An extract (via Mashable) of The Uk Governments Doc instucting the politicians on how to use Twitter
for more twitter 101-also see here
What is Twitter?
Twitter works like this:
You create an account.
Your account comprises your username and password, avatar image, optional background image to display behind your page
You find interesting people to follow, and they can choose to follow you back. Other Twitter users may also initiate contact by following you. This will include your reallife friends and contacts, but it is also normal Twitter etiquette to follow/be followed by people who you do not know offline.
In this way, unlike many social networks Twitter is a powerful way of building a network, making new introductions and accessing interesting and varied content. (Use by institutions is different - see corporate policy on following, above).
You post updates of up to 140 characters in length. You can do this using a variety of applications over the web on your computer or mobile phone.
Everyone who is following you can read your updates. People can also subscribe to your updates using the RSS feed (this means they can receive your updates via their preferred feed reader software or browser start page, without using Twitter), or see them in the Twitter public timeline
Twitter updates are usually in the form of an answer to the imaginary question: “What are you doing now” or “What holds your attention now”? This will often include links to other websites (using link shortening services such as tinyurl.com).
Two useful terms often used to describe this activity are “microblogging” – blogging in miniature by posting short updates throughout the day about thoughts and findings of interest – and “hyper-connectedness” – the idea of being in constant contact with your network and aware of what holds their attention right now.
Your Twitter stream (the information you see when you use Twitter) is made up of your own updates and those of all the Twitter users you are following.
Other users will see their own streams, which display the updates of the users they are following. Therefore what you see is not the same as what other users will see.
Users interact with each other in the following ways:
@Reply. You can reply to an update posted by another user in your Twitter stream by clicking the reply button or typing @ and then their username at the start of the message. Anyone following you will see this reply, irrespective of whether they are already following the recipient. (This is one of the ways in which users find new people to follow, as you are effectively introducing that person to your followers by showing his/her username and engaging them in conversation).
DM. You can send Direct Messages to individual users, provided you are ‘friends’ (i.e., you are both following each other). These are private and can only be seen by the sender and recipient.
Re-tweeting. Because people have different networks of followers, it is common to repeat interesting tweets from your own stream for the benefit of all of your followers, preceding it with “Re-tweet:” or just “RT” for short. You do not need permission to do this – it is considered a compliment to the originator to repeat their content.
Hashtags. You can include keywords in your updates in order to associate those updates with a particular event, movement, current trend or issue by adding a hash sign (#) in front of a word.
For example at events Twitter users will often agree a common tag to identify themselves to each other and form a Twitter ‘back channel’ for that event.
Tagging tweets enables users to collaboratively document a cultural happening, and aggregate all tweets containing that tag on another medium – for example on a blog, projected on screen at the event, or displayed on a map as a visual representation of what is being said in different places about the same issue. •
The Twitter website itself is not the only (or even the main) way that users access or post updates to their Twitter accounts. The majority of Twitter access is via mobile devices (such as Twitter applications on the iPhone), third party desktop applications (such as TweetDeck or Thwirl), web browser plugins (such as Twitterfox) or widgets on personalised homepages (such as iGoogle, Pageflakes or Netvibes).
It is also possible (and popular) to include photos and videos in your messages using third party add-ons, such as TwitPic. Your Twitter updates can also be integrated with your other social media profiles – for example you can use Twitter to edit your Facebook status updates and show your Twitter updates on your blog, if you have one.
Why is Twitter important?
It’s a place where news often breaks - e.g. Hudson river plane crash, Mexico earthquakes, Michael Jackson's death, It’s establishing itself as the main source of live update information – e.g. safety and travel info during the Mumbai terror attacks in Nov 2008; school closures during the heavy UK snow in Feb 2009; spread and prevention of Swine Flu in the UK. Trending:
As everything being discussed on Twitter is by its nature happening now, it is increasingly being used as a way of monitoring and reporting on trends.
Top trends are shown on the right hand side of every Twitter user’s stream, and tracked by other tools (examples include Retweetist, Twitturly and Twitvision).
For example, during the government's Digital Britain Summit on 17 April 2009, #digitalbritain
appeared at position 5 in the top 10 trending list on Twitter itself – further raising the profile and discussion around the event.
Search Engine Optimisation – because it is updated frequently, Twitter content ranks highly on Google, and is therefore an increasingly important way to generate traffic and disseminate messages online.
Stats on Twitter usage Nielsen stats from Feb 2009 at http://www.twistimage.com include the following:
1,382% year-over-year growth.
Total unique visitors grew from 475,000 in Feb 2008 to seven million in Feb 2009.
Twitter is not just for kids: In February 2009, adults ages 35-49 had the largest representation on Twitter - almost 3 million unique visitors from this age group (almost 42% of the entire audience). 62% of the audience access Twitter from work only, while only 35% access it only from home. This could suggest a trend towards professional use.
Hitwise stats from http://weblogs.hitwise.com include the following: • •
Twitter receives the largest amount of its traffic from the USA, but its penetration is greater in the UK market Twitter is becoming an important source of Internet traffic for many sites, and the amount of traffic it sends to other websites has increased 30-fold over the last 12 months.
Almost 10% of Twitter’s downstream traffic goes to News and Media websites,17.6% to entertainment websites, 14.6% goes to social networks, 6.6% to blogs and 4.5% to online retailers.
APPENDIX E –
Twitterverse or Twittersphere or Statusphere - the universe/world sphere of Twitter (cf. blogosphere)
Tweet – an update on Twitter, comprising a message of up to 140 characters, sometimes containing a link, sometimes containing a picture or video. Also a verb: to tweet, tweeting.
Reply or @Reply – a message from one user to another, visible to anyone following the user who is giving the reply. Also visible to the entire world (and search engines) in your Twitter profile page.
Direct message or DM – a message from one user to another in private (not visible to other users, the internet or search engines).
Re-tweet or RT – repeating a message from another user for the benefit of your followers and in recognition of its value (the Twitter equivalent of forwarding an email)
Twitter client or application – software on your mobile phone or computer that you use to access Twitter. Popular clients are the Twitter website itself, Tweetdeck desktop software and a number of iPhone applications.
Micro-blogging – the term given to the practice of posting short status updates via sites like Twitter (there are others, but none as big)
Follower – someone who has subscribed to read your tweets. Displayed on Twitter as: “Following” “Follower” “Friend” The people that you follow on Twitter Someone who follows you on Twitter Someone who you follow that also follows you.
Twitter API – Twitter is an ‘open platform’ meaning other people can develop tools (software and websites) which use the Twitter functionality and the published content (all the stuff that’s displayed publicly on twitter.com, but not users’ private messages or personal information). The API (application programming interface) is the publicly available information used by coders to do this. It enables sites like Tweetminster, Twittergrader and Hootsuite and applications like Tweetdeck to be created.
For more info and tips on networking with Twitter - see here