How to use Twitter: what are hashtags, Tweeples and Tweets? All is revealed in this short Twitter guide.
Twitter, the Twittersphere, Tweets, followers, hashtags and more – what does it all mean? Welcome to Twitter 101, my guide to help you understand Twitter.
Twitter, as a service is not at all like other social media services. Twitter doesn't make two-way friendships like Facebook and Linkedin, but rather one-way followings. For example, I could choose to follow someone and read all of their Tweets, without subjecting them to reading all of my rantings. This makes it a great medium to broadcast information. You can still conduct conversations with other Twitter users in private, but most people choose to conduct their conversations in public, encouraging other users to join in if they want to.
Twittersphere: The Twittersphere is the Twitter service and all the services that link into it
Tweeples: Tweeples are Twitter users, all Twitter users are given a username prefixed with @ – @dean_faulker, for example
Tweets: Tweets are the text-only messages, limited to 140 characters each. These are visible to all Twitter users through searching and browsing the Twittersphere
Twitterstream: A user's stream of Tweets from other Tweeples that they follow, or Tweets that mention their username
Followers: A Twitter follower is someone that has opted to have all your Tweets appear in their Twitterstream
Hashtags: A hashtag is a way to categorise Tweets. Clicking hashtags will reload the page to show all tweets that include that hashtag. Hashtags are prefixed with a hash, and look like this: #howtousetwitter
Retweets: A retweet is a Tweet that someone chooses to post again to all their followers. Retweets credit the original author of the Tweet and are distinguishable by the RT prefix.
Lists: A user-compiled list of Tweeples. You can follow lists or view them to see the Tweets of all the members.
See the Twitter Glossary for more information and more Twitter terminology.
Basic use of twitter
Once you have signed up for a Twitter account, you can start Tweeting. Browse and search through clickable hashtags and users' names to find content that interests you. Follow users whose Tweets are of interest, so that those Tweets come up in your Twitterstream when you log into Twitter. You can find friends on Twitter and choose from some of the most influential Tweeples by clicking the find people button in top menu.
Conversations: If you wish to talk to someone on Twitter, you can mention their Twitter name in your Tweet to make it appear in their Twitterstream. Most Twitter clients have a reply button that will automatically insert this at the beginning of the Tweet, but you could place it anywhere.
Things may be slow at first, but once you build up a good list of people to follow and begin interacting with them, they should reciprocally follow you – if they find your Tweets interesting.
Linking: Linking to relevant external information is a huge part of what Twitter is used for. But, given that Twitter only allows 140-characters per Tweet, linking to websites with long URLs can be difficult. For this purpose, URL shorteners were created. A URL shortener is a service that will associate a very short URL with a longer one. Clicking the short link wil redirect all requests to the long URL. There are a lot of URL shortening services around, but the easiest to use and my personal recommendation is Bitly: http://bit.ly/. Bitly also allows tracking of the shortened URL, so that you can see how many people have clicked the shortened link.
Pictures: the last of the Twitter services that I am going to cover is Twitpic, a service that allows you to upload pictures and share them with other Tweeples.
Tweeting on the move
Twitter is great to broadcast what you are doing and where you are by sharing pictures and information with anyone who might want to see it. In order to help people do that, there are many services that allow you to Tweet remotely and on any device. Most of the recent Twitter clients will automatically integrate the other services, such as URL shortening, picture uploading and even Twitlonger, allowing you to Tweet more than 140 characters.
Iphone applications – read Mashable's 29 Twitter apps compared
Blackberry applications – read Crackberrys round up of the Blackberry Twitter clients
Posterous – a tool that allows you to email text, pictures, audio and video to the service. It then automatically posts it to Twitter and other social networking tools that you use.