A Crash Course in Twitter

All too often when I talk to people and ask are you on twitter you still surprisingly get the answer “I don’t understand it” I think this is partly because of the twitter news feed where people initially feel like they are just missing out on everything. So here’s a brief overview explaining a few concepts in twitter and how to make it work for you:

Twitter Handle

A twitter handle is simply the username that you decide to use for twitter, try and make it relevant to you or if you are a business your business name.

Following an Account

If you go to an account that you are interested in clicking “Follow” will then load any tweets that are sent from that user into your news feed. If you are new to twitter a really easy example to use is if you go to Triple j Plays twitter account: https://twitter.com/triplejplays – once you are here click on “Follow”. Now that you are following that account if you go back to your home page you will see tweets from them showing in your feed – this account I’ve used as an example because every time the radio station Triple J plays a song they tweet what it is so you will see your feed update with posts from them frequently

Engaging with Other Users 

There are a few different ways to engage with other people on twitter – retweeting, replying, direct message or liking a post. In the picture below the buttons are as follows along the bottom from left to right:

Reply – Retweet – Like – Tweet Activity – Extended Menu (allows more sharing options)



So what does it all mean?


A reply is a simple reply that is in response to whatever tweet has been sent, this is a public response that everyone can see. When should you use a reply? If you want to engage with the person who has posted the content


A retweet takes the original tweet and then reposts it to all of your followers. When should you use this? A retweet gives you two options after you press the button – retweet immediately (just press the blue retweet button) or retweet with comment (type your comment before pressing the blue retweet button) Retweets are useful if you are trying to bring greater awareness to the original tweet or if you feel that the audience that follows you on twitter should also see something that has showed up either in your feed or somewhere on twitter.

Direct Message

There are two ways to direct message someone number one is to go to the twitter account you which to DM and click the cog then go to “Send A Direct Message”. How is a direct message different to a reply? A direct message is directly between you and the user whereas a reply can be seen by any twitter user.


The other way is along the top of your twitter profile click messages then new message – note however that you will need to know the twitter handle of the person you wish to message using this method


Here is an example of what hashtags aren’t for even though it is quite hilarious. So how should you use hashtags and how should you follow them?

First of all here is some examples of hashtags that are not that great and I’ll explain why:

#postmanthinksihaveaproblem #imgoingtothebeachtoday #stillstuckinthesameplace

The first issue with these hashtags is they are rather long, twitter only allows you to have 140 characters per tweet which is less characters than the original specifications for SMS so you effectively are wasting a lot of characters on something that will not gain you much attention on twitter. Why is this? If you are going to use a hashtag on twitter first search for the hashtag and see how many results come back. For example the #imgoingtothebeachtoday shows two tweets whereas the hashtag #beach shows multiple results – so which one do you think is more likely to be seen by other people? If you are going to use hashtags on posts nearly every time you are better off riding the wave instead of creating your own. Use short hashtags that are relevant to your content and search for existing hashtags always to make sure your content fits the current trends.

Now that you know some basics about posting using hashtags what about following along with one? Personally I have found Tweetdeck to be the best product for this, you simply do a search for a hashtag you wish to follow then add it as a column to your tweetdeck. This way as tweets occur using that hashtag, you’ll see them in that particular column. See the screenshot below for some examples.  Here are a few hashtags you might like to follow and a great website that can be useful for finding out hashtag trends and definitions.

#auspol – used to keep track of political news in australia

#smallbiz – used for small business news

#iOS – used for any news related to apples iOS platform

And the website for hashtag trends and definitions: https://www.hashtags.org/




So why follow hashtags? Currently there is quite a trend where worldwide news is actually breaking via twitter through hashtags. An example of this in recent years was the MH370 missing plane, at the time when this event occurred if you followed #MH370 you would know updates to the story before any major news outlet picked up stories. This hashtag is acutally still actively used now – this really shows the power of using hashtags to group together content from an event.

This is by no means the number one guide to using twitter, but I hope for those of you that are slightly scared or “dont understand” the platform that it gives you some ideas on how to get started on the network.

Oh and don’t forget you can follow me on twitter