The Ultimate Twitter Guide
To Tweet, Or Not To Tweet...
Twitter, like many social networking sites, has taken the internet by storm. Every day, more and more people are logging in, checking their "tweets," looking see if anyone new is following them and broadcasting their actions (sometimes minute by minute) to all of their friends and contacts.
Are You Twitterpated?
What Is This Twitter Thing Anyway? And What The Heck Is A Tweet?
A Brief Twitter Intro for the Unitiated
Twitter, in a nutshell, is a microblogging platform... which is exactly what it sounds like: tiny blogs. Fancy names make everything more fun though, right?
Anyway, the idea is that while people use a blog to post their thoughts on various subjects, and the entries are as long as they want them to be, Twitter posts, or "tweets" are shorter entries (up to 140 characters in length). Your tweets are displayed to everyone who is Following you, which simply means they have subscribed to your tweets, and you will also see the tweets of everyone you are following (in chronological order) whenever you log in.
Here's a video that Twitter uses as an intro... check it out:
Like many social networks, Twitter has it's own mini-language.
There are some very Twitter-specific terms and definitions that are important to understand if you plan on using Twitter with much success. This is a crash course in some of those terms.
@Reply: A public tweet directed towards a specific member in reference to something they recently tweeted. These posts start with @username:. Use the "reply" arrow on a tweet to create an @reply. These are tracked and stored in the "@replies" tab on your profile whenever someone sends one to you.
Direct Message: A private message (still confined to 140 characters) from one person to another.
Follow: Subscribing to someone's tweets. If you are following someone, you will get an update every time they post a new tweet.
Nudge: A polite way to remind someone that they haven't tweeted in a while.
Public Timeline: The tweets of everyone on Twitter in chronological order.
Retweet: Basically repeating someone else's tweet to your own followers. Kind of like forwarding an email. When possible, insert the word "Retweet" and reference the person you are copying from, so everyone knows who's tweet it was. Some of the different Twitter applications (discussed later) actually include a Retweet function.
Tweet: A single post, or update
Note: When referencing or mentioning another twitter user in a your tweets, place an "@" before their name. Example:
@LynneAndChad instead of LynneAndChad
This way, Twitter creates a link to that user's profile, making them easy for your followers to find.
More About Twitter
Now that we're all on the same tweet.... er, I mean Page
Sorry, couldn't resist :)
There's more to Twitter than followers and tweets.
You can use Twitter to meet new people, just like you would on a site like MySpace or Facebook. Enter the power of Twitter Search!
Twitter Search: Not Just For Finding Friends
Twitter Search allows you not only to find specific people, but to find groups of people with common interests or hobbies based on what they put in their tweets. Visit Twitter Search to try it out.
Now, when you arrive a Twitter Search, you get a page that looks a lot like a search engine (duh!). You can type in anything you want, and you'll get back a list of tweets from EVERYONE on Twitter that matches your search.
The cool part is you can either click on the Advanced Search link or use some Search Operators. To make things easy, There is a link to and from each option at the top of both pages. Let's look at how both work.
Advanced Search is a site that lets you define various search criteria. For super specific searches, especially if you don't want to remember all of the Search Operators (discussed next) Advanced Search can be pretty handy. Here's what the Advanced Search screen looks like:
The page is split into three boxes.
First, we have the Words box. This allows you to search for tweets containing the following criteria:
- All of the words you specify (in any order)
- The exact phrase you specify (the words must appear in the order you have specified
- Any of your words (and in any order, and not necessarily together in the tweet)
- A specific hashtag what's a hashtag?
- In a specific language
Next, we have the People box. This box allows you to search for tweets that are:
- From a specific person (who sent the tweet)
- To a specific person
- Referencing a specific person
Next up is the Places box. This allows you to search for tweets based on the following:
- A location
- Proximity (in miles or kilometers) to that location
The Dates box allows you to search for tweets sent since a certain date or until a certain date.
The Attitudes box allows you to search based on:
- :) - Positive Attitude
- :( - Negative Attitude
- ? - Asking a Question
The good thing about this is that the search actually looks for different versions of the emoticon in the tweet, so if someone used :-) instead of :) the tweet will still be listed.
The final, Other box allows you check a box if you want tweets that contain links and specify how many tweets you want on each page of results.
Search Operators are basically a way to perform an advanced search without having to fill in all the forms on the Advanced Search screen. You type in various Search Operators to define the criteria you are looking for. Here's a breakdown of some of the operators you can use and what they do (the operators are the bold blue parts):
- golf carts: (no operator used) Will display tweets with both "golf" and "carts"
- "golf carts": will return tweets with the exact phrase only.
