Why you should sign up for Twitter

The benefits of social networking for seniors have long been touted, but have you considered which platform is best for you?

Facebook is by far the most popular website for people to stay connected to their loved ones because it's user-friendly and has the largest population of users. However, Twitter can add new dimension to your online activity with its unique features.

Why should you use Twitter?
When people sign up for Facebook, it's likely because they have family members and friends who they want to keep up with. Perhaps that's the best way to stay in touch with your grandkids, or you love seeing photos of your friends' pets. Rather than creating a personal network, Twitter allows you to engage with people on a global level if you choose. In fact, you don't even need to know other people with accounts to enjoy what the social media platform has to offer.

One of the best ways to use Twitter is as a personalized news source. Based on what accounts you follow, your timeline is an endless newspaper with specific headlines that you might be interested in from major outlets like CNN and The New York Times. According to the Twitter blog, the site is more of an information network than a social one. There's plenty of information to take in, which you can do without ever composing your own tweet.

Twitter provides people with a new way to watch television and interact with brands. You can keep track of certain accounts and hashtags during each episode of your favorite show to find out what other fans think. Sometimes the stars of the shows even get involved by answering questions in real time. You may have noticed that shows include blurbs on the bottom of the screen with a "#." These are what you should post to join a conversation about the tense or funny scene. For example, you can tweet during "The Voice" to cast a vote for your favorite contestant.

Do you have a complaint or suggestion for a particular company? Twitter gives you a voice that's difficult to ignore. Many businesses hire people to exclusively deal with social media and online communication. You might consider tweeting a mini letter to the editor, The Huffington Post explained. 

How can you get started?
To sign up for Twitter, you just need to make a username and password. There's a place to upload a photo and share a quick quip about yourself, but you don't have to set those up right away.

Start by looking for accounts that interest you. These can be celebrities, television shows, favorite stores, news organizations, sports teams or politicians. If you can't think of who you want to follow yet, there's a discovery tab toward the top of the page that can offer suggestions.

Are you ready to compose your own tweets? You're limited to 140 characters in each post, so brevity is key. There are three main types of tweets - original thoughts, replies and retweets. General tweets are for times you want to share your own thoughts or experiences, while replies engage other Twitter users. If you see a post that inspires you to comment, simply tweet at the person who authored it. Retweeting is a way to give a nod to a post that you enjoyed and want others to see, but you don't necessarily have anything to add to the sentiment.

It's important to note that your privacy settings influence how you can interact with people. If your account is set to private, people who don't follow you aren't able to see the messages you send.

Bring Twitter on the go with your smartphone or tablet. You can download the app onto the devices so you can keep up with trending topics and your favorite accounts while you stand in line somewhere or stay in the waiting room before an appointment.