What is it?
The popular social media tool Twitter opened in 2006 as a free microblogging service on the Internet through which users send text updates – tweets. Since then, Twitter has grown into a communication phenomenon.
How to use it
A social-networking system, Twitter is a real-time short messaging service that works on a variety of networks and devices. It accepts messages from SMS, Web, mobile Web, instant message and other systems and sends tweets out via the Web, instant messages and mobile texting.
At first, Twitter messages seem like endless, disjointed, meaningless phrases using unrecognizable abbreviations about what lots of disconnected people are doing at the moment.
However, for a journalist and the news-hungry public, there are jewels of information amidst the tweets about important current events that can lead to stimulating discussions, new knowledge resources, and a better-informed population. You just have to know where to look.
Part chat, part brief blog, Twitter lets you follow any other Twitter user. When you are following someone, you see their tweets. If someone follows you, they see your tweets. You can follow any stream of tweets you select. The more people you follow, the busier your network, so select carefully.
Twitter is a powerful tool even though the website simply asks the question, "What are you doing?" Of course, you might be able to answer that question in a word or two, but most people answer it with a brief-but-longer message. Tweets are limited to 140 characters.
As Twitter says, "In countries all around the world, people follow the sources most relevant to them and access information via Twitter as it happens – from breaking world news to updates from friends."
- Go to Twitter.com and set up an account.
- On the Twitter home page, click the large button that says Sign Up. Fill in the fields in the registration form. When it asks for your Full Name, consider using your real name if you want to use Twitter as a professional networking resource. Your full name will appear on your public profile and people will be able to recognize you.
- You will be asked for a username, password and email address. Your public Twitter address will be http://twitter.com/username. Your email address will not be displayed publicly.
- Click the large button that says Create my account.
- Find people to follow. Twitter will present you with interesting people to follow. You can keep things simple by visiting recommended links and clicking Follow. Or find other names you recognize and follow them. Don't be afraid to explore.
- You can try it out by going to The Pine Needle's main feed and choosing to follow the newspaper's tweets:
- When you select people to follow, choose only those who genuinely interest you.
- You can always un-follow someone later and they will never know.
- You also can get tweeted updates on your cellphone via text message SMS. You can test it in the U.S. by texting follow UNCP_PineNeedle to 40404.
- Listen to the stream of tweets. Take time to discover what people are saying. Participate in a chat. If you're confused or an abbreviation doesn't make sense, don't be afraid to ask.
- Each stream is labeled with a word preceded by a #. That's a hashtag – a unique keyword that allows you to focus your discussion on a specific topic. Be sure you add the hashtag to each of your tweets.
- When you participate in a chat using a hashtag, you will be able to see some people whom you are not following. If you wanted to, you could choose to follow them. Tweet chats are a way to meet others who share your interests and build your network.
- You don't have to chat unless you want to. You can expand your network by following people and finding additional hashtags of interest to follow.
- @username is how you respond to someone else directly.
- #topicname is how you designate a topic for a chat.
- RT means re-tweet, which is someone passing along a tweet that was generated by someone else.
The news stories below show how Twitter suddenly has come from nowhere to become extraordinarily important in international news gathering.
Hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles have been written since 2006 about the Twitter phenomenon. The list below is not all of those articles, Rather, this is an annotated bibliography in reverse-chronological list of those articles that have seemed pertinent to journalism, public relations and mass media. Each item in this bibliography has an annotation – a brief description of what each article is about – intended to help you decide whether to read the article.
- What Facebook and Twitter mean for news
Perhaps no topic in technology has attracted more attention than the rise of social media and its potential impact on news.
Amy Mitchell, Tom Rosenstiel, and Leah Christian, Pew Research Center, 2012
- Twitter for newsrooms
Resources to help you and your organization at every step of the reporting and publishing process.
- Facebook and Twitter 'help to politicize' today's youth
Social networking is helping to politicize younger people, according to the University of California's Humanities Research Institute.
ZDNet, 1 March 2011
- Twitter and other services create cracks in Gadhafi's media fortress
The popular uprising in Libya is two struggles in one. First, the flesh-and-blood battle on the streets of Tripoli and throughout the nation. Second, the battle between Libyans and the government over access to media and information.
The Philadelphia Inquirer, 28 February 2011
- Social media as a strategic weapon
Social Media, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube have the apparent ability to re-align the social order in real time with little or no advanced warning.
