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Anatomy of a Tweet

August 18, 2010 by Sara Nagreen

The Twitter T

Twitter is a micro-blogging service.  It is restricted in size, only 140 characters.  In the same way you might put out a blog post about something or other that you’ve noticed or want to discuss, other people use their mobile devices to “tweet” a sentence with a link. 

The “blog” descriptor is misleading.  It’s a lot more like a bookmark sharing service like Google Buzz or del.icio.us or digg.  It gives you a way to share insightful links and commentary quickly with people who have agreed to follow you, which is a lot like “friending” in Facebook.

Blogs aren’t traditionally used in the way that Twitter is either.  In a tweet, you can convey a lot of information in a very small space.  In our world where there isn’t enough time to read and write everything you’d like, it’s a handy shortcut, which is why it continues to gain in popularity.  People even use link shortening sites like tinyurl and bit.ly to make their links to things very small and easily clickable. 

You can use Twitter for other things besides sending links.  Some people refer to other people’s twitter feeds by mentioning them with an @sign before their name.   That will lead you to their feed.  It’s also a way to comment on something they might have tweeted.  There can be long conversations in an impromptu community this way. 

Some people also link to places or categories.  They do that by adding a #tag to their comment.  So, for example, if you wanted to link that you were eating a brat on the UW Terrace, you might tweet something like “#brats on #UW #terrace…what could be better?!”. 

Why would they do that?  It is very helpful if someone wanted to discover what people might be tweeting about a particular topic.  For example, if you did a search on twitter.com for a subject like #brats, you’d see tweets from people who categorized their tweets with a specific brats #tag.  Of course, you might not just get the kind referring to sausage!

Combining the two is heavily done as well. 

“#brats on the #uw #terrace with @UWLSS…what could be better?!”

Twitter continues to evolve, but knowing the lingo can help you understand why so many people are fascinated by it.  Interesting in trying it out?  Open a twitter account on twitter.com and find us!  @UWLSS

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