Anyway, I’ve seen more and more children’s ministry people show up on Twitter, and there’ve been some common questions that keep popping up, so I decided to put some of the questions all together into an FAQ of sorts. If after reading through this, you have more questions or have something to add mention it in the comments so that this post can be a helpful resource to those in children’s ministry (or anywhere else for that matter) who are venturing out into the world of Twitter.
What is Twitter?
Well according to their site:
In other words, you have 140 characters to update people on what you are doing, share sites and blog posts you come across, communicate with people, meet new people, etc. The beauty of it, is that it is all about networking.
How do I use Twitter?
Well, you sign up for a Twitter user name at http://twitter.com. It is a free service. Once you have your Twitter user name, you can add people to follow, which means that you get to see what those people Tweet about. (What you write on Twitter is called a Tweet.)
Where do I find people to follow?
Well, you can use the “Find People” tab in Twitter. There are also blogs with lists of people. Pudge Huckaby has one that includes a list of children’s minsters you can follow. You can follow me at http://twitter.com/henryjz Another place to find different people to follow is by searching #followfriday.
Why use Twitter?
Well, for me, Twitter has become an amazing tool for me to network with people I’d never connect with otherwise. It’s also a way for me to build new connections with people and share stuff that I run into as well as learn from what other people are reading and sharing. Larry Shallenberger at Children’s Ministry and Culture has this to say about why he uses Twitter (as well as some people he is following on Twitter). Some people use it like they would Facebook updates. (If you don’t know what Facebook is… um…. I won’t go there.) Sam Luce, a children’s pastor in Utica, NY uses Twitter to communicate with his volunteers! Some companies are using it to improve their customer service… and, yes, there are those who misuse it for spamming and annoying marketing.
What’s with the @ symbol?
That is how you publicly reply to someone’s tweet. Let’s say someone with the username scififan mentions they are watching the latest episode of Doctor Who and you want to let them know you are watching it too, you can type: @scififan I’m watching it, too. Well, they would recieve a tweet listed as a reply to them from you.
Well, what about RT and DM? What are those?
DM stands for Direct Message. This is like sending an email to someone. It is private and goes only to the person you designate. So if you wanted to send a direct message to me on Twitter you would type: D henryjz You are the most awesome CP I know! And I would receive your message, and no one else would see it.
As for RT, that stands for retweet. What in the world is retweet? Well, that is when you read a tweet by someone and you want to share it with all your other followers who might not be following this person. You simply copy the person’s message and add RT @username to the beginning of your tweet. For example, if I tweeted “I have a new blog post about Twitter” and you wanted to retweet that, you would type: RT @henryjz: I have a new blog post about Twitter.
Now, most of the programs that assist you with Twitter have buttons and shortcuts to deal with direct messages, retweets and even replies, so you don’t have to type all of that stuff.
Is there a way for me to update my Twitter status on something other than http://twitter.com?
Yes! There are a multitude of programs that help you with viewing tweets, sending tweets and even sorting them. If you choose to have multiple accounts, there are programs that can handle that as well. I, personally, use TweetDeck on my laptop. Kenny Conley has a great tutorial on how to set up TweetDeck. There are also many other programs out there for use on your computer and your Blackberry or iPhone like Twhirl, DestroyTwitter, Tweetie, HootSuite, Twitterific, and the list could go on and on!
Why do people keep putting a # symbol in front of things?
Understand? OK, in human: a hashtag is a way to tag tweets so that they can be easily searched and categorized. For example, there is a hashtag for children’s ministry related tweets: #kidmin. So, if you put up a tweet that has to do with children’s ministry or you want others in children’s ministry to be able to find your tweet easily, you simply add #kidmin to your tweet. There are ways to set up programs like TweetDeck to search for tweets that contain certain hashtags. Kenny Conley’s post on TweetDeck shows you how to do this. I have my TweetDeck searching for #kidmin, #fammin, #conspire09 and #theideacamp right now. You might be wondering who comes up with the hashtags… you do (or anyone else). It is up to the community (or tribe) you are a part of to come up with whatever hashtag you want to categorize your tweets. Do you have to have hashtags? No. But for some tweets you post that you want others to find easily, they are very helpful.