
Don’t be a twit
If you understand the most common terms associated with Twitter, this social media platform will seem far less daunting:
· Tweet. An individual message of 140 characters or less, which may also contain a photograph or link to a webpage.
· Trending. When a topic is being keenly discussed, often in response to breaking news, its keywords are acknowledged by Twitter as being a current conversational trend.
· Hashtag. The # symbol is used as a shortcut for identifying all tweets relating to a word after the hashtag. For instance #worldcupfinal would bring up tweets marked by their creators as relating to that sporting event.
· Twitterati. A colloquialism for Twitter users.
· Viral. Something ‘goes viral’ if it is repeatedly forwarded on among users.
· Micro-blogging. A blog is an online diary entry or journal, and micro-blogging is slang for sending a tweet – making a comment or statement in 140 characters or less.