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Social 101: The 5 Ws of Twitter

When you’re making the decision of what social networks to commit time to, it’s best to invest in the ones that will net the greatest value. Twitter is, in my opinion, one of the best. It’s the biggest networking event you’ve ever been to and it’s all virtual. Sounds good, doesn’t it? I think so. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to give everyone the same results. That’s true of any network. Of the major social networks out there, Twitter has the fastest pace. With 200 million registered users tweeting 250 million tweets per day, you can see why the pace is fast. That means that it’s not the best place for everyone to be, but as a Twitter addict I can’t think of many reasons why someone would not benefit from using Twitter.


Anyone interested in exposure to great content, looking to share their own content or connect with others.


I talked in-depth about what Twitter is and what to share last week in my first installment of Social 101. It’s important to remember that how you use Twitter doesn’t have to fit anyone else’s rules or formulas. There are many great resources out there for what, when and how to tweet, but It’s important to remember that social media use is a custom experience for everyone. I use my Twitter account for a mix of personal and business use.

For some, Twitter is exclusively business-oriented or exclusively personal. There are many accounts that do not engage other users at all. They follow very few and never answer mentions. Every use has it’s proponents and critics. Be comfortable with what you’re doing and don’t spam or annoy people and you’ll be fine. Just keep thinking of Twitter as a networking event - that should keep you on track.


There are no hard and fast rules for when to tweet. I jump in and out of Twitter at varying points throughout the day as time allows. You’ll encounter different people going in at different times and that makes your overall experience more interesting. Some check-in once a day. Some never leave. :) The frequency that you’re on Twitter will depend on the balance that works for you. It’s easy to incorporate Twitter into your life without letting it take over.


If you don’t have a cell phone, just use your computer. I know people who’ve deleted social apps from their phones to avoid the temptation of checking them all the time. You don’t need a smartphone to take advantage of Twitter, though. As my friend Lara says, Twitter is like the radio. You turn it on, hear a few tunes and turn it off. You don’t worry about what you miss when it’s turned off.


This is probably the most important question for everyone to ask themselves before joining any social network. But it’s also the hardest to answer before you really grasp how a network works. I spent nearly 8 months on Twitter before it finally clicked in for me. I forced myself to keep going back and figure it out. My reasons had to do with research for work. I used my personal account to figure out how Twitter could benefit the business I worked for and one day, it all fell into place in my mind. Twitter is often like that, which is why I always suggest people start with a personal account rather than jumping in with a business account. The worst thing a business can do is project radio silence on a social network. You’d think people wouldn’t notice with all the other noise, but they do.

Twitter is an essential network. It’s one of the first places I look for a business I’m interested in hearing from or engaging with. But like any social network, you’re better off not having a profile than an inactive one. Join me for Social 101 again next week when I’ll be talking about Twitter Lists!

Part 1 of Demystifying #hashtags: 5 reasons you want to use them

I am a huge fan of hashtags. I try to use meaningful hashtags whenever I can, but I have fun with them too. I'm such a fan of hashtags that I would be totally fine with my email client implementing hashtag support, along with Facebook and every other social network - outside of Twitter (and Google+ soon). See? I'm a devoted fan.

As much as I like them, I recognize that hashtags can be confusing for the uninitiated.

Just what is a hashtag, anyway?

Simply put, it's a word or phrase that is preceded by a hash mark - #, e.g., #socialmedia. Hashtags as we know them today are in use primarily on Twitter though there is support in other places. They make search on subject instantaneous. I see a hashtag in a tweet and I can click on it and search results of every tweet that has that hashtag pop up for me to browse through. For twitter, it provided a much-needed search "engine" that allows users to group tweets together by topic.

Should I use hashtags?

I'm a hashtag fan girl, so you can take my word with a grain of salt, but yes you should definitely use them! And here are five reasons to use them that will enhance your twitter experience:

  1. Community - Many communities around a host of different subjects use hashtags to categorize tweets so the community will see them. Participants in the community can follow the hashtag to see what others are saying and engage the in conversation. One community I have seen that is very active is #w2p, Web 2.0 professionals.

  2. Topical - There are as many topics out there that people are talking about at any given time as there are minutes in the day. Probably more. How do you narrow it down, though, when you're  not following all those people or if you never see the tweets? If you're tweeting about #facebook, throw on a hashtag. #socialmedia is one I use often.

  3. Events - This one is similar to community, but centers around a specific event. Sometimes the hashtag extends outside of the event, but not always. This summer, the organizing committee for the first annual Social Capital Conference used #socapott to promote the conference and then it was our hashtag for conference related tweets. We continue to use it for our regular tweetups as well.

  4. Twitter Chats - One of the most valuable events to participate in on twitter is an organized chat. There are so many twitter chats and they're a great way to connect with other like-minded people and learn from them. Time has been in short supply lately, but my goal is to eventually schedule one a week - they are just that valuable. Participants in the chat, such as #blogchat, use the hashtag to follow the discussion, but it tends to last for a specific period of time.

  5. Causes - Many causes are using hashtags to raise awareness and invite discussion. One that is near and dear to the heart of Ottawans, particularly in the last couple of weeks, is #NoMoreBullies, bolstered further by the recent suicide of Jamie Hubley after years of bullying. Earlier this year, #twestivalOTT was in use to promote the region's largest ever tweetup and raise funds for the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health.

  6. Bonus reason - Fun! - This is your bonus reason for using hashtags and it's one that I've seen discouraged by more than one person. It's not likely to be of any practical use, but editorial comments added to tweets - #coffeestat #whoneedssleep, etc. - can be entertaining.

Hashtags are a great tool for sharing information about topics and connecting with community. Used wisely, they will enhance your twitter experience and you'll get more value out of the time you spend. Next time, I'll dive into part 2 of demystifying hashtags and offer some best practices and tips so you can get even more out of using them!

Do you already use hashtags? Do you find them useful? Do you have any questions about them?