We were all riveted by the Boston Marathon explosions -- the manhunt, the boat, the thermal imaging, the flash bangs, the capture. People watched on TV and online, and Twitter got a whole lot of publicity.
Viewers who'd always taken the "I-don't-need-to-tell-people-when-I-go-to-the-bathroom" attitude towards Twitter suddenly realized it might be something they should explore.
Tom Collins of Lenexa, Kan., wasn't on Twitter before the terror attack in Boston, and never really wanted to be. However, his wife Maggie is a self-professed news nut and has been on Twitter since 2008.
Maggie Collins checks Twitter every morning, and multiple times throughout the day.
"It's the easiest way to see what's happening locally and nationally with one quick easy view," Maggie explained.
She doesn't tweet much. Over the last five years she's logged 45 tweets and 32 followers. But that's not why she's on Twitter. She's on it for days like the Friday after the Boston bombings.
The entire country watched the events unfold that Friday on whatever device they were monitoring. Maggie was on the couch with her laptop, iPad, cellphone and television set all tuned into the events. She was monitoring Facebook, Twitter, email and flipping around cable networks on television.
As new twists and turns played out in Boston, Maggie was privy to what was going on from all the major news outlets, the police and even eyewitnesses. She was hearing scanner chatter, seeing pictures and hearing about what was going on all before the news outlets were even able to report it on television, all because she was following Boston-related tweets.
"You see a lot of very interesting things on Twitter, but there's a hesitancy to believe it until it's confirmed on TV," Maggie said.
Even still, watching Maggie that day and realizing how much she was learning on Twitter piqued Tom's interest.
Tom has gradually changed his opinion about Twitter. He once thought it was just a bunch of people talking about themselves and tweeting self-centered, useless information.
"It's been a gradual process. I've seen more and more how effective Twitter can be to gather interesting pieces of information almost instantaneously," Tom said. "Speed is becoming far more important than even (being) factually correct. As many details from as many sources as possible ... you can always sort out the facts later."
Tom just signed up for Twitter. He looks forward to following breaking sports news, but doubts he will ever log a single tweet.
Here's a tutorial on how to sign up and who you might want to think about following once you're logged in:
You'll need a name. You can enter your real name when signing up because you'll get the chance to choose a Twitter handle -- your official Twitter username -- during the next step. You'll need an email account and a password.
Next, you'll confirm all your info and pick a username. There will be a suggested one, but feel free to play around and see what's available. Click next.
The following page allows for you to choose people to follow. This is where you have to figure out how you want to use your Twitter account.
If you're interested in news, you can type in "41 Action News" and @41actionnews will pop up. Simply hit the follow button on the right side of the list. Once it changes to "following", you're now following the station and will see tweets by 41 Action News in your Twitter feed.
If you'd like to follow me, type in Christa Dubill and @ChristaDubill will pop up. Click "follow" and voila...you're following moi!
Ryan Sloane from CNN is fairly new on Twitter, but he tweets interesting and relevant national news information. Kansas City's mayor is on Twitter. The Kansas City Police Department and all the major news outlets are all there, too. Most businesses, politicians, news anchors and reporters are part of the Twittersphere -- just search their names and see who you can find.
Possible tweeters to follow (upper/lower case doesn't matter):
You do have to be careful to follow the real tweeter and not a fake. For celebrities, for example, there are a lot of fake tweeters. Make sure you've found the legitimate Twitter account of anyone high profile by looking for the turquoise check mark next to their name, which shows the account's been Twitter-verified, or confirmed to be the real one.
Next, you'll get a prompt by Twitter to find people to follow in different categories. Then it allows you to search your contacts (Google, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.) to find people you know.
At any point you find yourself wanting to skip a step (I did), you have to look for the very light little "skip"
in the bottom left corner.
I would highly suggest uploading a photo. People without profile pictures are usually categorized as newbies or spammers. The bio is definitely less important, but not a bad idea to write up.
As soon as you complete this step, you're good to go.
Here are a couple of key tidbits for effectively talking the Twitter talk:
1) Your name on Twitter (with the @ symbol, like @christadubill) is called your Twitter handle.
2) A hashtag is any word with the "#" before it. This is a keyword for conversations, but can also be used as a subject of the tweet. Ex. The #Royals canceled their game today because of #SnowInMay #Crazy (In this example, hashtagging "Royals" will get your tweet to show up when anyone searches tweets about the Royals. #SnowinMay was the hashtag people were using for the recent snowfall in KC. And #Crazy is just a funny hashtag to add showing how you feel about this weather.)
3) RT is short for retweet. It means you've just shared someone else's tweet by retweeting it, and it will appear to all your followers.