Thing #3: Twitter

What is Twitter?

Twitter is one of the most popular social networking and microblogging services. It allows its users to share information in spurts of 140 characters. Even though it seems like it isn’t enough, much of its popularity is credited to the brevity of the message (or tweet), thus lending itself to going straight to the point. But what exactly does Twitter do? This short video goes straight to the point:

How can I use it?

You need to sign up for an account at and come up with a user name, or twitter handle: the string of letters that goes after the “@” symbol. This is a list of UIUC departmental library twitter accounts to give you an idea:

Once you have your twitter handle you’re pretty much ready to go. Tweeting might seem like a daunting task, or sometimes just plain silly. This depends on what type of information you want to tweet about. Some people tweet about their everyday activites like Oprah Winfrey did just a few hours ago:

While some choose to make their Twitter accounts about their work or their organization. Libraries are well-known for doing this. For example, our own Scholarly Commons regularly tweets about their services to its users. Here are a few examples:

Once you’ve set up your Twitter account and followed the instructions you’re set. Twitter will prompt you to find and follow your friends, and will make suggestions of similarly minded people to follow.

RT? MT? #Whatisthat?

Twitter users know that with the 140 character limit on posts, space is at a premium. These acronyms that oftentimes accompany tweets (RT, MT) are abbreviations of commonly used terms to indicate that the content comes from another source. RT stands for “ReTweet” which means that user A is forwarding user B’s tweet verbatim to its followers. MT stands for “Modified Tweet” to indicate that user A has taken some of user B’s tweet but has added more text to the original tweet.

Finally there is the hash tag, or #funnylooking thing that pops up on tweets everywhere. These are searchable tags that allow all twitter users do a search for content that matches the tag. This is very useful for sharing information pertaining to the same topic for example, a conference like ALA, where attendees agree upon the use of the same hash tag like #ALA2011 for identifying conference tweets. Other folks use these as ironic commentary on their own tweets such as #worstdayinmylife, or the infamous #snowmaggeddon of 2010 just to name a few.

Why Twitter?

Twitter is often criticized for limiting its users to share information in 140-long character spurts. While the brevity of the posts can be a challenge, the speed at which information travels across networks of users can be astonishing. In my own experience I’ve found that I can ask a question to my followers and get a reliable answer in a matter of seconds. For example, I found out on Twitter first when the UIUC campus was closed last winter due to inclement weather,  due to the UIUC homepage and email systems being bogged down by increased traffic.  Meredith Farkas, newly the  Head of Instructional Services at Portland State University in Oregon wrote an interesting post on how she is making the most out of her twitter experience and how she came around to enjoy it.

Task #3

It wouldn’t be a Thing without a Task, would it? This task has two parts:

  1. Think about how you might (or do) use Twitter in your work, and tell us about it. Tell us about it here, or in your own blog (with a trackback or link back to this post).
  2. Create a Twitter account for yourself professionally, or possibly for your unit. Post your Twitter handle in the comments here, so we can all follow the great work we all do.

Useful Resources

Article on Twitter fromWikipedia –

Twitter 101 –

Twitter glossary –

What are hashtags? –

About kantz1503

Archivist, cat enthusiast, home body and chocolate fanatic.
This entry was posted in One Thing at a Time and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Thing #3: Twitter

  1. Thanks for the post on Twitter…I checked out Meredith Farkas’s post as well. The post reflected some of my ideas about twitter and I found the comments to her post especially insightful. ACES doesn’t tweet so far, but I have a personal twitter acct. and, when I get a chance to read it I am always finding interesting and useful information.
    @kittent for personal, professional and random posts

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