Twitter: What is it and why should you bother?

Twitter is trialling a new 280-character limit on tweets this week, so here's why joining it can be an entertaining, thought-provoking and fulfilling experience.

“just setting up my twttr”. Using just 24 characters, the first tweet was sent by Jack Dorsey, the co-founder of what was then known as Twttr, back in 2006

Leap forward 11 years and Twitter is now the preferred communication tool of the President of the US and 328 million other monthly active users, all of whom will now have double the number of characters to share their thoughts.  

[Read more: Twitter is trialling a 280-character limit]

Twitter has always had a 140-character message limit, but on Tuesday (September 26), Twitter announced that is trialling a new 280-character limit on tweets to help users get around the “constraints” posed by certain languages.

Here are seven reasons why you should give it a chance, and explore how to use the new character limit. 

[Read more: Twitter turns 10, its biggest moments]

It’s brilliant for breaking news

By its very nature, Twitter is instant and can be constantly updated, which makes it an incredibly powerful journalistic tool. If you follow your favourite news organisations and journalists, the freshest information from unfolding stories is always forthcoming. 

Twitter also makes citizen journalists of us all, as eyewitnesses can broadcast their versions of events and help build a much larger story with limitless sources.

Following changes in the law that allow tweeting from the courtroom, it’s now possible for Twitter users to hear evidence from the court at the same time as the jury.

Tweets by the Guardian’s David Conn from the inquiry into the Hillsborough disaster are a great example.

You can interact with your favourite personalities

For better or worse, Twitter offers a direct line to artists, politicians, athletes and notable public figures with personal accounts. You can send praise, offer feedback and even occasionally open a dialogue with some.

It’s the perfect tool for personalities and companies to reach their audiences and get their messages across quickly and easily. Sure, such access is often misused by abusive tweeters, but this open and transparent level of personal interaction didn’t exist before Twitter.

[Read more: Guide to Twitter etiquette]

Get up-to-date travel information

Many rail companies and airlines use Twitter to keep customers up to date with problems or changes to their service.

As well as providing information, many have teams dedicated to answering questions in real time. Very often sending a tweet to a company about why a service is late gets you an answer more quickly than if you were to ask a member of staff at the scene.

Interact with like-minded people

There will be plenty of people you know already using Twitter, but you’ll also interact with new people on the social network. You can find them by searching the site, spotting replies to people you follow or using the site’s indexed hashtags.

This is a good way to form a community with people who share similar interests, from sporting teams and bands to hobbies like homebrewing and beekeeping. Such an online community can be a great way to float ideas, seek feedback and share experiences.

Twitter is comedy gold

There are some really funny people on Twitter and you don’t even have to follow them to enjoy the choice nuggets! Because users can share other people’s posts with their own followers by ‘retweeting’ it, the most entertaining commentary, gags and videos tend to spread across the site like wildfire. There are countless entertaining accounts that can brighten our day within a 140-character tweet.

The same is true of comment. The most insightful and thought-provoking opinions often appear in our timelines when they’re retweeted by people we’re already following.

[Read more: Social media addiction feared by its users, says survey] 

It’s a great vehicle for personal expression

You can do so much more with those 140-characters than just telling people what you had for breakfast. Whether it’s sharing your opinions on the issues of the day, telling an entertaining story or joke, showing support for your favourite sports teams or sharing your own work and creativity, the possibilities are endless. If you don’t share your own work with as wide an audience as you can, who else is going to do it?

[Read more: How to view your old Tweets]

It raises awareness and can bring about change

Charities and appeals have achieved great success when their message has struck a chord with the Twitter community.  Likewise, it can be used for whistleblowing and to expose wrongdoing. Twitter can also help to shed light on the lesser-reported plights of those less fortunate in other parts of the world and can offer a rallying cry during difficult times.

In January 2015, the widely-used hashtag #JeSuisCharlie allowed Twitter users around the world to unite in solidarity with the people of Paris following the tragic shootings at Charlie Hebdo magazine.

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