Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service which allows you to send "tweets" to the rest of the twitter world. Tweets are posts limited to 140 characters which can be about any subject you want to discuss. You can receive and send updates to and from Twitter using a short message service (text), RSS, Instant Messaging, email or through a third party application. Twitter itself is free to use but if you are using a cell phone you may be charged for the text by your phone provider. Twitter users must set up their cell phone for Twitter to work from it.
Different social media sites have different uses, strengths, and advantages. Twitter could be called a "real time social networking" site, a place for sharing information as it happens, and for connecting with others in real time, often resulting in lasting friendships and contacts. Learning how to use this fun, free, and useful tool can be a bit intimidating for the beginner, but don’t be put off – with a little effort and a lot of intuitive "feeling your way through", you’ll soon be able to use Twitter well - and you might even become "digitally" famous!
What is Twitter anyway?
Twitter is an information network made up of 140-character messages called Tweets. It’s an easy way to discover the latest news related to subjects you care about.
How is it useful?
Twitter contains information you will find valuable. Messages from users you choose to follow will show up on your home page for you to read. It’s like being delivered a newspaper whose headlines you’ll always find interesting – you can discover news as it’s happening, learn more about topics that are important to you, and get the inside scoop in real time.
How to start using Twitter
If you remember one thing after perusing this page, it should be this: reading Tweets and discovering new information whenever you check in on your Twitter timeline is where you’ll find the most value on Twitter. Some people find it useful to contribute their own Tweets, but the real magic of Twitter lies in absorbing real-time information that matters to you.
Step 1: Join Twitter
You can join Twitter for free by going to their sign-up page. Once there, you will need to do the following:
- Choose a user name (it’s important to use good nickname!!!).
- Choose a password. It needs to be at least 6 characters long.
- Insert your email address.
- Type in the words for the CAPTCHA device.
- Click on the Terms of Service.7 It will pop-up in a new window or tab. Read it carefully. Then return to the sign-up page.
- If you want email updates, click on the box.
- Click "I accept. Create my account".
How to Use Twitter in Depth
Build Your Timeline: The entire point of Twitter is to follow and be followed. So what’s the point if you’re not reading and retweeting the latest gossip from all your friends, colleagues and favorite celebs? Plus, Twitter gives you options of who to follow immediately after signing up so you need not go far.
Suggestions. Choose who to follow from the dropdown menu of notable celebs like Kanye West and Stephen Colbert or news networks such as CNN and the New York Times. Twitter will also give you the option to browse a slew of categories from sports to technology.
Search. Use the search bar to find anyone the suggestions may have missed—whether they are celebrities, politicians or your just friends. You can even search for people to follow through your email accounts (Gmail, Yahoo!, AOL and Hotmail).
Add Character. Once you’re an avid follow, Twitter will ask you to upload an image (maximum size of 700k) and provide a brief, 160-character bio about yourself. The placeholder bio will introduce you as a rocket ship building, pizza tossing, Giants fan with a couple of kids. However, a bio is only suggested, not required.
Tweet. You’re officially a full-fledge Twitter member with a list of friends and followers, but now it’s time to join the Tweeter ranks. Just click inside the “Compose new tweet….” box in the upper left-hand corner of the home tab or click the blue feather icon in the upper right-hand corner at any time to get started. Then punch in some text, upload an image or set your location. This is how you update your Twitter and let people know what you’re up to. Remember, text is strictly limited to 140 characters.
Twitter Pointers. You’ve signed up and tweeted your first thought into the beyond, but what do you do now? Well, it’s time to learn the finer points about how to connect with your audience and join the global conversation.
Hashtags. The hashtag symbol (#) is a great way to mark specific topics or keywords in a Tweet. It was created by Twitter users as a way to classify messages and has since become a cultural phenomenom. All you have to do is place a hashtag in front of a word or phrase in your tweet. Simple as that. Can you say #evergreen?
Mentions & Replies. Two more ways you can connect with other Twitter users. Mentions and replies are updates that contain “@username” anywhere in the body of the tweet. Place a “@” in front of the person, business, organization or whatever you want to mention or reply to. A recent change has made it so that your replies to someone will be seen only by mutual followers if you place their “@username” at the beginning of your tweet. If you want your followers to see your mentions/replies to someone, set the “@username” at the end of the tweet or put a period in front of the ampersand like this: “.@”. There is also a “Reply” option under tweets to save you precious time.
Retweets. A retweet is a way to share another Twitter user’s tweet with all of your followers. It will essentially look the same as normal tweets with the author’s name and username next to it, but it will also contain the retweet icon and the name of the user who reposted it. Click the “Retweet” option under a tweet in order to share.
Favorites. Adding a tweet as a favorite is similar to liking something on Facebook. It’s a way to let the original poster know you liked their tweet for whatever reason. However, it also gives you a way to save a tweet so you can refer back to it later. Simply click the star icon with “Favorite” next to it in order to favorite a tweet.
Direct Messages. You can send a direct message to people who follow you by clicking the gear icon in the top right and selecting “Direct Messages.” Choose the “New message” icon, type the name or username of the follower you wish to send the message to, enter the message and hit “Send message.” Unlike tweets, direct messages are private and can only be seen by the recipient of the message.
Mobile Version: Now you can access Twitter right from your smart phone, tablet, or other mobile device. It works in the same vein as the website, but with some slight modifications and restrictions. Plus, the smartphone versions are even equipped to create Instragramesque photos on the go and are available for both Android and Apple devices.
Twitter vs Facebook
Twitter is different from Facebook because it has an opt-in take on friending vs. an opt-out like Facebook. If you accept a friend request on Facebook, you automatically “follow” each other (Facebook does not use “following” but has a newsfeed that is quite similar to twitter). This means that if you have 200 Facebook friends, you can potentially see 200 people’s news in your feed (they have algorithms which narrow it down to who you most likely want to see, but still. If there is someone annoying in your feed you have to opt-out of following them or “hide” them).
On twitter, you can be followed by 2,000 people but only see 50 people in your feed—50 people you CHOSE to follow. The main difference between the two is that Twitter is much more simplified. There is a character limit to posts, there are no picture or video libraries, and no complicated profiles, relationship statuses, etc. Because of this, Twitter has become the top choice for professionals that want a social / semi-work-related network through which they can share work news (and not feel smarmy) alongside personal news. Many people link their twitter account to their facebook account so that they can post to facebook from twitter.
Twitter is awesome, but while it seems like a relatively simple service, it is quite nuanced. I hope this site helped you or someone you know get acquainted with twitter so that you can stop writing your tweets incorrectly, accidentally airing your dirty laundry to the internet at large.