The Twitterati take over St Albans

Exploring the district’s new online community

THE TWITTERATI have not just landed in St Albans, they’ve settled in, put their feet under the table, formed a new community and there’s only one way to beat them: join in the fun.

Twitter, the social networking tool that now has over 200 million people using it globally, is proving such a hit in the district that a thriving community is emerging that engages, debates and shares information – all in just 140 characters.

St Albans has embraced the concept with open arms; with an ever-growing number of people in the district tweeting, forming a local network and reaping rewards from their presence on the site. Connections with like-minded individuals abound and it gives businesses the perfect platform to converse directly with their customers and respond to their feedback.

Businesses, councillors, stay-at-home parents, home workers, commuters, FCC and even the district and county council have accounts on Twitter and it’s proving to be the quickest, most instant way to engage with the community.

But despite its popularity, Twitter does not make a good first impression.

Explaining it to the uninitiated is a challenge and while this is a social networking tool that encourages brevity, getting to grips with the concept of the micro-blogging site requires a bit of time and patience.

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Once overcome, Twitter is a bit like having all your favourite people: authors, sports stars, celebrities and if it suits your fancy, politicians, all in your very own private pub. Inside this bespoke watering hole they are passing comment on everything from X-Factor, FCC fiascos and where to get a decent latte on the morning commute. And with relative ease you can join in their conversations – or start your own and reel them in.

The number of local people using it is rapidly increasing and despite the fact that it’s bred terminology guaranteed to make the technophobe shudder (follow, tweet, hashtag, #ff, RT) there’s something a little bit more grown up about it than Facebook’s ‘look at me’ vibe.

Businesses like Heaven is a Cupcake and Wheathampstead Jeweller, Rachel Jeffery, have honed the art of using Twitter to further their businesses, giving their brands a personal touch and joining in the playful banter that has become the hallmark of St Albans’ Twitteratti. Charities like The Crescent have also used it to generate support and funding.

Councillors, such as Steve Bowes-Phipps and Chris White, to name just two, use their accounts to share information, engage with their constituents and respond to their concerns. But their accounts also allow you, in a brief and concise manner, to get to know the people elected to represent your concerns.

What is most impressive is that this network is not something that merely exists in the ether, it’s a very real thing with many people in the network taking the time to meet up in person in an informal setting. St Albans #tweetups offer those on Twitter and in St Albans the chance to meet up in ‘real life’ and these actual events have solidified the network and given birth to friendships. Anyone can go along to these events and to find out how or to see when they’re happening, look at the list of accounts we’ve suggested you follow.

Twitter is an amazing tool for journalists too; we’re constantly receiving story ideas, tip offs and being asked questions about real time events, which we can then investigate fully. Typing in #StAlbans will generate all tweets mentioning St Albans in reverse chronological order. This helps us spot stories but also people it might be worth following because they are obviously connected to the area.

Twitter also makes for some very witty banter – watching Vanessa Gregory (@VanessaStAlbans) take Herts Ad editor Matt Adams (@matthertsad) to task over a headline is a bit of good-natured fun well worth observing. The site really comes into its own when major news events unfold.

You don’t have to tweet an awful lot if you have very little to say. The key thing when you first join is to follow, follow, follow. The more people you follow, the more conversations you’re going to see and from there, you can dip in and out of them as you please.

So, with this in mind, we’ve put together (see box) some key local people we think you should follow to ensure you’re fully integrated into St Albans’ Twitter network.