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Twitter - what's that about?

As a subscriber to the sign of Taurus, probably a double Taurean at that, I’m a bit of a plodder and resistant to change by default, hence why I am only just coming round to the idea of twittering, is that what it is called when you follow a tweet btw? To this end I thought I should ask a young pal of mine who has the whole thing sussed. And as I thought perhaps there might be a few others out there who were also born under Taurus, or just haven’t jumped on the band wagon yet, I thought I’d post up a question and answer session.

Introducing Shane Andrews,

Ginger gadget boy from Cardiff. Works in transport. Loves music, Radio 1 and men.

Dislikes tea, coffee & mayonnaise.

Likely to be found in Tesco or a pub / club.

Twitter name @gingio,

Number of Tweets 17,914,

Number of followers 823,

Number following 1,028,

Listed 35 (what does that mean?)

Let’s get down to it:

A’right Shane, wha’s occurring’! Why did you start twittering? And what does listed mean?

Hiya Sar, it’s generally referred to as ‘tweeting’ by the way. I started tweeting because I began to notice it mentioned more and more in the media. Admittedly at first, I didn't use it much at all, but it was getting mentioned more and more on the radio. All the DJs were asking people to 'follow them' on twitter and David Dimbleby, the host of 'Question Time' started mentioning twitter a lot in quite an amusing way through lack of understanding of what it was. He was rather uncomfortable in explaining to viewers to join in with the debate via twitter. He used to mention ceefax, the text messaging and then with twitter in the equation he just seemed somewhat confused, with long pauses between trying to explain how to join in and follow the @bbcquestiontime account or use the hash tag #bbcqt. Hash tags are twitter's way of discussing the same subject and way of keeping track of the conversation. You include a 'hash tag' in your tweets and then this tag can be searched for.

So I thought to myself "well, if programmes of this calibre are joining this website, lets join it and check it out". I'm pleased to say even David Dimbleby understands what it is now, probably thanks to the amount of tweeters who regularly tweeted every Thursday night with things like "PLEASE EXPLAIN TO DAVID WHAT THIS IS!!".

I'm listed, as you've noticed at the time of this interview, in 35 separate lists. People have their own interpretation of what a list means, for example, I have made one named "People I know for real" in which I add people who I know personally i.e. personal friends. So, if I wanted to log on and just see what my group of friends are talking about, I'd just click on that list which effectively filters my feed to show only what my friends who are tweeters have tweeted. Before twitter lists were launched, amidst a lot of hype, it was really difficult to keep track of certain people's feeds - so lists are basically a way of keeping twitter a lot more organised.

How long have you been tweeting?

I signed up for twitter on 26th January 2009. It's not a case of me ticking off the dates in my calendar or diary either, the official iPhone app lists when somebody joins twitter on their profile.

On average how many tweets do you post a day?

It's hard to put a number on it really. Some days I tweet a lot, other days I tweet a little. It all depends what I'm doing on the day, but generally I tweet at least a few times a day.

Roughly how many tweet responses do you get and what are the best responses you’ve had?

In terms of best responses, that is difficult to define. I'll give you perhaps a 'top 5' of different examples.

• I lost my best friend from school to cancer in 2010. It was a tough time for me, I didn't think I'd be affected as much as I was. I decided to do something to raise awareness and decided I'd participate in a cancer research event, which was a full marathon, to be completed walking only and overnight. I'm please to say I raised £970, of which I'd say around 15% is because of the generosity of people I communicate with on Twitter.

One guy, Mark, lives in Boston USA, and sponsored me twice for quite considerable amounts each time. He also stayed awake late into the night in his time zone to tweet me regular words of encouragement throughout the gruelling 26 mile challenge. It was such a help when I felt so low and was close to hypothermia. So much so that at the last checkpoint, I had to argue that I wanted to continue as the staff wanted to stop me. Crossing the finish line, cold, aching and with very sore feet was an incredible and emotional experience, with crowds of people cheering me on and a local radio DJ shouting words of encouragement from the stage as well as live on air!

• On a similar personal note, I discussed quite a bit with regards to my friend with a few individuals on Twitter, though in private via 'Direct messages' (which is kind of like a private inbox). One guy I was tweeting with was going through a difficult time himself, with a friend that was ill, so I tweeted some support to him. He wanted to thank me and as a professional autograph dealer, he offered to get me an autograph of any celebrity I wanted. As it happened, he was off to try and get autographs from a few people like Zac Efron who were visiting Radio 1 and then he was off to Leicester Sq to wait along the red carpet at a film première for the likes of Angelina Jolie and more. I'm a massive Radio 1 fan, so thought I'd try my luck and asked him for an autograph of Scott Mills and Greg James, my two favourite presenters. Low and behold, I got them in the post a few days later, complete with photos to prove that they had written them to me and it was thanks to the power of Twitter. It cheered me up no end. Scott actually follows me now too! (they actually wrote my twitter username on them!!!).

