New to Twitter? – Start Here with the Basics

Most people starting out using Twitter have the same concerns and questions. This quick Twitter basics guide should come in handy, so that people can read and learn as they go. This Twitter how-to-guide, has all the basic information about Twitter and contains plenty of ways to get started. If you read the Twitter how-to-guide and feel that I’ve missed something, leave me a comment and I’ll add it. The most important thing to remember with Twitter is always to ask yourself “why do I want to use it?”. Once you know why you want to use Twitter, you’ll be able to more successfully work out how you want to use it. These Twitter tips will get you started, and look out for further upcoming Twitter guides this month.

How many characters can I write?

You can write up to 140 characters, but try to keep tweets under 120 characters. This allows for “retweeting”.

What the heck is retweeting?

Retweeting is a way of sharing interesting or useful information. If you tweet something that others find interesting, they will hit the retweet button on their Twitter client and this will then be retweeted to people who follow them. A retweet shows up most commonly with an ‘RT’ at the beginning.

Why should I care about retweeting?

If you’re trying to promote yourself or your brand, retweeting is your friend. It can be very powerful and it means that your tweet is being shared to your followers, then their followers and this can spiral. From one tweet, you may end up with hundreds of thousands of impressions.

What is an impression?

An impression is when a tweet shows on someone’s Twitter feed. Think of the Twitter feed like the Facebook wall. When you follow people, the tweets they put up show on your Twitter stream. This is an impression.

Should I have a customized background on my Twitter page?

Yes, you should because it confirms that you are an active ‘real’ Twitter user and not just a bot or a ‘newbie’. As well as that, creating your own Twitter background means that you can add some personality to your Twitter presence.

Should I follow everyone who follows me?

No, definitely not. Follow people you are interested in so that you have content on your Twitter stream that interests you. However, if you’re trying to build a bigger network and promote through Twitter, it is wise to follow a number of people who you might not normally care to hear from. The reason for this is that you want others to know about you and by following more people, you’ll show up on more accounts.

How do I know if people are talking to me?

If someone is talking to you on Twitter, they will use this “@yourtwittername”. This is called a mention and will show up in your mentions or @ replies. This means they’re talking directly to you, so go ahead and click reply if you want to respond.

Can I respond to people in private?

Yes, of course. You can respond to people by sending them a ‘direct message’, or DM as it’s known. You can only do this if you are mutually following each other.

Should I automate my tweets to go to my Facebook page?

No, unless you have a dedicated tab on your Facebook page. It can be annoying to have automatic updates in Facebook from Twitter because sometimes the content is the same and sometimes it’s content you don’t want on both. Keep them separate, but use a tab if you want Twitter to show on Facebook. If you don’t know how to do that, ask me.

What are these hashtag things?

Hashtags are used to group keywords or topics together. Think of it like clicking the TV to MTV if you want music or clicking it to CNN if you want news. It groups all the same topic into one thing. So, for example, a hashtag might be “xfactor”. Everyone who wants to talk about X Factor might use that tag so they can follow the conversation everyone else is having about it.

So I can make my own hashtags?

Yes, absolutely. In fact, you might want to create your own hashtags for a number of things. Other people may start using the hashtag and then the info will travel further faster.

What could I possibly have to say on Twitter?

Anything and everything. I personally recommend a 50/25/25 rule for companies, but since you’re an individual this can be altered a little. This rule generally means 50% of the time talk about your product or yourself directly, 25% talk about things related to you and 25% things not related at all (news, weather, events, etc). If you’re an individual, this is a little different. Talk on there like you do on Facebook, or with your friends. It really comes down to what you want to get out of using Twitter. Your strategy for use will determine what you talk about.

Can I organize the people I follow into groups?

Yes and it’s definitely worthwhile doing that. You can make lists that allow you to group people into certain categories, this means that when you only want to read tweets from friends for example you can click on their list. When you only want to read tweets about news, you can click on their list. It’s easy to set up and I’ll have a post about creating lists up soon.