Ten Things you Must Know before Using Twitter

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As I thought about the next topic for a blog post, I could not help but get drawn back to Twitter (you can follow me here). It is what interests most of my readers, and the truth be told, it is what interests me.

twitter-hashclouds

This week, Twitter experienced a game-changing event. My wife joined! Now, Twitter is a lot of things, but I never knew it was  a good luck charm, a few hours after she joined, she went into labor and gave birth to a beautiful little girl.

The reason I mention my wife joining is because when she joined, I started to realize that there are some very basic terms that are unknown to new Twitter users and are not explained well anywhere. I figured I would take the task upon myself to explain to the millions of the people out there who will be joining Twitter over the next year or two, what they need to know. Before I do that, it is important to understand what Twitter is. You can understand it better by reading this post.

After you understand why one should tweet, you should read the first 5 things you should do after registering for Twitter. Read about that here. Now, that you have the basics, here are some terms you need to know in order to make use of Twitter in the most efficient way.

  1. Reply (@): Twitter has a every unique replying feature. Whenever a person’s name is preceded by a @ symbol, that means that the sentence (tweet) that follows is directed at them. So if you are using Twitter on the Web, which you should not be (talk about that more later), and you want to reply to someone, simply type @ and then their name, then type the reply. There is also a reply icon on the Web interface that inserts the reply prefix automatically. On all the Twitter clients, there is a reply button for every tweet, which makes the process much easier.
  2. DM (D): A term you are sure to see in people’s tweets is DM. It stands for Direct Message. This is like email for all intents and purposes. It is as if you have a Twitter inbox. Only you can see your DMs. As opposed to replies and regular tweets, DMs are completely private. This feature is used if you want to write something privately to someone, but more importantly, if you are writing something that your followers will not find interesting. One of the more annoying things on Twitter in my opinion, is when people have long threaded conversations, and you as their followers have to see it all. Not only does it not interest you most of the time, but the whole concept of viewing threads on Twitter still has a lot of room for improvemt. It is quite challenging to really understand an entire conversation from beginning to end using Twitter. So stick to DMs if you are replying more than twice to someone.
  3. Retweet (RT): Retweeting is one of those things that can make or break your Twitter experience. Let me try to explain it to you in simple terms. If someone tweets something that interests you and you feel it would interest your readers, you retweet it for your readers. What it does is basically quotes that person’s tweet and gives them the credit, so people can see the tweet and then choose to follow that person. It is pretty much parallel to forwarding an email. The original person who tweeted might have 50 followers so only 50 people are exposed to the tweet. Whereas you might have 5,000 followers and by retweeting it, you increase that person’s exposure and distribute the tweet you felt was interesting. However, retweeting is really much more than that, it serves a purpose much more important than forwarding a tweet. It contributes to the entire concept of the Twitter community. You share someone else’s wisdom, and they will in turn share yours. Sharing, promoting (people), and distributing is what it is all about. I would love to perform an experiment and see how someone does on Twitter without tweeting one single thing and just retweeting other people’s interesting tweets. I am sure they would have themselves a very respectable Twitter network in a very short period of time.
  4. Hashtag (#): Hashtags are a pretty simple concept that really enhance the Twitter experience. They enable easy categorization of tweets for effective future searching. That means that if for example, you are tweeting about the iPhone, you simply insert a # before the word iPhone. Anyone who then searches hashtags.org or Twitter search, for the #iPhone term, will come up with your tweet as well as all tweets on the subject. Hashtags actually add a lot of fun to Twitter. For example, someone came up with the hashtag #fiddme, I am not sure why it was not named #feedme, but basically if you are eating something good or that looks nice, you can take a picture of it, tweet it and include that hashtag for people to be able to see a lot of interesting foods being consumed by Twitterers all over the world. Why do I need that? You don’t, but it is fun. Another hashtag is #Followfriday. This is one that you do need if you want to really get ahead in the twitterverse. Every Friday, you recommend some good people to follow and include the #Followfriday symbol. I have found many great people using this tool, and like RTing, it enhances the twitter experience by building strong and  mutual Twitter relationships.
  5. Twitpic: This tool enables you to share pictures with your followers. Not much more to say about it besides upload a picture to Twitpic, uncheck the box that tweets it automatically for you (annoying), copy the URL, write something about the picture in Twitter, then paste the URL for your followers to see. I do not need to tell you how many words a picture is worth, so sometimes it is helpful to stop telling and start showing.
  6. URL Shorteners: This is something you might see in tweets and become very confused. So let me explain it to you. Since Twitter only allows you 140 characters, it is not the most effective way of tweeting if you are going to share a link with your followers that is 70 characters long. By the way, I did not think links deserved their own bullet, but you should share links often on Twitter, and not just write random thoughts. People like to read articles and posts, and not just hear your thoughts on certain matters. Anyway, back to URL shorteners. There are endless sites that offer this service. It enables you to share a long link with your followers and still have room for your thoughts about the link you are sharing. The most common and easiest of them in my opinion is TinyURL, but there are so many to choose from, including Digg’s own shortening service. The important thing is to use one, and not waste space on a URL, does not really matter which one you use.
  7. Tweetdeck: Before I explain, I have to warn you that there are many people who disagree with me about this Twitter tool and prefer others like Twhirl, although I have to say, I do not understand those people. Tweetdeck is the most popular, sophisticated, effective, and useful 3rd party Twitter application out there. If you can only install one Twitter application, Tweetdeck should be it. If I had to sum it up in one sentence, I would say the greatness of Tweetdeck is that it automates all the above points in a very simple interface. You can reply, DM, retweet, shorten a URL, and share a Twitpic without ever leaving Tweetdeck. The newest version also includes a cool feature that when replying to a tweet with a hashtag, the hashtag is automatically generated in your reply. I could go on for hours about the greatness of Tweetdeck, but I will just name some awesome features offered by Tweetdeck:
  • Facebook Integration: You can now share your tweets with your Facebook friends if you choose by simply selecting a checkbox near the Tweetdeck tweet box.
  • Twitscoop: This cool feature enables you to  see the trending topics on Twitter. So if Gmail is down, chances are everyone is talking about it, you can then read what people are saying and share your thoughts with people you do not follow.
  • Twitter Search: It is as it sounds. No need to leave Tweetdeck to search for certain tweets, you can just open another column that will notify you when someone tweets about your search term.
  • GroupsThis is one those features that after using it, I do not understand how I got along before it. If you are following over 1,000 people, how can you possibly read everything? You can’t! So you create a group of the people that generally tweet interesting things and follow only that column. It makes the Twitter experience so much easier.

