Twitter 101, Episode 3: You Don’t Know Hash!

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It’s Friday, and I’ll be taking my blog back soon.  Today is the last guest post by Mr. Attack Resistance, in which he finally gets to the point and tells you how to use Twitter, and more importantly, that you should follow me.  And I guess him, too.  You should also check out his blog, conveniently called Attack Resistance, and leave harassing comments until he posts more often, thus demonstrating that not everything worthwhile can be said in 140 characters or less.
So begins my third, and final, installment on why you should love Twitter. I’d like to thank my gracious host for allowing me to ramble on for the last three days and, of course, you Dear Readersfor coming along with me on this tangent filled journey. If you are, somehow, just now joining us you can find part one here, and part two, here(anyone else get weirded out by referring to an HTML link as a physical place?).
sociology and beer
By now, you should understand how humanity evolved from loving shadow puppets to loving truncated communication forms and you should also be aware of that you can use Twitter to survive an earthquake [AUTHOR’S NOTE: Don’t use Twitter for any form of emergency response]. What you don’t know, yet, is how to actually use Twitter. That’s what we’re going to address today. Let’s get started.
Like any other social media website, you’ll need to setup a profile by selecting a user name, password, and providing a few details. Your Twitter handle can be anything you want it to be, provided it isn’t already being used and doesn’t violate the Terms of Service you said you read but didn’t. Your user name will be proceeded by the @ symbol, so if your user name is, say, AttackResist, it would appear thusly: @AttackResistWhen someone types your @ in a Tweet they have ‘mentioned’ you (just like tagging someone in a Facebook post). A common way for people to tag another user within a tweet is to add a ‘cc:’ to the tweet. For instance:
I read recently that sociologists drink more beer than any other profession. cc: @think_too_much
It’s important to note that this is publicly viewable. Anything you say in this manner will be seen by anyone who is following you or anyone who is weird enough to search Twitter for ‘sociologists drink more beer’. 
Now, if you’re having a conversation with a common theme or if you’d just like to mark your tweet in a unique way you would use a hashtag. Hashtags are in vogue at the moment and were developed by the users of Twitter independent of any of the programmers.A real world example of the proper use of the hashtag follows:
I read recently that sociologists drink more beer than any other profession. #ThingsRobynAlreadyKnows cc: @think_too_much
Inside Twitter, hashtags can be clicked and this will bring up a list of all tweets containing the same tag. This can be exceptionally useful if you want to keep track of a particular hashtag. Twitter will display to you the most popular hashtags by country, region, or locality at your discretion allowing you easy access to the conversations going on around you. Hashtags won’t recognize any punctuation marks so give up any hope of being grammatically correct when using one. While not required, I suggest capitalizing each new word in a tag to allow for easier reading. 
At some point you’ve probably seen a hashtag on Facebook and asked yourself, “What the hell does that mean?” Well, now you know. And you also know that the person using the hashtag is infinitely cooler than you. Get your stuff together. You disgust me.
Again, everything you tweet is viewable and searchable by the public at large. EXCEPT! Except for Direct Messages. Direct messages are tweets between two (and only two) users. All the same rules apply here. 140 characters, hashtags, etc. the only difference is that visibility is limited to you and your recipient. Use Direct Messages when you want to say something you don’t want everyone else to see. Let me say that one more time: Use Direct Messages when you want to say something you don’t want everyone else to see.
Another key feature of Twitter is the retweet. Retweets are used to quickly and easily share a tweet you’ve found interesting. They can exist in a few different formats:
  • .         RT – You will encounter tweets from time to time that start with the letters RT. This is a more manual way of retweeting something. You copy the text of the tweet, start a new tweet by writing RT – and then pasting.
  • .       MT – This stands for modified tweet. These occur when someone takes a tweet, alters it in an appreciable way, and rebroadcasts it.
  • .       H/T – This stands for Hat Tip. Usually used when you take just part of a tweet (a link or a picture, typically) and build your own message around it.
  • .       Just hit the damn Retweet button.

Use retweets judiciously. Like it or not, they can imply endorsement or support.
Okay, almost done. We’ve covered character limits (140), mentions (@attackresist), Direct Messages (quit snooping, jerk!) hashtags (#PayAttention), Retweets (Retweets). Now let’s talk about one more thing: Link shortening.
Twitter will most often do this for you, simply by pasting a link, but there are other ways. The most popular of which is I use this with some frequency, and you should too. Because I said so. Using link shorteners allows excessively long links to fit in an otherwise lengthy tweet. For instance, the following tweet exceeds the 140 character limit:
@AttackResist doesn’t update often but his blog is awesome and you should read it whenever he does.
However, with a link shortener that same tweet fits the limit:
@AttackResist doesn’t update very often, but his blog is awesome and you should definitely read it whenever he does.
There you have it, kids: The bare minimum needed to get started using Twitter. I strongly suggest that you immediately follow @think_too_much. You’re already a fan, else why would you be reading this? Thanks mom, but you don’t count. You should also follow me, because I am amazing. Once you’re up and running, give me a shout. I’ll hold your hand while you get better acquainted with the most useful communication tool since the shadow puppet.
This is Mr. Attack Resistance, signing off.

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