Devblog


Archive for November, 2009

How to use Twitter, a beginner’s guide!

Introduction

I had already written this Twitter guide for internal use at VisitSweden when I came across this article: “Twitter is widely adopted by the travel industry” from NewMedia TrendWatch. I thought I would do my little part towards promoting Twitter usage in the travel and tourism industry by making this beginner’s guide to Twitter public.

I hope you’ll enjoy it and find it useful and please feel free to add comments below with feedback and constructive suggestion for improvements.
Thank you!

What is Twitter?

“Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that enables its users to send and read messages known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the author’s profile page and delivered to the author’s subscribers who are known as followers.”
More in depth information about Twitter on Wikipedia

Twitter explained in a short video

This video explains what Twitter is and how it is used by regular people. If you know nothing of Twitter this is a good place to start.

Twitter SEARCH explained in a short video

One of the powerful aspects of Twitter is how it is searchable which allows us to find trends, topics and other people. This video explains this further and is a must to watch.

Using Twitter

Username / URL

A Twitter’s username is shown in the web address as such: http://twitter.com/username

Twitter Search

The direct web address for search on twitter and to look at the current trending topics is http://search.twitter.com/


Find other users and follow them

This page allows you to search for other twitter users (you must be logged in to do this) or to find them through contacts on other networks or to invite by email etc.
http://twitter.com/invitations/find_on_other_networks


Following

Your Twitter Home page will show a “feed” / a list of the tweets of those you are following. If you’re following other users who you find interesting then this page will be a constant source of useful tips and great inspiration for you.

Followers

These are the other Twitter users who are following you and your tweets. Every time you post a tweet it will show up in their Home page, in their following feed.

“Mentions” -- what it is and how to use it.

When a Twitter user writes “@” in front of another user’s name, that user will then get a notification that somebody has posted a tweet mentioning him/her.
This helps to visualize that a public conversation is taking place between certain users. It’s also a way to make another user aware of the fact that you’re talking/mentioning him/her.
Example:

bjarkesvendsen wrote:
Lidt sært, at de seneste dages meget hypede @visitsweden twitter på svensk. Ikke så imødekommende over for turister… 3:56 PM Nov 6th from TweetDeck

Sweden wrote:
@bjarkesvendsen Actually we twitter in English with this account for tourists. With @VisitSweden for the press and tourism ind. 3:58 PM Nov 6th from TweetDeck in reply to bjarkesvendsen

Sweden wrote:
@bjarkesvendsen and every market have gotten their own local twitter account for their language to engage local press. This work starts soon.
4:00 PM Nov 6th from TweetDeck in reply to bjarkesvendsen

bjarkesvendsen wrote:
@Sweden I take back my words! Sorry bout that 4:01 PM Nov 6th from TweetDeck in reply to Sweden

(Notice the time stamps for the tweets in this conversation and how quickly I could discover this negative post and turn it into a positive reaction instead.)

“ReTweets” -- what it is and how to use it.

When a user encounters a good tweet he/she might want to tell others about that tweet. Instead of stealing it and taking the credit for it he/she can make a “Retweet” of it.
By publishing the same tweet but adding the letters “RT” to it the original publisher will be notified that somebody liked the tweet so much that it was retweeted.
This allows a viral spread of interesting tweets while maintaining the chain of twitter users and giving credit where credit is due.
If there are still characters available after adding the “RT” then adding a personal comment is appropriate.
Example:

Utalkmarketing wrote:
David Attenborough spoof to boost VisitSweden Lapland Tourism: VisitSweden has turned to a British outfit to dri.. http://bit.ly/4clA9B
3:40 PM Oct 19th from twitterfeed

Sweden wrote:
RT @utalkmarketing: David Attenborough spoof to boost VisitSweden Lapland Tourism http://bit.ly/4clA9B
3:26 PM Oct 21st from TweetDeck

(Notice that the Retweet (RT) is also a mention (@). Also notice that in this case I failed to add a personal comment…)

“Direct Messages” -- what it is and how to use it

All conversations and tweets on Twitter are public and available for anyone to read, except for “Direct Messages”. This can be compared to an internal message system within Twitter from one user to another, although the 140 character limit still applies.
A direct message is written by adding a “D “ before a twitter username.
Example:

“D tommysollen Hi how are you?”.

