Twitter 101: The Basics Explained

The Internet is constantly evolving. No sooner do you get one social web site figured out when something new, interesting and useful come around. This is the trend in social networks. From Friendster to MySpace to Facebook the trend is the same, social media is always in flux. The relatively newest social tool is Twitter, and though many people have heard of it there are millions who have yet to check it out. You may not be a social media diva or have any interest in using Twitter, however, you may want to understand what Twitter is all about. If you do have an interest in trying Twitter, great, you likely really enjoy it. What we will do in this article is get a basic overview of what Twitter is, how to join and a get a basic understanding of Twitter’s terminology.

How To Sign-up On Twitter

You can create a free account on by choosing a user name, which is also called your "Twitter handle.". It is very easy to sign-up and you are not ‘married’ to your Twitter account. If you find that Twitter is not for you, then just cancel the account. No muss, no fuss.

Following People On Twitter

Once you have set up your account, you will want to start a list of other Twitter users who you want to "follow." Following someone means you will get automatic updates when the person "tweets", ie, sends out a message to their followers. You can look celebrities or whomever by their real name or their Twitter handle than just click the "follow" button on their profiles. Some of the best accounts to follow at first are those from celebrities or businesses in your local area (you never know when they might tweet out a special deal). All major companies nowadays have a Twitter account. Once you have started following a few different accounts, you can sit back and see what happens by watching your "Twitter feed," which is the homepage on the Twitter site.

People you follow will compose "tweets," which are basically short messages they send out to all their followers. Followers can be friends, family, customers, fans, basically whomever signed up to follow a particular person or company. Every time someone writes a tweet, it will become visible on the Twitter feeds of all of their followers. A person can choose to tweet anything they want. The single limitation is that tweets have to be shorter than 140 characters. Each letter, number, punctuation symbol, or space is considered a character. Tweets are about anything and everything. They may be random thoughts such as "I’m having lunch today with this hot new guy" – or – important family news like "My grandson was born today and is named Robert" – or – "There will be a one day special on T-shirts today". Tweets can be questions such as, "Where is a good place for dinner in San Diego?" Each new tweet by a member shows up on the top of your Twitter feed when it is first sent. As time passes the message will move down the page as newer tweets are published.

Sending Out Your Own Messages – Or ‘Tweets’

Once you feel comfortable with how Twitter works, you may want to begin writing your own tweets. This is easy. You just click the "compose," link or button and write whatever is on your mind. Your tweets will be sent out onto the Internet via the Twitter feed. However, your tweets will only ever be seen by people who have chosen to follow you. In the same way that you found accounts to follow, someone (either a friend or a stranger) may decide to follow your Twitter account. Once you have your account set up you may be surprised at the number of people who will follow you. Especially if you tweet consistently and on topics others enjoy such as your hobby, family matters, sports or whatever. After you have understand the basics of the Twitter website you may want to download the app which allows you to follow and post tweets on your smartphone. There are easy Twitter apps for iOS, Android, and almost all other mobile platforms. Millions of Twitter members enjoy following and posting tweets via mobile phones.

Sending Out Tweets To Specific People

You may be wondering about the "social" aspect of Twitter’s social networking capabilities because it seems one-sided … it is all messages going out but no messages coming back in about published tweets. Ah! Not so. Once you master basic tweeting you may want to start directly interacting with other Twitter members. In other words, you can "tweet at" someone directly with a message only meant for them. To compose this type of targeted tweet you simply write the person’s Twitter handle preceded by an "@" symbol. For example, remember the tweet from above asking for a good place for dinner in San Diego? Let’s say that tweet was written by someone whose Twitter ‘handle’ is "123Twitter".

If you wanted to respond to that tweet, you could compose something like this: "@123Twitter I like Bob’s Burgers. 123 Somewhere St. (555) 555-1234." Your direct, personal tweet would show up on the personal Twitter feed of @cooltweets123. The person you tweet personally may or may not write a tweet back to you … or maybe they will … who knows. Just don’t be disappointed if people you tweet personally do not respond. You may find you do not wish to respond to all the personal tweets you receive. Keep in mind that while this interaction may only be between the two of you, it will STILL BE PUBICLY DISPLAYED on your list of tweets. If someone follows both you and @cooltweets123, therefore, the whole conversation will show up on their Twitter feed. Always keep in mind that EVERYTHING tweeted on Twitter is public.

Understanding The Twitter Hashtag

The "hashtag" or "#&qout; is something unique to Twitter. It does take people a little bit of time to understand and appreciate this feature. A ‘hashtag’ is Twitter terminology for a phrase that is preceded by a "#" sign. When you write a tweet with a hashtag in it, the hashtag becomes a link. By clicking on that hashtag link you will be taken to a page that lists all the other tweets people have composed with that hashtag. You can think of the hashtag a form of a keyword. When you go to search engine you type in a ‘keyword’ and the search engine looks up all the website related to that keyword. Hashtags work very much the same way, only hashtags can be links.

Hashtags are a huge part of pop culture today, especially now that many TV shows are superimposing ideas for potential hashtags onto the screen during exciting moments. For example, say that you are watching the newest episode of your favorite TV show. You may get a hashtag alert to comment on Twitter about that show. After you send the tweet to that #TVshow (or whatever hashtag alert you received), anyone who is watching that particular feed for that hashtag will see what you had to say. Twitter itself tracks the most popular hashtags both in your local area and around the world. Twitter is very good about letting you know what hashtags are "trending.", which means currently popular. The current trends give you a snapshot of the hot topics of conversation worldwide at any given moment. (You can learn more about hashtags at ).

Remember that the overall goal of hashtags, Twitter conversations, and general tweets is to help you connect with other ‘Twitters’. This happens as you follow other peoples tweets and as other folks sign up to follow your tweets. Some people have described Twitter as a giant instant messaging center. One of the most socially satisfying aspects of Twitter is that it makes it easy to connect with others who share your interests. Yes, you will probably want to follow your friends and family. But you can also find people all over the world who are interested in, say, sports or music. For example, maybe you are a big fan of movies. On Twitter, you will find millions who also love movies and tweet out their opinions about the latest films. You will also be able to follow your favorite movie stars.

There is a great deal going on at Twitter. Hopefully, this article helps you better understand this powerful, new, social media phenomena.

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