Twitter basics - a beginner's guide
I've been asked questions about Twitter a number of times the last couple of weeks. What is Twitter? Why use it? What's it good for? In this blog post, I'll try to cover the basics of Twitter to get you started.
What is Twitter?
Twitter is a micro blogging service where you post what you find interesting, plus communicate and interact with other Twitter users. It’s called micro blogging because you’re allowed to only use 140 characters in each Twitter update.
Twitter is a real time media where everything happens right now, which is one of the reasons the service has become so popular.
Why join Twitter?
Twitter has gained a whole lot of attention over the last couple of years, but it’s not until now that it has become as huge as it is. Twitter is very popular, particularly in countries such as USA, where Twitter has become one of the mainstream services everybody uses – even celebrities.
And that’s one of the things that’s so special with Twitter – celebrities use Twitter and you can actually see what they do. And you also have the possibility to communicate with them.
Of course Twitter’s not only about the celebrities there, even though they have a big part in the growth Twitter has had – you can decide to follow anyone you find interesting.
What’s so good with Twitter is that one has to get to the point, since the 140 character limit forces you to carefully plan what you want to communicate.
Also, Twitter is probably the fastest news channel available on earth. Much news breaks first here and is spread very quickly. Twitter is a great way to keep track on what’s happening around you.
How to use Twitter
First of all, you need to register to become a Twitter member.
You should probably use your own name or a name that is connected to you as your Twitter username, but it’s entirely up to you. Many professional Twitter users use their own names as username. Examples: lancearmstrong, britneyspears
When you’ve registered, it’s time to post Twitter updates, so called “tweets”, on topics you find interesting. But Twitter’s all about conversation and following interesting people, so you need to build your own Twitter network.
You can follow other Twitter users and see their Twitter updates. Their tweets will appear in your Twitter stream and you can choose to interact with them.
You also don’t have to follow people to be able to interact with them. This makes conversations even simpler on Twitter.
You might want other Twitter users to listen to you, so you should gather an audience which follows you and are able to see your Twitter updates. It’s good with some sort of continuity in your Twitter updates, to be able to get new followers and keep existing ones.
Interaction is the key to successful tweeting. You can post on topics you like, but social media and Twitter aren’t about one way communication. Interact with people on Twitter, ask questions, answer questions, and you'll see how your Twitter network slowly starts to take shape.
The @ keyword
The thing with Twitter is the way you can interact with other Twitter users. You can reply to any Twitter user by using the @ keyword before the username. Like this, if you want to tell me something:
@dileno I like your article on Twitter basics!
When using the @ keyword together with a username, the user has the possibility to be notified of the conversation you’re initiating. This @ keyword is of highest importance if you want to interact with users and build a network.
Promote tweets you like
If you like a tweet and want to spread it, you can promote them. You do it by re-tweeting. You promote a tweet by adding the following to the actual tweet you want to spread:
RT @username: Twitter message to promote.
RT stands for Re-Tweet and is a Twitter standard when it comes to promoting tweets. If you promote a tweet, you also want to give the original user credit for it - that's why you include the username.
Twitter didn’t have discussion groups by default, so these were invented by the users themselves. You can put your tweets into a category by adding a hash tag to your tweet. Like this, for a tweet on World Cup 2010:
Looking forward to World Cup in South Africa next summer! #worldcup2010
By adding a hash and the tag “worldcup2010”, you create a hash tag which is searchable. When many Twitter users use a hash tag like this, it becomes more useful, making it easier to find tweets and users posting on a particular topic.
Search and trending topics
Twitter search makes Twitter even more useful. You can search hash tags and other terms you find interesting. You’ll see real time updates on your search term, which is why search is one of the most used parts of Twitter - it's happening in real time.
Also, Twitter will always give you a list on what’s hottest on Twitter, particular topics appearing in tweets. This is called trending topics and is a great way to find out what’s happening around the world.
Twitter applications for more effective Twitter usage
Twitter has provided the community with a great API, making it easy for third parties to consume Twitter data. This means there are a number of applications and websites which will improve your Twitter experience.
One of the greatest applications for Twitter usage is TweetDeck – a great client which makes it easier to keep track on your Twitter stream, to tweet and much more. I highly recommend you to download it and give it a try – it will surely improve the way you use Twitter.
List of some Twitter users to follow
As I’ve told you, Twitter is hugely popular in particularly USA. Here’s a number of useful links where you can find celebrities and other interesting people to follow on Twitter:
Also, you want to browse the We Follow Twitter directory, where you can find Twitter users to follow in a number of categories:
If you come across a Twitter account that seem to belong to a celebrity – watch for the Verified account icon that will tell you it’s the real person who’s behind the Twitter account. There are many fake accounts out there, particularly for celebrities, so watch out who you're following!
Most important thing – just get started!
Many wonder why and how, but the most important is just to get started. Start using Twitter right away and you’ll find out what it’s all about. You won't be disappointed!