Have you noticed that ticker feed of viewer comments on the bottom of the screen when you watch television news? That’s the Twitter Effect – immediate crowdsourced information from a variety of perspectives. When broadcasters ask viewers to submit pictures and videos of local breaking news we all benefit not only from the incredible immediacy, but from the larger, holistic perspective that is created by the aggregate of thousands of individual “tweets.”
Is this just a passing fad? Probably not. Social networking sites are used by 65% of Internet users in the U.S., and by 87% of those under 30. Even for those over 65, 29% say they use Twitter, Facebook and/or other social media, according to the Pew Internet Project’s 2012 "Digital Differences" report.
If you aren’t inclined to join Twitter and start sharing your life and thoughts online, you can still use Twitter to follow events as they unfold. You can also search and follow Twitter feeds as a way to follow the development of a story after the fact. For example, I just returned from an amazing and intense library “user group” conference (IUG 2012) and was able to use Twitter to enhance my learning experience. The IUG conference is focused around the software that PrincetonPL uses to manage our materials, our catalog, and our customer database. In years past Princeton Library staff have presented at the conference, sharing what we’ve learned with other libraries across the country. This year we were focused on listening, networking, and learning to discover new ways to use our software more creatively and efficiently.
There are so many useful and informative sessions at the conference that it’s impossible to go to all of them. That’s where the Twitter “hashtag” comes in. A hashtag is a short tag added to tweets to identify a single theme or conversation, and is often used formally or informally at conferences and other organized events.
At IUG, there were Twitter feeds from the 1400 attendees from 24 countries. Both during and after the conference, I was able to follow the tweets tagged with the conference hashtag, #IUG2012, and learn about other sessions, share reactions and information with other attendees, ask questions, and make valuable connections.
If you want to learn more about Twitter hashtags, or how to use Twitter, see our Twitter tips for books and links.
Twitter fan photo courtesy of Fumi Yamazaki (fumi on FLICKR) | Twitter fountain photo taken by Becky Yoose.