How do I get into Twitter?
March 12, 2012 12:18 PM   Subscribe

Are you into twitter? If so, how did you get into it and who did you follow? Do you use it more with friends or celebrities? I hear a lot of people say they like twitter, but I never seem to have quite gotten it.

I'm curious about both who to follow, what software to use (I am currently using the browser version on both my phone and computer), etc.

Interests (off the top of my head) include:
  • Cooking
  • Politics (I'm a liberal and I tend to prefer nuance to pithy one-liners about how the other party is wrong)
  • Gardening
  • Programming (I really like python, but I'm familiar with a few more languages)
  • Motivational advice (mainly, just stuff to get me to get up from the computer and do something).
  • Knitting/Crochet
  • Electronics (as in DIY soldering, not shiny gadgets)
  • Some science (Preferably not the sensationalist type that claims AIDS cures are almost ready every single week).
If it helps, I also really like Google Plus and niche social networks like Ravelry and Good Reads. I use facebook to keep in touch with most friends, and only know a handful of people from real life on Twitter, and they're not very active.
posted by mccarty.tim to Computers & Internet (33 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
PS: By celebrities, I mean "interesting people you don't know personally."

Not the Kardashians.
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:21 PM on March 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

I tend to use it to keep track of friends and the occasional novelty account and use it mostly to coordinate with groups of people, jokey riffs, or passing amusing thoughts. I tend to view it as a kind of public asynchronous chat room, but some people use it more for updates or as a way of collecting interesting links.
posted by The Whelk at 12:21 PM on March 12, 2012

I am very into it, but it is a one way thing for me. I rarely Tweet. I get a lot of sports information on it, read some stock mkt stuff, follow some comedy snark stuff and some local news sites like my local Patch guy. I don't know if any of my meatspace friends are even on it to tell you the truth.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:24 PM on March 12, 2012

I'm on Facebook, so I don't make a point to follow actual friends on Twitter. Anyone I know who regularly uses Twitter is going to be on Facebook too. Chances are, they'll have their Twitter posts automatically cross-posted on Facebook.

Try Googling for [twitter cooking], [twitter knitting], etc. And try searching for past AskMetafilter questions about Twitter feeds on certain topics. For instance, there have been AskMe threads on motivational or inspirational Twitter feeds.
posted by John Cohen at 12:29 PM on March 12, 2012

The majority of the folks I follow on Twitter live in my city and work in my industry (web development).

I didn't really "get" Twitter until I started actively conversing with people using it. Keeping my followers focused and local means I have relevant things to chat about.

I also follow a few novelty accounts, one of them being a bot I wrote based on the book Foucault's Pendulum: @abotlafia
posted by stungeye at 12:30 PM on March 12, 2012

I use Tweetdeck in Chrome. Sort of by default more than deciding it is the best method. Works for me so why mess with it sort of reasoning.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:33 PM on March 12, 2012

I am an academic dabbling on the edge of digital humanities, and Twitter is huge. I tend to follow people who are doing interesting things in the field and passing along links to projects and tools and the like. I find them by searching for tags (in my case #digitalhumanities, #digitalhistory, etc., plus conference-specific hashtags). When I come to recognize someone's Twitter name because they have tweeted enough good stuff, I click on their name and look a their Twitter stream.

I am fairly picky about who I follow, however. A lot of folks using Twitter, even academics, mix "Interesting website animating 19th century stereographs" type tweets with messages about what they ate for breakfast. Because there is such an infinity of people to follow, I look for a really strong signal-to-noise ratio. I regularly unfollow people just because I am getting too many tweets already and want to make room to follow someone new.

I don't tweet an awful lot, probably zero to three times a day. Mostly links to cool stuff I have found (a lot of it here) and retweets of cool stuff other people have found.

BTW, I use Tweetdeck for all my Twitter needs.
posted by LarryC at 12:36 PM on March 12, 2012

Politicswise, I very much enjoy the tweets of my local Congressperson (and also the Congresspeople from districts I've lived in previously). Your Representative May Vary, of course.
posted by troika at 12:37 PM on March 12, 2012

I think Twitter works best when used as a social network and not a way to stalk celebrities. It feels empty when you're just reading, not engaging. If you only follow famous people (maybe not actors, but people who are unlikely to reply to you), it ends up being very read-only in an unsatisfying way.

