Twitter: Making It Easier for Newbies

I’ve been using Twitter since March 2007, and I have to admit that when I first checked it out, I couldn’t fathom anyone wanting to report on what they were doing any given day. That year, in one of my university lectures about online marketing, I even joked about not being sure how much the conversations about what people were eating or when they went to the bathroom (yes, the infamous “I’m in the bathroom” tweets) would be of value to anyone.

Fast forward a year to 2008, and I was expounding on how Twitter was a communications game changer. The times, how they change. The main points of the article was how Twitter was:

  1. Reinventing the threaded messaging board.
  2. Spawning imitators.
  3. Becoming an “add-on” for other tools.
  4. Transforming internal company communications.
  5. Forcing us to do more with less.
  6. 6. Affecting the way we blog.
  7. Influencing our communications style.
  8. Expanding it’s usefulness.
Today, I think many of us who have been using Twitter for a handful of years tend to take for granted how confusing it can still be to the new user. Twitter, however, continues to add visual cues to their interface especially for the new user.
Just last year, Twitter released their new interface using the Home button, @ button, # button and Profile button to simplify navigating their parts.

Now when you sign up for a new Twitter account, you’re led by the proverbial hand through a series of “discoveries” to help you understand the basic ways to communicate on Twitter (“This is a tweet.”) and how to follow others – even whom to follow.

One of the newer additions to these newbie prompts are little teardrop-shaped graphics that appear on your home page when you first begin tweeting that appear next to a tweet. If you click on them, they will expand to explain another aspect of Twitter communications:



Facebook employs a similar method of pointing out new features.

Personally, I think it is brilliant that these “veteran” social networks provide guidance to new – and old – users alike with visual aids to understand unfamiliar features. It’s an interface prompt like a sign on an unfamiliar road – immediately useful and even comforting.

Many of us tend to take for granted how hard it can be to figure out these tools that we’ve adopted and “mastered.” Take time to help someone else understand the basics of social mobile conversations and information flow. These skills are fast becoming undeniably necessary to stay connected and informed.

If you’ve got the knowledge, share it!


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