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Dear MMB: Twitter me this

Dear MMB:

Loved your entry on how to link blog updates with Twitter & Facebook. Brilliant!

Along the same lines, I was wondering if you could write a post on a basic introduction of how to effectively use Twitter? With all the @, #, etc., it can get quite confusing – let alone not missing an update by anyone!

Everybody keeps talking about the awesome-ness of Twitter, but I feel out of the loop – probably because I feel a bit lost on it.


Well Jo, I have to admit that I am a twitter novice too. I had no idea how to answer your questions, so I asked the veteran, Jane from Seagull Fountain. She let it slip to me recently at a blogging conference we were both attending, that she is a twitter genius. She even made a presenatation at BYU on twitter and social networking. Who better to answer your questions that an expert?

Take it away, Jane.

Ah, Twitter. There are so many skeptics. But think of it this way -- where Facebook is great for connecting with old friends, Twitter is great for making new ones -- both for business-networking-type purposes and for friendship (and you can hook up your accounts so what you say on Twitter automatically goes on your Facebook status update too, or not).

There's a pretty vibrant Mommy Twitter scene (in Utah and around the world), and it's fun to check in for a few minutes here and there during the day and see what's on people's minds. Sometimes when I'm stuck for a word or need a recommendation, I turn to Twitter instead of Google, and the whole old-news thing about (especially stay-at-home-)moms using the Internet for some much-needed adult interaction during the day is doubly true for Twitter.

Twitter makes the world at once bigger and smaller. I met hilarious Charlotte (@latermom) on Twitter because she follows Stephanie (@sahans), who I met on Twitter and then bonded with at the South Jordan Chick-Fil-A and several local blogger events. Anyway, Charlotte (who I haven't met IRL yet) turns out to have been the college roommate of my friend Tara's (@WellRndedWoman) good friend Susan (@bbbforme). Charlotte lives in Maine, Stephanie and I live in Utah, and Tara and Susan live in Arizona. We talk to Natasha (@SomethingGirl) who lives in Canada, and Kirsty (@kirstyt) who lives in Australia.

During General Conference a couple weeks ago, 1400 members around the globe used the hashtag (keyword) #ldsconf to spread faith, doctrine, and good feeling. The church is pretty progressive about asking us to be a presence for good on the internet and in social media. Of course you should only do it if you enjoy it, and you shouldn't neglect your real life, but the friendships you make can become real, whether you meet at a Polynesian-sauce-fueled tweetup, or just dream of someday finding out whether Charlotte's six kids really are as crazy as they sometimes sound.

For some basic how-to's and links to other resources, check out the podcast and post on Twitter that I presented at BYU several months ago.

And to answer your specific questions:

@ = The marker of a Twitter handle. I'm @seagullfountain, so to respond to me or mention me, or to make sure that I see a tweet of yours, you'd include @seagullfountain somewhere in the tweet. If you put @seagullfountain at the very beginning, then only people who follow both you and I will see the tweet; if you put it anywhere else in your message, then everyone following you will see it.

# = The marker (hashtag) for a keyword. You can search Twitter (a search box is now on the Twitter sign-in page) for anything you're interested it. It's a good way to find people to follow. Say, for example you want to follow people who talk about their cats -- search for "cats" or "#cats." The # sign isn't actually necessary for the keyword recognition, but it lets other people know that you're talking about some proper thing (see the @ldsconf example), kind of like a boolean search term.

If you've used Facebook before, Twitter is simple. The most important thing is finding good people to follow and getting them to follow you back. I no longer automatically follow people back if I don't recognize their names, but whenever anyone responds to me (by using the @seagullfountain marker), I check out their profile and almost always start following them back. Twitter is a conversation, and the more you make real conversation, the funner it is.

Good luck, and let me know your handle when you join! (And if you have any other questions, I'd be happy to answer them!)

You can read more from Jane on her wildly famous blog, Seagull Fountain, or follow her witty tweets on Twitter-- @seagullfountain

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