- golf OR carts: shows tweets with the word "golf," or the word "carts," or with both words.
- golf -carts: the minus symbol will display only tweets with the word "golf" that do not contain the word "carts"
- #golfcarts: displays tweets containing the hashtag "golfcarts" (this hashtag doesn't actually have any results, it's just an example) what's a hashtag?
- To:LynneAndChad: display tweets to a specific person
- From:LynneAndChad: display tweets from a specific person
- @LynneAndChad: display tweets that mention a specific person
- "concert" near:"boston": display tweets containing a word (or phrase) like "concert" that were sent near a certain place (like boston)
- near:boston within:25 miles: display tweets sent from anywhere within 25 miles of Boston
- "Weddings"since:2006-10-08 : display tweets with a word or phrase that have been posted since a specific date (date format:yyyy-mm-dd)
- "Weddings" until:2006-10-08 : display tweets with a word or phrase that were posted before a specific date
- "golf carts" :) : display tweets with a word or phrase with a positive attitude
- "golf carts :( : display tweets with a word or phrase with a negative attitude
- "golf carts" ? : display tweets with a word or phrase that are asking a question
- "golf carts" filter:links : display tweets that contain a word or phrase and a link. This is a great way to find more information about something.
Play around with some of these search options, try combining operators and you'll be amazed what you can find. If you want to know if something is a good idea, or just learn more about a topic, you have access to everything that everyone is saying about it on Twitter.
Huh? What's a hastag? Glad you asked!
Hashtags are essentially a keyword that you can add into your tweets. This makes it easier to find a list of tweets on a particular subject. A hashtag is created by adding a # before a word in your post, like this: #hashtag. You can then perform a search for #hashtag to see all the tweets people have used the particular tag in.
Hashtags were made popular back during the San Diego forest fires in 2007, when Nate Ritter began adding #sandiegofire to his tweets regarding the fire and the evacuation.
#hashtags can serve a purpose, but if overused can be somewhat frustrating to both your followers and the general Twitter community.
A lot can (and has) been said about hashtags. If you are going to use them, make sure you check out the Twitter Fan Wiki on Hashtags and then do some reading on this subject to make sure you are doing it properly.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when using Twitter
Tweet Reasonably Twitter was created to answer the question "What are you doing?" One of the worst things you can do is take that questions too seriously and start updating everyone every time you breathe. Not every passing moment is worthy of a tweet. Here's an example:
TwitterNewB getting ready to make a sandwich
TwitterNewB grabbing some mustard
TwitterNewB opening bread
TwitterNewB spreading mustard, adding lettuce
TwitterNewB adding turkey
TwitterNewB stacking tomato
TwitterNewB closing sandwich
TwitterNewB left a mess on the counter
If your tweets look anything like that, no one is going to follow you. A few (very few) people might be amused for a minute, but then they are going to unfollow you without hesitation. Why? because over tweeting clogs up the timeline. When you log into Twitter, you want to see what people are up to. If the last 50 tweets you received were all from the same person, you can't see anyone else.
Don't Leave A Mess On The Counter If you do find yourself making a sandwich, clean up after yourself. No one likes a slob.
Tweet Regularly You want your tweets to be consistent, otherwise your followers will forget you exist. Plus, if you aren't tweeting very often, your updates will just get buried by people who are.
Be Interesting Consistency is important, but you also want your tweets to be interesting, informative and (when possible) entertaining. Share a thought that passes through your mind. Let everyone know if you are going out, in case they feel like meeting you somewhere. If you are surfing the web and find something interesting (like a new Squidoo lens about Twitter, perhaps?) tweet that, because then you are sharing cool stuff that will make people look forward to your tweets.
Follow Selectively Also, don't go "follow-crazy." One of the first things people will notice about you on your profile page is how many people you have following you vs. how many people you are following. There are a lot of twitterers out there who's philosophy is to follow everyone under the sun in the hopes of getting a return follow, just for the sake of boosting their numbers. This is bad for two primary reasons:
- It makes you look needy. If they see that no one is interested in your tweets, why should they be?
- If you use Twitter for any sort of business or marketing, it really just makes you look like a spammer.
Choose who you follow carefully, and make sure they count.
Look In The Right Places When looking for new people to follow and connect with, look for people that you can be sure you will enjoy following. Do a search for a hobby of yours, check the public timeline to see who's been tweeting about the things you are interested in.
Look at the other people who are following someone with you. Odds are, if they are following the same person you are, they have some sort of common interest.
