A good friend of mine who is also a social networking expert contacted me the other day and told me I had to stop saying “twittering” and say “tweeting.”
Well, she’s right. I was using the wrong term. However, I was actually doing that on purpose.
Before I tell you why, let me give you some background information. Right now, Facebook has 150 million users, Linked In has 34 million and Twitter has 4.4 million. I don’t have the numbers for MySpace, the last I heard it was still the biggest, but at least in terms of business use, a lot of people have moved away from MySpace to the other platforms.
Now, there are thousands of social networking sites out there, but (as expected) a pecking order is starting to emerge. That doesn’t mean things won’t change in a few months, but for now, many business folks are focusing on the big 3 — Facebook, Twitter and Linked In.
Of those 3, Twitter has the least amount of users right now, although it’s growing very quickly. But, the difference between 150 million and 4.4 million, or even 34 million and 4.4 million is substantial. Clearly when you look at all the people at the social networking dance, a lot of them haven’t figured out the Twitter 2-step yet.
Now, that in itself isn’t a problem, but of all the social networking sites, Twitter has the most specialized vocabulary. So, this all adds up to me using the wrong words because I want to make it easier for people new to Twitter to grasp what I’m saying. (Besides, I actually hate some of the Twitter vocabulary — tweets? Peeps? Have we descended to the level of chickens and are now all hanging out in a giant hen house? But I digress.)
However, after considering it, I’ve decided my friend is right and I need to start using the correct terminology. Therefore, I decided to provide a short primer on what you’ll discover when you venture on Twitter.
First, what is Twitter? Officially, Twitter is called micro-blogging. I call it instant messaging on steroids. In a nutshell, you have 140 characters (including spaces) to say what you want to say. Twitter’s prompt on what you should be saying is “What are you doing right now?” While that is still a viable thing to talk about (after all, there’s a reason why reality television is so popular, we’re all extremely interested in other people’s lives) that’s not all you can do with Twitter. You can have conversations with people, provide tips and quotes, promote other people’s products/services/events and promote your own products/services/events.
Every time you type a comment, it’s called a Tweet. When you’re communicating with people on Twitter it’s called Tweeting.
If you see an RT or ReTweet, it means someone is repeating someone else’s Tweet. And, because people on Twitter want to give credit where credit is due, the person they’re ReTweeting has the @ sign with their Twitter name (so, for instance, if they’re ReTweeting me, you’ll see @MichelePW)
You also see that @MichelePW when people are having a conversation with each other. And, it’s not people but Peeps (although this is a little confusing because when people are following your tweets they’re called Followers.)
If you want to have a private message with someone, then you can Direct Message them, or DM them. (Note, I’d still be a little careful with your DMs as there have been times when that feature stops being private and instead turns into being publicly broadcast.)
Lastly, you’ll also notice a great deal of shorthand in those Tweets, for instance “u” for “you” and “r” for “are” because you have only 140 characters.
Hopefully this primer can get you started on the right foot so you don’t embarrass yourself on the Twitter dance floor.