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Posted by Stuart Jansen on January 27, 2011

This is a continuation of Social Media 101 Part 1 where I introduced the basic history of social media as well as discussion on Blogging. For Part 1 – Blogging – click here.  This blog entry focuses on Twitter.


Twitter is a site that allows for micro-blogging.  Micro-blogging means that you can only post 140 characters at a time. There are about 100 million people using twitter as of December 2010. As of June 2010, about 65 million tweets were posted each day, which is the same as about 750 tweets sent each second, according to Twitter.  In January, 2010, MIT alumnus and astronaut Timothy Creamer sent the very first live tweet from outer space.

Tweet is the name of the message that people send out in under 140 characters.  These tweets are displayed on a user’s profile page. Tweets are publicly available by default.

A person who has chosen to read your tweets on a regular basis is called a follower. Followers do not need to ask for your permission to follow you and to read your posts. They just have to be interested in your tweets. A retweet is when someone repeats what someone else has tweeted so that their followers can see it as well.  Many times you will see 2 symbols as part of the messages. The hashtag starts with the symbol “#” and is followed by a keyword or a theme which makes it easy to search for similar tweets. The “@” symbol followed by a username is used for mentioning or replying to other users.

Twitter Lists” feature allow users to follow (as well as mention and reply to) lists of authors instead of individual authors.

Twitter allows for immediate conversations and connections. There are no groups per se, just a conversation. Due to the small amount of content in the message, the tweet has a very short shelf-life. Due to the quick viral possibilities of twitter, it is can be an excellent tool to help mass communicate messages and promotions a.k.a seeding the messages.

Even with the large number of users who sign-up for the free twitter account, people who do not spend the time to understand the nature and value of the twitter stop engaging in this network.  Twitter has about a 40% retention rate [] , meaning that these people stick around Twitter and tweet regularly. This limits the potential reach to about 10% of all internet users. According to a November 2010 study conducted by the Pew Internet Organization [], about 8% of American internet users are on Twitter. According to the same research, the following is the breakdown of what people tweet about:

  • 72% of Twitter users say they post updates about their personal life, activities or interests.
  • 62% post work-related updates.
  • 55% use Twitter to share links to news stories.
  • 53% use the service to retweet others’ material.
  • 40% use the service to share photos with others, while 28% use it to share videos.
  • 24% tweet their location.

Due to the fact that you want people to retweet your messages, it is recommended that your original message be 120 characters instead of the 140 characters limit. When a message is retweeted, the system automatically adds the name of the original tweeter. This may cause the message to be more than 140 characters if the original message was close to the limit. This makes the re-tweeter to edit the message. The person may not edit and just send out the new message without your name. To avoid re-editing, it is wiser to leave the person enough room in the original message so it can easily append your name.

Twitter is one the commonly used applications on mobile devices. People are able to quickly update their status/send tweets and read the tweets of people they are following on smartphones. Traditional cell phones also have applications to update tweets by using SMS/text messaging.

Twitter has evolved from mainly a tool for millenniums to post about where and when they’re eating, to a powerful tool. Pew Internet’s research shows the following breakdown of users.

Gender (shows % of US internet users)
Men 7%
Women 10
18-29 14
30-49 7
50-64 6
65+ 4

Related blogs: 

Social Media 101 (Part 1): Blogging

Create a Custom Twitter Header Image: