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Twitter – The Presenter’s New Best Bud – Part 2 – The Terminology


Did you ever feel like you’re the last person to know…something?  I do.  So when I know something before someone else, it always surprises me.

I was talking to my friend Marty, who, as far as I knew, had been active on Twitter longer than I had.  I asked Marty to help me with using Twitter for a presentation.  I mentioned what hashtag I’d be using, he said, “What’s a hashtag?”  I figured since I knew what a hashtag was, everyone must know!  So Marty learned a few things about Twitter and hashtags from me that day.

Since I’m not sure of your level of knowledge on Twitter, I thought I’d cover some of the basic Twitter terminology in this post so that the posts that follow will make more sense.  Because after all, there may be some of you out there who also feel like you’re always the last to know!

The Backchannel

The backchannel has been around long before Twitter.  The backchannel simply refers to the conversations that happen outside of a formal speaker talking to an audience.  So the conversation you have in the hallway between sessions, whispers to the person sitting next to you, blog posting after an event all fall into the category of a backchannel.  Twitter has become a new way to participate in a backchannel conversation.

Twitter & Tweet

Twitter is a free, on-line website where people can send messages to the world (or who ever happens to be “listening”) 140 characters at a time.  Why 140 characters at a time?  Because the creators of Twitter wanted to also be able to have these messages sent to mobile phones as text messages – and standard text messages are 140 characters long.  So using the Twitter website or your phone, you can send and receive these short messages, called tweets, whenever and however you’d like.

Following, Followers, Retweets


One of the ideas in Twitter is to listen to and participate in conversations about topics that interest you.  Say for instance, there is an individual in your industry who reads and writes great articles about your field.  If he’s on Twitter, he might tweet links to those articles.  Because you respect him and  you want to read what he reads, you would follow him and read the same material.  If you really like a particular article, you could repeat or retweet the article so that others could learn about the material as well.  Now say you tweet or retweet information about great articles – well, someone else might want to follow you and so they become your follower.  (If you’re new to Twitter, start by just listening and retweet the messages you think are cool or beneficial.)


Sometimes people are interested more in a subject area than in a particular person.  Hashtags allow us to find information about a particular topic or event within the world of Twitter.

A hashtag is simply the pound symbol # followed by a series of letters and/or numbers.  Twitter recognizes the # sign as being a special character and uses this specialness to link multiple tweets with the same hashtag.  It’s a shorthand to link people talking about the same topic. There is no such thing as reserving a hashtag.  Anyone who can type the # key can create a hashtag. (More on selecting a hashtag in the next blog post.)

At a conference or event, having a specially designated and publicized hashtag allows people to connect with others who are also attending or wish they could.  As a speaker, it allows you to keep track of what people are saying related to your session (more on that in a future blog post).

Twitter Stream

The Twitter stream is just the conversation that is happening around a particular hashtag.  As people are talking about a conference and they insert a hashtag, they become part of the Twitter stream.  Keeping track of the Twitter stream is very advantageous to event planners and to speakers.  Future posts on this blog will discuss how to make the most out of the Twitter stream.

Beyond the Terminology


Now that we have a common vocabulary, in future posts, I’ll discuss how to take advantage of the technology both for the benefit of the audience and for you as a speaker.