8. TwitterFon: I would love to somehow check the correlation between Twitter users and iPhone owners. Judging by the frequent iPhone trend on Twitter, a lot of Twitterers use iPhones, so I thought I would let you know which iPhone Twitter app has all the competition beat, hands down. Twitterfon is the number one iPhone app for Twitter in my opinion. I am not going to go into the detailed comparison between Twitterfon and Tweetie, you can read that here. What I will tell you is the fact that Twitterfon notifies you of new tweets, replies, and DMs makes it the app for me, period.

9.   Topify: I have discussed Topify before, so I will just say that it is one of the most useful Twitter services out there. It replaces the annoying and useless Twitter emails you get when someone follows you, with a useful and informative email. It also allows you to follow back by replying to the email. Topify also enables you to reply to a DM via email and the best part is that the developers really listen to customer feedback and improve the service accordingly and consistently.

10.   Wefollow: I have also discussed this service before, so I will tell you that when my wife joined Twitter, this is the first place I showed her. WeFollow is the best and most  effective way of finding people to follow. It is a Twitter directory based on tags people give themselves, and is organized in a very user-friendly way to enable you to build yourself a quality Twitter network in a very short period of time.

As you can see, I have a lot to say about Twitter. I will just say that when you do join, this post along with the Top 5 Reasons to Tweet and Top 5 Things to do after Joining Twitter, will give you a head start and assist you in maximizing this amazing social networking tool, no matter what your goals are in using Twitter.


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hilzfuld

Hillel is Co Founder and Chief Marketing Officer at ZCast, a company taking on the pain of modern audio broadcasting. Hillel also blogs for many influential sites including TechCrunch, Mashable, The Next Web, Business Insider, The Huffington Post, Venturebeat, and others. Additionally, Hillel mentors startups across Israel in different accelerators including The Google Launchpad, the Microsoft Ventures accelerator, Techstars, The Junction, and more. Hillel has been named Israel's top marketer, has been featured on CNBC, Forbes, and many others and was recently added by Google to its marketing experts program. You can find and talk to Hillel on Twitter. He is @Hilzfuld.

 

116 thoughts on “Ten Things you Must Know before Using Twitter

  1. It seems like yesterday when I first joined Twitter, and need to sort things out ownself. By then Twitter search is my best friend. ha.. some old times huh..

