The Basics of Twitter: Getting Started

Twitter is a social media networking tool and real-time micro blogging platform that allows messages of up to 140 characters to be sent out across the Internet. For those who are new to Twitter, understanding what it is and its terminology is key to getting started.

twitter-logo

Twitter users follow people from whom they want to see tweets. You can follow people you know in real life, other social network connections, businesses you love and even celebrities.

It is important to note that it is not required to follow back a person who is following you. Also, it is possible to unfollow a person if you no longer want their tweets in your stream.

Twitter Terminology

Messages sent out are called “tweets” and these are public for everyone to see. While it is possible to privatize your tweet stream, doing so will negatively affect your follower growth, social reach and exposure.

Direct messages or “DMs” are private messages sent between 2 people. These can only be sent to people who are following you.

When a tweet is resent by a user, it is called a “retweet” or “RT”.

Composing a Tweet

When you send a tweet, it is added to the streams of all of the people following you. The exception to this is if you start your tweet with @TwitterHandle.

If a tweet begins with @TwitterHandle, it will only appear in the streams of the people who follow both you and the person the message is being sent to.

One way to overcome this is to use a period (.)  or some other character at the beginning of the tweet, or to rephrase your tweet so that the @TwitterHandle is not the first part of message.

Twitter-tweet

Your Twitter Stream

There are several tools available for using Twitter including Twitter.com, HootSuite, and TweetDeck. Each one has pros and cons, which will be discussed in subsequent posts.

Twitter-stream

Twitter is separated into different streams to make things easier for users.

The public stream (“Timeline”) is where you’ll see all of your followers’ tweets.

The “@Mentions” stream only contains tweets that include your handle.

You can filter the Retweets stream by “Retweets by Others”, “Retweets by You” and “Your Tweets, Retweeted”.

If you perform searches on Twitter, you can save those searches and later access them from the “Searches” stream.

Another way to filter your tweet stream is by accessing various Twitter lists that you follow, and select to view just that list of tweets via the “Lists” dropdown.

Also, you can access your direct messages under “Messages” at the top of the page.

twitter-messages

Users have the ability to delete tweets, if desired, and can report & block users who are spammers.

Twitter-Report-Spam

Twitter Hashtags

A hashtag is a word or phrase preceded by the # symbol. Hashtags can be used in 2 ways.

  1. Use hashtags to follow a specific topic. This is popular for sponsored Twitter parties, social media conferences and giveaways. Anyone following a specific hashtag will be able to see all the tweets sent that include the particular hashtag, whether or not they are following the people sending those tweets.
  2. Use hashtags to make your tweet humorous. Hashtags can add an extra “kick” to your tweet to help it catch the attention of people in the public stream.

In the beginning, Twitter can be a bit overwhelming. But knowing the basic terminology, how to follow a stream and how to compose a tweet gives you what you need to join the conversation.

Happy tweeting!


60 Comments

    • Jessica

      Thank you for sharing Alison!

      Reply
  1. Kir

    Jessica you are awesome, as always. I know how to use Twitter and I still learned stuff today. THANK YOU

    Reply
    • Jessica

      I’m glad you learned something from this post. Thanks for reading it!

      Reply
  2. mom2kiddos

    Thank you so much for this Jessica. They are such useful information for someone who’s trying to understand Twitter a little bit more. And you’ve put it in a very simple to understand manner.

    Reply
    • Jessica

      Twitter can be hard to understand at first so I’m glad this was helpful for you.

      Reply
  3. Leighann

    Great job Jessica!
    Love that you do this for new users of Twitter!
    Can’t wait to read the others.

    Reply
  4. Jackie

    Great post! I did not know about the @twitterhandle. Looking forward to your posts on HootSuite and TweetDeck!

    Reply
    • Jessica

      Glad you learned something new. Hope the rest of the posts are helpful as well.

      Reply
  5. Runnermom-jen

    Wow, 23,000 tweets since January? I’m surprised you’re not in #twitterjail more often 😉
    Great info, though!! You are so helpful.

    Reply
    • Jessica

      Thanks Jen. Glad it was helpful.

      Reply
  6. Grumpy Grateful Mom

    Great information Jessica!!! I’ve always been curious about hashtags. I should know this, but how do you know which words are hashtags or how do you find them?

    I’m also looking forward to your posts about HootSuite and TweetDeck. I’ve never heard of them!

    Reply
    • Jessica

      Hashtags will be with the # sign. An example is #ThisIsAHashtag – All of the words are together and they first thing is the # symbol. A person puts them in the tweet.

      Reply
      • Grumpy Grateful Mom

        So, I’m really elemental. I’m trying figure out how I can personally put them in a tweet. Can I just turn any word or phrase into a hashtag by adding the # sign or does it already need to be in some hashtag database.

