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The Ohio Department of Aging

Ohio Department of Aging Boomerang: It all comes back to you!

Boomerang: It all comes back to you!

My Community - July 2011

What is Twitter and how can you use it?
You don't have to be a master "tweeter" to connect to the world in a new way

Hey @boomerangfan! R U on #Twitter? If not UR missing a lot of info and opps. Hope 2 flw U soon.

Don't worry if none of that made any sense to you. It's a new language that the "kids" are using these days called "Twitterspeak," and it's what happens when you communicate in short bursts of 140 characters or less. Many adults are initially intimidated by Twitter's fast-paced, update-a-minute environment largely populated by 20-somethings who apparently have nothing better to do than to update the world every time they sneeze. But Twitter has many uses, especially for adults who are looking for work, trying to get a better job, getting an education or looking for volunteer opportunities. According to the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, 1 in 10 adults age 50 or older use Twitter or another service to share updates about themselves or see updates about others.

One of the most common excuses for not using Twitter is "I don't need to tell everyone every little thing I do." In fact, these types of updates make up a very small portion of the 140 million status updates, or "tweets," that Twitter users send every day. Twitter can be used in many different ways, and many of them don't require you to sign up or send a single tweet.

See what people are saying - Twitter has a live search feature that lets you see, in real time, what its users are saying right now about a topic. Let's say you're a teacher, plugging in "curriculum" will let you see that user @neondial (a user name is usually preceded by the "@" symbol on Twitter) posted a link to "age-appropriate considerations" when choosing homeschool textbooks. You'd also see that @AdobeEdu is promoting a free curriculum software giveaway, and @AllTeachingJobs can help you advance your career. With the advanced search function, you can look for specific words or posts from certain people, filter your results by place or date and more. No Twitter account is required to use the search feature.

Track trends - Also on the Twitter search page, as well as the Twitter homepage, you can see a list of "trending topics." In Twitter parlance, this means that users are talking about that topic much more right now than they usually do. Users are always talking about a variety of topics, but when a given topic "trends," that usually means something is going on about it. For instance, someone is usually always commenting on Microsoft, but if Microsoft is a trending topic, then they are probably in the news. Following the trends often can get you up on the latest in a given field before most of the world knows about it.

Follow experts - You can also search Twitter to see what experts are saying about their chosen fields. Many elected officials, for example, will regularly provide updates about legislation they are working on, programs they have available or appearances they will be making. Organizations may use Twitter updates to quickly release the results of the latest research. If you have a Twitter account, you can "follow" these experts so that their latest updates are in your feed every time you log in.

Group your interests - If you choose to follow a lot of people, you may want to set up lists to manage the messages you see. For instance, you can put all of your favorite restaurants in a list called "Dining out," then check that list before you go out for the latest specials and exclusive online offers and coupons. Or, you can put all of your local newspapers and TV and radio news outlets in a list that you can quickly check to see what is going on in your community. You can share your lists with others, as well as subscribe to others' lists.

Grow your network - You can use Twitter not only to connect with people you already know, but also with people who have the same interests as you. When you follow someone on Twitter, you can see who else follows them, and you will be visible to them (you can hide your tweets from anyone who doesn't follow you, but you can't hide your account). If you're interested in networking, it's good to follow and be followed. Be careful, though. If you follow far more people than follow you, you may be seen as trying to get attention.

Be seen as an expert - Another way to build a network on Twitter is to pick a topic you know a lot about and frequently tweet about it. You can offer your observations, but you also can share your links to websites and blog articles that you find interesting. Other users with the same interests will eventually find you.

So, you don't have to learn a new type of shorthand, or what a "hashtag" or "re-tweet" is to get some benefit from Twitter, and it can give you new connections to the world around you and the opportunities it holds.

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