Jo's Web Wizardry

Why should I use Twitter? I just don’t get it.

That is the comment I will be responding to in this month’s article. Many of my friends have registered with Twitter, but have failed to embrace the real benefits of the social network. I explain exactly what it is and demonstrate how you can make the most of this handy networking tool.

What is Twitter?

Twitter is an online social networking and microblogging service that enables users to send and read short 140-character text messages, called "tweets".

The restriction on the length of post, or tweet, means that posts are targeted and succinct. Facebook has gradually become more of a social space for people to share photos and play games, whereas Twitter offers a real opportunity to build up a professional network of useful contacts that are providing relevant news.

What are the benefits?

As an artist, Twitter is a great way of growing your network of contacts. Many galleries are on Twitter, so you can expect invitations to private views, call for entries and other exciting opportunities. How easy would it be for you to miss important information like this on Facebook?

News of exhibition spaces, collaborative opportunities and funding can all be found through organisations and other artists. It’s also a great way of updating people on your work, progress and events. The audience is broader than Facebook, as everyone can view your tweets.

The ability to draw attention to keywords in your posts by using the #hashtag enables them to feature in search results. So for example, an #exhibition in #Hertford about #portraits immediately becomes relevant to anyone searching these terms. This means the reach of Twitter is far greater than that of Facebook, as it serves as a real time search engine.

How do I get started?

Registering is very easy, all you need is a name, email and password. Head to www.twitter.com and complete the simple registration box on the homepage.

Take the time to upload a profile picture, rather than the generic egg image that will be there by default. This doesn’t have to be of yourself, but could be a recent artwork, if you’d prefer.

Adding a few details will also help to establish yourself, as you want all of your new contacts to know who you are! Add links to any websites, or even your HVA Gallery page to share your work.

With your profile set up, you are ready to begin growing your network. A good place to start would be to take a look at the Herts Visual Arts profile and start adding contacts from our list.

You can find our Twitter account by searching for @HVAF in the top box. Then, when viewing our profile, simply click on the ‘following’ box. This will show you everyone that we are following on our account. You will be presented with a long list or artists, galleries and other relevant organisations which you can add to your own account, simply by pressing the ‘follow’ button on the right next to each name.

Other accounts worth looking at include @DigswellArts, @Courtyard_Herts, @ParndonMill and @Letchworth_Arts. You will be able to look at who these people are following and build up your network from there.

Once you have built up some contacts, why not try tweeting? What are you working on? Can you share a picture? Are you planning on visiting any exhibitions? Where are you going? Have you read any useful articles recently that you could recommend?

It’s worth taking the time to read this article, The Complete Guide to Twitter Ettiquette which will explain how to make the most out of this vibrant community. The main principle is to remember that Twitter is a community, which can be very generous in terms of sharing news. Remember to interact with others and not simply use it as a means of self-promotion. Some is fine, but you will get far more out of the network by maintaining a dialogue with other users.

Why not sign up and spend an hour giving it a go? It’s free, so you have nothing to lose, and once you get started, it can be very addictive! Our Twitter account is run by Angela, a friendly volunteer and fellow artist who will do her best to promote you work. Go on…you know you want to…

By JO ATHERTON

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