While catching up over coffee today, a friend turned to me and said “hello master tweeter! No one tweets like you do.” He went on to explain to our other friends that he’s trying to build his twitter following and decided, just last week, that he should follow me.
“Oh, I don’t use tweeter. Or twitter. Or that twittering thing,” another friend commented. “I just don’t see the point. I don’t need to know what people are making for dinner every night. And I definitely don’t need to share that.”
“But it’s so much more,” said my newly tweeting friend. “I’m learning about new products, I’m connecting with companies and brands, and I’m completely up on the news and ‘trendy media.'”
“So, tell me,” a third friend started. “Is twitter that thing you see on the TV with the pound sign?”
Twitter basics for beginners
If you’re just getting started with twitter, there are a 6 major things to be aware of. Observe for a while then, once you have these down, start play around. Follow your friends and people who seem interesting to you. Try tweeting. Try joining a conversation. See where twitter takes you and then decide what you think.
@ begins your handle, which is your username. If someone @s you, that means they’re talking to you. Or about you. In Social Media, PR, and marketing, any time you are talked about, it’s a good thing. You’ll find a “mentions” column or section (on the twitter.com menu bar it says “@connect.” Click that to see if anyone is @ing you, or mentioning you.
DM means direct message, which is a way to privately chat (in 140 characters or less, not including the person’s handle.) To send a DM type “D handle message”. But beware, you can’t direct message someone unless they are following you. It can be awkward to have to tweet “@handle, please follow me so that I can DM you” but if you need to, give it a try.
A word about Direct Messages: People are very turned off by DM spam. So I advice you not to send a “beg” DM asking for a vote, or to check out your latest post or anything self-promotional as a DM. Use it as a very personal contact conversation, and only use it when necessary. If you want to connect with someone, sure, send your email address or phone number via DM (you don’t want to send that as a tweet to all of your followers) but keep it for private information only.
Hashtags and Trends
# is a hash tag (no longer a “pound” or a “number symbol”.) When a hash-tag is used in front of a word or term or group of words without spaces this means it’s a trending topic, or a topic that people hope to trend. Which means, basically, that it is trendy to talk about this topic and a lot of people are talking about it. Depending on your interface (twitter.com, tweetdeck.com, hootsuite.com, or others) you can search for the trending topic to attempt to follow a conversation.
If you’re on twitter.com, you can view trends on the left side of the page. These are the most talked about topics on twitter, usually in the regional area where you are on your computer, or they’ll be tailored to you and what you tweet. Many of the trends will include hash tags. Clicking on any of the trends will bring you to that conversation.
RT means retweet or, less commonly, retwitter, which is like Repeat. This is the same as quoting what someone else said. Sometimes people follow an RT with a comment like “yeah that” which generally means they agree. The purpose of RTing is to pass on the information from another user to all of your followers. To learn more about retweeting, see this post: The Art of Retweeting.
Anytime anything is underlined it can be clicked on and linked to. It may take you to a person’s profile, a webpage, a conversation led by a hashtag, a photo (often called a twitpic) or a video. When you enter a link to share on twitter, it will shorten to a smaller URL and usually be listed on twitter with a t.co/… This is a unique shortener that twitter uses to help offer you more characters in your 140.
It is really, really hard to talk in just 140 characters, but I promise it gets easier. Sure there are times that a comment takes more than one tweet to get the full thought out, but it’s very rare that a comment with 280 characters will be read continuously by a reader, so it’s very important to try, try, try to post in less than 140 characters. This is the maximum length of a tweet and twitter will not allow you to tweet anything longer.
Twitter seems so overwhelming to jump into. But a few days playing around, engaging and participating, and it becomes second nature.
If you aren’t following me already, please consider following @JulieMPron on Twitter. (Click there and it will take you my twitter page. Sign in, and you’ll be prompted to follow me. Thanks!)