    Good job on the details given. Believe it or not, RT, url-shorterner and @/dm is a must in my everyday tweet. Still work on getting the most out of Twitter, and build up a better network from it. Haven’t got the chance to try TwitterFon just yet, maybe some day.

    @wchingya
    Social Media/Blogging

  2. Great intro article to Twitter.

    Someone a couple days ago told me that hashtags are dead and directed me to this article: http://bit.ly/SLOhn. Do you think that hashtags are still relevant? I think they’re still pretty useful for context, but I’m wondering what the general trend is.

  3. Great list, though I don’t know that Twitterfon is top 10. 😕 )

    What tool are you using to segment groups? I seen stuff done in pipes, in 3rd party apps etc. Share the links hillel!

  4. You can connect your twitter and facebook accounts (so that your tweets go to your status) via the facebook twitter app…

  5. Vicki, interesting article on hashtags, I was actually thinking the same thing, why not search for the term without the #? Well, I am not sure they are dead, they still help to create categories. So yes, when we are talking about a term like iPhone, the term is enough, but when using #Followfriday, the only reason those words are included in tweets is because there is such a hashtag. Otherwise, everyone would just recommend people and there would be no good way to see all those recommendations. See what I am saying here? Anyway, thanks for reading, keep sending feedback, I really appreciate it.

  6. Very helpful tips.

    Perhaps in the future you could post a tip about using “via” when tweeting.

    A quick tip on a RT vs.”via” when posting would be greatly appreciated.

    @metrozing on twitter

  7. It is great help for anybody interested to get the full benfits of twitter.These commands represent the most commnad requirement of twitter user.thanks for all your doing to help people improve their twitter experience.

  8. Jon, thanks for the comment. You somehow always have a way of saying things in a way too sophisticated for stupid people like myself to understand. Explain what you mean by segment groups please. I use Tweetdeck as my primary Twitter app, and I have groups of people based on interest. Is that what you mean? Am I going to see you tonight?

  9. Bruce and Jared, thanks so much for your feedback. Jared, you can link em using the new Tweetdeck, I think I mentioned that in the advantages of Tweetdeck (Facebook integration), did you mean something else? Anyway, thanks again for reading.

  10. Geralin, if I understand your question correctly, I think it is just a matter of which app you are using. I am pretty sure Twhirl uses the via format whereas Tweetdeck uses the RT format. I personally prefer RT so people know in the beginning that it is a RT and not at the end. It attracts people to the tweet when they see that it is a RT. That’s just my opinion though. Thanks for reading, come back soon.

  11. Thanks for the great article! I’ve been on Twitter for about 2 months and am putting my Gov’t client on in a couple weeks. This reminded me of some good basics and will be an excellent reference as I spin up my manager and colleagues!

    Thanks!

  12. Great Michael. So happy I can help. Spread the article to people you know who are new to Twitter. Thanks for reading, hope you come back soon!

  13. Have to admit, I was asking someone about retreat and then you tweet came up about the 10 things you got to know before you join twitter.

    Well better late than never.

    I kinna agree with on you the DM..I sometime get lost in a 3rd conversation ..maybe I spend to much time on twitter .. huh..

    The pics would be nice but I still don’t know how to work that service. My pic never should. Can you do a short video on that.

    Really enjoyed you post…thanks for sharing..

    Kim Dion
    On Twitter: kimdioninc

  14. thanks i learned a lot here as a fairly new twitterer i have just made 2000 followers, and i still have much to learn i appreciate all you write Luvyaa (my twitter name)

  15. RE: Tweetdeck groups:
    Why would you want to keep following someone if you are not going to read their Tweets? You say to “create a group of the people that generally tweet interesting things and follow only that column.” Why? If I’m no longer interested, I just unfollow.

    Could you explain why we should keep following people even though we don’t read their Tweets? I’ve been really curious why people follow so many–far more than they can ever hope to read. (I guess you can call me “Curious in Cali.”)

    Very helpful information you list here. It certainly would have been nice not to have to figure all this out on my own! I’ll be bookmarking this in case I need to point anyone else here! Thanks!