This tweet would only be visible to the user “tommysollen”.
This feature might be more commonly used by friends, family and coworkers but rarely in any kind of marketing or pr purpose. If used commercially it would likely be considered spam.

“Hashtags” – what they are and how to use them

It is often appropriate to include a descriptive tag to a tweet to help describe what the tweet is about and thereby group it together with other tweets of the same topic.
Example:

Sweden wrote:
“Blog post about http://CommunityOfSweden.com coming updates http://bit.ly/cos2010 #social #communities #sweden
3:50 PM Nov 2nd from TweetDeck”

This post has three hashtags telling the reader that it has something to do with social, communities and Sweden.

Hashtags are useful when searching Twitter for interesting tweets.
If you were to search for “social” then you will find all kinds of irrelevant tweets including the word “social”. But by adding the hashtag so it becomes “#social” instead it has now become a descriptive tag instead of just a word and you can be sure that hits in the search result will have relevance to social media.

When considering what hashtag to use try a few test searches first and see which one seems to be most actively used already and then proceed with that one.

It’s common for product owners and event organizers to invent a unique hashtag for their product/event in order to easily filter out all twitter posts with relevance for research and evaluation. Do this whenever appropriate.

Tools

Short URL/web address generators

Since a tweet is limited to 140 characters, including any RT, @ or usernames, a web address often threatens to eat up too many characters, barely leaving any characters for any meaningful message. URL shortening services have therefore gotten very popular.
For the purpose of this guide I’m recommending the URL shortening service Bit.ly. You might already have noticed that many of the URLs in the examples above looked something like this: http://bit.ly/4clA9B
Services like Bit.ly take your long URL and makes a unique shorter version of it. They also provide click statistics on your short URL which is very useful.
Example:

Bit.ly click history

Sign up for an account for free here: http://bit.ly/

Twitter client – making all this and more, easy

It might seem daunting to remember all these letter combinations to achieve the desired result and the website of twitter.com can be rather confusing.
It’s no surprise then that there’s cropped up quite a few “Twitter clients” that you can install on your PC windows or Mac and use to interact with Twitter in an easy and user friendly way. Not only do these clients make Twitter easier to use, they also makes it easier for you to visualize the tweets of those you’re following, to stay up to date with your mentions, retweets and direct messages and even saved searches.
Depending on the tool you choose you will also be able to manage several twitter accounts through only one client, without needing to log in and out between them.

For the purpose of this guide I’m recommending the Twitter client “TweetDeck”. TweetDeck is free and available for PC Windows, Mac and even as an iPhone app.

Click the screenshot or here to visit the TweetDeck website. Also visit their help section online for support.

Photos on Twitter -- is it possible?

Yes it is, kind of. You can upload a photo to a website and then link to it in a tweet. There are some services that makes this process quite easy and for the purpose of this guide I’m recommending TwitPic.

If you have a Twitter account then you already have a Twitpic account, just login to Twitpic with your Twitter username and password and you are all set.

You then upload a photo and enter the text you want to show up in your tweet along with the link to the photo. Immediately when the photo is uploaded a tweet will automatically be sent telling your followers of the photo and how to view it.

Click here to visit the TwitPic website.

Sharing files on Twitter – is it possible?

Yes, in the same manner as described regarding photos above.
Here I’d like to recommend the free service FileTwt for file sharing on Twitter.

Click here to visit the FileTwt website.

Twitter etiquette

Finally I’d like to recommend a quick glance at some simple eqiquette guidelines of how to act on Twitter. As a new Twitter user you might have some questions of how to behave in certain situations. Although there is no manual or rules set in stone, here’s a good blog post by Chris Brogan where he’s written a brief and informal Twitter etiquette guide. Enjoy.

Click here to read Chris Brogan’s Twitter etiquette guide

Closing comments

I hope you’ve enjoyed this beginner’s guide to Twitter and found it useful. Please feel free to add comments below with feedback and constructive suggestion for improvements.
Thank you!

