Twitter 101

So you’re thinking of taking the leap to see just what it is that has everyone so fired up about Twitter. But you have just one question: What is Twitter?

Twitter is a micro-blogging service that started out by users answering one question: “What are you doing?” While people still post what they’re doing in the 140 characters that’s allotted for updates, Tweeters may find themselves building professional and personal relationships with their followers, therefore carrying on full conversations via Tweets. And yes, while everyone who is following you will see these conversations, there is a certain personalization associated with it that people find fascinating, and often times useful.

The best way to start using Twitter is to just dive in and start Tweeting. But first, you need to be schooled with a little Twitter 101.


Following somebody means that you have elected to add that person to your list of updates. In turn – those you’re following may follow you. The notion that just about anybody on Twitter can follow you makes some people uneasy. To put your mind at ease there are a few things you can do:

  1. You can make your updates protected, meaning that only those following you are able to view what you post. The downside to doing this though, is that not many people at all will be seeing your updates. People will have to request to follow you, and this makes it difficult for networking purposes.
  2. If you keep your updates open to where anybody with a Twitter account can follow you, there is an option to block people. Use this selectively, and don’t go about blocking everyone following you just because you don’t know them.

Your profile

Your profile page is where you and others can go to see what you’ve been Tweeting about. If people find your Tweets interesting enough, they just might follow you. Your profile page is also where your one-line bio (in 160 characters or less), and website is displayed. This may be just me, but I am more likely to follow somebody if they have their bio filled out, and it’s interesting.

Your home page

Your Twitter home page displays a timeline of Tweets from those you are following. You are the only one who sees this page (your followers will see your profile page, not your home page). This is also the page where you can make your updates, and “@reply” to, or retweet someone. (See below for @replies and retweets.)


The easiest way to explain @replies is from Twitter’s support site itself:

“An @reply is a public message sent from one person to another, distinguished from normal updates by the @username prefix. If a message begins with @username, we collect it as a reply and post it in the replies tab. Reply publicly to any update on Twitter by using the @username format. Following is not necessary to reply to someone, and all of your replies are visible in the replies tab of your home page sidebar.”

Example of an @reply:
@Chris_Jenkins Wow. When I look at my Twitter home page all I see is your face. So glad I still get to see you even when you’re not here!🙂

@reply settings

This is an important one. Again, the easiest way to explain this is from Twitter’s support:

“You follow Shelia and Ace. Sheila follows you, Ace and Dutch. You love reading and replying to Ace and Sheila’s updates but you don’t know Dutch, so you don’t want to see Sheila’s replies to him. You don’t want to stop following Sheila, nor do you want to follow Dutch. What to do?

Twitter offers @reply timeline settings to control the display of replies between people you follow on your homepage. These settings are like filters for the replies posted by your followers. There are three settings:

  1. @replies to the people I’m following: see @replies posted by people you follow to other people that you also follow. In this case, you would always see replies between Sheila and Ace because you follow both of them, but never between Sheila and Dutch, because you don’t follow Dutch. (This is the default setting.)
  2. All @replies: see all @replies posted by people you follow, whether or not you follow the person to whom the reply is directed. In this case, you would see all of Sheila’s replies to Dutch and anyone else she replied to, regardless of whether you follow them or not.
  3. No @replies: never see any @replies in your timeline, ever. In this case, you would not see a reply from anyone, regardless of follow state, including replies between Sheila and Ace, Dutch, or anyone else.”

Confused? I would recommend going with the first option, so as not to get overwhelmed with @replies by selecting all, or run the risk of not seeing any by selecting none.


Twitter users retweet, or RT, other people’s updates for different reasons. Someone might just like what you posted, or think it’s funny enough to share with their followers. Others RT for networking purposes, or to share a good article that someone read.

In the end, having someone RT something you posted, is a great way to gain more followers, as that person’s followers will see your username in their RT. It’s important to always give credit where it’s due when retweeting an update.

Example of a RT:
RT @BillSheridan Reading “Stimulus won’t affect small businesses much” from MSNBC.

Direct Messages

Direct messaging through Twitter works much like an Instant Message conversation between two people. By direct messaging (DM) someone via Twitter, only that person will receive the message, and can in turn, DM you back. It’s important to realize that only those following each other can DM. If someone I am following is not following me, then we cannot DM each other.


Beside each Tweet from those you’re following in your timeline, is the outline of a star (if you roll your mouse curser to the right of the box, it should appear). Simply click on this star to mark a Tweet as a favorite. Anybody is able to view your favorite Tweets.


Clicking the “everyone” tab will bring up a list of current Tweets around Twitter. These Tweets include updates from followers and non-followers.

Device and e-mail updates

Know who your new followers are by signing up to receive new follower e-mail notifications. You can also opt-in to receive e-mail notifications when someone sends you a direct message.

Twitter also allows you to keep updated through various mobile phone applications. The easiest way to ease into updating Twitter by phone though is through SMS. You can set it up so you will receive text messages when selected people make updates. You can also update to Twitter via SMS by texting your update to 40404.

And just to show you how willing your “Tweeple” can be when needed: One of my followers offered up this suggestion when I called upon them for their own Twitter 101 tips:

Jaye_Valentine @kvitartas “Friends don’t let friends Twitter drunk.”

Cool people to follow on Twitter:

Twitter resources:

  • Twitter? It’s What You Make It
    The New York Times
  • Twtbase
    Twitter application database
  • Tweepler
    Organize your Tweeps
  • BigTweet
    A repository for all sorts of manglings of the English language as used on Twitter.
  • Twictionary
    A repository for all sorts of manglings of the English language as used on Twitter.
  • Twuffer
    Twuffer allows the Twitter user to compose a list of future tweets, and schedule their release.
  • TweetDeck
    TweetDeck is an Adobe Air desktop application that groups together your Twitter feeds into more manageable bite sized pieces.
  • Mrtweet
    Mr. Tweet looks through your extended network to help you build effective relationships on Twitter, by asking: “Which of my followers I should be following in return?” and “Who are the influential people I should be following?”
  • Twollow
    Auto-follow people on Twitter based on key words.
  • Twistory
    Twitter + history = Twistory. Add your Twitter feed to your favorite calendar application and browse through your personal Twitter history.
  • TweetBeep
    Keep track of conversations that mention you, your products, your company, or anything else that comes to mind.
  • Twitzu
    Create events to promote through Twitter

2 Responses

  1. Woooo shout outs are always awesome!!

    I demand a recount on the @Chris_Jenkins recommendation, I heard he thinks he is a tech expert😉

    This might be the most useful Twitter post I’ve read – GREAT job!

  2. […] Rating – an Ohio Economic Development Issue As I tweeted updates from an Ohio Workers’ Compensation briefing earlier this month, I could almost hear the […]

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