You may still hear people saying “DM this to me” – they mean “use a Direct Message for this”. Note that you can only send DMs between people who follow each other. I can’t send you a DM if I don’t follow you and vice versa.
Hashtags are used like User Handles, except they reference a topic rather than a user. You’ve probably seen these in tweets before: “I’m having a great day out in #London”. People who are interested in this topic can see what others have to say about it and join the conversation.
You can invent your own Hashtags – they aren’t registered and have no duration as such. People frequently come up with their own so a group of people around the world know they’re talking about the same subject. You can use as many Hashtags as you like in your tweets and combine those with User Handles, like so:
“I’m having a great day out in #London with @almonty and @windust #greatdayout #thames #river #sunshine”.
If you like what somebody said you can retweet their tweet. You can amend the retweet with your own comment, or just click the square arrow button thingy and share the message with your followers unedited. This is how things “go viral”.
Sometimes you may find RT at the beginning of a tweet which used to indicate that this is a retweeted tweet. Again this is a thing of the past and Twitter have made it easier for us to retweet without adding RT.
Twitter Clients and Twitter API
The devices and services you use to read and write tweets are known as Twitter Clients.
What made Twitter so popular is that you can use it from so many places. You know the website already (twitter.com), and they also have a generic mobile version (m.twitter.com). So the Twitter Website is an example for a Twitter Client.
There’s also Twitter for iPhone and iPad and many other mobile devices. The iPad app for example integrates a web browser so you can read a website when people share a link without switching to another application. I can even share quotes while I’m reading my Kindle!
You can also feed your tweets into your Facebook stream for example, or send a text message to twitter which will then create a tweet for you. You can display your tweets on your website or even create automatic tweets whenever you post on your blog.
Firefox has a great plugin called Twitter Bar which lets you use the URL field at the top to compose a new tweet. You can even embed the URL you’re currently browsing and tweet it. Good for sharing, or just use Twitter as a bookmark for yourself.
What makes all this possible is the Twitter API – that’s the interface programmers use to “speak” to Twitter from other places.
You may notice the little blue tick that says “verified” next to a celebrity. This is some secret way of Twitter and said celebrity. This helps you to distinguis the REAL Stephen Fry from the 476 imposters (he is indeed @stephenfry).
We as non-celebs don’t have to worry about getting verified though, it’s just for us punters to have confidence it following real people.
You can do more with Twitter than first meets the eye. I use as a personal bookmarking and occasional communication tool. More and more business use it to promote themselves, but most of us use it as a Micro Blog – something in between Facebook and a fully fledged blog.
It’s quite nice that you don’t have to care about your readers – do what you like with it, there’s no right or wrong way to use it. Tweet a lot, don’t tweet at all, it’s up to you. See what you get out of this tool. It’s free, so you might as well.
Despite it’s popularity it’s still early stages for for Twitter. Let’s enjoy it advert-free as it is now in the Western World (not in Japan, where users have to put up with advertising).
If I have forgotten anything please let me know below and I’ll add it to this article, or tweet me @versluis.
Why not try and tweet this article as an exercise?