Understanding and Mastering Twitter: A Comprehensive Guide

Understanding and Mastering Twitter: A Comprehensive Guide

José Luis Orihuela, Mundo Twitter. Una guía para comprender y dominar la plataforma que cambió la red . (The World of Twitter. A Guide to Understanding and Mastering the Platform that Changed the Web), Alienta Publisher, Barcellona 2011.

Is it possible to have a simultaneous conversation among 500 million users who send 135 million messages daily? Does Twitter really have the power that some media claim to have unleashed the revolutions of North Africa and the Middle East in 2011? How can you manage the presence of public figures like Barack Obama or Benedict XVI on Twitter? Is this application a passing fad or a revolutionary turning point in our form of communication?

José Luis Orihuela (@jlori) is a professor of the School of Communications at the University of Navarra (Spain); a blogger since 2002 ( ecuaderno.com) and one of the most followed tweeters in Spanish. Among other works, he is the author of Communicating to Create Value (“Comunicar para crear valor”, 2004), The Blog Revolution (“La revolución de los blogs”, 2006), and the coauthor of Blogs (2005). In The World of Twitter, Orihuela offers a guide to understanding and mastering this platform. In the introduction, the author summarizes the premise of the entire work: Twitter has changed the Web and has completed the social shift that originated with blogs in the late nineties. “Now, the entire planet is conversing and we can all listen”, says the author. “There is even the possibility that the entire planet hears us, at least once. We have 140 characters to try, and we have plenty of shots to do so.”

The book is divided into three parts: a guide for new users, a guide for advanced users, and an entire anthology of tweets in Spanish, an appendix of recommended twitterers and accounts, and practical advice for taking full advantage of Twitter.

Part One: Twitter for Beginners

Orihuela explains in a clear-cut manner in what the application consists, for what it is used, how to start, and the mistakes to avoid. Twitter is a social network to publish and receive SMS messages of 140 characters online. First launched in 2006 as a tool for internal communication for the company Odeo in California, Twitter then opened to the public later that year. Since then, users have been discovering the various uses of the network: sharing opinions, detecting tendencies, publishing news, executing marketing campaigns.

Orihuela warns that maximizing efficiency of Twitter however, requires dedication to identify who to follow in order to produce messages that add value and increase the number of followers. The first step is to create a digital identity. A typical error of new users is to present oneself on Twitter with false or ridiculous identities that impede recognition in the real world, and by consequence, prevent the establishment of a digital community. Another challenge for the new user is the capacity to express oneself in only 140 characters, employing a concise and incisive style, maintaining timeliness, diversifying contents, and planning the frequency of publications. The author concludes this first part by summarizing the conventions and rules that have come to characterize the style of Twitter.

Part Two: Twitter for Experts

The second section of the book is geared towards advanced users who engage Twitter for professional purposes. Twitter is quickly penetrating organizations. Whether they like it or not, these public and private organizations are present in online discussions. It is now necessary for organizations to listen and monitor this conversation, as well as adjust their language to this new media. The one-way communication of traditional media does not work with Twitter. A personal, conversational, and transparent approach is needed. It is precisely this interaction of the virtual world with the physical work that changes the culture of the organization; it changes, for example, how to detect problems, how people relate with and interact with each other, how information is exchanged, etc. Along with a list of possible uses of Twitter for organizations, the author recommends that corporate accounts of Twitter correspond to a written guide and an editorial line integrated into the global strategy of communication. Organizations and public figures, however, run the risk of wanting to use Twitter as an instrument for propaganda. A grave error, affirms Orihuela, is when social networks generally become heated environments for invasive messages.

Among the advanced users, special attention is given to those in the field of journalism. For the press, this microblogging network has become a source of information. Editors have begun to include trending topics in their daily agendas. Multiple politicians and institutions use microblogging to give exclusives. The media have long used Twitter as a platform for emerging news. The book includes a broad list of businesses, institutions, celebrities, politicians, and media present on Twitter.

Part Three: Anthology of Tweets and Accounts

In this third section of the book, the author presents a list of the 845 most original tweets found on Twitter. This anthology is the fruit of collecting tweets, which José Luis Orihuela has been publishing on his blog, eCuaderno, since May 2008. He has divided them into 74 categories under the title Life Itself in 140 Characters. I’m sure that these hundred pages will bring more than a smile or reflection to the reader. Here’s a small sample:

­ On love (@anaaldea): Imperfect Past seeks Future Perfect to live Simple Present.

­ On animals (@kurioso): They tell me that I just appeared on a television documentary. I’ve never been called an animal so subtly.

­ Educational (@silviacobo): Tip number 1 for interacting with corporate social media: don’t be boring.

­ On music (@Alibaimor): Does anyone actually know well “Eenie meenie miny moe”?

­ On journalism (@pacotto): Journalism is wasting time (and the North Star) with immediacy. What they say still trumps what happens.

­ On Twitter (@fanultra): Facebook is an intelligent tool for simple people and Twitter is a simple tool for intelligent people.

This third part of the book also includes four appendixes with 140 twitterers recommended by the author, examples of Twitter accounts in variety fields, links with information about the application, and a list of tools to maximize usage of this social network.

Conclusion

The goal of this guide is not to demonstrate what Twitter can give us. It’s meant rather to encourage those who want to enter, or who are entering the network, to add value to the conversation taking place on Twitter. What emerges from this book is that even if Twitter does not have a predefined usage, the current social practice has transformed Twitter into a concise social gathering space with a multitude of themes and registered users. The image of the social gathering place implies an open and informal conversation, an occasion for exchanging opinions about various themes, where each intervention is equally important. Twitter, more than merely being a passing fad, has demonstrated that technology and the culture born with internet already allow for instantaneous conversation in a social circle through any mobile devise.

José Luis Orihuela warns that messages on Twitter are public, and this implies responsibility by the part of the users to respect the intimacy and reputation of others. We recall what happened in this regard in November 2012 in England. Thousands of twitterers accused a politician of the Thatcher era of pedophilia. Another nine thousand retweeted the message. When the allegations were clearly proven to be false, the politician demanded from those ten thousand twitterers a symbolic payment of five pounds to be donating donation to a charity benefit for children.

The readers of The World of Twitter will discover in these pages a useful and simple guide to entering this platform. Advanced users will find inspiring tips to better plan their online communication strategies even if, as the author himself recognizes, Twitter’s potential for organizations has yet to be fully discovered.