A Basic Guide to Twitter

I have noticed a number of people signing up for Twitter or asking me about it in recent days and weeks and, undeterred by the amount of blog posts already written on the subject, I thought I would wade in with a few tips on how to use it (there’s a glossary of terms at the end).

1.  Once you have signed up for an account and decided on a username, ensure you add a photo to your profile.  I tend to be very wary of Tweeters who do not have a picture.  Generally speaking, it tends to be spammers that don’t add one and consequently, if you don’t have a picture, many people won’t even consider following you.  So,  in short, if you want to make the most of what Twitter has to offer, add a photo pronto!

2.  Perhaps the most important tip of all.  Once you have chosen a username, make sure you fill in the ‘one line bio’ box in the settings screen.  I cannot emphasise enough just how important this is.  This is what will essentially attract fellow Tweeters to follow you.  Not only fellow Tweeters, but fellow Tweeters that you will actually be interested in following.  For example, I am interested in connecting with librarians, so I indicated in my bio some information that will attract other Tweeters to follow me: “ILS student, wannabe librarian, ebook owner and Web 2.0 addict.” By inputting such information, fellow users will instantly be able to see if you will tweet the sort of things that they are interested in.  Complete this section appropriately, and you will soon attract other users.  Furthermore, by completing this section properly, you will really start to see the benefits of being on Twitter.

3. Once you have sorted out your profile, it’s time to find some other Tweeters.  One of the best ways of finding people to follow is by using Twitter Advanced Search.  By completing the search form, you can easily find other users who ‘tweet’ about things that you are interested in or who live in your area.

4.  Keep your tweets public if you want to gain followers.  If you make them private, no-one will follow you making it less likely to discover anyone that may be of interest.

5.  To send someone a public reply, use ‘@’.  For example, using @ijclark (my username) will ensure that I get a message and that anyone else who follows you will also be able to see that message on your profile page. Furthermore, those that follow both of us will potentially be able to see any @replies (this can be turned off in the settings menu).

6.  To send a private message, use direct message (use ‘D’ followed by a space and then the username of the person the message is directed at).  This ensures that only the sender and the recipient will be able to see the message.

7.  To manage your tweets more effectively, sign up for TweetDeck. This is a desktop application that allows the user to split tweets into columns making them easier to follow as well as making it easier to send @replies, messages and ‘retweets’.

8.  If you have accounts with other social networking sites, eg Delicious, LastFM etc, sign up for Twitterfeed to enable recent activity to be posted to your profile.  For example, if you ‘love’ a song on LastFM, you can set Twitterfeed to post this activity straight to your profile.  Likewise, add a link to your Delicious page and that too can be directed to your Twitter profile via Twitterfeed.  This also applies if you have a blog.  Add the RSS feed to Twitterfeed and a link to your blog post will be added to your Twitter profile.

9.  Link Twitter to Facebook.  By adding the Twitter application on Facebook your Twitter updates will also be posted on your Facebook status…handily killing two birds with one stone.

10. Set up your Twitter account to enable mobile updates.  This makes it far more instantaneous than solely updating when you are at a computer…a massive benefit when using Twitter as the immediacy of tweets are a crucial component in making it such a useful tool.

11. Want to share a website you have found? TinyURL, bit.ly and other shortening tools are essential for shortening web addresses and enabling them to fit within your 140 character limit.

That should be enough to get you started.  It is quite common to sign up for Twitter and think ‘Eh?’, before giving up and wondering what all the fuss was about.  It’s only after you have been using it properly that you begin to see why Twitter is such an excellent tool for connecting to other people.  Since joining I have found it very beneficial, especially in terms of my job as I have been able to pick up various hints and tips I wouldn’t have been aware of previous to signing up. As long as you use Twitter properly, you too will find it a wonderful tool for communicating with others.  It’s not just about telling people about what you are having for lunch…..it is much more than that.


Twitter: A social networking site that enables users to connect with others using short messages of 140 characters.

Tweets: The messages that are posted on Twitter.

Tweeter: Someone who writes ‘tweets’ (short messages) on Twitter.

bio: Gives other Tweeters an idea of what you are likely to ‘tweet’ about. Absolutely essential to fill this in.

@[username]: Sends public message to that user.

D [username]: Sends private message to that user.

Retweet: Resending a tweet that someone else has written.

TweetDeck: Organises ‘tweets’ into groups making it easier to manage.

Twitterfeed: A tool that sends RSS updates to your Twitter profile (including blog posts and activity from other social networking websites).

TinyURL: A tool that shortens web addresses.


7 thoughts on “A Basic Guide to Twitter

  1. Very useful post, as I’m just getting my head round such niceties as re-tweeting and how Tinyurl works (took me ages to work that one out!)

  2. Pingback: "100 Tips, Tools, and Resources for Librarians on Twitter"…05.05.09 « The Proverbial Lone Wolf Librarian’s Weblog

  3. Pingback: 100 Tips to Be a Smarter, Better Twitterer | Computer Colleges

  4. There were too many spammers following me that I had to block, so I had to go back to having my acct private. Diddy even went private! My question is that although my acct is private, will my sent (@)comment to say Diddy or another tweeter I’m following be seen by them? And can they reply to me?

  5. Pingback: » 100 Tips Essential to being a Smarter, Better Twitterer « Eklektikos

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