For me, I use it to post short thoughts and musings I've had, quick reviews of things ("Really liked John Carter. Don't believe the bad press."), reactions to stuff, that sort of thing. The big knock against Twitter has always been "why would I want to read that random people jam into 140 characters?" And the answer I've always given is, "you probably don't care about random people's tweets, but you might care about your friends'." It's not much different from seeing pictures of people's kids on Facebook. If you know them, it's adorable. Otherwise, it's just some kid. So the familiarity is, to me, very important. My friends probably do care about my opinion of a movie or thoughts on a new story. Shaq doesn't.

Why Twitter, specifically, though? Because it's super easy. You can tweet photos from your phone, share thoughts quickly anywhere, etc. without having to worry about it being altogether worthwhile, coming up with a headline, etc. Just think something, type it,and done.

All that said, much of the reason Twitter took off in the first place is that it doesn't really need to be used in any one way. Being a "to each his own" type of service has always been pretty core to Twitter.
posted by davextreme at 12:38 PM on March 12, 2012

I really like Twitter. I use it quite a bit with friends, but also with 'celebrities' of various levels, reading novel accounts (my two favorites right now are one of a woman in Seattle during World War II and one writing out 17th century Samuel Pepys's diary), and news updates (CNN, NPR, Al Jazeera English, etc.).

Personally I tweet whatever I feel like--I'm not worried about entertaining people or whatever. I tweet what I'm doing at the moment (last night I tweeted that I was at a Gabriel Iglesias show!) or what I'm thinking (didn't like the Mass Effect 3 endings!). Sometimes I'll quote or react to a game I'm playing or show I'm watching. I have both asynchronous and almost-realtime conversations with friends and occasionally with 'celebrities' (quoting because they're more like well-known on the internet than celebs per se). I post lots of links people might want to check out.

To find Twitter accounts you might want to follow, first of all watch for people doing #FF (follow Friday) on Fridays when people do recommendations. Look at blogs you like to read and see if they link to their Twitter account--some people will just link to their updates and that's it, but others like to interact with their audience that way.

So for example with cooking/baking, somehow through blogs or friends I found chef/food blogger David Lebovitz, pastry chef/food blogger Stella Parks, recipe developer/food writer Ethan Adeland.

On preview: Twitter is much more fun IME when you're writing and not just reading. You'll have to decide how you want to use it, though.
posted by asciident at 12:41 PM on March 12, 2012

*looks nervously left and right*

*blushes furiously*

The only reason I got a Twitter account was so I could say things to John Cusack once in a while.

*clears throat* But there are a number of interesting applications people are putting it towards -- I've been following (half-assedlly) the group that's attempting to do a sort of "live-tweeting" of World War II. There are a few things like that, where some group pretends that it's [insert historic time period here] and "live-tweets" events from that....event.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:45 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I started using twitter while I was following a trial in my hometown. I had been following the case and then moved away, so twitter was a good way to get updates because everyone was using a hash tag to chat about it. At first I just used it to chat with people who were also following the case, but then after the trial was over I started using different hash tags to follow different subjects. I just started following organizations and people for things I am interested in.

I've actually made friends from twitter.

Another cool use for twitter is following news events in real time. For example everything going on in Egypt and Syria. Or when Qadaffi was killed, I found out about that on twitter before it hit the news. There were updates on twitter right from the sources.

I am not connected to very many people I know outside of twitter on twitter. I actually prefer it that way because I use it for a different purpose than keeping up with people.
posted by fromageball at 12:47 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I use twitter to follow local politics via city hall reporters. I also follow my morning radio programs for local news and to know who their guests are going to be. (Jian Ghomeshi uses twitter very well.) For "celebrities" I follow some of my favourite bloggers, plus Doug Coupland (he has interesting links sometimes) and one or two random big name celebs who are funny on twitter. I have one friend who is on twitter and she doesn't tweet very often.

I'm not sure what tweet deck is. Can someone explain that? Also lists - do lists let you follow people you don't want to actually follow? Or what?
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 12:51 PM on March 12, 2012

I'm on Twitter because I left Facebook after college, and I wanted a way to try to stay connected to people and be somewhat of an interney exhibitionist. I'm still off Facebook, but I rarely tweet anymore, and you have to follow me in order to see my tweets.

When I did tweet, however, I'd usually talk about events that happened in the world that I found surprising and/or newsworthy, as well as observations about daily life. I also posted pictures, although never as much as other people I followed. I did retweet a lot, however.