Follow me on Twitter:

@tommysollen (my personal Twitter)

@sweden (VisitSweden’s Twitter to travellers

@visitsweden (VisitSweden’s Twitter towards english speaking press

Coming updates for CommunityOfSweden.com

In 2009 we’ve added a widget and groups to CommunityOfSweden.com.
The widget aims to spread community content to other websites, blogs and social networks. The groups provides a new area to interact with other members around a certain topic and shared interests.

Now that we’re planning for 2010 we have a LOT of updates we want to do. Learn about some of them below. I’d love to hear what you think about these updates and if you think something is missing; write about it in the comment section below. Thanks!

Groups

We want to add stories to the groups as well as some more features for paying sponsors such as; group specific widget, messages to the group members and some statistics of group activity. Members should also get notifications when there’s activity in the group.

Tags

Currently there’s no way to edit the tags of any content on CommunityOfSweden.com. This is frustrating when members want to change something and it also prevents us from reaching the full potential of all the great content in the site. The Widget for example finds its relevant content by matching the descriptive tags so… no good tags = no good widget content.

We will implement an open approach to tagging. Everybody will be able to add tags to anybody’s content! This way I hope we’ll get a collaborative effect when we will update and improve not only our own content but also others. Of course the original creator’s tags can’t be removed and he/she will get a notification when tags are added.

Privacy and spam prevention

We currently have a slight problem with spam in CommunityOfSweden.com. Some members register and then start sending guestbook messages to as many othe rmembers as possible. These messages usually sound something like “I came across your profile and…” bla bla and they often have some flirting involved. Some members don’t realize that this is spam and that the message is sent to everyone, instead they think this is actual flirting and that the whole community has become a dating service. This of course reflects very poorly on the community and the spam itself is frustrating so something has to be done.

I’m considering solving this problem by at the same time addressing another concern: privacy.
By giving members the possibility to restrict access to their guestbooks and to the comments on their content to all users or to friends only, we give them options for privacy. If a member restricts access to friends only then the spammers won’t be able to write there either.

I’ll also add “CAPTCHA” to guestbook and comment fields to further discourage spammers.

Included in this update will also be notification settings. Members will be able to choose which notifications they want to recieve by email and which ones they want to turn off.

Widget

I want to add “regions” to the widget. Today we can only choose between all of Sweden or a specific city/geo tag. I want us to be able to select a region like Lapland or the Stockholm archipellago etc. We’ve gotten several requests for this.

Also I want to create versions of the widgets for Facebook, Myspace and other bit social networks.

Coordinates

This is a big and exciting update! I want to put coordinates on all photos and stories in CommunityOfSweden.com. That means we’ll be able to visualize our content on real maps! Wouldn’t that be great? It will make the content more useful too. This might mean the end of geotags in favor of real coordinates. Like with the descriptive tags we’ll probably make the coordinate update process available to everybody so that we can update content with coordinates quickly and not rely on every single member to update only their own content.

Stories

I want to further enhance the great travel stories in CommunityOfSweden.com. Wouldn’t it be great if we could see the whole trip visualized on a map for example? It could be points of interest on a map of Stockholm or even suggested roads and stops on a road trip along the west coast.

Reviews

This will be a very big update where we can write reviews of hotels, restaurants, cafés, museums etc and rate other’s reviews and comment on them. I hope this will be a valuable and inspirational tool when planning trips and activities. This will also be a relevant area to include some online booking options.

Video

Also a very big update. Photos is all fun and good but why stop there? Video is more and more common and often a lot of fun to watch. I’d like to see a partnership with youtube here so that we can all upload videos to our profiles and expand the photo section of the site into a bigger media section containing both photos and videos.

Start page

Today everybody sees the same start page regardless if you’re logged in as a member or just if you’re a guest visitor. This is not optimal.
As guests we have certain needs and expectations and the design and content should reflect this. What is this site? Why should I join? How do I join? Where’s the best content?
As logged in members we have completely different needs and expectations. What’s happened lately? What are my friends doing?
So i want to create new start pages to accomodate these different user needs.

Again: I’d love to hear what you think about these updates and if you think something is missing; write about it in the comment section below. Thanks!