Social media isn’t for everyone but if you have more than a passing interest in the First World War you should seriously consider using Twitter. I’ve found it to be very beneficial and thought I’d do my bit to recruit others to join the ranks.
Twitter is an excellent tool for finding and connecting with fellow devotees and is hands-down the best way to stay on top of news, events and stories related to the First World War.
The volume of information on Twitter can be overwhelming but if you learn how to manage it properly it can become an efficient means of focusing on material that is important to you.
The First World War Twitter community is large, diverse and extremely knowledgeable. It includes professional historians, researchers, authors, journalists, archivists, genealogists, battlefield guides and amateur history detectives from around the world. They are a friendly bunch and most are happy to share their passion and expertise. I’ve made some good friends on Twitter and we often help each other out.
While there are no shortage of opinions on Twitter you’ll find that most tweets link to First World War content such as newspaper articles, blog posts, archival records, commemorative websites, television and radio programs, etc.. You’ll also find many photographs tweeted from private collections, museum archives and some in real time from First World War battlefields, cemeteries and commemorative events taking place around the world.
Twitter is easy to use once you understand the basics:
- Sign up to Twitter. It costs nothing to join.
- Follow someone who tweets about topics that interest you, me for example 🙂
- When the people you follow tweet they will appear in your “Home” timeline.
- A tweet is a 140-character message that contains text, links and sometimes photos or videos.
- If you like their tweet you can “Favorite” it. They will be notified that you did and may follow you back.
- When you send a tweet everyone who follows you will see it (you’ll have no Followers to begin with but once you start tweeting you will attract new followers).
- You can “Retweet” a tweet you think your followers will appreciate.
- If someone follows you, favourites your tweet or retweets your tweet you will see them listed on your Notifications page.
There is much more to Twitter including Replies, Mentions, Direct Messaging, Searching and Hashtags but you can visit Twitter’s Help Centre to learn more. I’ll conclude with a few tips that may help you get the most from Twitter:
Keep Your Tweets on Topic
Twitter averages 6000 tweets per second and that generates a lot of noise. Don’t tweet about vastly different topics from a single Twitter account. If you tweet about the First World War one minute and your passion for exotic citrus fruit the next you may have trouble retaining First World War followers who think your off-topic tweets clutter up their timeline. If you want to tweet about separate subjects set up separate Twitter accounts.
Use Lists to Organize Different Topics and to Filter your Timeline
While your tweets should be limited to a single subject that doesn’t mean you can’t follow tweets on many different subjects. I tweet about the First World War but I also follow tweets about genealogy, writing and craft beer (to name a few). I use Lists to organize those I follow into separate categories. This has the added benefit of filtering my “Home” timeline which becomes increasingly unusable as I follow more and more people. Lists can be private or you can share them with others by making them public.
It’s Not All About You
Like a lot of things in life what you get out of it often depends on what you put into it. If your main motivation for using Twitter is to flog your product or service it will soon become obvious. Support those in your Twitter community by retweeting their tweets, joining in conversations and mentioning others in your own tweets. Your tweet-to-retweet ratio is up to you but over 80% of my tweets are retweets.
Don’t be Anonymous
People are more likely to follow you if they know a little bit about you. Add a profile image (it doesn’t need to be your photograph), some basic info about yourself and if you have one, a link to your website or blog. When someone follows me I always visit their profile page. Understanding who you are does factor into my decision to follow back.
Dig in for the Long Term
Contribute, experiment and don’t give up. I’ve tried several social media platforms but Twitter has been by far the most rewarding. It will take time to fine-tune your lists and even longer to recruit followers of your own but if you stick it out you should find it to be a very worthwhile investment.