Sociologists from the Seventies would be proud of our modern, interconnected world. They fantasized about a “global village”, and perhaps never thought we’d embrace that concept as much as we all did, with the endless amount of social sites and communities around the internet today.

Facebook, Reddit, Pinterest, Google Plus and all the rest try to put their own spin on how we can talk to each other and share all those carefully edited pictures to make our friends jealous, but there is an odd beast that many still struggle with, and today we’re going to correct that. That’s right, let’s talk about Twitter.

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Once you get to know it a little better, Twitter is a wonderful tool to get to know and talk to all kinds of people, but until you get to know it, it’s just a brutal, confusing landscape of constantly shifting moods and trends. It’s really nowhere near as complex as you’d think.

1. Twitter is more like a global chat than a website. People use Twitter to make statements, respond to statements made by others, and to ask things of their friends and other connected strangers. There is little persistence here, scrolling down a person’s past feed to see what they said in the past is rare and counter-productive.

2. Twitter is about the now, and in that sense it very much resembles a bunch of strangers shouting over each other in a crowded train station. You don’t browse Twitter leisurely, you grab a few strands of conversation, follow them and participate, and then let go again.

twitter33. Thankfully, if you take the time to master hashtags, it will all become much clearer. Hashtags landed on Facebook and other sites in the past couple of years, but they originated on Twitter, where they make the most sense. People use special keywords that start with a hash symbol to mark their comments as belonging to a specific conversation, #likethis.

Twitter recognizes those hashtags, and turns them into hyperlinks that take you to that specific conversation. Searching, or clicking on a hashtag for #fashion, for example, will take you to  a stream of comments whose authors all thought they were talking about fashion. Go show them better.

4. Find a few hashtags you’re interested in, and follow them regularly to see what’s up with your favourite subjects.

5. The basic Twitter client is a little spartan for this, but there are plenty of more advanced solutions, one of which is TweetDeck (link: https://about.twitter.com/products/tweetdeck), which is from Twitter themselves and helps you keep track of multiple conversation streams.

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6.  When a hashtag becomes famous, it starts trending – this simply means that a lot of people used it in their messages. Trending hashtags are volatile, and will usually rise and fall within a couple of days, but they can be a fun way to see what’s happening in the world. If you want to explore the world and what people are talking about, you should keep tabs on trending hashtags.

7. There is a whole ecosystem dedicated to providing you with the most accurate trends, but I recommend starting from the basics, and using Twitter’s own https://twitter.com/trendinghashtag – it will serve as a great guide to fresh, new content.

twitter4Now that you can navigate the choppy waters of the tweeting bird, you’ll want to get the word out there, to show these people just how wrong they are on all those subjects, except no one’s responding, are they?

Gaining popularity on Twitter is an entirely different beast, and we’re going to talk about it next week, after you’ve signed up and joined in the most exciting discussion forum of the global village.

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Psychologist, world citizen, mother - Effie is one half of the alwaysladies.com founding pair. She can bring to life any party with either a smile, or a strong opinion. If like us you can't get enough of Effie, visit her blog at www.thethinkingmomblog.com

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