For those who have not discovered Twitter, it is essentially a social networking service that allows users to send out brief messages (i.e., “tweets”) and select different people and organizations to receive messages from (i.e., “follow”). Twitter is free (although there is advertising), intuitive to use, and has extensive categorizing and search capabilities to help you find information you are interested in. Tweets are sent out and received virtually instantly, but are stored on your personal account to be read at your convenience whenever you want to scroll through your feed. This tip from the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) introduces new users to Twitter, explains what a tweet is, defines basic Twitter jargon, describes the CZM Twitter feed, and lists some of the organizations that CZM follows and describes how their tweets can help people working on coastal issues in Massachusetts.

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What Is a Tweet?

A tweet is a brief message of 140 character spaces or less (longer tweets can be used, but they don’t show up in their entirety on the Twitter screen). Twitter users can tweet (yep, it’s a noun and a verb) to all of their followers or directly to an individual/group that uses Twitter. Tweets can include photos and links to web pages, so they are a great way to get the word out instantly with a brief message or an image with a link to additional online information. Tweets can look strange to the new user, especially if they include too many hashtags and handles (these will both be explained below). It can also be confusing if the tweet doesn’t clearly cue up website links. (Typically, website links are shortened so that they don’t use up too much of the character space available for the tweet, so they look unusual. Here’s an example of what the link to CZM’s monthly electronic newsletter looks like in a tweet:

Twitter Terminology

A brief glossary of Twitter terms (along with abbreviations where applicable) is given below.

Hashtag (#) - The # symbol is used to denote a key word or phrase, such as #Erosion or #InvasiveSpecies. The word or phrase becomes a link to other tweets that use the same hashtag. By exploring the hashtags for terms that interest you, you can see what information has been tweeted about that topic, all collected in one place.

Handle (@) - The @ sign is used as part of the unique name selected for each Twitter user, called a handle. CZM’s handle is @MassCZM. When you click on a handle in Twitter, it takes you to a profile summary of that user, which includes recent tweets.

Follow/Follower - When you find a Twitter user that you want to receive tweets from, you can click the “Follow” key on the upper right hand corner of the user’s Twitter feed. You will then receive their tweets automatically and be added to their list of followers (i.e., the people who are receiving their tweets).

Retweet (RT or MT) - Twitter is about sharing information, so users are encouraged to retweet tweets, which means to resend tweets to their followers. Typically, users simply hit the retweet button beneath a tweet to retweet it. Sometimes, users manually resend the tweet by copying and pasting it into a new tweet, putting RT at the head of the tweet to indicate it has been retweeted. MT means the tweet was modified before it was retweeted manually.

Favorite - Similar to other social media platforms, Twitter has a favorite option (just click the star below the tweet) so you can indicate tweets you particularly like.

The CZM Twitter Feed

CZM launched a Twitter feed in April 2014 to provide timely information on calendar items, requests for proposals, job postings, comment opportunities, updates on CZM projects, and other time-sensitive matters, along with links to tools and information from the CZM website. See to find the hundreds of tweets sent out to date, as well as sign up to follow CZM. CZM typically sends about three tweets per work day, and one each weekend day. CZM also occasionally retweets highly pertinent tweets from a followed agency. Some of the hashtags used by CZM to identify key words and phrases in tweets are listed below. Click on the hashtag for a list of tweets on these topics to see what information you can access by following Twitter.

A Few Other Organizations to Follow for Information on Coastal Issues in Massachusetts

CZM follows other state and federal Twitter users, as well as regional partner organizations. Below is a list of a few of these organizations, along with the type of information they tweet. Click on their handles to see a list of their current tweets.

@COASTSWEEP - Also managed by CZM, this Twitter feed provides information on the annual COASTSWEEP beach cleanup in Massachusetts, along with information on marine debris (and often includes contests to win COASTSWEEP t-shirts!).

@MassDEP - From the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), these tweets include important coastal-related information on water quality, climate change, and more.

@MassDMF - From fishing regulations to boat launch sites, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries Twitter feed covers all things important to those fishing in Massachusetts (as well as seafood lovers and those interested in learning about marine species).

@MassEEA - The official feed of the Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) provides the latest news on EEA activities and initiatives.

@MassEMA - This Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) feed gives essential updates on storms and other emergency situations in Massachusetts, along with important information on how to prepare for storms, flooding, and other emergencies.

@MassGov - The official Twitter account of the website of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, these tweets cover everything Massachusetts, including the coast.

@NOAADigCoast - One of several National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Twitter feeds followed by CZM, these tweets from NOAA Digital Coast provide links to tools and information on a range of coastal management issues, including sea level rise, storm damage, and water quality.

@NWSBoston - This feed from the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Boston not only gives timely updates on all local weather situations, it includes photos and updates on coastal flooding and other storm damage.