I follow people I've met online, as well as celebrities (although not the Kardashians-- think Michael Showalter and other State alumni). I also follow my college to keep up with events, as well as that of my favorite bookstore because the tweets for that are usually awesome. I also follow/have followed magazines that I like and dead famous people whose tweets i ins enjoyable (Samuel Johnson comes to mind). There have been times where I find out about a news event on Twitter before I find out elsewhere on the Internet or on my Google Reader.
posted by bookwibble at 12:52 PM on March 12, 2012

I mean, tweets I find enjoyable.
posted by bookwibble at 12:55 PM on March 12, 2012

Lists allow me to separate the folks I follow into categories. (e.g comedy, sports, local, strange, etc). I think in order to be in your list you have to follow them. Tweetdeck is an app that makes Twitter more user friendly. I use it in Chrome, but it is a standalone app too. What Tweetdeck does best in my opinion is allow me to see my lists, to see multiple Twitter accounts of mine at once, and stay logged in.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:56 PM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

One thing I really like about Twitter is that it has allowed me to have conversations with such a wide range of people. I follow a lot of MeFites, a few local friends, and a smattering of celebs (Exene Cervenka followed me back! OMG!) but the real value to me has come from serendipitously encountering interesting people and engaging them in conversation -- everyone from a Vietnam vet biker to a professor of gender studies at an HBCU to a comic book artist in Brazil to a Malaysian aspiring rapper.

My advice would be to jump in, engage in conversation, block idiots and spammers right and left, and frequently search hashtags for topics of interest.

It's fun!
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:59 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I rarely use Twitter, but when I do, it's for very specific reasons:

1. I'm travelling somewhere, and I tweet that. It also keeps track of the location for future reference. In that case, I'll hook it up to FB, and it'll post there as well. It's a lot easier to use Twitter on my phone than FB, for some bizarro reason.

2. In the Occupy realm, I'll follow the #occupyseattle hashtag to see what's going on in real time in terms of activism and protests. More news blurbs, less reflection and inter-activist fighting.

3. I set up a fake Twitter so I could connect my Pinterest to it. I didn't want my Pinterest account attached to my real name, on either Twitter or FB.
posted by spinifex23 at 1:24 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm an occasional user of Twitter. I'm not crazy about it being a means of conversation because the back and forth is so asynchronous that it is hard to follow. I'd much prefer to subscribe to someone's RSS feed and read things there and interact with them via e-mail or comments. I tend to be a completist about things (books, tv shows, games, etc.) so Twitter kind of bums me out because I know I am missing things if I don't check it frequently.

As for whom I follow, it is mainly journalists, comedians and subject matter experts that pertain to my job. It certainly takes awhile to find people that post with the frequency and quality that matches up to your expectations.
posted by mmascolino at 1:32 PM on March 12, 2012

I do Twitter for my book-a-day review project, and mostly follow other book reviewers, writers, publishers, and a few real-life friends.

Oh, and Andy Borowitz because his Tweets are hilarious.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:35 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I love twitter. I have a group of coworkers and a group of local people I follow (some overlap); activists and musicians I like; and a lot of funny and/or fake celebrity or persona accounts. Some of them are really performance art. The writer who fake-tweeted Rahm Emanuel's Chicago mayoral campaign last year turned out a seriously epic story that became a book.

One thing that helped me get a handle on stuff was to look at who other people are following.
posted by Occula at 1:36 PM on March 12, 2012

I follow a lot of comedians as they usually use Twitter as an outlet for jokes they could never use in their act/stuff they just came up with.

In addition, I follow a lot of UX/design people and they post a lot of articles that I might not have found otherwise, or have talks. Plus there is the delight of getting nuggets of startup wisdom from @FAKEGRIMLOCK, Dinobot and startup extraordinare.

Twitter is also immensely useful at conferences to get points from sessions you might not have seen otherwise, or as a feedback mechanism (i.e., somebody tweets "this is great but I can't hear" and then like two minutes later the volume on the PA is increased). Speaking of conferences, the last one that I signed up for just assumed that you would want your handle printed on your badge, so professionally it's a good idea to join if only to show that you're engaged.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 1:56 PM on March 12, 2012

I think in order to be in your list you have to follow them.

Not true! Fortunately! Lists are the special sauce in Twitter that makes it manageable, especially because they can be private and public. You do not have to follow someone to add them to a list and you can follow lists -- your own or other people's -- without having to follow the creator of a list or all the people on it.
posted by Mo Nickels at 2:00 PM on March 12, 2012

I follow mainly people in my geographic area, sprinkled with some celebrity and novelty accounts. I like to know what's happening in my area, whether it's a fire, traffic jam, speed camera, sale at farmers market or whatever.

