The Facebook Refugee’s Guide to Twitter

Since Facebook’s recent PR disaster with their proposed new Terms of Service I’ve had a lot of my friends there sign up for Twitter accounts. This is primarily a reference for them, but hopefully you’ll get something of value out of it as well…

I should also point out that I myself am pretty much done with Facebook, so don’t be surprised when I bash it.

There are two very big differences between Facebook and Twitter, besides the fact that Facebook = The Internet for babies (see?):

  1. Whereas Facebook is a semi-private network of trusted friends (in theory, anyway) Twitter is a public forum.
  2. Unlike Facebook, Twitter won’t notify you of what you’ve missed while you were away. The best metaphor I’ve read for it likens it to a stream that you fish from — that is, you don’t worry about the fish that you miss.

Okay, so now that you’re on Twitter, what do you do?

1. Follow Twitter_Tips and read every link they post.

This was a great resource for me when I started out with Twitter — after a few days of diligent reading you’ll quickly become familiar with Twitter fundamentals like #hashtags, @replies, Direct Messages and Retweets.

Peter Cashmore at Mashable is another good account to follow. I’m sure there are more…

2. Choose the Twitter that fits.

Possible ways you can use Twitter include:

Facebook-style status updates – This is fine if you want to keep your Twitter followers to a small circle of people you already know. Keep in mind, though, that your chances of gaining new followers with this approach are close to zero — nobody you don’t know gives a rat’s ass about the awesome sandwich you just ate.

An RSS feed – Lots of bloggers use Twitter to announce new posts. The good ones will actually check their Twitter accounts to see if anyone cares.

A starfuck – Hey, if you want to join the other tens hundreds of thousands of sheep and follow the daily tedium of Stephen Fry or some other celebrity, who am I to stop you? It’s a step up from People Magazine, I guess…

An open channel of communication to a product or service – Companies that get this — like Starbucks and Jet Blue Airways — engage their customers in a way that wasn’t previously possible. If you’re a loyal customer of a specific brand you might want to check and see if they’ve got a Twitter account.

A back-channel for bloggers and other professionals within a specific industry or discipline – With the overwhelming number of smart folks on it, Twitter is probably the best public forum for any specific topic. This is how I use Twitter, specifically for technology and politics. Even if you happen to be a dear friend, if you’re not twittering on either of these topics I may choose not to follow you — which brings us to…

3. Find your own rules for following.

There are a lot of differing opinions on this. Some believe that you should follow everyone who follows you, as a courtesy if nothing else.

I prefer to take advantage of the way Twitter has implemented following as a mutually non-binding act — if you make interesting tweets I will find and follow you sooner or later; if you don’t I need to keep my incoming stream free and clear for things I actually want to read.

With this approach comes the understanding that some people will follow me and then quickly un-follow when I don’t follow them back. That’s fine. Twitter isn’t a popularity contest, at least for me.

… And that’s about all I can think of for now. This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive guide to Twitter, but hopefully it will be enough to get you started.

Oh, and one more point of order for Facebook refugees: You don’t have to start your tweets with “is” — honest!






13 responses to “The Facebook Refugee’s Guide to Twitter”

  1. […] a look at the Facebook Refugees Guide To Twitter,  A Load of Twitter  and Why the Twitter Haters are […]

  2. Ed Miller Avatar
    Ed Miller


    I haven’t jumped over to Twitter like when Facebook supplanted MySpace as the king of social networking.

    The controversial aspects of Facebook aside, I use Facebook to keep in touch with people since most of my friends and a lot of my family is on there. I “see” my niece, for instance, almost every week via the photos posted by my brother in Hong Kong.

    I’m not a heavy user of Facebook, though–I check it at breakfast and sometimes in the evenings–so it’s a frequent but not constant presence (I see Facebook open on computers here at work all the time–some people live on it).

    I will likely set up a profile on Twitter at some point. I’ve been curious about Twitter’s real-time reportage of current affairs and the ability to get feeds from beyond the people you know.

    For myself, I don’t see Twitter as a replacement for Facebook to stay in touch with what the people in my life are up to but as a means of checking in with the online world to see what’s going on.

    Maybe I’ll replace Facebook with Twitter down the road, but for now I don’t see that happening, principally because I can share pics and video with family–something that I don’t see listed anywhere as part of Twitter’s capabilities.


