A lot of new Twitter users complain that they just don’t “get” this unique social network. On Facebook, you can share photos and interact with friends. But Twitter’s rapid-fire conversation style can be a bit of a mystery. Don’t be fooled. A lot of great conversation goes on between users in Twitter’s 140-character messages, especially when those messages are designed around a central topic of discussion.
The best example of this occurs when Twitter is used to follow events. These specific gatherings of Twitter users occur at a scheduled time and are coordinated using Twitter hashtags. Want to find out what people are talking about and join the conversation? Here’s what you need to know.
Get In the Game
If you don’t have a Twitter account, the first thing to do is sign up for one. Click here to be taken to the Twitter signup page. You’ll be asked to type in your real name and email address, along with a password and a Twitter user name. This user name – your “handle – is what will show up on your Twitter page. It can be any name you choose.
Your brand-new account will look like this:
Fortunately, Twitter provides lots of tips and resources to help new users get started.
Learn to Use Hashtags
Hashtags (#) are used in Twitter as a way to search for a particular topic. For example, you could search the topic #aging by typing the hashtag and word into the Twitter search bar; any tweet that has been tagged with this hashtag will pop up.
Hashtags are also used to add new tweets to a conversation around a particular topic. They always include a ‘#’ sign, followed by a word, acronym or phrase (no spaces).
Stay tuned for news on the Senior Planet Exploration Center grand opening 3/7. We’ll livestream & take Qs for our panel at #seniorplanet
— seniorplanet (@seniorplanet) March 2, 2013
When it comes to using Twitter as a news source or to follow events, you can use hashtags to connect with the right users. There are more than 140 million people using Twitter, so to start zeroing in on the ones you’re most interested in following, you can start by searching for publications and friends you want to connect with using the Twitter search box. To start out, search for @seniorplanet and click the blue “Follow” button.
Following Live Events on Twitter
People can tweet about any kind of live event, and Twitter is increasingly being used to provide updates as live events occur. The running commentary that occurs over Twitter during the Academy Awards, for example, has become a central part of the way the audience experiences the show.
If you want to check in to an event, just search for the hashtag in the Twitter search bar by entering the hashtag and the name, and refresh your screen for new updates. Hashtags are included in the event-invite tweets that you’ll get from the people you follow on Twitter.
Join the Conversation
Once you have an event in mind, it’s easy to follow along and join the conversation. For example, on March 7, @SeniorPlanet hosted a panel discussion about technology and seniors under the hashtag #seniorplanet.
Once the date and time of the event was announced, @SeniorPlanet followers logged in to their Twitter accounts and use the search bar to search for #seniorplanet.
When you follow a Twitter event, by continually refreshing your browser, you should be able to follow the conversation, bringing up any new comments or questions that use this hashtag.
Got something to say? Compose a tweet by clicking on the blue “Compose tweet” button at the top right of your Twitter page
In the window that opens, write your message in 140 characters or less and add the #seniorplanet hashtag at the end. Then hit the “Tweet” button.
You can also hit Reply to respond to a specific Twitter user.
Even better, use a handy tool like TweetChat to follow the conversation. Once the event has started, visit https://seniorplanet.org//tweetchat.com/room/seniorplanet. You can watch the conversation from here in one browser tab, then open another to Tweet and interact with participants from your Twitter account.
For Best Results, Don’t Just Listen
Do remember that this is a conversation. To hold up your end, you should respond when other users communicate with you.
You can see when someone sends you a tweet or responds to one you’ve sent by checking the @Connect section of your Twitter account.
You can also set up your account so that you receive an email every time someone interacts with you on Twitter. You can find this control under Twitter’s Settings (https://twitter.com/settings/notifications).
While other social networks provide a great platform for keeping in touch with people you already know, Twitter’s more like a cocktail party, where you get to mix with a huge group of people from all over the world. Hashtags help you “overhear” the conversations that are most relevant to you and, in some cases, plug you in to information you couldn’t get any other way. Following events on Twitter and joining Twitter chats is a great way to interact with other people with similar interests and find more like-minded “tweeple” to follow.
And be sure to keep an eye out for Twitter chats from @SeniorPlanet. We’d love to hear what you have say!