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Jeremy Morgan

Mostly Coherent Ramblings of a Silicon Forest Software Developer

Twitter 101: For Beginners

By: Jeremy Morgan

So, you’ve finally signed up for your twitter account, and you are probably wondering: what now? How does this work?

I thought I’d write a quick guide to Twitter for the absolute beginner, to lay down some of the basics of this fast paced social platform. This isn’t necessarily targeted to marketers, as much as just beginner twitter users.

So what’s the point?

That’s probably your first question. Twitter is all about “microblogging”. Which basically means stuff you want to share with the world, but not necessarily enough content to fill a whole blog post. For instance, you might be having some really good Indian food for lunch, and you want to tell your friends about it. You could fill a whole blog post with it, but you just want to give out some basic details rather than punishing your readers with 5 paragraphs. That’s what twitter is for.

Typical tweets:

Pink Martini and the Symphony are awesome! I have a new appreciation for this band! #pinkmartini _about 11 hours ago from web _

RT@pdxdev The ultimate jquery list - 100 plugins and examples –> #jquery _about 24 hours ago from web _

Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died. _3:30 PM May 29th from TweetDeck _

Now, if you read through those, you can see that none of them are really worthy of some huge blog post. I could ramble on and do a full article, or I could just tell you I enjoyed the Pink Martini show, and you could do a little research and learn more about it, if you care.

I also use it to post links to stuff I think people will find interesting, or I put in a funny quip or a quote. My advice: Don’t think too hard about your tweets. Just post stuff. Eventually you’ll get the hang of it, and your personality will start to show through. Anyway… here is a quick FAQ on twitter, as promised.

What is a “follower” and how do I follow someone?

I get this question a lot. This is different from being “friends” on Facebook or Myspace. When you follow someone, all you are doing is subscribing to their tweets. What that means is, when you log into to twitter their tweets will show up. By following them, you are watching what they post, and you can see what’s going on in their life.

They don’t necessarily follow you back, unlike social sites of the past where there was a mutual connection automatically. Most people should follow you back, but many won’t. In fact if they are a celebrity it’s very likely they won’t follow you back. But you might be really curious what Ashton Kutcher had for lunch, so follow him!

What does @JeremyCMorgan mean??

Anytime you put @ before a username, you will come up on their page. This is not a direct message, but more like a message you want directed at the person, or you want to mention them. Think of it in a literal sense, “Jeremy says At aplusk hey straighten out your hat bozo”. What this means is, others can see that I am giving Ashton a message, and if he checks his replies he’ll see it (and instantly ignore it I’m sure). And I say it loud so everyone can hear it. If I want to send a direct message that only he could see, I would type D and then the user name, like this:

d aplusk You better be nice to those kids, or Bruce will kill you. Have you seen Die Hard?

This is the equivalent of a private message in a chat room.

What is RT or ReTweeting?

****Re Tweeting is basically the same as forwarding an email. If someone tweets something you want to share with your followers, simply put RT @username or some variation of that (RT@ RT: @, etc) and you give that person credit for it.

If you repost things others have posted without giving them credit, they might get upset. It’s not a rule as much as it is a simple judgment call on your part.

What is a Hashtag? (#programming, etc)

I’ve heard this question several times as well. “Whats the difference between that and using it as a keyword?”. The simple answer is, if you put a # before a keyword it will place it into a group. And people can view those groups on or through twitter searches. For instance, if I post something like this:

Wow, I just found out keyword stuffing is a horrible idea for #seo!!

Then anyone who does a search for #seo will find it, and also the tweet will be put in a group of other tweets marked with #seo, and viewable here. Pretty neat huh?

Conclusion: What else should I talk about?

Well, I hope this answers a few of your “getting started” questions. If you can think of anything else you’d like me to explain or cover in depth, send me a tweet!

Good luck with your ventures!