10,000 Star Twitter followers - and counting

The Shropshire Star has smashed through the 10,000 follower mark on Twitter. But what is the world of tweets, hashtags and trends all about? Internet editor Todd Nash?explains.

10,000 Star Twitter followers - and counting

It started with a simple "Hello Shropshire." Unfortunately, nobody was listening.

While the Shropshire Star now has thousands of followers on Twitter, ready to respond to every question and retweet every piece of breaking news, in the beginning we were merely shouting into the abyss.

But last month the follower count ticked past the 10,000 mark, three-and-a-half years after we first signed up to the social networking site and, to celebrate, this week will be all about Twitter.

  • A beginner's guide to Twitter

A world where everybody is limited to just 140 characters, Twitter has forced its way into the mainstream and everybody from the Hollywood royalty to your neighbour is tweeting away.

And the premise couldn't be simpler.

On signing up, you choose people or organisations that you are interested in – such as your work colleagues, favourite football teams or celebrities – and you'll receive their updates automatically.

Meanwhile, you can tweet about the things that interest you – and people may choose to follow your updates as well. Many people have even found 'real-life' friends after conversations with followers.

Hashtags are used to make content easy to find – for example, Shrewsbury fans put #salop in every tweet so that they can join each other's conversations – while the 'trending' topics show what is most talked about across the country.

There are now hundreds of local organisations in Shropshire tweeting every day – with the latest road closures, money-off deals and even jobs often first being posted on the site.

So this week we aim to bring you a flavour of Twitter, starting off with a simple 'how to' guide from social media expert Jan Minihane and, across the week, we'll have lists of who to follow, days in the life of our local community and debates from those who love it and hate it as we celebrate the social networking site that has taken over the country.

But whilst it may seem that Twitter is everywhere at the moment, it wasn't always this way.

When former Star journalist Lara Page set up the account back in March 2009, Twitter was still new and the source of much derision.

She said: "Social media was expanding rapidly and becoming a platform for the latest news and information, but a lot of people still weren't interested – they thought it was just people talking about what they had for breakfast."

And, just as it was then, Twitter is still full of people talking about their eating habits – only last week, new Radio 1 breakfast show host Nick Grimshaw used his to announce that he was having toast – but it has more to offer.

Spotting the opportunities for a regional newspaper, Lara set up the account and put out the Star's first tweet, but was surprised to find the Twitter community slow to take to the idea of their local paper joining their conversation.

"There was initially some hostility" she said. "People were worried about their privacy being invaded and thought that we were stalking them"

"We started a regular Twitter Talk column in the Star to show that we were listening and the more that we tweeted our news in a professional way, the more people started to trust us – and interact with us."

Many more though were happy to receive the latest local news through their Twitter feed and began following the Star in their droves.

Karen Thorne, left, of Hopton House was the Star's first Twitter follower

The Star's first follower, Karen Thorne, who tweets on behalf of her business Hopton House Bed and Breakfast in Craven Arms, has reaped the benefits of being an early adopter of Twitter and now has nearly 7,000 followers herself.

Karen said: "I started following Shropshire Star because it was a useful resource. It's about getting really up-to-the-minute news, such as information on the recent flooding.

"There was a strong Shropshire community on Twitter from the beginning and I still feel that there is. Shropshire has one of the strongest communities, I think, because we're so rural.

"It's more difficult to get out and about – everything's more spread out – and tweeting turns into meeting people in real life."

It wasn't long too until the followers numbered in their thousands and the Shropshire Star was posting hundreds of tweets every month – as well as tweeting live from the big news stories affecting the region.

And the followers just kept on coming – by September 2011, the Star had reached the 5,000 mark on Twitter and, just a year later, the count reached a magical five figures.

Today, the Twitter account is used for breaking news, sourcing stories, tweeting live from Shrewsbury Town and AFC Telford matches and providing important information for Shropshire's tweeting community.

The Shropshire Star is not lonely on Twitter any more. . .

Tomorrow: Find out who Shropshire's finest tweeters are on our list of the local people you simply must be following.

Join the Star's week-long Twitter debate: #shroptweets, @shropshirestar

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