De-Mystifying Twitter

More than any other network, Twitter can be baffling. Until you know its conventions and culture, it can be hard to understand its appeal. But, its an excellent tool for staying up on news, keeping your community aware of your activities, and for understanding trends and how they are shaping todays culture. Heres a quick primer, as well as some tips on building a following.

Tweet: A short message or update shared with your followers. Limited to 140 characters.

Followers: Your friends, family, work colleagues, or anyone who shares your interests.

Twitter handle: The name you are known by on Twitter. Always starts with the @ symbol. For example: @njstatelibrary.

@replies: A convention for conversation. Reply to or start a public conversation with another user by starting your tweet with their Twitter handle.

Hashtag: Twitter is a self-organizing culture. With 230 million tweets each day, it would be hard to find interesting and relevant content without the hashtag. Twitter users have created their own taxonomy, categorizing topics by using a single word (or two mashed together) that starts with the hash mark. For example: #libraries or #publiclibraries. Search on these terms in, and the result is all of the latest tweets on these topics.

Retweet: If you read a tweet that you find interesting, you can share it with your followers by retweeting it. Start the retweet with RT and follow this with the handle of the original sender. For example: RT @njstatelibrary …

Trending Topics. The most tweeted topics on Twitter right at this moment.

I will be hosting a live Webinar in the coming months on how to use Twitter for your library, so stay tuned for details! In the meantime, here are some tips for getting started on Twitter.

  1. Visit Listorious and follow a few topics that interest you.
  2. Read the feed from the lists for a while, and then start following individuals that you find interesting. They may follow you back.
  3. Find your friends, and follow them. They will definitely follow you back.
  4. Tweet often!
  5. Curate content from others. This means retweeting interesting items you see.
  6. Use hashtags as often as possible, especially those that are trending in the topic areas you follow.
  7. Engage in Twitter chats. For example, #libchat.
  8. Talk to other people on Twitter by replying to them. Yes, even strangers! That’s how you make friends – and followers.
  9. Once you find good people to follow, recommend them on Fridays for Follow Friday. Hashtags: #FF #FollowFriday
  10. Promote your Twitter handle everywhere – in LinkedIn, on Facebook, in presentations, on your website, marketing material, etc.


About Tiffany McClary

Tiffany McClary is the Director of Communications, Marketing & Outreach for the New Jersey State Library. She coordinates marketing and public relations initiatives in order to enhance the reputation of the State Library, and promote the value of NJ libraries and the services and programs that they provide to residents.