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Twitter is a service where you type short messages, called 'tweets' to broadcast a message about something you want others to know about. Your message must be 140 characters or less. Interestingly, that number comes from the days people used to use the telegraph to send messages quickly to each other, as that was the same maximum number of characters that could be sent by the telegraph operator in a single message.
It is becoming more and more widely used for almost every purpose and now has come into its own as a way to send messages quickly. In fact, NASA's astronauts aboard the International Space Station have Twitter accounts, so anyone can interact with them throguh Twitter, even while they are on board the station.
For family history and genealogy, societies can set up Twitter accounts to send out quick notes about upcoming events and other matters. Your members and others can follow you in the same fashion they do Facebook pages.
The Dallas Genealogical Society created a Twitter account for the organization in December 2011 and saw an almost immediate increase in their web traffic. A Twitter widget (code available from the Twitter web site) allows them to display recent tweets on their home page: this is a painless way to display current information. View a presentation created by their Technology Special Interest Group for more information about creating and using a Twitter account.
A popular way of organizing messages on Twitter is to place a 'hashtag' in the message. A hashtag is called that because it begins with the # symbol, known by some as the pound symbol but that symbol is used because it is also called the 'hash' symbol. The hashtag can be any word in the message, and makes it searchable on hashtag aggregator sites like http://www.twubs.com/ and others in the link in the next paragraph. You can have more than one hashtag in a tweet.
See Hashtags on Twitter: How do you follow them on contentious.com for more information
Since Twitter is limited to 140 character messages you may want to investigate URL shorteners... this is a service that allows you register a (long) URL and obtain a short URL to use as a link. There are many such services available
- Google url shortener is one example of a free service. It has a nice feature that allows you to monitor usage for each short URL you create so you can tell how often it has been used. See http://goo.gl for more information.
- TinyURL.com is another... One nice feature: They allow you to create meaningful (easier to read and recognize) aliases for each site. See http://tinyurl.com/
Managing Your Tweets
Senting tweets when you have time is great, but it is not always convenient. If you or your organization depend on Twitter to get your messages out on a consistent basis you may want to consider obtaining a software package that allows you to schedule your tweets. This allows you to plan and schedule your tweets in advance. There are several to choose from... here are a few for you to review:
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