The Hill, 28 February 2011
- Double-Edged Sword: Social Media's Subversive Potential
Twitter and Facebook spread information. In authoritarian regimes the spread of information is a subversive act. The information revolution has helped bring about political revolutions in a region of the world considered 'exceptional' by so many as being inherently incompatible with democracy. Citizen journalism and digital activism are politically charged manifestations of power in societies where citizens lack access to the political field and the media sphere is dominated by state interests.
Freedom of Expression Campaign, The Huffington Post, 28 February 2011
- Social media not so hot on the Hill
While the explosion of social media on Capitol Hill is a way for lawmakers to get their message to constituents, digesting the messages coming in has become a tedious, time-consuming effort that yields little payoff.
Politico, 28 February 2011
- Social media, cellphone video fuel Arab protests
Social media, cellphone cameras, satellite television, restive youth and years of pent-up anger are proving to be a toxic mix for authoritarian regimes in the Middle East.
Agence France-Presse (AFP), The Independent, UK, 27 February 2011
- Twitter 101: The Bare Bones Basics
With all the news about how Twitter has become a catalyst for world events, and especially if you are an active user of social media tools, you may find it hard to believe there are people who aren't using Twitter.
Technorati, February 25 2011
- How to Use Hashtags Without Looking Like a Total Beginner
What Twitter hashtags mean and how to find like-minded followers in your timeline.
Technorati, 30 September 2010
- Staying Safe on Twitter: Are You Protected?
Twitter is the target of hacking exploits and phishing attempts that tweet links and other information without your permission. Once you click, you've opened up your account to spread the message to your followers.
Technorati, 29 September 2010
- World Cup Twitter Buzz wins top television award
A collaboration between Twitter and CNN during football's 2010 World Cup in South Africa landed a top television award for innovation.
CNN, 25 February 2011
- Twitter breaks news, but will it break journalism?
Twitter's value to breaking news quickly and efficiently is beyond doubt, but the accuracy of the news being reported is far from perfect.
Memeburn, 6 July 2010
- How Twitter turns Journalism on its Head
Gone are the What are you doing? days. Twitter is asking What's happening? these days. The "Me" in "Social Media" must emerge into the "We" in the "Social Web" in order to trigger progress. Whether it's professional journalism or citizen journalism, Twitter made it's impact loud and clear.
arkarthick.com, 4 July 2010
- Twitter is not killing journalism, journalists are killing journalism
A blog entry to serve as a moderate referee in the battle between Twitter salvation and Twitter sucks
Arizona State University, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, 8 February 2010
- Rethinking rights, accreditation, and journalism itself in the age of Twitter
What better manifestation of the fact that in the 21st century the concept of "gatekeeping" is history?
David Schlesinger, Editor-in-Chief, Reuters News, 24 June 2009
- You Provide the Tweets, We'll Provide the Info War
The Iranian Protests and the Mainstream Media
Jack Bratich, CounterPunch, 25 June 2009
- Analysis: Iran Election Coverage Sparks TV News Revolution
Expelled journalists turn to social network sources; amateur video of woman's death becoming symbol of story
Marisa Guthrie, Broadcasting & Cable Magazine, 22 June 2009
- Iran Dominates as the Media are the Message
News Coverage Index: June 15-21, 2009: The intensifying protests and political ferment inside Iran eclipsed some major domestic stories in the US news. And as the mainstream press confronted daunting restrictions on coverage, an outpouring of social media reports helped drive the Iran narrative.
Mark Jurkowitz, The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, 21 June 2009
- Google translation tool aims to improve Iran info access
Google Inc released a tool that translates Internet blogs, news articles and text messages from English to Persian, and vice-versa, in a move the firm said will "improve access to information" amid the turmoil and media restrictions following Iran's disputed election.
Reuters, 19 June 2009
- The Pirate Bay Helps Iran Critics Dodge Censorship
Popular file-sharing site The Pirate Bay said it has helped launch an Internet network in support of Iranian election critics allowing users to dodge the regime's censorship rules by surfing anonymously.
Associated Press, 18 June 2009
- Mideast Hanging On Every Text And Tweet From Iran
Though Tehran has largely shut down communication outlets, protesters are getting out snippets of text and stealthily uploaded photos in a guerrilla-style Internet revolt.
Jeffrey Fleishman, LA Times, 17 June 2009
- Dan Rather: Tehran, Twitter, and Tiananmen
Massive protests, government crackdown, and media blackout - Tehran today sounds like Tiananmen Square two decades ago. But Dan Rather, who covered the China massacre, says the shift in the media landscape over the last two decades means there's no comparison.
The Daily Beast, 17 June 2009
- Iran's Twitter Revolution
Forget CNN or any of the major American "news" networks. If you want to get the latest on the opposition protests in Iran, you should be reading blogs, watching YouTube or following Twitter updates from Tehran, minute-by-minute.
