Eric B & Rakim: Social Media Pioneers?
Fans of Golden Age Hip Hop will no doubt be familiar with the adage, ‘it’s not where you’re from, it’s where you’re at’. If you’re not, do yourself a favour and check out this classic performance of I Know You Got Soul by Eric B & Rakim to find out what it’s all about.
Less well known, but no less important when it comes to maintaining your credibility whe using Twitter effectively, is to not only where you’re at, but where you place your @. Please forgive the rather tenuous link to vintage hip hop but I couldn’t think of a better way of introducing what could be a fairly dry topic.
Twitter Rules of Engagement: Following and Being Followed
Unlike Facebook, Twitter works on the basis of Followers rather than Friends. This means with Twitter you can choose to follow (and receive updates from) people without them having to accept you as their friend. That means you can quietly chuckle along to the musings of @richardosman from the TV quiz show Pointless, irrespective of whether he deems you sufficiently interesting to follow back.
So far so simple. But a question I am often asked in the course of my work is who can see the Tweets you send. The answer I give usually starts off with ‘that depends’.
On a basic level, people who follow you on Twitter will see your messages in their Timeline. So if for example you have 20 Followers, your message will potentially be read by 20 people.
Things get a little more complicated, however, when it comes to replying to other people’s Tweets and/or mentioning other people by their Twitter username in a message. Please allow me to explain.
Right To Reply
Twitter is all about having conversations, not simply broadcasting your thoughts to the world (that’s the theory, anyway). As such, replying to people is key to using Twitter effectively.
When you hit Reply to someone the first thing you’ll see in your message box is their Twitter name. For example, if you were to Reply to a Tweet I had sent, you would first see @francisclarke, followed by some space to write your comment and/or share a link to a picture, video or web page.
@francisclarke Interesting blog post about how to use Twitter more effectively. Next time why not write a shorter article, though!
In this scenario, who can see the message you sent?
The answer is the person who you are replying to plus any Followers you have who follow both you and the person you are replying to.
To go back to the @richardosman example, if I were to reply to one of Richard’s Tweets, he would see my message in his timeline. However, my Followers and his Followers would only see my message in their timeline if they just so happened to follow both Richard and I.
When you think about it, this is actually a really helpful feature of Twitter. After all, just because you follow me it doesn’t mean you’re interested in seeing a conversation between myself and a quiz show celeb. It’s just possible you might have better things to do with your time.
The Difference Between a Reply and a Mention
But what about those occasions when you want to bring your Followers into an interesting conversation or make them aware of an opportunity? For example, you might want to publicly thank someone for the work the help they’ve given you introduce that person to your Followers, so that they can discover them, too. In this situation, you need to move your @ in order to create a Mention.
Mentions work differently to Replies. With a Reply, the person’s name is listed at the start of a Tweet whereas with a Reply the person’s name is placed in the middle of your message.
For example, if you want to tell your Followers about this post and encourage them to follow me to discover more helpful tips in future you would write something along the lines of this:
Just read an interesting post from @francisclarke on how to use Twitter more effectively, You should def check out his work!
Were you to send this message (and please don’t feel you have to send this exact message!) then ALL of your Followers would see your message, not simply those who already follow me.
Mentions are a great way of bringing your Followers into a conversation and making them aware of issues you are passionate about. As with anything in life, however, you should think about how and when you choose to use the Mention function, so that your Folllowers are not overwhelmed by content they are not interested in.
Share Your Tips
I hope you’ve found this post useful. I’ve only scraped the surface when it comes to online storage. Please feel free to contact me if you have any tips or suggestions for any web-based tools, services or shortcuts you think more people should know about. I will look to take on-board your suggestions and share them with my class and in future posts.