Getting Started with Twitter

2 years ago

Getting Started with Twitter

Twitter is a very different social media network to the likes of Facebook. It positions itself as where news is broken and where people can communicate with anyone from presidents to sports stars and actresses. Twitter doesn’t have privacy settings and everything you say and do can be seen by anyone but this also means it has a much bigger chance of something going ‘viral’ and spreading around the internet like wildfire.

Twitter basics

Twitter doesn’t use algorithms to choose what order to show you content – things simply appear as they happen. So when you look at your feed, the most recent tweet is at the top and as new tweets appear from people you follow, older tweets are pushed down the feed. You can scroll down to catch up with older tweets.

This sense of urgency and speed is why people use it to keep up with events from political protests to football matches. It is also where people can comment real time on the latest slip up at an awards ceremony or share pictures of someone they have seen in real life and let others do the same.

A tweet can contain a link, photo, GIFs or videos. The classic point about Twitter is that a tweet is limited to 140 characters. This means you can’t do on an extended rant about something without breaking it down into small parts! It also means you learn the art of putting things succinctly and some believe has even made people better writers.

Getting started

Of course, arriving at Twitter for the first time can be a bit overwhelming. Where do you start? Who do you follow? What should you tweet? How do you make sure you don’t miss anything important? Here’s a look at some of the basic steps to creating your Twitter presence.

Creating an account

You can create an account either through the website on a desktop or through the app on a smartphone. Your full name is what your display name will appear as but unlike Facebook, you can change this if you want at any time. You then select a username that will be your handle – people will use @name to tweet to you or to involve you in a conversation.

You do need to put a telephone number in for authentication and this is a useful step if you ever think your account has been hacked – Twitter can send a verification code to your number to allow you access.

Your avatar is a picture you choose to represent yourself. The default is an egg and you want to change this immediately. You can check Twitter’s rules about what you are allowed but if it is a picture of yourself, your pet, your business or something similarly audience friendly then it will be fine.

Writing your bio is an important part of telling people who you are and therefore why they want to follow you. You might want to include what you do, a couple of interests or something about your business if you have one. The last step is adding a cover or background photo and then your account is ready.

Following not friending

On Twitter, you don’t send friend requests but instead, you follow someone. You can follow anyone whether you know them or not and when you first start your account, Twitter will offer some suggests around where you live or interests you have added in your bio. You can also search for people you know based on your phone or email contacts and follow them.

Twitter keeps offering suggestions all the time for more people to follow. These appear in the top right corner of your feed, usually three but you can expand this to see more suggestions. You don’t have to follow them but if you think they share interests, you like them from TV or find their bio interesting, you can just click ‘follow’.

There’s no limit to the number of people you can follow but once you get past 100 followers, you will start to see a correlation between the number of people you follow and the number of tweets on your feed. It can be good to build slowly, see how it feels rather than adding huge numbers instantly.


The point of Twitter is to tweet but this isn’t just meaningless little blurbs of 140 characters. Learning the art of tweeting is something that takes a little work for most people. We are used to using as many words as we like on Facebook or Instagram so you have to concentrate on getting across your message in a limited way.

Adding a photo does decrease the available characters by 24 but tweets containing pictures, GIFs and graphics do have a higher re-tweet rate than those without it. Likewise, you can add a link and this reduces the character count by 23 characters but means you can send people somewhere such as to a blog post or a website.

Hashtags are key on Twitter but shouldn’t be used in the same manic way as Instagram. Many studies have shown that 2 per tweet is the sweet spot. So, you can add a hashtag for a company or brand you are mentioning as well as searching for hashtags relevant to your content and use them. Hashtags are clickable so you can click them to see all tweets that include them.

Twitter tips

There are also little abbreviations and tricks that people use to get the most from Twitter and its 140 characters. Here’s a few examples:

  • HT – ‘hat tip’ a way to credit someone who first told you about the subject of your tweet. This might be a friend, someone famous, even a news organisation. It isn’t compulsory but is polite

  • @ - add this to someone’s username and they will see your tweet. It is a way to get their attention and maybe even a response as the tweet will show in their notifications

  • RT – ‘retweet’ is where you have retweeted content from someone else, sometimes with your own comment added or sometimes unaltered

  • DM – direct message is where you send someone a message that only they can see and appears in their message folder

Making the most of Twitter

One complaint lodged against Twitter is that it can be hard to keep track of everything and if you aren’t on the website near constantly, you might miss out on the important stuff. But the point of Twitter isn’t to catch everything but a place to visit periodically and catch the best of what’s going on.

Twitter does use some algorithms to help you see the most relevant content based on what you’ve looked at before. While it isn’t selective in the way Facebook is, it helps you see what your friends and family or favourite stars are saying first. Other tips to ensure you don’t miss anything crucial include:

  • Go straight to the page of the person you want to see what they have been tweeting to see their latest content

  • Search for a hashtag and tap on the ‘live’ tab to see the most recent tweets featuring it

  • Change your settings in Timeline to ‘show me the best Tweet first’ and turn this off for constant real-time with no algorithm changes

  • Turn on notifications so you get instant notifications on your smartphone about the latest tweets

  • Use a tool like Tweetdeck to view private lists featuring the most important people you want to follow so you can see just their tweets

Privacy issues

It is important to remember that, unlike Facebook, there are no privacy settings automatically included on Twitter. You can make it a private place where you interact only with friends by changing your account to private. This means you must give manual permission to anyone who wants to follow you so they can see your tweets.

You can block, mute or unfollow someone if they are causing a problem or harassing you and there is always the option to report them to Twitter. Public doesn’t mean bad behaviour and the website will crack down on it if you tell them what is happening.


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