I follow celebs and novelties for entertainment strictly, and I don't have very many friends on Twitter at all. It's a polar opposite of facebook for me, it's to engage with people I don't know very well and broaden my horizons as to what's happening locally and such.
posted by tatiana131 at 2:05 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I used to hate Twitter (I ran it down a few times here on MeFi) but what converted me was using it to follow news and politics, especially local/municipal matters.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:58 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I use the Tweetdeck app on my iPod Touch. Like fromageball, I use Twitter to follow real-time events or television programming. Watching the State of the Union Address while following along on Twitter elevated the experience exponentially. Though I live alone, it's like watching along with a group of people, all with a vastly different opinions. I like to mix it up by following both the serious and humorous. For the humorous: Patton Oswalt tweets along to his Downton Abby viewing, and Michael Ian Black (sometimes with John Hodgman lobbing back) tweets about House Hunters International. Hilarious!
posted by BeBoth at 3:25 PM on March 12, 2012

I love Twitter! I follow a mix of people I know, celebrities, political figures, bloggers I like, local media, etc. One of my favorite things I use it for is during a big sporting event or other live TV event (say, the Super Bowl or a Presidential debate) - it feels like a big commentary party.
posted by SisterHavana at 4:15 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and I mostly use Echofon with Firefox. I did just start using TweetDeck on occasion.
posted by SisterHavana at 4:18 PM on March 12, 2012

I use Twitter primarily as a link aggregator. I basically follow a bunch of the people whose RSS feeds I had subscribed to in Google Reader (economics and national politics, mostly). Now I check twitter, get the one-sentence updates on the latest topics, follow links that seem interesting, and use Google Reader a lot less. I find Twitter a bit more efficient if you're just looking to see what luminaries in your field or the commentariat are talking about today. Also, following people who writers I like follow has helped me discover some others whose commentary I enjoy.
posted by Pseudonaut at 5:04 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Follow media types/bloggers from the websites you check daily now.

My twitter account is like my personalized RSS feeds that gets me everything the writers I like write, plus stuff that they think is cool. It's great.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 9:30 PM on March 12, 2012

I follow a few different types on Twitter:
1) Friends
2) Celebs
3) Local people in the same industry
4) Useful "bots" (Like our local road network's twitter account, Aurora Alert, ISS Alert)

I use Echofon in Firefox, but more normally I'm using TweetDeck on my phone. It has functionality that allows me to create "columns" - so I can check the traffic quickly before I set off.

One of my friends uses TweetDeck's columns to follow interesting hashtags like #crochet too.
posted by SuckPoppet at 3:38 AM on March 13, 2012

I mostly don't follow friends on Twitter because of the above-mentioned overlap between Twitter and Facebook. I mainly follow:
1) Comedians
2) Nerdy people/sites (@nerdist, @io9, @thinkgeek)
3) Musicians
4) People that aren't famous for any other reason than their awesome tweets like @badbanana and @shelbyfero
5) Financial blogs/writers

Find some people you like, and they will post Follow Friday links to people they like, and before you know it you'll have a big list of people you're following.
posted by getawaysticks at 6:58 AM on March 13, 2012

I love Twitter, and I think it's all in who you follow. I've made friendships that started on Twitter and moved beyond there, both locally and at a distance; I had a delightful dinner in Paris with someone I met through Twitter.

I tweet a lot of links to things I think are interesting - but I also tweet personal stuff. When my cat, Puppy, was very sick late last year (he died on Dec. 17) I tweeted about him as things changed, and the words of support I got back were actually very comforting.

I use lists and TweetDeck (for now), and follow different types of people:

1. Local folks who I know or who seem interesting. I specifically set out to use Twitter to meet more folks who lived near me, and it's worked out very well.
2. People in my profession who write interesting things or share interesting information.
3. Selected journalists and news sites; Twitter is my primary news source. But it's a very limited list, because this can get overwhelming.
4. Authors I like who tweet interesting things, such as Susan Orlean and Neil Gaiman.
5. Selected people who tweet about technology and social media - again, a carefully chosen short list, so I don't get overwhelmed with this stuff.
6. People who make me laugh.
7. A wide range of "interesting people" who don't fit into any category, but who I've somehow found and enjoy reading and/or engaging with.

Some people I engage with fairly often; some, with many followers, I never expect to hear from. But you never know. When I had a ticket to a Neil Gaiman/Amanda Palmer event, and couldn't go because of sick-cat problems, I tweeted that I had a ticket to sell, and why - and Neil (with well over a million followers) retweeted it. I had no problem getting rid of that ticket!
posted by jeri at 1:20 PM on March 13, 2012

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