An explanation of twitter

This is a description of how twitter works. It is very hard to see the point of twitter unless you try it, but this should help those of you trying to understand the references to it in the news.

Twitter lets its users post a public message (tweet) of 140 characters in length. Those messages are automatically seen by their followers. Anyone can follow any other Twitter user and their tweets will be displayed in their “Twitter stream.” A tweet can also be aimed at or mention a person by including their name prefixed with an @ symbol. For example “@Refreshtech Hello Steve!”

In addition, tweets can contain a subject prefixed with a # (a hash) and that is called a hashtag. Clicking on a hashtag brings up a list of all the other tweets containing the same hashtag. In this way it is possible to see a stream of tweets on a given topic. The most popular hashtags at any one time are called Trending Topics. Twitter shows a list of these on the front page. Finally, if a person likes a tweet they can “retweet” it which will send it out to all of their followers.

While most tweets are just inane chatter, many complete rubbish, a tweet that contains concise, well-written information, a link, a picture or a video, and that has the right hashtag is likely to be retweeted by a good percentage of people that see it. In turn it can be retweeted by their followers too. There are some people that have much more influence than others often because of the speed of their information or the quality of presentation, and these people tend to have more followers than average, and achieve far more retweets then others.

When a good tweet with a hashtag appears,  it can be retweeted over and over again because the tweet appears in the search for a given hashtag. Someone sees it, likes it and retweets it. Since the retweet also has the hashtag, the tweet appears in the twitter stream again and the whole process repeats. A really popular tweet can appear over and over again for hours.

It is through the use of hashtags that groups, events and protests are organised using twitter since all the people involved post their tweets with the chosen tag and then reads all the other tweets with the same tag, enabling group discussion and sharing of information.

Many businesses use twitter, some to announce events or changes, some to communicate with other businesses, and some to talk with their customers. Many businesses monitor twitter for mentions of themselves, to promote the positive mentions, and to address the issues in the negative ones.

Twitter is a wonderful tool for organising events and attracting support, an incredibly fast way of getting news hours before the BBC or Sky news catches up, and fantastic for sharing information. Twitter allows the masses to communicate directly with large business and with people in high places.  Only on twitter can you post a message about an organisation or an MP and get a reply from them within a short time. Only on twitter do businesses rush to address any grievances that have been posted up for all to see.