Published on May 1, 2014
We all know Twitter is a platform wherein users share their thoughts, news, information and jokes in 140 characters of text or less. But that’s not all — Twitter, in reality, is an experience. The more you use it, the more enjoyable and resourceful it will become. Therefore friends, stick with it, as it can pay dividends in great connections with people around the globe. Here’s your guide to the Twitter platform to make global communication great…
SIZE AND PANEL
On Twitter, following someone is not necessarily an admission of friendship, but nonetheless affords interaction and conversation
— at least in short bursts. The first step is to understand and master the vernacular. There are certain words and jargon native to Twitter that you may already have heard in passing. These terms and their abbreviations (in parentheses) are essential for understanding the network.
Tweet: A 140-character message.
Retweet (RT): Re-sharing or giving credit to someone else’s tweet.
Feed: The stream of tweets you see on your homepage. It’s comprised of updates from users you follow.
Handle: Your username.
Mention (@): A way to reference another
user by his username in a tweet (e.g. @aneesbaloach). Users are notified when @mentioned. It’s a way to conduct discussions with other users in a public realm.
Direct Message (DM): A private, 140-character message between two people. You can decide whether to accept a Direct Message from any Twitter user, or only from users you are following. You may only DM a user who follows you.
Hashtag (#): A way to denote a topic of conversation or participate in a larger linked discussion (e.g. #AmericanIdol, #Obama). A hashtag is a discovery tool that allows others to find your tweets. You can also click on a hashtag to see all the tweets that mention it in real time — even from people you don’t follow.
In order to engage in conversation, you must introduce yourself. By creating a handle you can describe who you are. A handle is your address or calling card. Your profile pic, header image and bio should reflect who you are. Unless you’re creating a satire or spoof account, you should use your actual picture and real name.
FOLLOWING AND FOLLOWERS
If you hone in on a few people who seem interesting and start a genuine conversation,
you might encounter a new and interesting network of contacts. Before you know it, you’ll have a nice little group of people with common interests.
Once you’ve squared away your username, photo and bio, you need to seek out people to follow. My advice is to follow your friends and people you know, at first. You may also want to explore people your friends are following to naturally increase your Twitter perspective. Once you get rolling, Twitter will give you better follow suggestions, based on the industries/fields associated with your interests.
ENTERING THE FRAY
You could try to send a 140-character observation into the ether and hope someone sees it, but there’s a better way to engage with people around your interests. The next time you see a particularly fascinating tweet, click “reply” and add your two cents. Interacting with ordinary people is a great way to get the hang of the “@mention” (just use the “@” sign before that person’s handle). Clicking “expand” or “view conversation” on a tweet will display all the responses that message received, including tweets from people you aren’t following. You can see when someone follows
or @mentions you in the @Connect tab at the top of the page. You might also notice a vertical blue line connecting some tweets. When two or more users you follow are involved in a conversation, Twitter automatically groups those messages together on your timeline, displayed chronologically from when the most recent tweet was sent. Twitter also gives you the power to directly connect with government officials,
celebrities and cultural movers and shakers. By @mentioning specific people, the odds that they see your conversation increase drastically.
Another way to communicate with Twitter is through direct messaging (DM). The messages are private, between you and the receiver, but keep in mind what you say could still be leaked — so make sure whatever you send is something you’d feel comfortable having publicly posted.
A common way to share something interesting from someone you follow to your own set of followers is to retweet. Remember, a retweet should be thought of as quoting someone or citing a source. Simply hit the retweet button that appears when you hover your mouse over someone else’s tweet. When you click this button, the tweet will be sent to your set of followers, using the original tweeter’s profile pic alongside a note that you have retweeted the post. Another way of retweeting arose from the Twitter community itself. This way is a ever-so-slightly more labour intensive, but gives you the opportunity to comment on a tweet before you retweet it. Simply click to expand the tweet, copy and paste its text, and then create a new tweet by clicking the compose icon in the top-right of your profile page. Be sure to include the letters “RT” and the handle of the person who originally tweeted the information.
Hashtags label and indicate the subject matter of certain conversations taking place on Twitter. The hashtag is represented
by the number sign “#.” Putting one of these little symbols in front of a word or phrase indicates a subject you think is worth talking about. The words you use after the hashtag become searchable because Twitter tracks them. This is a very convenient way to drop in on subjects as broad as #OrganicFood or as focused as #BehindTheLaunch. Feel free to create your own subjects — just make sure you don’t use any spaces between
words in a hashtag. The #Discover tab at the top of the page will display content and hashtags that might interest you, based on your own tweets.
It’s important to keep up with Twitter while you’re on the go. Maybe you’ll snap an excellent photo with your smartphone. Maybe a brilliant tweet will pop into your head while you’re at the supermarket. Twitter is available on both iOS and Android devices. Use the official Twitter app first.
CRAFTING YOUR VOICE
Now that you’re up and running, focus on being yourself and crafting your online beat. When you start to situate yourself as an expert in a specific subject area (for example, in comedy or politics), you’ll notice that people will begin to follow you for advice and expertise. You may not know who they are, but that’s perfectly acceptable. Twitter isn’t about following people you know; it’s about engaging interesting people from all over the world.
As you start building your “brand” on Twitter, think about why people are following or talking to you. Are you an expert in a particular industry? Are you opinionated? Funny? Do you share great news articles or interesting photos?
The bottom line: Be authentic and true to your values and you’ll become a valuable member of the Twitter community.
CHANGES TO PHOTOS AND VIDEOS
Twitter also announced in October 2013 that all photos and videos in tweets would begin appearing in full — making its appearance more like that of Facebook.
Although it’s a default function, you can still disable it. For mobile devices, simply open the settings in the app and deselect the “Image Previews” tab. There’s not yet a concrete way to disable the function on desktops, but if it’s inappropriate content you’re worried of coming across, open the settings tab on Twitter.com and choose to be alerted whenever “Sensitive” media pops into your feed. It’s a heads-up, if anything.
So happy twittering folks! Enjoy!