Twitter is a social networking website built on brevity. Every message must contain 140-characters or fewer. Users can attach other content, like videos and photos, and include their location when they post.
Despite its simple premise, the CEO of Twitter, Dick Costolo, has voiced concerns that Twitter is too complicated for newcomers. Twitter started off as a fairly humble service, but as the platform has evolved, it has become a network for information distribution, and attracted positive and negative feedback.
Getting Started on Twitter
Twitter has 316 million active users, and collectively, they post 500 million tweets per day. You can join in the conversation by signing up for a free Twitter account. Don’t worry too much about choosing the perfect username, since you can change it at a later date.
When you sign up for Twitter, you can immediately post a tweet for the world to see. Type your message and press the Tweet button.
Click the Media or Location icons to attach additional items to your tweet. If you add a photo, Twitter instantly shows you a thumbnail preview. You can attach JPG, GIF and PNG files.
You can attach up to 4 photos to every tweet, or one animated GIF. You can also tag other Twitter users in photos. Ordinary photos must be less than 5MB in size, but animated GIFs but be 3MB or less. Note: only looped animated GIFs will display correctly.
A hashtag is a short phrase preceded by a pound sign (#). Hashtags let users find tweets on related topics, and are sometimes used by brands in marketing campaigns.
To insert a hashtag into a tweet, simply type # immediately followed by the word you want to use.
To find related conversations using a hashtag, simply click on it. Twitter will automatically conduct a search and display all of the tweets containing that hashtag.
Twitter lets you Follow other users so you can see their tweets in a live timeline. You can also see the users that are Following you.
Even if someone is not following you on Twitter, they can still read your tweets on your timeline. To make it harder for non-followers to see what you tweet, make your profile Private. Other users will then need your explicit approval to Follow you.
If your profile is private, then by default, you cannot be tagged in photos that other users upload. You can tweak your privacy settings if you are happy to be tagged.
Messaging Other People
To send a user a message in a tweet, type their Twitter username with an @ in front. This will alert the user to the message.
If a tweet begins with the @ character, your other followers will not see it, although it will be visible on your timeline if they browse to it. If you want to ensure your reply shows in all your followers’ timelines, begin the tweet with a . (period).
To reply to a message, click the Reply button. This starts a new tweet, beginning with the @username of the original poster.
If you prefer to reply privately, send a Direct Message (DM) by clicking the Messages menu icon. DMs are not published on your timeline, but otherwise, they function like regular tweets. You can even attach photos to a DM.
However, you can only DM someone who is Following you.
If you are tagged by name in a tweet, your Notifications area will alert you. You’ll also receive a notification when you have a new follower.
Retweets and Favorites
Retweeting is a way to forward a tweet by reposting it on your own timeline. This then makes the tweet visible to all of your followers. The number next to the Retween icon shows you how many people have already retweeted it.
Next to the Retweet icon, there is a small Star icon. This lets you mark the tweet as a Favorite.
Many well-known news stories originated on Twitter, and some users have used it to get around communications restrictions in their country. These are all positives that have raised the profile of the service. But because there are no editors, the fast-moving, public nature of Twitter can result in false leads. When a big story breaks, hold back: remember that Twitter is unedited, and can often present an incorrect version of the truth.
Twitter has also hit the headlines because of malicious users, sometimes dubbed Twitter ‘trolls’. While cyber bullies and fraudsters are not limited to using Twitter, the anonymity of the service makes it attractive.
If a user causes problems, you can Mute or Block them, or report the tweet to Twitter for review. Access these options by pressing the icon with the three dots underneath each tweet.