Decoding Twitter

Posted on January 14, 2011


On Thursday, I watched “Decoded” on the History Channel, and on Friday morning I was inspired to connect Twitter with code and mystery.  I think Twitter gets misunderstood alot.  First there’s those darn short codes like: #, RT and cryptic shortened URLs.

That’s not to say PR professionals don’t like or use Twitter. It’s actually the preferred social media tool probably because of its brevity and lower maintenance effort.  One Business Wire blog post by Monika Maeckle talks about a recent survey from December 2010 shows Twitter at 33% and Facebook at 29%.  And I’ll even go out on a limb on say the Facebook relationship is a little dysfunctional with the privacy concerns and constant ‘settings’ changes without notice.

So back to Twitter.  It’s only 140 characters, so it is easy right? Ever try to write compelling copy in 140 characters? Not always so easy.  And those symbols…. WTF?

Ok, some basic best practices: 

  • # is a Hashtag.  When you’re promoting a specific event, product or launch, it’s a great way to repeat a name for more presence.  People can search on your hashtag and follow not only your tweets but any other Twitter conversations.   If you’re going to use them, read the Twitter page on hashtags first because there are a few things you should know. 
    • 1. Keep it short!  This is Twitter; it cries for brevity. People read these things on their phones.  #android is much better than #androidopenhandsetalliance.  Ok, you think no one would ever do that…. but they come close.  You will see hashtags which are actually meant to be part of the tweet. I’m guessing that these are mostly started by people who want to see if they can get it to trend, but you’ll see things like this everyday begging for crowdsource (or to start a riot): #wecanallagreethat and then the your tweet would fill in the blank.  So if you want to try and promote that way, go for it.  I’m not sure how difficult it is.  Just never tried to spark a trend.  So keep it short.  Much shorter than this bullet point. Jeesh!
    • 2. Keep it relevant!  Make sure your hashtag actually says what you want it to say.  I saw one this morning: #madcaproadtrip.  Ok it’s long but it says what it is.  The writer was told it was too long and she changed it to #madcapRT.  Ok, not it’s shorter but it looks like you are retweeting the word madcap now.  Which brings me to my next Twitter code….

  • Retweeting or RT.  Getting a retweet on Twitter is what you want.  Retweeting used  to be a manual process, but now readers needs only click a symbol that resembles the recycle logo and voila!  Your tweet is now part of their feed.  It’s a “like” button for your tweet.  Why is this so great?  If someone took the time to retweet to their followers, they see you as a trusted resource. So trusted that they now made you part of their own feed and they want their friends to see this.  And what better recommendation than through a friend. 
  • @ and Mentions: The @ symbol is what you use in front of a Twitter username.  I like to call it Twitter Handle. (Ok, you found me out. 10-4) If you use the @ symbol in a tweet, it will make a link to a twitter user. So make sure you put a space in there after it if that’s not what you want or say. Or if you are mentioning another Twitter user or replying you’ll see this: @rosiemedia you are so crazy!  The @+rosiemeda will make an automatic link to the Rosiemedia Twitter feed.  Mentions are when you talk about another Twitter user.  And you got it… if you’re promoting a brand you want lots of mentions.  You can search on mentions.  Just type your Twitter Handle into the Search box and you’ll see any tweets with your username in it.
  • Search.  The search is Twitter is really powerful and not mysterious.  But it’s not always the most well known feature.  The best part is that you can save any search you create.  So if you’re following a brand or a person over time, you have it handy to you.  I like that you can even just do a general search for tweets near you.  Although I’m not sure it paints a real picture of what’s going on in your neighborhood…. or does it? 

So there you go.  As Brad Metzler from Decoded might say, “We’ve looked at these symbols whenever we log into Twitter and now they hold a whole new meaning.”  Well, he might say that.  Probably not.

Posted in: Social Media