    1. Karen, good question. I was actually thinking that I need to address this issue, maybe in the next post. There is something called Twitter etiquette, that really needs to be followed. For starters, if you have 1,500 people following you and you only follow back 50 of them, it is considered rude and people will hesitate to follow you. Having said that, there are many people you follow knowing that in reality, a lot of the things they tweet do not necessarily interest you. When someone RTs an article of mine or replies to me, I generally follow them, but that does not mean I am interested in most of their tweets. So I follow them but do not add them to my primary group. Now, it is an exaggeration to say that I ONLY follow my group, I definitely look at my All Friends column from time to time, reply and RT tweets of people not in the group. I hope I answered your question. Glad you liked the article, keep reading! 🙂

  16. As a newbie, your article was a much-need intro to Twitter. Thanks for the information, which I’ll be studying going forward. Glad to follow you as well.
    Best regards…Teresa

  17. First of all CONGRATULATIONS! the best blessing to a couple is a new baby.
    Second, this is a great post! I’ll certainly share it with our clients and send some traffic your way. Even I learned a few things about Topify which I have never used. Thank you for sharing these tips.
    AnaRC

  18. AnaRC, thanks so much, I sent you two more links you might enjoy. Feel free to snoop around the bog and share with your followers 🙂 Appreciate the nice words! 🙂

  19. Thanks for this very useful article. Social media not being my natural habitat, it will help me orient. Happy to follow you.

  20. Wtrauth, we have not enabled the subscription yet, it is next on our list but thank you so much for your interest. Amki, thanks so much for the feedback. It makes me smile knowing that I helped you out…Nice to meet you and I hope you enjoy following me….

  21. Thanks for the article ! I wish I had read it before starting twittering…Now as a Iphone user (and no geek !), i have a question about the shortening of URLs : is there any iphone app allowing to tweet an URL while on Safari (and shortening it ) ? I’ve been unable to find anything that shortens/copies/paste directly interesting sites on twitter….and i have to use my PC when I want to do that (which is pretty dumb as I’m sure the Iphone can do it somehow…)
    If you can help me with this topic, that’s be great !
    greetings from france and welcome to the baby btw :o)

  22. laetSgo thanks for reading and commenting. That is a really good question that I thought about myself and do not know the answer to. I just tweeted the q (follow me and you will see @hilzfuld), will share the answers I get…Keep reading 🙂

  23. I did (follow U after reading the article this morn) and I did (see the question put forward)
    waiting impatiently for some answer…it’d be pretty cool !

  24. Well I found your article very enlightening, but since Tweetdeck has no Hebrew support (it so F****** up that it will not even display Twitts written in Hebrew) It is no good for us R2L users.

  25. Great article – thanks for your insight. I tried TweekDeck briefly but seem to be more drawn to Thwirl. Maybe because i am still new to Twitter and don’t have a large list of people I am following yet.

    @laetSgo – with regards to link shortening on the iPhone or iPod Touch I came across Twitterlink (http://twitterlink.merecomplexities.com/). – which is a app that adds a bookmark to the Safari browser that will create a shortened url for the page you are on and launches their little app to create a new tweet.

    I love Twitterfon on my iPod Touch and it seems to do automatic link shortening when I am using the built in browser to view a link from someone else’s tweet but doesn’t seem to have a way to do it automatically by interfacing with Safari – maybe in a future upgrade!

  26. An invaluable post for FNGs to the twitterverse, I found it while trying to figure out what the hell RT meant. Oh, it seems ages ago now . . . thanks for the G2.

  27. Thanks for your article. As a less than one week old Tweeter @stevehaweeli forwarded a bunch of twitter instructions and links to me including yours. I found your article to be the most useful of all.

  28. Very interesting read, I think their would be a lot of mixed opinions on this. Love the theme that you are using, what is it?

  29. Hootsuite is another big favorite of mine. It makes it very easy to rt, dm or reply + follow/unfollow and favorite. Couldn’t use Twitter w/out it! oxo c

  30. Indigobjects and Carol, thanks so much for your feedback, it is really appreciated. Keep reading and commenting. You guys care to leave your Twitter names?

  31. Pingback: Web Too » ??????
  32. The first thing you must know about Twitter is that it is a complete waste of time. Why waste your life reading short, useless and uninformative comments – like this one 🙂

    1. Well seems like you are alone on this one. In fact, I will put money that within a year, you will join. You came across this article somehow, didn’t you? You must have been researching the topic… 🙂

  33. Interesting tips about Twitter. Still a mystery to me on how effective Twitter is for marketing purposes. I know Howie Schwartz is successful in promoting his business with Twitter. Will keep experimenting. @Loanfox

  34. That was all very useful I wish I would have found it back when I first started using Twitter last summer haha but I will definately show it to my sister who is still pretty new at the whole Twitter thing 🙂

    @daniedelightful 😀

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