...and every sports fan for that matter.  To be quite honest, I think every person that has a passion for something, or wants to utilize social media to enhance their business should be on Twitter.  The first question I always get when I start talking about Twitter is, "why should I use that?" and the 1st statement usually is "I don’t get Twitter."  If you're in that mindset, you're not alone.  If you're already a regular Twitter user, you're ahead of the curve, and should probably get a Google+ account, just in case it takes off. 

I have more and more friends and colleagues ask me every day what the purpose of Twitter is.  For me, it's the fastest possible way to gain and share information.  If you're used to Facebook, you need to look at things a different way.  With Facebook, you typically put things out there to get comments back, with Twitter, you're getting so much more information, and you're probably not getting as many comments back (at least when you 1st start).  It's about engaging people into conversations. Facebook is generally a community for your friends and family to interact with one another, whereas Twitter is a place to disseminate news and information, and facilitate discussion about topics people are passionate about.

The great thing about Twitter is that they're people that have the same interests as you.  I have over 1200 friends on Facebook, and I'd say that probably about 15% of them care about the #1 love in my life, Gopher Hoops.  Since I am from Wisconsin, and we Sconnies are loyal, I would say that about 50% of them love the Packers…..however, I don’t write about the Packers and where that's a crowd I love to engage, but not as much as Gopher fans.  When I look at my Twitter following I'm over 1300 followers, and I'd say about 70% of my followers follow me because of a shared interest in the Gophers.  What this means is when you lose the last 10 out of your 11 basketball games, and your wife, husband, friends, and family think you're crazy for being down in the dumps, saying the name talking about recruiting in your sleep, and constantly talking about "next year,” there are hundreds of people I can console, commiserate with, and sometimes argue with that share the same pain.

Beyond building a community, it's the fastest and easiest way to receive information.  I say that because you don't have to be at a computer or a TV or radio, you can get an application on your phone and it's as easy to read as a text….and takes less time to load than if you were browsing the internet on your iPhone.  The need for fast information is exactly why www.GopherHole.com has gotten so popular.  Media members have to verify their facts and write their stories.  While that is happening, someone close to the situation can post the rumor on GopherHole, and a lot of the times, it's correct.  I remember the day that Glen Mason got fired, I was in Orlando that day and got a call from my work husband at GopherHole that he was gone.  All of my friends doubted me because it wasn't up on the Star Tribune, Pioneer Press, ESPN, or any news station yet.  Sure enough, it had just made it to GopherHole first.  Multiply that times 100, and you've got the speed that information travels at on Twitter.  With that speed, you also have to have the common sense to sift out information that may not be true.  You can't have it all - but it is the best way to get information wherever you are. 

Beyond just information that you learn, people give great advice.  I've been able to just put a question out there about how to find a bouncy to how to put a highlight reel together, where to find a waterproof sleeve for a kid in a cast, any recipe you could think of, and that's just from typing out 140 characters.  I'm sure my Mom is relieved that it's cut down on my calls to her at dinnertime asking about a recipe, because I can get responses for just about any question I ask in minutes.  If you build a big enough network, it can become a great resource to you. 

Another thing I love about Twitter is the fact that it's very non-intrusive.  If you tweet a comment to someone, they can reply directly back to you - it's not like commenting on a Facebook picture where everyone and their grandma comments on how "cute" a baby is, or "congrats" on an engagement.  You get the notification only when they reply to you. 

I know what you’re thinking – I don’t have time for Twitter.  That’s the thing, you can do as much or as little as you want.  I have friends that read every single tweet from every person they follow.  I am not one of them.  I don’t ever “catch up” on tweets, and I think that’s when some people feel overwhelmed and on an information overload.  I just read when I’m online or have a few minutes to scroll through on my phone.  Once you get Twitter set up it really takes as long to do as writing a text, it will become habit. 

So, if you're convinced that Twitter is something you'd like to look into, let me share with you the tips I've learned over the past two years of Tweeting.  I think that is one of the biggest frustrations with many that I speak to; they sign up for Twitter and don't know how to use it, so they don't ever log back into it after they create their account. 

How do I get started?

Create a Twitter account at www.twitter.com - choose your Twitter handle.  I prefer when people use their full names.  It gives you more credibility and people will take you more seriously.  I also can never remember anyone's cutesy moniker, so if I'm out and about and think of tweeting someone, and it's @Go4ers4lyfe instead of @BobSmith it's much more difficult.  Complete your profile too, add a bio so people will know by looking at your profile if they want to follow you, and upload a photo.  If you do want to stay anonymous, that's okay too.  Just know that people like me will assume you are a 40 year old mouth breather living in your parents' basement—not that there's anything wrong with that ;).  You will also have the option of making your profile public or private.  I look at Twitter as a public platform, so I recommend making your profile public, but that's just me, I keep my Facebook for only friends to see, and Twitter public.  Keep in mind, if it is public, don't tweet anything you wouldn't want your boss or Mom to read. 