  3. Ed Miller Avatar


    Okay, I took the plunge this week, based on this blog, and signed up for Twitter. It works as advertised on my Mac, and I was able to tie it into my Friendfeed page to boot. I’ll have to use it to announce my filmmaking blog at some point.

    I don’t have any discount for SMS in my Bell Mobility plan, so I tried using the Bell web browser to log in–I was thinking I’d go that route for Tweeting. Unfortunately, the browser can’t log me in. I entered my user name and password, but I get stuck at the browser’s warning about being transfered to another web site. Selecting continue doesn’t work, and I end up in a loop. I don’t see my updates being worth the texting fees, so I’ll have to Tweet from the Mac for now….


  4. AC Avatar

    Maybe try one of the mobilized Twitter front-ends I listed in an earlier post?

  5. Ed Miller Avatar
    Ed Miller


    That’s my next step! I ran out of juice, so when the phone’s recharged, I’ll start with Dabr and company.
    You linked an article on Friendfeed about Bell agreeing to not charge for Twitter SMS messages, so once I confirm with Bell Mobility that my particular contract is eligible, I’ll have to give SMS tweeting a test, too.

  6. Sage Avatar


    My greatest problem with twitter is the fact that almost none of my friends actually use it. I think this is a major problem with most people who would like to move to twitter but find it hard, if not impossible, to due to the lack of membership of their friends.

    In an ideal world we would all be using OpenID and it would’nt make a difference, but the fact of the matter is, we aren’t and in the end the fact that Facebook has the user base means it benefits from the “network advantage” meaning each time a new user joins the utility of the product goes up.

    Twitter can most definatly move up in the future, as we have seen Facebook rise against MySpace. But that is still to be seen.

  7. medreferrals Avatar

    I’ve resisted Twitter for a long time, simply because I know how complicated simple things can be, and Twitter is extraordinarily simple.

    “An open channel of communication to a product or service” and “A back-channel for bloggers and other professionals within a specific industry or discipline” is what I’d half formulated in my mind after going thru dozens of sites that offer ways to view the Twitter phenomenon. Thanks for fully formulating it here. Great post. Praveer

  8. Ed Miller Avatar
    Ed Miller


    OK, I’ve been on Twitter for 8 weeks, and I check it twice a day, basically at the same time I check my e-mail, Facebook, Friendfeed, and Wahmbulance, MySpace (what’s that?) pages.

    I’m ambivalent about Twitter–I’ve only had a couple of “wow” moments with it–seeing a news story tweet by a media outlet long before the story appears on their webpage. Otherwise, meh. Sure, I know what half the Star Trek Next Gen cast is up to, but after a few weeks, the novelty wears off. I’m going to shake up the tweets I follow, but I don’t expect to become more interested in Twitter as a result.

    I have added a Twitter client, Tweetie, based on the Globe’s mention:

    I haven’t used a client app like this before, so having an app that automatically logs in and displays my feed is a definite plus. It saves having to navigate to the site in a browser and log in. If I were a hardcore Twidiot, I’d leave Tweetie open the whole time, leaving my browser to visit the Wahmbulance. I’m going to see if I can find client apps for the other social networks so that I can reduce the number of bookmarks I have to string across the top of the Safari interface.


  9. Andrew Currie Avatar

    Oh, Ed… Stop drinking that Apple Kool-aid, will ya? TweetDeck is much better, and it’s free — and it’s available for Linux! 😎

  10. Ed Miller Avatar
    Ed Miller

    To quote from the Globe & Mail article: But TweetDeck is a cross-platform Adobe AIR application, and though its distinctive, minimalist style is fetching, it definitely doesn’t look like a Mac app. The AIR foundation means it’s also a bit more sluggish than a native Mac program. Atebits comes to the rescue with the newly released Tweetie.

    So you actually like an Adobe-based app?!!


    1. Andrew Currie Avatar

      I like lots of Adobe apps, just not Adobe Reader

  11. Ed Miller Avatar


    Gotcha. I don’t like the Reader, either, for the same reasons, but the Globe article mentioned that Tweetie was faster, so that’s why I tried it out first.

    The interface is quite Mac-ish, so I like it. Yes, I’m swallowing Jobs’s marketing here, but I’ve been using Vista at work for 4-5 months, and, believe me, the Apple Kool-aid is much better than Microsoft’s!


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