Twitter has roughly a billion registered users, and 255 million monthly active users worldwide, according to the website Digital Marketing Ramblings. The site also reveals that Americans who use Twitter are mostly younger folks (think teens-twenties). I personally stayed away from Twitter for a long time just because the format of the site confused and intimidated me – why limit the number of characters? What kind of content am I supposed to post? What exactly is a “hashtag”?
Cindy Carpenter began to answer that last question in her recent blog post about Instagram (which is kind of like Twitter, with pictures) but just as a refresher, here are some Twitter definitions for you, excerpted from an article at sproutsocial.com:
Follower – On Twitter, you “follow” another user to see his or her updates on your Twitter home page, and they follow you to see yours. This is the basic social relationship of Twitter. If you have more followers, your updates reach and potentially influence more people. Social connections on Twitter are not symmetrical — that is, even if you follow someone he or she may choose not to follow you back.
Tweet – Each message you send out to your followers through Twitter is called a “tweet.” It works as a verb, as well; you tweet a message. Twitter is one big network for delivering tweets to people, and by fault, tweets are public and searchable. Each tweet must be 140 characters or less or else it won’t be published.
Retweet – Twitter is all about sharing things that your followers might find useful, interesting, or entertaining. The “retweet” is a manifestation of this. When you see a tweet that you think your followers would be interested in, you can click the “retweet” button to make that tweet appear in your followers’ home pages. They’ll know you were the one who shared it.
Hashtag – People on Twitter insert “hashtags” into their tweets to provide context, and to make them easily searchable for people looking for updates on a specific topic. They’re kind of like blog tags. A hashtag is simply a keyword preceded by the hash symbol.
@Mention – You direct public messages to other Twitter users by inserting an “@” sign immediately followed by their username. For example, “@SproutSocial Hi there.” This causes your tweet to also appear in the “@Mentions” section of the target’s Twitter account.
Once I learned the basics, I confess, I was hooked. Twitter is a great way to get lots of news and updates in one place about things you’re interested in, and it’s one more way to let people who’ve visited your interpretive site – or are interested in visiting one day – stay engaged and find out what’s new. Hundreds, of national parks, state parks, forests, historic sites, county parks and museums have jumped on the Twitter bandwagon.
On Friday there is usually a flood of Tweets from interpreters and environmental educators using the hashtag #fieldnotesfriday! The NAI National Office is behind it all. By searching for this catch phrase, you can find plenty of creative content sharing, and by adding the phrase to your own Tweet you can join in the chorus! With only 140 characters to work with, Twitter forces us to pack our interpretive subjects and themes densely into each phrase and picture – or at least pique the interest enough to lead readers to a longer blog post on the subject. Here are a few of my favorites from recent Fridays:
@commnatural: What’s the likelihood of seeing this animal in the city? #urbanwildlife reminder to look up! #fieldnotesfriday http://commnatural.com/2014/04/04/fnfcrowmob/ …
@andy2pham: A #woodpecker’s tongue is curled around the back of the head between the skull and skin. #FieldNotesFriday #birds pic.twitter.com/w4wSZcTZhn
@HappyNaturalist: Rare subspecies of human caught in the wild http://bit.ly/1nY3SjZ (Photographensis in its natural habitat) #photography #FieldNotesFriday
Do you Tweet? Please share your experiences in the “Twittersphere,” too!