        Reply
  7. janie

    Woah! you’re a twitter guru! i’ve been on twitter since 2009 but i still have a lot to learn.

    Reply
    • Jessica

      Glad this was helpful for you Janie.

      Reply
  8. Roxanne

    Well this would have been helpful when I started Twitter. Great introduction Jess!

    Reply
    • Jessica

      Thanks Roxanne. The purpose is to help new people on Twitter understand it better. Feel free to share with anyone that needs it.

      Reply
  9. Crystal

    Great post! I learned a few things myself!

    Reply
    • Jessica

      Glad to hear that Crystal.

      Reply
  10. Jessica

    Thanks for sharing!! Im going to post the link to this on my blog! Excited to learn more!

    Reply
    • Jessica

      Glad you found it helpful. Thank you for sharing.

      Reply
  11. Kristy @PampersandPinot

    Ahhh, if only I’d read this right away when I started. But, at least this way, I understand what it is talking about. I didn’t get the “list” stuff yet. I like that. And, now I know about the mentions and who sees what. Thanks, Jessica!

    Reply
    • Jessica

      You’re welcome Kristy. Glad you found it helpful.

      Reply
  12. RachelJoy

    Wow that was a lot to take in…but I think I’m good and will dwell on these words of twitter wisdom.

    Reply
    • Jessica

      Just take it one tweet at a time. It’s easy once you get the hang of Twitter.

      Reply
  13. jacqui

    This is great for people just starting to tweet! Nice job, Jessica.

    Reply
    • Jessica

      Thank you Jacqui!

      Reply
  14. Kimberly

    Great job, Jessica! I wish I knew you when I first started.

    Reply
    • Jessica

      Hopefully you can share this with any new people you come across.

      Reply
  15. Carri

    I sent this to my husband because he’s a Twitter idiot.

    Reply
    • Jessica

      I hope he finds it helpful.

      Reply
  16. Jessica

    This is such a great intro! I wish I had read this when I first started out, as I was totally clueless.

    Reply
    • Jessica

      I was totally clueless in the beginning too so I thought this would be a good resource for newbies.

      Reply
  17. Practical Parenting

    Where were you when I joined in December and had no idea what I was doing?? Great post.

    Reply
    • Jessica

      I didn’t start on Twitter until Jan 1, 2011.

      Reply
  18. Elena

    Love me some twitter! I remember when I first started asking Charlie the basics. It’s funny once you’re into it how these things are just common knowledge to you and you can’t believe other people don’t know about it as well! When I want one friend to pass something along to another, I just ask them to RT it. They don’t remotely get the joke and I just laugh inside my head. Although, really, that happens a lot.

    Reply
    • Jessica

      Twitter is only understood by those that use Twitter.

      Reply
  19. Kelley

    This is great! I remember being so confused about Twitter when I started. This would have been so, so welcomed (even more so!) back then.

    Reply
    • Jessica

      If you know any people new to Twitter I hope you will pass it on. Thanks!

      Reply
    • Jessica

      That was a great video. Thanks for sharing.

      Reply
  20. Rusti

    AWESOME. I had no idea about the (.) before the handle – that’s very interesting!

    Reply
    • Jessica

      It makes a big difference in the reach of your tweets.

      Reply
  21. Elizabeth

    Nice run down! You can really get a lot into those 140 characters.

    Reply
    • Jessica

      It takes awhile at first to get the hang of the 140 characters but once you figure that out sending out tweets becomes much easier.

      Reply
  22. Hopes@Staying Afloat!

    I have to admit, Twitter intimidates the heck out of me. This helps to break things down a bit. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Jessica

      Glad it was helpful. Hope the rest of the posts on Twitter will also help you.

      Reply
  23. Bridget

    Thank you:) I wish I’d read this in February when I first joined Twitter. I think I get it better now, but I’m a little shy. Odd, since I’m not at all shy in real life!

    Reply
    • Jessica

      I was very shy when I first started on Twitter too. I kind of sat back to watch what people were doing before I jumped in.

      Reply
  24. Mrs. Jen B

    I should share this with my husband who, quote, “never thought there would be a form of social media that didn’t interest me but Twitter is it”. He just doesn’t “get” Twitter. Perhaps I’ll just casually suggest he read in case, ya know, he has a change of heart. 😉

    Reply
    • Jessica

      I think Twitter is hard to understand at first for some people. Hopefully this will help him “get it” better.

      Reply
  25. Sandra

    Great job Jessica. I am sort of starting to get Twitter, but I always feel like a twit when I tweet…

    Reply
  26. Raine

    I didnt know that about using @ at the beginning of the tweet. I wondered why you used a . so often 🙂

    Reply
  27. Cynthia

    this was VERY helpful, thanks a bunch!

    Reply

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