Alan Spurgeon

Beginners Guide to Twitter

This guide has been created to help you gain an understanding about Twitter, what it can do and how to do it.

Beginners Guide to Twitter

This guide has been created to help you benefit from using Twitter, we explain what Twitter can do and how you can embrace it.

Twitter Brief

Twitter’s blue birds have been Tweeting since 2006 from their HQ in San Francisco.

Twitter is generally thought of as a micro-blogging service, due to its short messages (no more than 140 characters) and its chronological listing, which is similar to the way blogs are published.

As of July 2011, Twitter boasted 200 million accounts and an average of 200 million Tweets per day.

To learn more on the history of Twitter and how it has grown, take a look at the Wikipedia page – Twitter on Wikipedia

Meanwhile, we’re going to get you Tweeting in no time….

Beginners Twitter Guide: Starting Out

1. Twitter is a platform for you to publish short messages, up to 140 characters.

Although you can protect your Tweets (make them non public), normally messages can be seen by anyone who happens to land on them.

If you’re familiar with Facebook, Tweets are very much like the status updates.

The fundamental way that Twitter works is based on you following someone else’s Tweets, or someone following your Tweets.

When you login to your Twitter account, you will see a chronological list of all the Tweets made by the people you are following. On the reverse of this, all the people that are following you will see your Tweets in their Twitter account.

Whilst there is a tendency amongst Twitter users to follow back people that follow you, it’s by no means an obligation. For example, as of July 2011 Stephen Fry has 2,840,232 followers, but is only following 52,491.

Quick Set-Up

1. Go to Twitter and select create an account.

Give yourself a username, it’s best to choose something that people who know you will recognise. That makes it easier for them to find and follow you.

2. Complete your biography. Tell us something about yourself. It helps people to decide whether or not they should follow you.

3. Publish your first tweet.

It should go in the box underneath the question “What’s happening?” and it must be 140 characters or less.

Now try posting a link to the most interesting article you’ve read recently, just to get your started.

Build a Following

The easiest place to start building your following is your friends and colleagues who are already using Twitter.

You could start by clicking ‘Who to Follow’ at the top of the page.

When you find someone who you want to add to your network, click on their name to see their page and then click ‘follow’.

Following people is the easiest way to let them know you are there and some of them will soon start following you in return. Your page will display a count of the number of people following you and the numbers you are following. You can stop following people in your network at any time by going to their page, clicking ‘following’ and then clicking ‘remove’.

Each time you find someone you want to follow take a look at who they are following. Add anyone who looks interesting and even a few people you aren’t sure about. The more, the merrier. Try to add around 100 people so that you have a busy network. Remember – you can prune your network as you get a feel for who’s who.

Don’t be disheartened if it takes a while for your number of followers to grow.


You might be posting updates on what you’re doing. And if that’s all you do, that’s fine. Don’t feel obliged to keep your followers entertained.

Sometimes you’ll want to join a conversation.

You can send a public reply to people by putting @ before their username and then typing your message.

So putting @stephenfry would direct your reply to Stephen Fry.

The person you are replying to doesn’t need to be someone you are following and doesn’t need to be following you for the @ system to work.

On, a reply button will be visible when you hold your cursor over a message. Clicking this will add the @ automatically.

If you want to send a message to someone but don’t want all your followers to see it, you can send a direct message.

Put d and then the person’s username to send a private message. Remember to leave a space, like this: d stephenfry.

You can also click Direct Messages on the right-hand side of to get a box specifically for sending direct messages.

If one of your followers says something so brilliant that you want to share it with your followers, you can “retweet” it.

The etiquette for doing this is to put “retweet”, “retweeting” or most commonly “RT” at the start of your message then add the @ symbol and the person’s username and then their message.

For example, type “RT @stephenfry” to retweet one of his messages. It’s acceptable to edit their message to make it fit the 140 character limit.

There may be lots of people talking about a particular topic but unless they are in your network or send you a reply you won’t even know they’re there.

This is where hashtags come in.

By adding a # and then a keyword, lots of unconnected people can join a conversation. These tweets are sometimes collated at specific sites but can easily be found using the Twitter search engine.

For example, Norwich City supporters often add #NCFC to their tweets.

You can save a message to read later or just for posterity by clicking the star that appears when you hover your cursor over it.

If that sounds like a lot to take in, don’t worry.

You’ll quickly get the hang of it and you’ll soon decide whether Twitter’s for you. Enjoy!

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