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 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.


Your Twitter Stream

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


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.


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


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!

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