Twitter is a "microblogging" social network. Not very clear, huh? Basically Twitter asks users to answer the question "What are you doing?" and limits your response to 140 characters (hence the "micro" blogging). What could you possibly say of any importance in 140 characters? Well, the brevity of Twitter makes it very useful for real time communication and generating "buzz." Where it would normally take weeks to produce a publication or a few days to present new material on a website - Twitter lets you quickly inform the internet world that something new is happening right now. As a result Twitter is very conversational and often has the type of information you might get from talking to a colleague on the phone or at a conference.
So how can you use Twitter to stay up-to-date on this type of information? Here are 3 different methods for using Twitter productively:
- Twitter Search - Twitter Search allows you to search for the most current information on your topic and to set up alerts for searches that you may want to monitor continuously. For example, if you are interested in Biofuels you could create a search for biofuels at Twitter Search and subscribe to the RSS feed. Now, every time someone tweets and includes the term "biofuels" you will be updated via RSS (If you've never used RSS, you might want to read our post on using Google Reader).
- Hashtags - Hashtags are a kind of key wording used to group tweets. Because the person who tweets with a hashtag has to intentionally type the hashtag this method can be much more precise than the Twitter Search. Hashtags always begin with a "#' and then the key term, usually abreviated. Hashtags are often linked to an event or a specific group. Twubs is a good place to look for common hashtags. Some that you might find interesting: #nasa, #space, and #hubble.
- Create your own Twitter account - whether you plan to tweet or not, creating an account allows you to easily follow other Twitter users. You can sign up for Twitter here. It is easy and free. Once you have an account you can find other Twitter users you want to follow.
Who to follow? NASA has many Twitter accounts where NASA project or individual employees tweet. Follow our Center Deputy Director, Ray Lugo!
Here are some other NASA Twitter accounts: