Friday, September 18, 2009

Twitter for beginners

This is for Bill who wanted to know about Twitter and for others who are curious.

What is Twitter?
  • What is it? Twitter is a online service you can sign up for. It's free to use.
  • What does it do? It allows people to send out short messages (140 characters or less) to anyone and everyone who wants to read them. It works like texting on a cell phone, but it get's sent out and anyone can read it, like a broadcast. You can also "follow" someone's broadcasts (called "tweets"). If you send out "tweets," some people might decide to "follow" you (in other words, they will read your "tweets" in their account.
  • What are the benefits? You can read information from other people (like the news headlines, or your favorite author, or a friend). You can let people know about you, like what you're doing, or the story you want to tell, or information you want to share.
Suggestions for how to phase in your use of Twitter
  • Setup an account (details below) It's easy and Free!
  • Follow what's going on for a while - you can just do this for a few hours, days, months, years...
  • Find people to follow
  • Observe RT, @, #FollowFridays (more on this below)
  • Find out about Hashtags - maybe make one of your own (more on this below)
  • Then, Dive in and start posting messages
Setting up a Twitter Account
  • Web - The basic account is set up so you can use it with the web. After getting an account, you just login and use it. You can look at posts of those you follow, search for people, and post your own "tweets"
  • Phone - You can also set up tweeter to send and receive messages using your phone
Suggestions for newbies
  • Follow first before starting to send out "tweets"
  • Look around at who other people are following, click on those people to see what they are "tweeting" about and then follow them if you like what you see. You can always stop following or follow anyone as much as you want, whenever you want.
  • What it means to have followers - People who "follow" you will see your posts on their "home" page. Usually people follow you to see what you're posting ("Tweeting") about, or because they want you to follow them. You'll see many organizations try to follow you because they want you to follow them. It's your choice though.
  • How to follow someone - You can follow anyone by searching for them or by clicking on their icon in someone else's "following" list and then once you see that feed, there will be a link/button near the top left that allows you to "follow" them
  • Examples of people to follow: @nytimes (news headlines, you can click on a link to get to the details of the news), @zondervan (gives bible quotes). You can also search for famous people (entertainers, politicians, etc.) or authors, etc. You may like to track packages using twitter (see
How to find people and topics
  • Once you set up an account, there is a "find people" link at the top to search for people to follow
  • You can also find people by clicking on anyone in your list of people who follow you or who you follow and then look at the list and click on them to see who they follow or who follows them. Whenever you see someone you like, just click on the "follow" button to follow them.

How to use Twitter to send messages (Tweet)
  • How to "Tweet": Just click on "home" and then type something in the "What are you doing?" box. Then click on "update." You're "tweet" will then be viewable by anyone following you or looking at your profile.
  • Short URLs (links) - If you want to send a link in your "tweet" you will find that shorter links will fit better in the 140 character limitation for "tweets." You can shorten your link (called a URL in tech-speak) by going to (no .com here, just, entering the URL (link with the http:// on the beginning) and clicking "shorten." You will get a shortened link that is something like which should be shorter so it uses up less space in your 140 character "tweet"
Twitter commands
  • DM: You'll like to know that you can also DM (Direct Message) someone if they are following you (this is like sending an email to that person). Nobody but you and that other person will see these messages.
  • @: and you can also send a message to someone that everyone can see by putting @ with their name (like @henrywill) in the message. This allows that person to see what you sent them, but so will everyone else.
  • You can also mark tweets as favorites (see the link to the right of the tweet posting). You can look at favorites later (and others can also look at your favortites)
Special Twitter text (#, RT, @ replies, DM, etc.)
  • # is a special character in "tweets," see the information in the section below about "hashtags"
  • RT = Re-tweet. This is used when someone takes someone's message and decides it is good enough to send to their followers. Example: you see someone post a message, like "Johndoe: Free fries at "Joe's Cafe" this Saturday!" You would like your friends to know about it, so you send out a retweet "RT @JohnDoe: Free fries at "Joe's Cafe" this Saturday!" - You just add the "RT @" to the beginning of JohnDoe's message. You can also add your own text at the end if you want. Note: you'll notice, if you want people to retweet your messages, you need to keep them short enough so they can add the "RT @" and your Twitter name to your message and still fit within the 140 character "tweet" limit.
  • @ - as explained before, this is a way to send a message to someone, but allow others to see it. Example: if your friend "SusieSmith" tweets "John, did you get to "Joe's Cafe" for the free fries this past Saturday?" you can reply with "@SusieSmith yes, Joe's Cafe fries are the best, even if they weren't free!" - everyone, including @SusieSmith can see this. (note: if you don't want others to see your reply, use DM)
Special Twitter hashtags (#FollowFriday,,etc)

  • By putting a # in front of some special keyword text, it allows people to search for that keyword. For example, #PM allows people to search for #PM as a keyword (called a hashtag because the # is known as a hashtag in addition to a pound sign). You can search on all types of subjects in twitter to see what people are saying about that subject. Look at the bottom right of your home page to see the "trending topics" of which hashtags people are using. You can also find a list of hashtags and graphs of how much they're used at
  • One popular hashtag is #followfriday or #fridayfollow - people use this hashtag on Fridays with a list of people they think it would be good for their followers to follow. It's a good way to find out about people to follow.
  • You can find other popular hashtags at
Getting followers
  • How to get followers: First find people you like to follow, many will follow you back. You can also ask people you know to follow you.
  • Good practice when someone follows you - It's best to thank your new followers, tell them what "tweets" you like to read or what you're intersted in, and/or what you like to tweet about.
Great uses of Twitter
  • I mentioned earlier about how to track packages in twitter, but there are new uses of twitter coming on line all the time. Twitter can also be used to update your status in facebook and to read news headlines, jokes and more. Read the followers and following lists of some people you follow or who follow you to find good ideas. Let me know of any good ones you like in the comments of my blogpost here.

  • (track packages via twitter)
  • 9 Scientifically Proven Ways to Get Retweeted

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