Guide To Effective Twitter Usage: Introducing Twitter

Unless you are living in Mars and the just landed NASA Mars rover, Curiosity, just introduced you to the world of social networks, you have probably heard about Twitter and what it is basically all about.

All the same, Twitter is one of the top social networks around. Basically it is a communications tools for posting and broadcasting a 140 character limited text messages to other registered users (You can attach images and videos also).

Initially, to a newbie, Twitter may seem a very simple piece of web technology whose serious utility is difficult to begin to understand. But I can tell you that brands and personalities are rising and falling on its influence. So you cannot afford to remain indifference if you or your business want to remain relevant in this new social networks conscious age. In my own opinion Twitter is a more serious social application than Facebook.

Before we get in too deep on ideology lets introduce it basic features. Of course to make use of Twitter you will have to register at the Twitter website with a unique username and a password. Once registered and logged on you may customize your account to your heart content but that is not our focus here.

Within the Twitter application two basic types of online social relationships are possible: follow and be followed. You can choose to follow any other users (for whatever reason) just as others may choose to follow you. When you follow someone you will receive their tweets(Twitter messages) in your timeline (time sorted list of tweets in your Twitter home page). Likewise, when others follow you they will have your tweets appear in their timeline also.

Three communications levels are possible within the Twitter application: one-to-one, one-to-many, many-to-many. One-to-one communication occurs when you send a direct message to a particular user using a special twitter code scheme (more on this later). Only that user can see your message.

In a one-to-many situation your messages are broadcast to all of your follows or to users following any of the 'hashtags' (more on this later) in your tweet or those searching for specific terms used in your message.

Many-to-many case of occurs specially in Twitter chats where more than two users virtually gather to discuss a topic. To make this possible a special hashtag is used to enable members of the chat group be able to filter the particular chat tweets from other messages being tweeted.

I made mention of hashtags several times above so here I explain what it is. Hashtags are tags attached to tweets in an attempt to categorize them. A hashtag is made up of the hash character (#) followed by any term or group of alphanumeric characters (eg #webdevelopment). It makes it possible to filter out tweets of a particular subject. Importantly, it makes Twitter chat a convenient experience. You can also search for hashtags to filter out particular tweets of interest. To participate in a discussion just attach the hashtag associated with that discussion in your tweet and every one monitoring that discussion will get your message.

You can also refer to other users by attaching the at character (@) in front of their usernames in your tweets. Example  @icelark. This enables an open interaction between two users.

You can also retweet (repost) other users messages by adding the characters RT followed by space in front of them and posting them normally. You can also sent direct messages to a particular user by preceding the tweet  by  the character D, a space and @the_username of the user.

You may also attach urls (web links) in your tweets. Just be mindful of the 140 character limits imposed on messages. Twitter uses url shortener to shorten your links.

The above are just the basics to enable the Twitter newbie start to get into the game. In subsequent articles I will introduce you to more advanced knowledge that will start you on the road to becoming a Twitter super star. I hope.