Scott Mills

Greg James

• I won 2 returns to Paris with Eurostar, which I'm yet to use, for promoting something that they were working on. I tend to tweet about public transport occasionally as I work in the industry.

• Sarah Brown (Wife of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown) has tweeted me on a few occasions for example. It all started with an innocent tweet whilst in London which went something along the lines of "Just off to Westminster, lovely evening so time to walk. Will have a look at Downing St but doubt Sarah or Gordon are in". I had a reply within the hour saying "No sorry, we're away, but we do enjoy regular evening walks along the Thames - hope you enjoy too". I know for a fact it was the real Sarah Brown because her account was often mentioned in the media and had a Verified by Twitter logo'. She regularly posted photos and also changed the username after leaving number ten, from '@SarahBrown10' to '@SarahBrownUK'.

• Carol McGiffin from ITV's Loose Women mentioned me on the show thanks to a tweet I sent her (informing her that Robbie Williams joked in a radio 1 interview with Scott Mills that he'd like to go on holiday with her). Robbie was on the show recently and she actually asked him about his comments, thanks to me notifying her of the radio interview I had heard.

Would you say 823 Followers is normal, how did you get so many Followers?

I often wonder the same thing. I'm a firm believer of quality and not quantity and I have some very lovely people following me, whom of course I follow back and tweet with regularly. Some people follow me as they like what I tweet about, others follow me as I've been recommended to them. Each Friday is 'Follow Friday'. You tweet who you would like to recommend others follow so generally Friday would be a day that followers increase, although I've watched my followers slowly increase over the past few months on an almost daily basis. Of course, some people go too. The number constantly fluctuates.

As part of Follow Friday, some people like to list user ID's of who they recommend whilst others like to give individual recommendations. With the latter, I really have received some lovely compliments, but the most repetitive comment I get is the fact that I'm liked because I reply. Some tweeters, especially those with a high follower number like to just tweet and either reply selectively or not reply at all - rather ignorant I think. Can you imagine if it was an office situation? You make a comment, 20 people reply, yet you ignore them all other than 1. I don't think it would go down very well or that you would be very popular for long!

Can you only tweet on twitter?

Not at all. More and more websites are offering social network integration, for example, if you read a story on BBC News that you would like to share with others, you just click the 'Share on twitter' or 'Share on facebook' logos, and the story gets published on your account. I often share stories from my BBC News iPhone app. You could also link up your Facebook status's to be posted on twitter simultaneously - though I disagree with this option and think Twitter and Facebook should remain separate.

Where do you mostly tweet from, your phone or computer?

Mainly from my phone - it's so easy to do on the move.

Do all your friends tweet as well?

Nope, hardly any actually. Possibly why I've become so hooked on it, although more and more people I know are slowly joining. I've read somewhere that it's predicted more tweets will be sent than text messages within 5 years. I really do think this could become a reality, possibly even earlier than the 5 year estimate.

Have you ever had information fatigue?

Not that I'm aware of!

What are the pitfalls to watch out for or are there any downsides to tweeting?

Erm... I'd say be aware of fake celebrities if you want to use it to follow them - make sure they're verified or that their own websites or TV programmes etc have mentioned their username.

I don't think there are any downsides, as long as you're open to listening to people's opinions. People will often feel the need to question a tweet or your opinion or perhaps offer a differing view which in my view makes the whole experience more interesting. Only last night I tweeted "Save EMA (Educational Maintenance Allowance) and TAX THE BANKERS!". Immediately a banker from Ireland tweeted me saying "I'm a banker and I work hard for my bonus". We then began to exchange tweets with regards to my views and his views.

I'm not against bankers receiving a bonus, or anyone at all. I receive an annual bonus which is taxed and I believe that others should do so too, if they're lucky enough to work for a company that does such a scheme, although I believe a bonus should only be provided if and when the company is in profit.

What advice would you give a new twitterer?

Follow me! I'm always on hand to help 'newbies'. Also, something I often recommend is to search the net for "Phillip Schofield guide to twitter" - the infamous 'Silver fox' wrote an online guide when trying to promote the site on 'This Morning'. It's brief, easy to read and very helpful.

Another question some people will ask "How do you know it's them?" if they're hoping to follow celebrities. Twitter often add a "Verified" logo with a tick to the top right of their profile, to prove that they are whom they say they are. A lot of people like to pretend they're a celebrity on twitter, but thanks to this verified system, it helps fish-out the fakes. Don't be fooled by those who add their own ticks or verified wording to their profile bio's - it will only appear on a non-editable part of their profile added by twitter.

Where do you go from here?

I can honestly say I don't know. I just want to continue being myself. I don't pretend to be somebody I'm not, my tweets are honest, opinionated and an accurate reflection of my life.

To read the sequel, TWITTER, WHAT'S THAT ABOUT A YEAR ON, click here
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