Twitter, the social network which asks its members to answer the famous question “What are you doing?” in 140 characters or less, has a language all its own. New users may find themselves wondering what the #tags and RT’s are all about. Facebook users who do not use Twitter may wonder the same thing, since the new update has left them seeing more Twitter messages as Facebook status updates thanks to services such as Ping.fm, Selective Twitter Status, or other applications that turn Twitter updates into Facebook statuses. Here is a rundown of all the common Twitter lingo and updates you will encounter.
Here are some of the things you may see in Twitter updates, or tweets.
This is an update sent to a specific Twitter user, also called Replies (or Mentions). These updates can be sent to followers and non-followers alike. Replies to you can be viewed on your homepage in the right sidebar by clicking the @yourusername under Home.
Updates that start with RT @username are called Re-tweets. This is an update where you repeat another user’s tweet. If a user posts a tweet that you want to share with your followers, you would just copy their tweet, and add RT @username. This gives them the credit for the tweet, and lets them know when they are reviewing their replies that you shared their tweet, which is something most users appreciate. It’s a great way to build good relationships with your followers.
The other great thing about RT’s is if you share something valuable, other’s will RT your update. This in turn will give you more credibility as a Twitter user who adds value to the community, and will probably result in more followers. So whenever you are reading a great article, it’s a good thing to take a few extra moments to share that article with your Twitter followers.
#hashtags are great ways to tag your Twitter update on a specific subject. This way, followers and non-followers can find your update using the Twitter search box on the Twitter homepage, or using one of the Trending Topics searches. One of my favorites is the #haiku hash that people add to haikus. You can find more popular #hashtags at hashtags.org.
Another development in the #hashtag world is the WeFollow user powered Twitter directory. You can add yourself to this directory by clicking on the Add yourself to the WeFollow directory button. Once you authorize it to access your tweets, you can enter three words that describe your tweets. I, for example, entered blogging, photography, and social media. It then created a tweet for me to send to Twitter: Just added myself to the http://wefollow.com twitter directory under: #blogging #photography #socialmedia. This added me to their directory, so anyone searching for members who tweet about the above three topics will find me, and I can find other members to follow with the same interests. You can also find celebrities that use Twitter in this directory as well.
Probably one of the most popular #hashtags is #followfriday. Follow Friday is the day when you recommend users to all of your followers, and anyone watching the #followfriday trend, by including @username and #followfriday in the same tweet. There are lots of ways to recommend users: if you are RT’ing someone or replying to someone on Friday, just add #followfriday to the end of your update. If you want to recommend lots of users, just put @username1 @username2 and so on plus #followfriday. If you want, you can include a message why you are recommending someone, such as I recommend @username on #followfriday because they share daily inspirational messages.
Another thing that you will commonly see in Twitter updates are short URL’s that start off with http://tinyurl.com/, http://bit.ly/, http://snipr.com/, http://vieurl.com/, and so on. These websites will allow you to enter a long URL and turn it into a short one. The benefit? When you have only 140 characters, the last thing you want is to make your message fit around a 50+ character URL (which Twitter will sometimes shorten using http://tinyurl.com anyway).
I started out using TinyURL, but recently switched over to Bit.ly. I love Bit.ly because of…
Simply drag over the bookmarklet to your browser’s bookmark toolbar. Whenever you are on a page that you want to shorten the URL and send on Twitter, just click the Bit.ly link on your toolbar, and it will take you to Bit.ly in another window/tab with the shortened URL of the page you were just on.
Once you’ve signed up for an account with Bit.ly, you can also link it to your Twitter account. On the same page with the shortened URL you just created is a Twitter update box. So, for example, I was reading the newest post on Problogger for the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Challenge. I clicked on my Bit.ly bookmarklet, and it took me to their site with the shortened URL. In the Twitter update box, I created “Reading: Write a Link Post [Day 7 31DBBB] > http://bit.ly/12VSaQ” and clicked Post. Now the shortened URL and my update was posted to my Twitter.
If you are like me and share links to your newest posts on Twitter, you will enjoy the statistics feature. Just shorten your post’s URL as described above and send it in a Twitter update. Bit.ly will show a history of your recent shortened URL’s. If you click on Info, it will show you the number of clicks this shortened URL has received, and also additional Bit.ly links that have been created for your article. If you click on the View All by conversations, it will show all the Twitter updates with this URL as well. You can find out the statistics on any Bit.ly URL by adding info into the link like this: http://bit.ly/info/12VSaQ.
For new Twitter users, here are some other additional tips for starting out right.
If you are looking to grow your follower base, use the WeFollow directory, or other directories, such as Just Tweet It and Twellow, to find users with similar interests. Likewise, look around websites, blogs, forums and social networks that you generally visit. Website owners, blog authors and commentators, forum members, etc. often share their Twitter user id somewhere on their sites, profiles, or signatures.
Keep in mind that Twitter has some way of monitoring whether you are following more people than follow you. They consider it spammy and may suspend your account, so do not follow too many people at a time.
If someone is following you, you can send them a Direct Message, and if you are following someone, they can send you one. There are programs that allow you to setup automatic Direct Messages to new followers. I like to send a custom message to my new followers, thanking them for following me, inviting them to join me on Facebook, and sending them either a link to a new article on my site or to my 7 Things for New & Dedicated Readers article so they can get to know me better. All of these links, of course, are using shortened URL’s so I can make sure I can get in a proper message as well.
Being a Valuable Twitter User
The best way to keep your followers on Twitter happy is to be a valuable Twitter user. Don’t just send links to your own articles or affiliate programs. Send out things that you know your followers are interested. If it’s photography, send them articles to awesome photography articles. If it’s blogging tips, send them articles on blogging. Read what other people have to say, and send them some @username replies with answers to questions and advice. Be social!
Subscribe via RSS
As I previous mentioned in my comprehensive guide to RSS, if you find yourself following lots of people, but do not want to miss out on certain user’s updates, just go to their Twitter profile, and underneath their list of followers, click on the RSS feed of user’s updates. Then you can have their updates coming right to your RSS feed reader. For example, you can subscribe to @kikolani’s RSS.
Your Twitters and Tips
Do you have any tips for new Twitter users? Be sure to leave your Twitter tips in the comments, along with your Twitter user name so we can all follow each other! And follow me @kikolani.