Get Followed the Right ways And for the right reasons. If you want a good base of followers, here are some ideas:
- Search for people you actually know (duh!).
- Once you find some friends, check out their followers. If you know them, you might know some of their friends.
- Tweet regularly and be interesting. If people spot an interesting tweet on the public timeline, they will probably check you out. If they see that most of your tweets are interesting, you will probably have a new follower.
Fill Out Your Profile Fill in as much information about yourself as possible. People are more likely to follow you if they know who you are and what you're all about. It lets them know what they can expect from your tweets.
Spruce Up Your Page As soothing as the light blue default background is, do something a little more fun with your Twitter page. Use a picture for the background, or try out the built in designs that Twitter provides for you. At the very least play around with the color scheme. The more attractive your page is, the more of an impression you'll make.
There are TONS of tools that you can use with Twitter
As Twitter grows, so does the number of ways people use it. As a result, more and more tools and applications are being developed to help people cure their seemingly insatiable need for tweets. There are a few different types of tools, so we'll break them into categories.
There are a number of desktop applications that you can use with Twitter. Here are a few example:
Twhirl was originally created by Marco Kaiser. It was acquired by Seesmic.com in 2008. Twhirl has a comfortable interface and allows users to view and update tweets, replies, direct messages, followers and a ton more.
If you like to keep everything in your life super organized, TweetDeck is worth checking out. It allows you to group incoming tweets into different categories, with each category having it's own seperate column. TweetDeck can be a single column or full screen, it's totally up to you.
Twitterrific, from Iconfactory is a Mac program that costs $14.95. Its pretty popular (take a look at your incoming tweets and watch how many say "from twitterific." It has a clean interface and a lot of the Twitter functions without the limitations of being on the site.
Snitter is another desktop client. This one will allow you to change the fonts, colors, sizes of your tweets.
Firefox is an awesome web browser, with a number of cool Twitter Add-ons
Ok, so most people know that one of the very best things about Firefox is the versatility of its add-ons. If you aren't already using Firefox (which means you are probably still using Internet Explorer - unless of course you have a Mac) you should definitely download it using one of these Firefox links. It's a totally free browser, and a ton of fun to use. It's going to be very similar to what you are used to (provided you are used to the most recent version of internet explorer) but give you more speed and control over your browsing.
Anyway, back to Twitter...
Here are some of the more popular Firefox add ons for Twitter. You can find them by accessing the following menus within Firefox: Tools>>Add-ons, once there, you can click the "add-ons" tab and perform a search for Twitter.
TwitterFox was created by Kazohu Okui. TwitterFox is a small, unobtrusive add-on (which is the very best kind!) that enables you to not only view incoming tweets, but update your own without actually visiting Twitter.com. Once installed, TwitterFox creates a small Twitter logo in the corner of your status bar (bottom right of the browser). Whenever a new tweet comes in, a small bubble will pop up and display the tweet for three seconds (you can edit the interval to however long you want.)
By clicking on the TwitterFox icon, you can review the last 40 tweets you have received plus view separate tabs for replies to your tweets and direct messages sent to you.
You can also enter a new tweet directly into the text box, which has a handy URL button that will insert the URL of whatever page you are currently viewing. You can even decode TinyURL's in TwitterFox, just by hovering over them!
There are a lot of other cool settings in TwitterFox, and you can read more about them by visiting the TwitterFox Homepage.
TwitterBar was created by Christopher Finke and Tony Farndon. With this add-on, you can send out a tweet directly from your address bar. Once installed, a small gray dot appears on the right hand side of the address bar. Hovering over that dot turns it green and displays the number of characters remaining until the 140 character limit, and clicking the dot posts the contents of your address bar as a tweet. If you don't type a specific tweet and just post your current URL, the tweet will read as "Currently browsing link to whatever site you are on."
TwitterBar is pretty handy, even though it doesn't allow you to actually view incoming tweets without going directly to Twitter.
More info available at the TwitterBar Homepage
TwitKit was created by Hans Engel, and unlike the previous two add-ons, is actually a sidebar (exactly what it sounds like). TwitKit includes multiple color schemes (which is the most important thing for some users). You can post new tweets directly from the side bar, and use several different views (accessible via tabs).
You can visit the TwitKit Homepage to learn more, also check out the TwitKit Wiki link in the top right corner of the homepage to learn more about the specific features.
