How to Use Twitter as a News Feed
About 15 percent of Internet users are now on Twitter, according to statistics released by the Pew Internet and American Life Project in June. But beyond social networking, Twitter has one very handy function you may not be aware of: It’s a great source for the most up-to-date news and views on just about any topic you can imagine. In fact, 12 percent of Internet users are already getting their news this way, according to The State of the News Media 2012. The best part is, it’s really easy to use.
Want to use Twitter as a news feed? Here are some step-by-step instructions on how to get started.
Step 1: Create a Twitter Account
If you don’t have a Twitter account, the first thing to do is sign up for one. Your brand-new account will look like this:
Fortunately, Twitter provides lots of tips and resources to help new users get started. Although you can just check out other users’ feeds without signing up, you’ll have access to a lot of handy features if you make an account. Don’t worry: You don’t have to tweet if you don’t want to. Many Twitter users are just there to listen!
Step 2: Start Following Other Users
Following users you trust for news is the best way to start setting up your own, personalized news feed. Twitter is most useful if you like to follow a wide variety of sources, but with 140 million Twitter users, it can be hard to choose which ones. Start by adding a few publications and sources you already like. For example, if you want to use Twitter to keep up on current events and you already like The New York Times for news, that’s a great place to start. You can follow The Times on Twitter by entering “new york times” into the search box. As you can see in the image below, the publication has several feeds.
Now, as The New York Times and the other users you follow post Tweets, these will appear on your news feed. For more ideas on who to follow, check out Time magazine’s “The 140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2012.”
If you simply want to read news, you can check in on your news feed, read tweets and click on links that interest you. Voila! You now have your own, custom-built news feed.
Step 3: Learn to Use Hashtags
Hashtags (#) are placed before relevant search terms in tweets to help users find relevant tweets in a search and to add new tweets to the conversation around a particular topic. They always include a ‘#’ sign, followed by a word, acronym or phrase (no spaces).
When it comes to using Twitter as a news source, you can use hashtags to find news on a particular topic. It’s also a great way to stumble across new sources to follow.
Hashtags are especially helpful when it comes to breaking news. So let’s say you want to see all the most recent news on Hurricane Sandy. First, just type your search query into Twitter’s search box.
Now you can see that #sandy is the most common hashtag being used for the topic. Click or search #sandy, and you’ll get all the top tweets that include that hashtag. Here’s what you get:
Notice how Twitter also provides a number of related hashtags, and allows you to change the way the results are displayed so that you can see top tweets, tweets from all Twitter users (in chronological order), or just tweets from users you follow.
Step 4: Keep Things Organized
Once you’re following a number of people, it helps to keep things organized. You can do this by separating the people you follow into lists.
First, select “Following,” which is found just above the Tweet box.
Then start separating the sources you follow into relevant groups:
You will be prompted to create a list and give your list a name. Then, you can filter all remaining items into the appropriate lists.
Now you should have a set of news sources organized by categories of your choice. You can find them by clicking “Following,” then selecting “Lists.”
As shown below, we’ve separated the lists in our sample Twitter feed into, Senior News and Current Events. By selecting one, you’ll see only tweets from the sources you’ve placed in that category.
Step 5: Consider Joining the Conversation
You don’t have to tweet on Twitter, but one day, you might just be tempted to join the conversation. You can do this by adding your own 140-character tweets and pasting links into the “Compose new tweet” box.
Twitter is vast and deep, but it needn’t be overwhelming. In just four steps you can set up a fully curated Twitter news feed. Hope to see you there! (And be sure to follow Senior Planet, and check out who we’re following.)