Should I link it to my Facebook or LinkedIn?

I don't think this is a good idea.  Twitter is quick bursts of information, and it has a completely different purpose than Facebook and LinkedIn.  In order to really utilize social media, especially if it is for business, is to maximize each platform.  For me I keep Facebook more personal, Twitter more sports and current events related, and LinkedIn more professional.  You can link them if you decide to do so, through the applications listed below. 

Do I need do download any applications?

I would advise you do so.  As much as I love Twitter, I find the Twitter for Blackberry and iPhone apps to be horrible, as well as the web version of Twitter. 

  • On your iPhone download Echofon or Hoot Suite
  • On your Droid download Tweetdeck or Hoot Suite
  • On your Blackberry download UberSocial or Hoot Suite
  • On your desktop or laptop, download Tweetdeck or Hoot Suite.  I use Tweetdeck once you tweet from it, you'll never go back, it's so easy. You can set up whichever columns you like - who you follow, who replies to you, direct messages, any search like "Gophers" that you like.  With the web version of Twitter, you cannot add comments to retweets, with Tweetdeck you can.  Another benefit of having Tweetdeck it is automatically shortens your links for you.  So instead of having a link that takes up almost 140 characters of your tweet, it will shorten it for you so you can still add your comment.  The mobile apps do this as well, but it’s not automatic, you have to select to shorten the URL. 

How do I find people to follow?

You won't get much from it until you start following people.  So go through the follow lists of me and other people with similar interests.  If you love Gopher Basketball, look up Myron P. Medcalf (@GophersBBGuy) and look at who he follows, and follow the people you are interested it. If you want to start following some of the Gopher Football players, start following MarQueis Gray @goldengopherqb5 and look at the list he follows and interacts with.  If you love Gopher Football, follow the official Gopher Football twitter @GoldenGopherFB  and who they follow.  Once you get a list you like, you won't even pick up a paper (unless it’s the Star Tribune, of course), all the info you're interested in will be in 140 characters, and within seconds of it happening.  Many times they will also post the link to the breaking news, so you will be directed to the website for the full article, instead of having to search for it.

How do I actually Tweet?

It's very easy, you can begin a new tweet and post anything that comes to your mind.  It can be a current event you just heard about, a comment on the last play of the game, or a question. 

Replying - make sure you always hit the reply button on the tweet you're replying to.  That way, they know what comment you're referencing.

•Retweeting - there's a new and old retweet.  The "new" one doesn't let you add your comment, this is a good option when it would be too many characters to retweet.  I like the original one.  So basically, you hit retweet and it will come up like this:  RT @NadineBabu today was a good day.  So - if you want to add your comment, do it before the RT, or they will not know where the original comment ended.  So yours would look like:  Yes it is RT @NadineBabu today was a good day. 

What is a “#” and when do I use them?

That is a hashtag, and this is a very common question asked about Twitter. Use a hashtag before a keyword that you’re using to make it a topic on Twitter.  If you actually click on a hashtagged word, it will show you all the other tweets in that category.  For example, I always hashtag #Gophers, making it easy to search for.  You can also create permanent searches for hashtags, once again, I have one set up for the Gophers, so at a glance, I can see anyone that tweeted about them.  Another way you’ll see hashtags used is when creating a saying like #RememberWhen or #ICan’tLiveWithout.  Sometimes these phrases end up trending, and people use them to tweet their experience and use the hashtag at the end.  Don’t over use hashtags though, one or two in a tweet is enough.  You will notice if you get addicted to Twitter (as I have) that you will start using hashtags in your texts and emails…that’s how you know you’re hooked! 

The last piece of advice, TWEET!  Yes, you can just stalk on Twitter and watch everyone else converse and have fun, but while you will get a lot of great information, you'll get a whole lot more out of it if you tweet.  I have good friends I don’t follow on Twitter because they haven’t sent a tweet in 9 months. With that being said, follow me and engage me in conversations, you can practice on me or ask questions.  I'm pretty good at responding to most of my tweets.  Consider yourself forewarned, I tweet a LOT.  Many unfollow me during gamedays and March Madness because I'm a little out of control! 


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