If you haven’t been dead for the past couple of months you’ll have found it hard to miss the stunning rise in popularity of Twitter, the social messaging site that only lets you send messages of 140 characters of less.
Not only are megastars like Obama and Oprah twittering, but it’s even got a ‘Revolution’ named after it – the Moldovan Twitter Revolution.
Initially, I thought Twitter was a bit of a waste of time (after all, who wants to read my 140 character ramblings). But, over the last couple of months, I’ve been taking a new look at Twitter, and it’s actually proved a really useful tool. I’ve been able to use Twitter to:
- connect with people who are interested in Russia
- follow breaking news in real time, often with reports from people at the scene
- see news about Russia that I wouldn’t otherwise have seen
And I thought it might be helpful to briefly explain how I use Twitter, and how you can too.
How can I use Twitter to connect with other people interested in Russia?
To my mind, the biggest benefit of Twitter is that I can use it to easily find and talk to other people who are also interested in Russia.
If I find someone I think is interesting, I can then follow them, and a copy of every message they then post on Twitter is pushed to my account. Obviously, if you follow a lot of people, you see a lot of messages. But the beauty of Twitter is that, although everyone is saying something interesting, nothing anyone says is vitally important to your life. You can dip in and out of the stream of messages at will.
Sometimes I’ll just read what another Twitterer has to say and move on, but sometimes I’ll want to engage in a brief conversation. To do this, I can either send a private message, direct to their account. Or I can send a public message which is addressed specifically to one person, but which other people can see as well – this means that other people can join the conversation too, if they’re interested.
How can I find people on Twitter?
If you don’t follow anyone on Twitter, you’re going to be lonely. So the first task is to find some interesting people to follow. I use four main ways to find people who are interested in Russia.
- Click a link to someone’s Twitter profile on their blog then follow them. For example, you can follow this link to reach my profile – @siberianlight.
- See an interesting public discussion that someone I already follow is involved in, then follow the other person in the conversation as well
- Use Twitter Search to find other people who have talked about Russia, Putin, Moscow, etc.
- Use a directory service like WeFollow to see who is interested in Russia.
How can I use Twitter to follow breaking news about Russia?
One of the Twitter features that has been getting a lot of attention recently is the way that hashtags (the # symbol) are used to collate lots of Tweets (overly cutesy Twitter word for ‘message’) about the same thing.
So, if you want to tag something as being about Russia, you could say “I love Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister of #Russia“. Then, anyone who wants to see what’s being said about Russia, could visit that hashtag’s page. Click on the link, and you’ll see what I mean.
Hashtags were used brilliantly in the recent protests in Moldova. Everytime someone wrote about the protests, they added #pman or #moldova to the end of their Tweet. (#pman, by the way, is an abbreviation for Piata Marii Adunari Nationale, the name of the square where the protests were held). Anyone searching for either of these hashtags would see, in real time, what people were saying about the protests.
A lot of the Tweets tagged with #pman were noise – people from the US, and Western Europe talking about what they’d seen on the news, and how terrible/great (delete as applicable) it was. But in amongst the noise were Tweets from people in Moldova, giving regular snapshots of events as they unfolded. Within minutes of protestors storming the Moldovan parliament, it had been reported on Twitter – hours ahead of any of the main news networks.
How can I see news about Russia that I wouldn’t otherwise have seen?
This is actually really straightforward. One of the most common things people use Twitter for is to post links and (very) brief comments on a story they’ve found interesting. To find interesting news about Russia, simply follow people who are interested in Russia, and read the stories that they recommend. Sometimes the stories will be rubbish – other times, they’re hidden gems.
Connect with me on Twitter
If you’re already on Twitter, you can follow and connect with me by visiting my homepage @siberianlight. Once you’ve done that, please feel free to post your own Twitter ID in the comments below, so that other people who see this post can follow you as well.
I’d also love to hear how you use Twitter – are there any tips that I’ve not covered?
Update: By the way – check out these two posts from Ukrainian blogger Petro – apparently all the top Ukrainian politicians – Yushchenko, Yanukovich and Timoshenko – are all on Twitter. How Twitter Savvy Are Ukraine’s Politicians and Twitter Savvy Ukrainian Politicians: Continued.