What is Twitter all about? Twitter a platform where users share their thoughts, news, information and jokes in 140 characters of text or less. Twitter makes global communication cheap and measurable. Profiles are usually public and anyone in the world can see what you write, unless you choose to make your profile private. Users “follow” each other in order to keep tabs on and communicate with specific people.
The first step is to understand and master the terminology. There are certain words and jargon inherent to Twitter that you may already have heard. These terms and their abbreviations are essential for understanding the Twitter network. Here we go!
- Tweet: A 140-character message.
- Retweet (RT): Re-sharing or giving credit to someone else’s tweet.
- Feed: The stream of tweets you see on your homepage. It’s comprised of updates from users you follow.
- Handle: Your username.
- Mention (@): A way to reference another user by his username in a tweet (e.g. @michaeltantouri). Users are notified when @mentioned. It’s a way to conduct discussions with other users in a public realm.
- Direct Message (DM): A private, 140-character message between two people. You can decide whether to accept a Direct Message from any Twitter user, or only from users you are following.You may only DM a user who follows you.
- Hashtag (#): A way to represent a topic of conversation or participate in a larger linked discussion (e.g. #android, #ebay) A hashtag is a discovery tool that allows others to find your tweets, based on topics. You can also click on a hashtag to see all the tweets that mention it in real time — even from people you don’t follow.
For a more detailed view of Twitter definitions, you can access their FREE online glossary at the following link:https://support.twitter.com/articles/166337-the-twitter-glossary#
In order to engage in conversation, you must introduce yourself. By creating a handle (see glossary above) you can quickly describe who you are. A handle is essentially your address or calling card, and is how people will interact with you and include you in conversation. Your profile pic, header image and bio should also reflect who you are.
Once you’ve selected your username e.g. @michaeltantouri, photo and bio, you need to seek out people to follow. You can find them in a few different ways.
Good advice is to follow your friends and people you know first. When you open your account, Twitter suggests random celebrities and other folks with thousands of followers. Therefore, following people you know will make your initial foray more worthwhile. You may also want to explore people your friends are following to naturally increase your Twitter perspective.
Now that you’ve been observing the updates and musings of those you follow, it’s time to join the conversation. You could try to send a 140-character observation into the ether and hope someone sees it, but there’s a better way to engage with people around your interests.
The next time you see a particularly fascinating tweet, click “reply” and add your two cents. Interacting with ordinary people is a great way to get the hang of the “@mention”
Interacting with ordinary people is a great way to get the hang of the “@mention” (just use the “@” sign before that person’s handle). Clicking “expand” or “view conversation” on a tweet will display all the responses that message received, including tweets from people you aren’t following. You can see when someone follows or @mentions you in the @Connect tab at the top of the page.
You might also notice a vertical blue line connecting some tweets. When two or more users you follow are involved in a conversation, Twitter automatically groups those messages together on your timeline, displayed chronologically from when the most recent tweet was sent. Up to three messages in the conversation will appear on your timeline, connected by the vertical line. If there are more than three messages in the conversation, click on any one to view the entire conversation.
Once you feel comfortable with these tools, it’s time to start interacting with more influential Twitter users. Twitter gives you the power to directly connect with government officials, celebrities and cultural movers and shakers. By @mentioning specific people, the odds that they see your conversation increase drastically. Who knows? They might even respond or retweet to their own personal audiences.
Another way to communicate with Twitter is through direct messaging (DM). The messages are private, between you and the receiver, but keep in mind what you say could still be leaked — so make sure whatever you send is something you’d feel comfortable having publicly posted.
Since the network’s debut, it was believed that a user had to be following you before you could send them a direct message. However, it was discovered in October 2013 that a feature in settings allowed users to choose whether they wanted to be able to receive messages from their followers, even if they didn’t follow them back.
To enable the feature, go to settings and look under the “Accounts” section, where you should see a check box marked “Receive direct messages from any follower.” At time of writing, the feature wasn’t available for everyone. We’ll update as more information becomes available.
Retweeting is a common way to share something interesting from someone you follow to your own set of followers. Pertinent information tends to spread virally via retweets. It’s important to remember that a retweet should be thought of as quoting someone or citing a source.
There are a couple of ways to retweet someone (see image below). You may choose to simply hit the retweet button that appears when you hover your mouse over someone else’s tweet. When you click this button, the tweet will be sent to your set of followers, using the original tweeter’s profile pic alongside a note that you have retweeted the post. Additionally, a small green icon will appear in the top-right corner of the tweet. This is illustrated in the top example of the picture below.
Another way of retweeting arose from the Twitter community itself. This way is a ever-so-slightly more labor intensive, but gives you the opportunity to comment on a tweet before you retweet it. Simply click to expand the tweet, copy and paste its text, and then create a new tweet by clicking the compose icon in the top-right of your profile page. Be sure to include the letters “RT” and the handle of the person who originally tweeted the information. (This is illustrated in the lower example in the picture below.) Notice that the tweet now appears in your timeline, with your profile pic and your comment before the original tweet.
Again, these are two ways to perform essentially the same action. It’s up to you to determine when it’s appropriate to include a comment in your RT.
Hashtags label and indicate the subject matter of certain conversations taking place on Twitter. The hashtag is represented by the number sign “#.” Putting one of these little symbols in front of a word or phrase indicates a subject you think is worth talking about. The words you use after the hashtag become searchable because Twitter tracks them. That is to say, if you click on a particular hashtag, you’ll be able to see all tweets that have also used that hashtag. It’s a grouping mechanism that allows you to get the general public’s sense about a specific topic or issue.
This is a very convenient way to drop in on subjects as broad as #GlutenFree or as focused as #GoGold. Feel free to create your own subjects — just make sure you don’t use any spaces between words in a hashtag. The #Discover tab at the top of the page will display content and hashtags that might interest you, based on your own tweets.
Twitter is all about what’s happening now. And let’s face it: Not a ton of interesting things happen at your desk. That’s why it’s important to keep up with Twitter while you’re on the go. Maybe you’ll snap an excellent photo with your smartphone. Maybe a brilliant tweet will pop into your head while you’re at the supermarket.
Twitter is available on both iOS and Android devices.
We suggest using the official Twitter app first. When you’re ready to try some advanced functionality, there are some great third-party apps..
Now that you’re up and running, focus on being yourself and crafting your online beat. When you start to situate yourself as an expert in a specific subject area (for example, in comedy or politics), you’ll notice that people will begin to follow you for advice and expertise. You may not know who they are, but that’s perfectly acceptable. Twitter isn’t about following people you already know; it’s about engaging interesting people from all over the world.
As you start building your “brand” on Twitter, think about why people are following or talking to you. Are you an expert in a particular industry? Are you opinionated? Funny? Do you share great news articles or interesting photos?
Be unique and true to your values and you’ll quickly become a valuable member of the Twitter community.
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