You hear about it almost everywhere and it is quoted as a source of truth now for important events, from political elections, reports of natural disasters through to pop culture. Are you on board yet or are you a little too cautious about what Twitter is and how it works? This article will explain the basics of Twitter and help you on your way to tweet like it’s, well, everyone’s business!
The first thing you need is a Twitter account and profile. Simply head over to Twitter.com and create a new account. Once complete, you can personalise your profile, with any details you wish to make public, such as your website and a description about yourself.
Many businesses also have Twitter pages which they use to communicate their message and brand to the masses. A business page is different to a personal profile, so don’t confuse the two.
A “tweet” is a message that is published to the Internet for all to see. Any “followers” (people who asked to see your tweets when they log into Twitter) will automatically see this tweet appear in their subscribed Twitter feeds. However, recent tweets are also published on the Twitter homepage, and can be found on particular searches through the website.
Each tweet is limited to 140 characters, so they should be simple and to the point. This is one of the reasons Twitter has become incredibly popular – messages are direct and easily digestible. There are a few little shortcuts and abbreviations that people write to squeeze a few extra words in, but we do not have to worry about them for the moment.
What is the @ symbol used for in a tweet?
The @ symbol is used to gain the attention of a particular Twitter user, much like entering someone’s email address in the “To” field in an email. The benefit is that you can get a message through to someone that has a Twitter account, regardless of whether you know them personally or not. Remember though, that Twitter is a public site, so every tweet is visible to everyone. Using the @ symbol is optional though; if you don’t want to write a message to someone in particular, just leave that out.
If you really want to send a private message to someone on Twitter (much like an email), you can send them a direct message through Twitter also by clicking on the envelope icon on the top right menu. The @ symbol is only used for public messages.
What is all this # tag business?
Hashtags (words prefixed with #) are a way to tell the Twitter audience what the topic of your tweet is about. It is not necessary to use a hashtag in your tweet, but by doing so you will make it easier for the public to find your message, and your profile (which can be a great marketing tool).
Users can also view tweets according to hashtags. For example, if they wanted to stay up to date with a current event, and various Twitter users were including the same hashtag when they tweeted about that event, the user could choose to view all tweets which include that hashtag. It’s a quick way to filter your tweets.
The more times a certain hashtag is used, the more popular the topic. This is known as a “trending topic” and helps users find out what’s going on in Twitter and around the globe.
This completes just some of the basic themes about Twitter to help you get started. There is no need to be afraid, Twitter is a great tool to communicate with brands of interest, and speak with people that you would not otherwise have an opportunity to meet.
It’s also a terrific learning tool, with many users posting helpful videos, tips and advice. Just always be aware that Twitter is a public space, so whatever you do can be seen by anyone. Keep this in mind, especially in the beginning when you are still learning and sending your first tweets. After a month or so, you will have caught onto it (and possibly become a little addicted!).