Twitter — to tweet, or not to tweet
April 17, 2013
Alison Epperson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Health Ed.
Murray State University
As the popularity and widespread use of Facebook skyrocketed, resulting in quite literally everyone and their mother and even grandmothers creating an account, younger generations have sought out and embraced different methods of social networking. For many college students, Facebook has already fallen by the wayside after just recently celebrating its seventh birthday.
If you have yet to tap into the latest social media Twitter, you could be missing out. You may be feeling overwhelmed with ‘too many social media outlets’ however, staying current on trends and technologies has become more critical than ever as far as way in which to disseminate information. Here are just a few of the major utilizers of Twitter — ESPN, AP, The Weather Channel, and all the major news networks.
What is Twitter exactly?
“Tweets” are short (Twitter limits them to 140 characters unless you change the font settings), random statements that either involve conversation between other Twitter users, or a reference to something that is currently happening (such a game or TV show), or even something they see or experience (e.g., someone’s outfit on campus).
The #(hashtag’s) original purpose was to track items or individuals among Twitter users. This ‘trending’ is identified on the left side of the page, so that users can see what other Twitter users are tweeting about. An example of this would be to reference the Super Bowl such as #Ravens or #49ers, or the players/coaches #RayLewis, #HarbaughBrothers, etc.
If you are not already using Twitter for your department, whether it is for Sport Clubs, Intramurals, Fitness or Facilities, take a minute to weigh the pros and cons of having a Twitter account.
- Twitter is definitely the new “go to” source for immediate information. Most Twitter users will admit to checking their accounts as much as possible from sun up to sun down.
- Even if you are participating in programs such as IM leagues, a majority of students (at least on my campus) admit that they do not read email anymore — even if the institution considers that to now be the “official form of communication”.
- Twitter updates instantly and tweets are listed in a person’s “Time Line” (TL). This can be helpful if you need to get immediate information out such as a change in field location, the cancellation of a fitness class etc.
- Twitter accounts are easy to manage. Once an account is set up, tweets can be sent from any wireless device (phone, tablet, etc.).
- Twitter has a “direct message” or “DM” function that allows one user to send a message to an individual rather than everyone. This is very similar to the Facebook message.
- “Mentions” are when one or more Twitter users are mentioned in the tweet. An example of this could be if you wanted to recognize certain IM participants for good sportsmanship or participation, you could mention their names / Twitter ID in a tweet. @johndoe, @janedoe, @johnandjane — Great job tonight! Appreciate the good show of #Sportmanship.
- Sometimes, a tweet can be overlooked if a user has a large number of people/accounts they are following. If several people are tweeting at the same time the TL gets pretty lengthy, and a user would have to make sure they scrolled all through the TL to see the message, even if it was sent in a short amount of time.
- Unlike Facebook where you initiate the connection/become friends with someone, in order for a user to receive your information on Twitter, they must follow you. Example — I have a Twitter account, and I put out information regarding a class. Unless my students are following me, they will not see that information.
Twitter and your staff
If you are not currently using Twitter, or are unaware of the “do’s and don’ts of tweeting”, it might be wise to consider adapting or at least talking about how your staff uses their own accounts. Within the past couple of years, many NCAA coaches have implemented Twitter bans on their players due to the fact that users often forget who’s following them, and how sometimes our ‘lack of filters’ when spouting off opinions can lead to very embarrassing situations for the team and the institution.
Twitter not only allows people to make statements which could be offensive, or derogatory, if the person making the statement has not ‘secured’ their account, that statement can be ‘re-tweeted’ to potentially unlimited other twitter users. In addition, twitter users can upload pictures or images attached to the tweet.
Again, like Facebook there are certain privacy settings a user can implement to ensure that their tweets are ‘protected.’ For example, with my Twitter account, other twitter users must make a request for me to accept them as a follower. Some Twitter users do not require that, giving literally anyone access to their account. These types of “open account users” are sent a notification when someone starts following them, and as a result, that user has the option to “block” another Twitter user, similar to the “de-friend” option on Facebook. However, the action to block that user may not happen before that new “follower” has already had time to see every tweet and picture that has been posted. In addition, tweets can be copy and pasted!
Coming from someone with 13 years as a Campus Recreation Coordinator, I’ll give you an example relevant to intramurals. A participant in a flag football game is tripped up and falls onto the ground in obvious pain. It doesn’t take five seconds for someone to snap a quick picture on their phone and tweet something about the accident like “somebody clearly has two left feet #Faceplant” which could be funny to them, but extremely embarrassing to the participant who could be experiencing laughs and jokes at their expense by the time the game is over because that tweet has been re-tweeted countless number of times.
In addition, a large number of Twitter users, also have “Instagram” accounts, which is an app for photo storage that also allows the user to ‘enhance’ images. This could be changing the picture to black/white, changing the light to the image or adding text to the picture. As with Twitter, Instagram users must create an account and then people can ‘follow’ them. The same caution for Twitter extends to Instagram and various other apps for photo storage and sharing. The potential for harm is large scale. It could be worth your time to investigate these apps and how they are used.
To conclude, it may not be viable for you to monitor your staff on every social media outlet, however, taking the time to make them aware of your knowledge of how the media forms work, as well as considering the implementation of a social network policy. Something as simple as not allowing supervisors, officials, or score keepers to have phones while they are working, or just creating a Word document or contract explaining your expectations regarding their association and behavior as a representative of your staff.