Twitter is an online social networking service that allows users to post messages that are 140 characters or less, which are known as tweets. Twitter started in March 2006 and the initial version was created by Jack Dorsey. Dorsey is currently the chairman of Twitter and Dick Costolo is CEO. People use Twitter for all kinds of tasks like customer service, spreading news, and for political causes. It is not as mainstream as Facebook though. This is why I have put together a beginner’s guide for learning how to use Twitter.
a. The first step is to go to http://www.twitter.com. You will see the sign up form on the bottom right. Enter your full name, e-mail, and password.
b. Confirm your account
c. Go through the quick tutorial when creating the account.
d. Pick people to follow based on Twitter recommendations. Note: As you get better at using Twitter, you will following people that you actually have an interest in interacting with. Many of the people that Twitter recommends are celebrities that have millions of followers so it makes it difficult to interact with them. But Twitter also recommends that you follow people that you e-mail often, which is a great feature.
e. Make your account personal by uploading a picture of yourself and writing a quick description.
f. Confirm your account by checking your e-mail and clicking on the link.
a. Now that you have an account, you will want to interact with your friends and the people behind large brands. For example, if you want to tell Applebee’s that you like their hot fudge sundaes, search for “Applebee’s Twitter” on Google. You will find out that their Twitter username is @Applebees and their twitter profile is located at: https://twitter.com/#!/Applebees.
b. You will notice that there is an caricature icon of a person at the top right, click on that and select “Tweet to Applebees”
c. Type in a message that you want to send Applebee’s. At the bottom left you will notice that there are two icons. The camera icon lets you attach a photo with your tweet and the target icon lets Applebee’s know where you are sending the tweet from since your location can be automatically detected.
d. Now that you know how to send someone a tweet, it is your turn to see if someone has tweeted you back.
a. A mention is when someone has written a tweet to you. Since my Twitter username is @amitchowdhry, when I click on the “Mentions” page at the top left of Twitter.com, I will see tweets from people if they have written @amitchowdhry anywhere in their tweets. Mentions are public and can be seen by anyone. If you want to send a private message to someone, then you would want to send a “Direct Message.”
You can send a Direct Message by clicking on the icon of a person at the very top right of Twitter.com. In the address box, type the name of username of the person that you want to send a message to.
You can group Twitter users into Lists. You can add people to lists even if you are not necessarily following them on Twitter. After you add people to Lists, a new feed is created for that group of users.
People use hashtags to integrate related keywords into their tweets. For example, sometimes special events on CNN and TV shows place a hashtag on to follow on Twitter. Food Network asks users to write #star when watching and talking about the “Food Network Star” TV show. When searching for #star on Twitter.com, you will see all of the tweets related to that show.
Another fun search to do is the city that you live near by like #chicago or #detroit to see what people are talking about around you. Hashtags do not work if there are spaces in them.
There are websites and software that show the latest trending hashtags. For example, during the Wall Street protests, one of the most trending hashtags was #OccupyWallStreet.
Now that you know the basics of Twitter, you should check out this list of social media tools. I highly recommend using TweetDeck to track tweets from your mentions, lists, and direct messages.
Also check out our list of Twitter resources, which includes social media experts to follow along with a list of over 600 celebrities that use Twitter.