Posted By Marti on May 30, 2013
New people are joining Twitter every day, and I have been there since it was carved on stone tablets, so I thought I’d offer these tips to people just starting out. If you are a long-time user and have a good tip, please feel free to add it!
Don’t follow too many people all at once. Twitter watches the ratio of people you are following to the number of people who are following you back, and if you are following way more than are following you, they will think you are a spammer (many marketers of porn and shady products or services do this, which has made the Twitter police nervous about it) and they will shut your account down.
Placing the @ symbol in front of a username will notify them in the tab labeled “Connect” on the top toolbar. If you go to your own “Connect” tab you will see all of the tweets that were tagged with your name, as well as new people that are following you. I would recommend using the e-mail notification for new followers too, as I have discovered that not all people who follow me show up under the Connect tab.
In “Settings” you can connect your Twitter account to Facebook and it will automatically post anything you say on Twitter to Facebook. Some folks like this, some don’t – I do it, but I have different friends at the two places. You can also select what kinds of tweets you want to share to Facebook – everything, including the ones directed at other people and retweets, or just your tweets that are just you saying something.
“RT” stands for “Retweet” which is a way to share something someone else tweeted that you find interesting. It is done most easily by using the “Retweet” button that appears when you run your mouse over a tweet and see Expand, Reply, Retweet, Favorite and More. You can also copy and paste their words and add “via @username.” Some people prefer this because it allows adding a comment of your own (like “This is great!” or “I agree”) whereas using the Retweet button simply reposts exactly what the original person said and no more.
The hashtag takes whatever word follows the # symbol and turns it into a link. Everything tagged with the same hashtag can be found on a separate Twitter page by clicking on a hashtag.
On the left-hand sidebar you will see “Trending Topics” and this is the top hashtags used by everyone (not just people you are connected to, although once you are on the hashtag page you will see three tabs – Top, All and People You Follow, so you can select which one you want to read). It can be a way to find people with similar interests. Say you watch Survivor or Mad Men. While the show is airing, tons of people who are also fans will be using those titles as a hashtag. You can read their tweets on the page that the hashtag takes you to, and you may see someone who has clever things to say or whose opinion you agree with. Exchange a few tweets with them (using @their username or the “Reply” button) and if they are willing to interact with you, they will probably follow you back if you follow them. Now you’ve made a new friend with a common interest. This is how you expand your Twitter friends. There’s no rush though, take your time because Twitter can become overwhelming pretty quickly if you have a Home feed (which shows the tweets from everyone you follow) with thousands of tweets flowing in every minute.
The Trending Topics in the left-hand sidebar is mostly generated from what users of Twitter are talking about. If there is a big news event (like a tornado) you will see the topic “Tornado” or “Moore” or “Oklahoma” being used a lot because so many people are discussing it, and you can click on that hashtag to read everyone’s tweets about that event. But at the top of Trending Topics, sometimes you will see the word “Promoted” which means someone actually paid Twitter to place their topic at the top of the list. Corporations, politicians and others who are looking for publicity will buy a trending topic and Twitter will at least let you know that it isn’t just that regular people were discussing that topic, but that someone actually paid for the publicity. There’s nothing wrong with Twitter making money in this fashion, or in people who can afford the publicity buying a trending topic, but it just clears it up when you see the word “Promoted” up there, that it wasn’t just ordinary people that talked about that topic so much that it made it to the top of the list, but that someone was willing to pay for that position.
You can follow someone, or someone can follow you, without it being reciprocal. Just because someone follows you, you don’t have to follow him or her back. There’s a good chance they will drop you if you don’t follow back though. This is because when you are following someone, you see their tweets in your Home feed. But if you follow someone but they do not follow you back, you will see their tweets, but they won’t see yours.
When you use a hashtag, it will only turn the first word into a link. This is why you see words run together in many hashtags. As soon as Twitter sees a space, it stops the link. So if you wanted to make a hashtag out of “Grain Valley” you would have to run the two words together as “GrainValley” because if you use #Grain Valley, only the word “Grain” is going to turn into a link. Also if you accidentally put a space after the hashtag (like # GrainValley) it will not turn into a link because of that space between the # symbol and the word.
If you see ”#FF” it stand for Follow Friday, which is recommending people you currently follow to your friends, suggesting that they also follow that person.
If you make a tweet or see someone else’s tweet that you want to remember and be able to find easily at a later date, you can mark it with the “Favorite” button (found below the tweet when you mouse over). This will put it in a separate list that you can access at a later date.
You can create “Lists” of people you are following and name the list whatever you want. Don’t call it anything you don’t want other people to see though, because when you add someone to a list they are notified, and they will see the list name. In the beginning when you are only following a handful of people this may not feel necessary, but as you get more and more involved, it is handy if you just have a small amount of time to scan Twitter and you are mainly concerned with seeing what a specific set of people have to say. You can group the people together for a list any way you want – say you wanted to make a list of people who live close to you, or you are interested in following celebrities, you can put those people on a list, then go to “Lists” from that thing that looks like a wheel or cog at the upper right of your screen (on a regular computer…I don’t have a smartphone so I am not sure how Twitter looks from a mobile device, it might be different).
From that same cog with a dropdown menu, you will see “Direct Messages” which is pretty much like a Facebook message. It is private between you and one other person and can not be seen by the public.
Beware of people who have thousands or even tens of thousands of followers but are only following a handful of people back. They are “people collectors” who want to look popular so they follow everyone they spot, but only briefly. A few days later, they will drop you. They hope you will follow them back and not notice that they have dropped you. I think this is a horrible way to treat people but it happens, so I wanted to warn you about it. I can understand someone who is a celebrity doing this, as they have actual fans but not enough time to pay attention to the tweets from everyone who follows them but there are a lot of people you’ve never heard of who just want to have a huge stable of followers so they appear to be important.
“Vine” is Twitter’s video sharing service. It only allows very short video pieces, like 6 seconds long. Kind of like a mini-You Tube. You can also add pictures to a tweet by using the little camera icon on the lower left below the box you type your tweet in.
Just like everyplace you post stuff that others can read, use caution regarding your personal information and your opinions. You are sure to piss somebody off if you discuss strong political opinions.
Wow, this got really long-winded! I hope this doesn’t overwhelm you. It’s really not that complicated and it can be a lot of fun. Often Twitter is the “go-to” place when there is breaking news or a big discussion like a TV show that is very popular and gets lots of people talking.