Monday, March 26, 2012

Twits and Twitter...There IS a Difference

It took me some time before I caved in and got on Twitter.  Then again, it took me quite some time (and nagging from dear friends) before I got on Facebook.  I haven't regretted either.

If you say "Twitter" to many people they pull a face and usually say something along the lines of "Why would I want to have anything to do with Twitter?  I don't need to know when a celebrity brushes his teeth!?!"

Yes, I've noticed that this seems to be what many people have come to think of Twitter, and I'll admit that I did as well and then on October 28, 2010 I read a blog post that was linked through Family Search (@RecordsWiki) about Twitter and how useful it was to genealogists...and I was convinced.

I had no idea that by following the genealogy hashtag (#genealogy) that I could see anything that people were posting on that subject.  I just didn't know how it all worked.  I thought that I needed to have followers to make it useful to me and my research, but that wasn't correct at all.

I was able to communicate with other genealogists about goings-on in the genealogy community.  It was a very inclusive tool and it had some other benefits too.

Whenever I had posted something new on my blog, I would often head over to Twitter (via bitly to grab a shortened URL) and tweet about my blog post.  It brought more traffic to my blog.  A lot more traffic. It opened my blog up to people that hadn't been following it, or didn't even know about it and allowed an exchange of ideas that I may not have otherwise had.  It can open you up to those long lost family members researching the same lines as you too!  Granted I don't tweet every blog post, but that's just me, you certainly can.

I don't just follow genealogists on Twitter though.  I do follow politicians that I favor and some actors/comedians (who can resist following Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart?).  It's also a great way to get breaking news...

Now where does the "Twit" part of my post come in. Well, there are certainly plenty of twits out there using Twitter.  After all the stereotype has to originate from somewhere doesn't it?  We can start with the "breaking news" I just mentioned.  Just because someone tweets about something, doesn't make it true.  I take everything with a cup of salt. The same goes for Facebook though.  We know we've seen plenty of silly posts that people make on Facebook that a small trip to would clear up if they'd bother checking before posting!

Then there are the people that are always saying "Follow me, I follow back!"  Gosh, they kill me!  I "liked" Twitter on Facebook.  I liked them because 1) I'm using their product and 2) I want to know if there are any problems, updates, tips, etc for using it.  Sadly, this is where you see the majority of the "Follow me!" posts.  They fill most comment blocks on what would otherwise be a useful exchange of Twitter information on Facebook and annoy the serious Twitter users.  What these people don't realize is that Twitter isn't a popularity contest (OK, maybe for them it is, which is just sad).  If you actually are contributing something to a # (hashtag) that people follow, then you will have people reading your tweets and will, in the end, get followers.

It's kind of like those friends you have on Facebook that simply run around "friending" people that they've never met.  I'm not talking about how many of us genealogist/bloggers friend each other.  That's making connections and we're pretty much all one big genealogy family, but the people that send friend requests to everyone and anyone that makes a comment on a board they follow.  They end up with thousands of friends and don't really know any of them.  Silly, but not really any different than Twitter.

Another great part of Twitter...just like on Facebook, when you get a spam tweet (and you will get one at some point) there are ways to report spam/obscenities and to block users from contacting you.  No worries!

I actually had a friendship end because of Twitter [sniff].  Sounds odd, but she was a very thick-headed lady and had made some comments about how only juvenile, needy people used Twitter.  When I tried to explain to her the benefits that can be gleaned from using Twitter (and that Twits were everywhere, and not just on Twitter) she had a minor melt-down.  The one and only time I had to unfriend someone [sigh].

So if you haven't jumped into the world of Twitter yet, what are you waiting for?  Get your blog out there. Pass on information.  Follow some hashtags #.  Ask questions and even see if there's a hashtag for an ancestor's surname! You never know until you look.  It's not hard and there are Twitter tutorials out there.  Heck, I even sat in on an absolutely fabulous webinar by Dear Ol'Myrtle about using Twitter.  You don't need to know all the abbreviations either.  Heck I still don't know them all.  I'm learning all the time!

So live and learn and know that while there are many Twits on Twitter, they can be found anywhere, so stop hiding! Jump on in, the water's fine!