The Nation, 16 June 2009
- Live-Tweeting The Revolution
Check out this impressive list of Tweets about the Iranian election.
Andrew Sullivan, Daily Dish, 16 June 2009
- With Iran All A-Twitter, Service Maintenance Pushed Back
Twitter delayed the work because of the events now playing out in Iran.
Martyn Williams, Computerworld, 16 June 2009
- The Twitter Revolution
It's true that however things turn out in Iran, this will probably be forever known as the Twitter Revolution.
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones, 15 June 2009
- The Twitter explosion
Whether they are reporting about it, finding sources on it or urging viewers, listeners and readers to follow them on it, journalists just can't seem to get enough of the social networking service. Just how effective is it as a journalism tool?
Paul Farhi, American Journalism Review, April/May 2009
- Twitter ye not: crash survivor updates blog from burning plane
As an airliner skids off a Denver runway, a passenger delivers a minute-by-minute account.
The Guardian newspaper, UK, 23 December 2008
- Plane crash survivor texts Twitter updates
What's the first thing you would do after narrowly avoiding disaster?
The Guardian newspaper, UK, 22 December 2008
- Small talk is the next big thing for the twittering classes
Twitter, a combination of messaging and social networking, looks like it's becoming the next craze after MySpace and Facebook
The Guardian newspaper, UK, 22 December 2008
- BBC admits it made mistakes using Mumbai Twitter coverage
Microblogging service Twitter came of age during the Mumbai terror attacks. However, the BBC has been criticized for using unsubstantiated citizen reports in its coverage
The Guardian newspaper, UK, 05 December 2008
- In Mumbai, witnesses are writing the news
Moments after the terrorist attacks on Mumbai began, Twitter exploded with messages
The Guardian newspaper, UK, 01 December 2008
- Twitter comes of age with fast reports from the ground
Blogs and file-sharing sites have provided rapid and kaleidoscopic accounts of the terror attacks in Mumbai
The Guardian newspaper, UK, 28 November 2008
- How Twitter and Flickr recorded the Mumbai terror attacks
The effectiveness of the web showed itself once more in the terrorist attacks in Mumbai with the photo-sharing site Flickr and the microblogging system Twitter both providing a kaleidoscope of what was going on within minutes of the attacks beginning. As India's financial capital, Mumbai is home to a number of the country's most computer-literate users, who had been quick to adopt the microblogging format of Twitter
The Guardian newspaper, UK, 27 November 2008
- Same game, new rules: A historic presidential campaign Ñ and what it means for our digital future
Political campaigns have historically been held hostage by the media and candidates had to wait for the media to show up before they could say anything. What the Obama campaign did differently was communicate news all the time. They were sending out Twitters, uploading videos and doing all kinds of media work on their own. They bypassed media gatekeepers and took the message directly to the public.
PRSA PR Tactics, 26 November 2008
- Twittering topples Motrin ad campaign directed at mothers
Bloggers and microbloggers banded together over a weekend to criticize a new ad campaign by a pain drug that suggested mothers carry their babies as if they are fashion accessories.
PRSA PR Tactics, 19 November 2008
- Will Mars Phoenix and its Twitter feed rise from the ashes? It seems not.
After five months exploring Mars, digging up the soil and making some startling discoveries along the way, the interplanetary laboratory has gone off the radar, probably for good
The Guardian newspaper, UK, 13 November 2008
- Mars Phoenix: NASA vows to carry on twittering across the universe
The agency says it has been bitten by the Twitter bug and will continue to use feeds to communicate with space addicts
The Guardian newspaper, UK, 12 November 2008
- Farewell to Phoenix
NASA's Martian probe has come to a dark and frigid end, but its dying gasp was a tweet of 'triumph'
The Guardian newspaper, UK, 11 November 2008
- The Twitter election
Casting a vote in the presidential election was not complete without tweeting your own ballot report via Twitter
The Guardian newspaper, UK, 04 November 2008
- Want to follow the US elections? Try twittervotereport.com
The US election is happening and a radical new website is creating a real web 2.0 experience to watch
The Guardian newspaper, UK, 04 November 2008
- US Election 2008: Coming to a computer near you, live, tonight
I hope you weren't planning on getting any sleep tonight, because the Internet-obsessed world will be expecting you to be glued to your media screens for the next 24 hours to watch the US election drama unfold
The Guardian newspaper, UK, 04 November 2008
- Birds on a wire: Public relations in the Twitterverse
The popular social media tool, Twitter, which debuted in March 2006, has created a communications phenomenon that media and analyst relations practitioners should monitor and consider joining.
