Understanding Twitter Basics - dummies

By Kyle Lacy

Twitter is very easy to use. And if you are thinking about marketing on Twitter, you probably know a little bit about how Twitter can help you with potential customers.

[Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/PeskyMonkey]
Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/PeskyMonkey

Here are the Twitter basics so even the uninitiated can use Twitter to boost their business presence:

  • Tweets: A tweet is a message. You have 140 characters, including spaces, to put down your thoughts. Type your message in the What’s happening? text box on your homepage, and click the Tweet button to send a tweet.


    Rules of grammar and punctuation fly out the window when you send a Tweet. Abbreviate with to w/, turn people into ppl, and even make for or four into 4. You can make your messages deep and philosophical, clever, funny, informational, educational, a question, an answer, or what you had on your bagel for breakfast this morning.

  • @replies: When you want to reply to a particular tweet, you can click the Reply button offered by all Twitter clients or the backward arrow next to the tweet you want to reply to on Twitter itself.


    Alternatively, you can type the @ (“at”) symbol followed by the person’s user ID, followed by your tweet, in the What’s Happening? text box.


  • Hashtags (#): You can use hashtags to create groupings and help generate popularity around a particular keyword or topic. You can create a hashtag about a city, local event, news event, brand, sports team, or anything you want by preceding it with the hash mark (#).

    When you include a hashtag in a tweet, it becomes clickable.


  • Direct messages: Also called DMs, direct messages let you communicate privately with other Twitter users. To send a direct message, type the letter D followed by the username of the twitterer you want to reach, and then enter your message in the What’s Happening? text box. You also have the ability to send direct messages directly to the individual through your Messages Inbox on your profile.


    Don’t make the mistake of typing DM and then the message. Beginning a message with DM still sends it out to the general timeline, which means it is public for all to see.

  • Link shorteners: If you have 140 characters, you don’t want to use 50 of them by including a long URL. You need to shorten the URL so that you can save yourself some characters. Most URL shorteners shrink the links to anywhere from 16 to 20 characters.

  • Lists: Twitter recently released a function called Lists which gives users the ability to organize people they follow in groups or lists. Lists help when you may not want to follow a user but still want to keep track of their happenings on the site. They can be used as an extremely effective way to organize and build followings around certain subject matters and topics. If you can imagine a wall of your favorite Twitter users all in one screen, you have the basics of the Twitter lists. You can even group people you are not following into a list! Thanks for that, Twitter!