Information moves at light speed in today's NFL. But it wasn't always that way.
Years ago, before the non-stop and immediate 24 hour – 7 day availability of internet news outlets and crawling news blurbs at the bottom of our TV screens, serious football fans and fantasy owners would eagerly await the single paragraph of notes on each team published weekly in USA Today or The Sporting News. Before local newspapers hit the web, those notes were the only way to read what other team's beat writers were writing.
As the internet grew, Pro Football Weekly's Whispers and online newspaper accounts of games and practices made information much more accessible. Later, NFL-only shows on ESPN, beat writer blogs, RSS feeds, email update services and the NFL Network soon put detailed information in our hands multiple times daily.
But nothing compares to the volume and timeliness of information available through Twitter today.
The entire football community quickly embraced the Twitter platform – a social network filled with 140 character microblogs that constantly and automatically update on your screen. Within months, nearly every beat writer, analyst, network talking head, and most NFL players were actively using Twitter.
Information that once had to wait until NFL Live aired or a beat writer's blog went live is now posted immediately. Without column size limitations and editing concerns, beat writers can add more context to their reports and tweet details that were too “minor” to print. Fans now have unprecedented access to their favorite analysts and beat writers, who have helped foster the community by regularly answering reader questions.
In short, Twitter has become the pulse of NFL news and analysis.
Many Footballguys staff writers are long-time, active members of the Twitter community. In this guide, we'll show you how to open an account, set up your own Twitter timeline and make recommendations on the very best feeds to follow and help you get familiar with the unique language of Twitter.
Let's get started.
Open Your Account
To be able to read tweets from beat writers, analysts and your favorite players, you need to open your own free account at Twitter.com . Most writers, including those from Footballguys, choose a username that's close to their own name but you may choose (and change it later if you wish to) any name that's not already in use. This will be the name you "converse" with on Twitter.
Get Familiar With The Language Of Twitter
- Tweet – A 140 character message that is visible to everyone who follows the person who sends it. A tweet may be text-only but will often contain external links to additional content, images, video.
- Timeline / Feed – The scrolling list of all tweets from users you follow is called your timeline. The scrolling list of all the tweets you send is referred to as your feed. In other words, you "check your timeline" to read tweets posted by those you follow, while others "check your feed" to read tweets you've sent. These terms are now often used interchangeably.
- @Mention (aka "At" Mention) – Starting a tweet with another account's username makes that message visible only to the person to whom you're sending the message. @Mention tweets are also visible to anyone who's following both the sender and receiver of the tweet. For example, if Sigmund Bloom sends a @Mention tweet to Jene Bramel, anyone who is following both Sigmund and Jene can see their conversation. You can also see @Mention tweets by going to any user's personal Twitter page and looking at their full Twitter feed.
- RT/MT (aka Retweet / Modified Tweet) – Anyone can choose to resend – or Retweet – another user's tweet. Those tweets will show up in your timeline with the prefix RT. If you choose to delete or modify portions of a user's tweet before resending it, it's considered good Twitter courtesy to change the RT to MT before sending your tweet to acknowledge that you've changed the original text.
- Hashtag – Many tweets contain the # character, known in Twitter lingo as a hashtag. A hashtag makes a certain word more easily searchable, i.e. it allows a user to set up a separate timeline just for #packers tweets recently sent by anyone, even those you aren't following.
- Lists – Many Twitter users sort the feeds they follow into groups to better focus the information they're reading. If you only want to see a list of tweets about the Dallas Cowboys, you can make (and view) a list of only those feeds that provide information on the Cowboys.
- Direct Message – Should you wish to keep a Twitter conversation private, you can direct (or private) message another user if you are following each other.
Choose A Twitter Client
There are multiple ways to view tweets. Many choose to read and send tweets directly from the Twitter website. Others prefer to use a separate application or Twitter client like TweetDeck or Echofon. These clients can be viewed as a tab in your web browser or as a separate program on your desktop. Many of the desktop clients are also available as mobile applications. Though many mobile users stick with the free Twitter app, a growing number are using the feature-rich paid mobile app Tweetbot.
Choose Feeds To Follow
You can search for feeds to follow from the Twitter website or with a web search engine. Nearly all beat writers, analysts, fantasy writers/outlets and NFL players have their full name associated with their account and can be found easily. Click the Follow button on their Twitter web page and their tweets will be displayed in your timeline. You can also scroll through the list of any Twitter users follows to get ideas of feeds you might like to follow.
The "lists" page of Sigmund Bloom is a great place to start. Bloom's lists are separated by category with essential follows in each. If you're not ready to pick and choose your own follows as you scroll through, you can click to subscribe to whichever lists you like and your timeline will automatically be populated by the feeds in those lists.
Footballguys published an interview series last summer highlighting the very best fantasy follows on Twitter. Here's the link to David Dodds' interview . You can find links more than 30 additional interviews of the industry's best at the bottom of his interview page. Those will give you some added flavor for many of the guys on the lists.
Manage Your Timeline
Now that you've opened your own account, learned the lingo, chosen your preferred client for reading tweets and have a list of feeds to follow, it's time to customize your own Twitter experience.
If you find that you prefer a focused feed of just a handful of NFL reporters and fantasy analysts, make your own list and filter out all the unnecessary discussion you'd rather not scroll through. Remember to check the @Mention tab on your Twitter page so you don't miss replies to tweets you've sent or conversations other Twitter users have started with you. You'll also pick up advanced Twitter skills like clicking on the “in reply to” line underneath a tweet to open a full conversation string between two users.
Twitter is a year-round party line for football discussion. Don't hesitate to reach out to your favorite beat writers, players and fantasy analysts with questions. You'll be surprised at how easy it is to strike up a conversation, even with busy users who have thousands of followers.
Today, Twitter is where all football news breaks. Even if you can't watch the football world tweet all day long, ignoring Twitter means ignoring large amounts of pertinent football reporting and analysis. You'll pick up more information by scrolling back through the day's tweets than you would by watching multiple cable shows and reading every available blog. And you'll save time by getting it all in the same place.