PRSA PR Tactics, October 2008
- Journalists continue to use Twitter to report and publish news
Many journalists are continuing to use the microblogging service Twitter to both gather and broadcast news.
PRSA PR Tactics, 29 August 2008
- The 'CNN breaking news' Twitter - revealed!
CNN took some flack this week for a rather tardy Twitter feed when it appeared to post 'breaking news' about the California earthquake five hours after the event. By that time, most of Twitter users were totally over the whole earthquake thing so therefore were quite scathing.
The Guardian newspaper, UK, 01 August 2008
- Pointing the internet in a new direction
Sites such as TinyURL that turn long URLs into short ones have suddenly come into their own, thanks to Twitter
The Guardian newspaper, UK, 31 July 2008
- Earthquake reported on Twitter. No sh*t.
We expect a round of reports about Twitter every time there's a major news event now, and yesterday's earthquake in Southern California was no exception. Even Twitter themselves wrote about it this time, graphing a spike in tweets that mentioned 'earthquake' in the few minutes after the quake. The mainstream press didn't catch on until nearly ten minutes later.
The Guardian newspaper, UK, 30 July 2008
- To tweet or not to tweet: How and when to use Twitter in PR efforts
Already, Twitter has proven to be a powerful tool. It was one of the first communication methods to report scenes from the natural disasters in Myanmar and China in May, and the Red Cross has used it to keep people updated on relief efforts and needs. Political candidates used it to keep supporters up to date on their campaigns. In April 2008, American journalism graduate student James Buck sent a one-word message, "Arrested," to let friends in the United States know he'd been detained at an Egyptian anti-war protest. His subsequent posts helped his colleagues hire a lawyer on his behalf.
PRSA PR Tactics, 30 June 2008
- Future of Journalism: Crowds and amateurs - New ways of getting stories
Crowd sourcing is already a reality in today's journalism world. Since the July 2005 Tube bombings in London, we've grown used to news organisations using amateur photography and video of major events. Now the wisdom of the crowd is becoming a source for generating stories as well as reacting to them. Two examples – Reuters is working on a tool to monitor the microblogging service Twitter for mentions of newsworthy keywords such as "earthquake," while AP has agreed to buy content from the user-generated site www.nowpublic.com.
The Guardian newspaper, UK, 20 June 2008
- Future of Journalism: Blogging, twittering and live video
Discussion of the phenomenon of live blogging, Twitter and the swathe of accessible live news tools
The Guardian newspaper, UK, 13 June 2008
- Using real-time news tools
Twitter scooped even the US Geological Survey in reporting the earthquakes in China.
The Guardian newspaper, UK, 14 May 2008
- Twitter is not a newswire
Downing Street is the latest organization to pile on to Twitter. Much time and energy needs to be invested in cultivating a critical mass of friends on Twitter before it really makes sense – something that's the biggest barrier to wider adoption, aside from explaining what it is in the first place. There are a couple of problems with using it like an RSS delivery tool.
The Guardian newspaper, UK, 28 March 2008
- How We Use Twitter for Journalism
How useful can communication limited to 140 characters be for serious journalism? It turns out that the short messages you find on Twitter have proven wildly useful for some writers penning larger pieces.
Marshall Kirkpatrick, ReadWriteWeb, 25 April 2008
- The incredible shrinking campaign dispatch
One of the things we're supposed to do as journalists is take people where they can't go. Microblogging really comes from inside the room.
PRSA PR Tactics, 24 January 2008
Resources for Courses index »
- Results of the Twitter news site survey
A mini-survey on the use of Twitter by news organizations.
The Guardian newspaper, UK, 02 October 2007
- How news organizations are using Twitter
News organizations use Twitter as one way of connecting to audience members who may not otherwise read a newspaper or visit a news organization's Web site.
PRSA PR Tactics, 06 September 2007
- Mini-blogs an "untapped gold mine" for sales and marketing
A communications revolution is coming that will make e-mail seem as antiquated as the mimeograph. The professional intimacy such services create can help people win clients.
PRSA PR Tactics, 28 August 2007
- Twitter: New sensation
Twitter is the latest viral Internet application with the potential to attract massive online audiences.
PRSA PR Tactics, 27 March 2007
- Twitter Fan Wiki
Twitter is a way of life. It's living with a publicity policy. It's friends, Romans and country people the world over engaged in timely snippet conversations that fit into 140 character chunks.
Front Page, Twitter Fan Wiki, 22 January 2007
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