A Beginner’s Guide To Twitter

Twitter is a social network with some similarities to other social networking sites like Facebook.

It can be accessed on a computer via twitter. com, or on a smartphone via the Twitter app. Twitter could also be described as a “micro-blogging” service. Users may compose short messages called “tweets” which are published and shared with the world.

When you log-in to your Twitter account the first thing you will see is your Twitter feed – an ever-updating list of Twitter posts from other people.

People use Twitter to keep up-to-date with current matters, events, and the activities of their favorite celebrities. It’s constantly updated plus changing, and gives users the feeling of being ‘on-the-pulse’ – breaking news is often mentioned on Twitter before it appears anywhere else.

Think of it like a continuous waterfall of information, where users may decide exactly who they want that information to come from. Twitter is also highly interactive – anybody can write the tweet and respond to the tweets of others.

Differences between Twitter and Facebook

In case you are familiar with Facebook (as a lot of people are), there will be some things in Twitter that will seem familiar – you have a profile picture, you can post ‘updates’, you can see the activity of other people and you can connect and communicate with others. There will also be things that are different and may take a bit of getting used to – some of these differences are listed below:

Everything can be public

Unlike Facebook, everything you publish on Twitter is public and may be viewed by anyone on earth. Although it’s possible to make your account personal, people generally use Twitter in order to broadcast their thoughts, opinions and news to the world. It isn’t actually designed for one-on-one, personal communication.

You don’t have ‘friends’

You can follow any other Tweets user, without needing their permission or even approval. This does not necessarily indicate you know each other or that you are friends within real life – many people use Twitter to follow their favourite celebrities or even brands.

Tweets are short

Tweets is not the place for lengthy stories or updates. Your tweets are limited to a maximum length of a hundred and forty characters, which encourages short, snappy messages and updates.

If you have something long to say you can simply use Tweets to share a link to content on your website or elsewhere on the web. Writers, journalists and news websites will most likely use Twitter to make their fans aware of a new story or write-up on their website.

Who uses Tweets?

Twitter has 250 million energetic users around the world (according to their corporate website) and around 70% of these use Twitter on their mobile. Even though this pales in comparison to Facebook (who claim to have over 1 billion dollars active users), Twitter users are usually younger, more diverse, and more willing to communicate their favourite brands. According to this particular report Twitter is most popular among 18-29-year-olds.

Learning the lingo

Tweets does use quite a lot of jargon which could initially seem a little confusing.

Twitter have an excellent glossary over on the website with a comprehensive list of Twitter-related phrases. We have picked out some of the most essential terms below, along with an explanation for every one.


A short message (limited to 140 characters) that is published on Twitter. Tweets can consist of text and images.

Hashtags (#)

A hashtag (represented by a # symbol) is used to denote a specific topic or theme of conversation, for example #Football, #news or #funny. You can click on a hashtag and find out a list of tweets that contain the same hashtag. If a particular hashtag is being used by a large number of people, it is said to be “trending”.

Follow and Unfollow

If you “follow” another Twitter account, their Twitter posts will appear in your Twitter Feed (see below). You can also choose to “unfollow” people.

Twitter Feed

A stream of tweets from people who you follow. Your feed is arranged in chronological order (I. e. newest tweets are at the top) and it is constantly being updated as individuals publish new tweets. This is the major part of Twitter and the first thing you observe when you log in.

Twitter Handle

Your specific Twitter username. Handles are forwent by an @ symbol. For example the BBC use the handle @BBC

Point out

If you want to communicate with another Twitter user, you simply include their Twitter Deal with in your Tweet.
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They will then become notified that you have mentioned them. You can carry out a conversation or dialogue with another user by ‘mentioning’ each other in your tweets (but do bear in mind that your conversation is completely open to the public).


You can react to a tweet by clicking the small “reply” button next to it. Your own reply will begin with the other people username.

Retweet (RT)

If somebody enjoys your tweet, they can discuss it with their own followers. This is known as “retweeting”. Twitter will inform you when one of your tweets continues to be retweeted.

Direct message (DM)

Although Twitter is public, you can send out a private message to another user (rather like an email). This is called a “direct message”. These messages are limited to 140 characters, and you can only direct message somebody who follows you.


If you follow a great deal of people, you can organise them straight into different lists. These could incorporate friends, celebrities, news, jobs and so on.

Getting started with Twitter

The best way to get to grips with Twitter is to simply dive in and get your hands dirty. It might look a little daunting if you’ve by no means used it before, but fear not! The Twitter website does a great job of holding your hand plus telling you what to do next – including choosing an username, finding interesting individuals to follow and writing your first tweet.

To create an account all you need is an current email address. To sign up, either go to twitter. com or download the Twitter app for your phone or tablet and follow the instructions.

Using Twitter for the business

Many brands and companies have a Twitter profile, and it’s not unusual for bigger companies to employ an expert person to manage their Twitter accounts. The BBC, the prime minister as well as the Queen all have an formal Twitter presence.

Twitter can potentially give you an audience of thousands plus an opportunity to interact with your customers in a way that simply can’t be done with traditional forms of marketing. But it’s also a double-edged blade that can sometimes go horribly wrong.

You can’t be a control freak

Being a business, you can’t go in and simply blurt-out advertising messages like you would on TV or in print. You have to be prepared for a potential backlash of scrutiny, sarcastic comebacks and ridicule – specifically if you run a large or sometimes-unpopular business. Because unlike traditional advertising, on Twitter you are not in complete control – you share the power together with your audience. This can be scary, but if you are doing it right it can be used to outstanding effect.

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