Enjoying Twitter 101

There’s little surprise that QI host Stephen Fry was one of the first major cheerleaders for tweeting. Twitter isn’t in itself very interesting – but becomes interesting through being a source and user-driven broadcaster of interesting things from its users.

I hesitate to use the word recipe. Recipes involve doing things precisely and in order – Twitter is more like “just whack a bit of it in”. It doesn’t matter much as to the proportion, as long as you do them regularly and often.

  1. Follow interesting people and engage with them.
  2. Tweet things you find interesting, and you think others would find interesting. Don’t be shy about it either.
  3. Propagate current interesting news, witter or events. (Either tweet your own spin on it, or retweet it for others who follow you.)

Twitter’s smartest move is the ease of following and unfollowing people. It’s easy to take a punt on an unknown person; should they be dull outside of a few choice tweets you can unfollow them quickly and easily with a minimum of social baggage. Following people who are experts in your interests gives a rich tapestry of interesting stuff of the here and now. Engaging with them benefits everyone – since those who are interested can join in the conversation.

Journalists tend to do well – the providers of regular digested news, gossip, astute commentary, pithy back and forth chatter and links to some of the most interesting stuff on the Internet. 140 characters need not be a limitation. It is sufficient for a single, carefully-considered thought, point or counterpoint – any one of which can be the beginning of an interesting, multi-dimensional tapestry of chatter within or around the here and now.

Trending topics are little pieces of text about which a lot of people have taken a sudden interest. These are mostly inane, but occasionally provide interesting social data on current issues and interests.

One of the interesting hacks that emerged from Twitter early on was the concept of hashtagging, and using Twitter’s search to find common chatter. They were adopted, and now are part of the common Twitter lexicon.

Hashtags unify disparate commentary on commonly discussed current affairs – using a common shibboleth which begins with a hash sign (#). Reading live updates, adding your own chatter, retweeting points for your followers – it all contributes to a rich source of interesting media.

They range from silly word-punning games [0], through current happenings across the globe, to live television commentary from some of the wittiest, most enthusiastic and passionate people. The #bbcqt hashtag is for BBC Question Time, a UK political discussion show which covers the issues of the week with politicians, commentators and its audience. Add the drinking game, and it’s like having a busy pub discussion with thousands of people.

It’s all Quite Interesting.

You can reach me at @scott_eff.

[0] – Recent example: #popleveson. Write a tweet in the style of Robert Jay QC – lead counsel to the Leveson Inquiry – to a pop-star using their songs as submitted evidence.


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