Tweet! This bird flies online

By Paromita Pain, Joan Cook Fellow

There are two kinds of people in the world—the Twitter veterans and the Twitter newbies. The Twitter session at the JAWS CAMP tech training had space for both. Trainers Cindy Richards and Jackie Spinner emphasized that Twitter can be easy once you know how to use it.

The discussions started with issues of identity. Branding on Twitter is important and how we want to be known in the Tweet space is our personal choice.

But as Spinner said, “Using your name makes it easier to find you.

Tweeter technology
Jackie Spinner, Twitter Basics – Photo by Nina Zacuto

For those getting their news out there or using Twitter as a social media tool, its best to be known by your byline name.” And she has an important point. She was one of the earliest adopters of Twitter and signed up as @spinonspin playing on her last name. When she was covering the Arab Spring last year, people came up to her asking if she was “spin on spin.” “That’s when I really wished I had signed up with my name,” she says. “It doesn’t pay to be cute on something as public as Twitter.”

The importance of Twitter today is underlined when you see that some of last year’s greatest news stories, like the death of the Osama Bin Laden, were broken on Twitter, in 140 characters, by people who weren’t trained journalists.

The session continued with an explanation about TweetDeck. A simple application that interfaces with the Twitter API to allow users to send and receive tweets and view profiles, it’s easier than logging onto Spinner had some great advice for those starting out: “Don’t get overwhelmed by the many ways you can do this. Just use till you get comfortable. It’s not complex. Think of it as texting short hand.”

Participants also had questions about hashtags and how to ignore certain people. Knowing how to use the drop-down action menu can also be useful. “Be careful here,” says Spinner. “Screen grabs ensure that your Tweet never goes away.”

It’s important to self-edit. Richards, editor of, says,Re-tweeting is an important way to get followers.” Uploading a photo and filling out a profile is a great way to ensure that people find you. Scheduling Tweets even when you can’t get to it actually helps you tweet even when you aren’t really. “Be a good human being on Twitter,” says Richards. “Always thank people if they re-tweet or start following you.”

“For those just starting out,” says Richards, “The best way is to follow people, and people automatically follow you.” You could set up your account to automatically follow those who follow you. “Remember it’s an ongoing dialogue here,” says Richards. “Quotes and clever stuff works best here. They are the ones that get re-tweeted, and you pick up followers.”

Now applications are making Twitter a more mature medium. Apps like GioFeedia allows you to type the address of anyone in specified geo locations to see what everyone is tweeting.

However, an overreliance on Twitter could be problematic. For example, Richards said, “Twitter can serve as a news source sheet. It doesn’t absolve you from fact checking.”