Social Media 101: Twitter

For all you social media newbies out there, things like Twitter and blogging can be confusing. So this week I’m going to break it down for you first-time tweeters. Here are some common phrases, functions and programs associated with Twitter you might want to know.

@-The @ sign is what tells Twitter you’re talking about another user. If Julie tweeted something and I wanted to respond, I could type “Thanks Julie!” or if she has a Twitter account of her own, I could type “Thanks @Julie (here you would put her twitter name after the @ sign, so if her twitter name is @Julie, it would look like that).” When you use the @name format, Twitter will automatically include a link to that person’s profile. It’s a great way to share with friends and increase traffic for you both.

RT—stands for ReTweet, which means you are taking someone else’s tweet and reposting it. Twitter is all about sharing, and this is a great way to pass on tweets and make connections. You might have to trim long RTs down so they fit the 140 character limit. If you can, try to leave the name of the original user in the tweet so people can see where it comes from, it’s the nice thing to do.

DM-That stands for direct message. This is a private message that goes to the other tweeter only. You can’t send a DM to someone if you aren’t following each other, so you can forget about sending private messages to Stephanie Meyer, not that I’ve tried that or anything.

#-The hashtag works like the tags in a blog entry, they categorize your tweet. All you have to do is include it in the message and it becomes part of a searchable group. For example if you were tweeting about your new furniture store you could add the hashtag #furniture and it would be grouped with other tweets that use the same hashtag. Sites like gather categories into a searchable database for easy perusal.

Twitter List-You can group people you follow into lists to make it easier to keep track of them. You can have a list for families, friends, contacts, anything. You can even follow someone else’s list, which makes expanding your network really easy.

#ff – You might see this tag a lot at the end of the week, it stands for Follow Friday. It’s a sharing thing that started in the early days of Twitter, and is still going strong. If you have some friends or contacts that you follow and you think others should too, put their names in a tweet (using the “@name” format) and send it out with a #ff tag.

Twitter client—I use Twitter all the time but rarely visit the actual site, because I use Twitter clients. There are dozens of Twitter clients out there that add all kinds of functionality to the service, like groups, instant searches, stat tracking and more. Some of them can even be used on your phone. I like to use HootSuite. I’ve also used Tweetdeck and Seesmic, all of which are great if you manage multiple profiles. There are a ton of options out there, so don’t settle on the first one you find. Most of them are free, so you can shop around without spending a dime.

Have some more questions? Email me at and I’ll help you out. In a future entry, I’ll share some tips on Tweeting and how to engage your followers.


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