Note: After installing, activate TwitKit using the following menus: View>>Sidebar>>TwitKit or Tools>>TwitKit>>Open/Close
TwitBin was created by Brian Breslin. TwitBin is another sidebar where you can view and post tweets. In this add-on, you have a Preferences button that allows you to select what you want to see: Public Timeline, Friends (people you are following), Direct Messages and @ replies. One of the cooler features of this add-on is that every tweet is preceded by this: (@ -W). Clicking the @ sets you up for an @reply and the W takes you to that user's website (whatever they entered into their profile.
You can find more about TwitBin at the TwitBin Homepage.
Note: After installing activate TwitBin either by clicking the new TwitBin icon next up by your "Home" button, or by using the following menus: View>>Sidebar>>TwitBin
Twitzer was created by Mike Cray. Twitzer is a workaround for the 140 character limit, and lets you post tweets as long as you like. Don't worry though, it doesn't disrupt the flow of tweets, because only people interested will actually see the extra stuff. Here's how it works: Once Twitzer is installed, type out your tweet without worrying about the character limit. Instead of clicking "Update," you right-click the text field and then select "Twitzer Text" from the drop down menu. This will shorten your tweet to under 140 characters and include a link to the full tweet courtesy of ShortText.com. Your followers will need to click this link to view everything you typed, unless they are also a Twitzer user. Whenever you recognize an incoming tweet has been Twitzered (it will have a ShortText.com link) you can right click on the text and select "DeTwitzer Text" to display the full tweet directly on the Twitter page. Twitzer also resolves TinyURL links into their original links.
Check out the Twitzer Homepage for more info.
Note:Twitzer does not work with the other add-ons listed here. If you want to Twitzer, be sure to do it from Twitter.com.
There are a number of other add-ons available, some of which are listed as "Experimental." What this means is that the add-on has not yet been tested enough to be released for public use, and therefore is only intended for advanced users to test. In order to access these, you will need to log into a Firefox Add-Ons Account. Be sure you understand the risks before downloading any add-on, especially an experimental one.
TwitWall is pretty much Twitter without the character limit. It has the same interface, every Twitter user can set up a wall using their Twitter ID, and you can post as much as you want, including embedding videos, pictures, music, etc.
TwitterFeed allows you to take the RSS feed from your blog and tweet all of your new blog posts
TwitRefresh automatically refreshes the Twitter homepage for you every sixty seconds, so if you use the actual web interface, you are kept up to date. Countdown to next refresh will appear at the top of the screen, but other than that it looks just like Twitter.com.
Twitter Timer is a simple tool that you can use to set yourself reminders. Simply send a direct message to @timer on Twitter (remember, you have to be following @timer to send a direct message), and it will send you a message back in the amount of time you specify.
TwitSig creates an image file that always displays your current tweet. This image file can then be displayed in forum signatures, blog posts or other places.
TwitterSnooze is a way to temporarily silence the tweets from someone. The system basically un-follows that person for you, and then automatically re-follows them 24 hours later, giving you a break if they had been over-tweeting for some reason.
Allows you to shorten a url and track how many clicks it recieves.
TweetLater is a way to schedule tweets to be posted automatically, for when you are unable to update manually.
You have to admit, it's a cute name. Qwitter will send you an email whenever someone stops following you, and tell you what the last tweet they saw was. This way you know if you are losing followers because you keep bringing up a specific topic.
Sends you an email notification of every tweet that mentions a specific keyword you want to watch, like your name, company, a friend, whatever.
Grades your power on Twitter based on how many followers you have, how many your followers have, how complete your profile is, how often you tweet and some other factors.
GroupTweet enables you to send tweets to a group of users that won't be public, or viewable by anyone else. This way you can use Twitter to communicate privately with a group without having to send everyone individual direct messages.
Twist allows you to view a chart of how popular a specific term is on Twitter. The chart shows how many tweets were posted and when. You can even compare multiple terms.
Twittertise is a site that helps you advertise on Twitter. On Twittertise you can schedule tweets in advance, shorted URL's in those tweets and track the clicks that those URL's receive.
URL Shortening Services
If you are using Twitter to share a website, having a long URL can kill a Twitter post, so shortening them is a must. Here are some sites that will shorten your URL's for you so that you can make the most of your tweets:
Now, obviously, this is not a complete list... there are a TON of URL shortening services out there... just do a Google Search and you'll see what I mean.
A lot of the different shortening services provide different features, like click tracking, password protection etc.
One really good feature that some of these services offer is a bookmarklet. All this means is that they have created a link you can add to the toolbar of your browser which will shorten the URL of whatever page you are currently viewing in a single click.
Take your time, try some different services out and find one that you like.