Twitter users use hashtags (descriptive keywords that begin with the "#" sign) to categorize tweets and to follow or contribute to conversations on particular topics. You'll see the hashtag #knit included in tweets about knitting, #oscar used by Oscar® fans exchanging observations during the Academy Awards®. The hashtags #FF and #FollowFriday are used on Fridays, when many people tweet a list of their favorite people to follow. Some conferences and public events even create a special hashtag so you can keep up with news updates and your fellow attendees.
If you want to know more about a specific topic—say, organic gardening, minor league baseball or photography—Twitter lists are a great way to start. A list of Twitter users is compiled by a Twitter user, usually related to a particular topic. Some of my favorites are gastrobuzz (food), molfamily/green (green living) and anndouglas (I love her parent and parenting list). You can also follow (and unfollow) an entire Twitter list with a single click. Be sure to check out the directory of Twitter lists at Listorious.com.
Avoid Annoying Twitter Spam
Just like email, Twitter now has its share of spammers, so never click on a link from someone you don't know. Twitter spammers use mentions to lure people in and hack their Twitter accounts. If you get a tweet that seems like spam, just ignore it; client programs like Tweetdeck may also offer you a button to trash or report it as spam.
Overall, Twitter is a fun way to keep up with friends, stay on top of current events and add a little zest to your day. How you use it and how much you use it is up to you. You can follow and stop following anyone at any time—so get out there and make Twitter what you want it to be.
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Alexandra Samuel, PhD, is the director of the Social + Interactive Media Centre at Emily Carr University and the principal of Social Signal, a social media agency that has launched more than 30 online communities. The mother of two young kids, Samuel blogs about how to make technology a meaningful part of your life, work and world. Follow her on Twitter.