How to: The Beginners Guide to Twitter – Part 1, the basics

I have been using Twitter for over a year and it’s popularity has risen steadily since and spawned numerous clones not to mention applications and add-ons to get the most out of it.

People starting to use Twitter are always initially confused with all the options available and this 3 part guide is to show how to get the most out of your Twitter experience.

Twitter Logo

Part 1 will cover the following:

  • What is Twitter and why should I tweet?
  • Twitter terminology.
  • How to use Twitter.
  • How to differentiate between replies and direct messages.


What is Twitter and why should I tweet?

Twitter is a social networking and microblogging service allowing people to update the world with what they are doing at any given moment wherever they are within a 140 character long message. This gives other people the opportunity to reply and can create conversations with new people and the opportunity to exchange thoughts with like minded people. It is the perfect way to share some news or updates without blogging or posting about it or talking to people on IM about it. Twitter also allows to send updates from mobile phones thus making it possible to update from anywhere.

Obviously you are the best person to decide if you want to tweet or not, but everyone sometimes feels like they want to share something with the world, be it to share a video or your disappointment. Twitter is perfect for that!

This video explains a bit more about Twitter and touches on the basics:


Twitter terminology.

  • Tweet/Twitter/Update: An update message with maximum length of 140 characters which is visible by everyone and are searchable via Google and other Twitter specific search engines.
  • Protected updates: Twitter allows people to hide their Tweets from public view and search engines. To protect updates check the box in /account/settings. Note: If you choose to unprotect them later on, ALL previously protected updates will be online.
  • Follower: Twitter allows users to follow others to be updated when someone tweets. Followers will be also be able to see protected updates. Followers. Following.
  • @replies: Twitter allows people to reply to other Twitterers by using the @ symbol followed by the username of the other person to indicate a reply to a Tweet thus allowing some conversation. /replies.
  • Direct messages: Provided two people follow each other they are able to send each other private messages which can only be seen by each other and no one else. Perfect for something away from public eyes! /direct_messages.
  • Public Timeline: The public timeline shows all the Tweets from everyone, follower or not and only exclude protected updates. /public_timeline.
  • Auto-Nudge: Activated by default this sends a reminder after 24 hours to either the phone [if registered] or Gtalk incase someone hasn’t updated in that time. This can be disabled via account settings /notifications.
  • Nudge: This allows anyone you follow to send you a nudge to your Gtalk or phone to urge you to update again. To nudge someone visit their profile and click ‘nudge’ on the right hand side.
The nudge and direct message option.


How to use Twitter.

Updating Twitter is simple and can be done in a variety of ways. This part concentrates on the web interface, an explanation to using Gtalk and other services follows later.

Once signed in the /home page displays the recent updates from people you follow and a big box at the top. Use this to update.

How to update Twitter

Updating Twitter..

The replies box /replies shows all replies sent by anyone, people that follow you and others. The beauty of Twitter means not everyone needs to be following each other to receive updates, although it makes tracking replies a little simpler.

In order to follow someone visit their profile and click the follow option on the top left underneath the profile name.

Following someone is simple.


How to differentiate between replies and direct messages.

@replies messages are messages indicating a reply to someone’s update. They are publicly viewable and can be seen by anyone.

An example of @replies.

Direct messages are private and can only ever be seen by the sender and the recipient. Both people must follow each other. Direct messages can be accessed and sent on the Twitter site /direct_messages. There are shortcuts for Gtalk and SMS on the phone.

To send a direct message simply select the recipient from the drop down menu, write your message and send it.

Examples of direct messages.

Part 2 coming soon..

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21 Responses to How to: The Beginners Guide to Twitter – Part 1, the basics

  1. Very good start there :) It is your fault I got into Twittering….

  2. Cat says:


    Although I never did force you, it was completly your own decision!

  3. sulz says:

    that’s a comprehensive post about twitter! i’ve decided to use twitter just for microblogging, even though i said i’m too verbose for it! haha… it’s a good place for me to write stuff i can’t write on my blog, whether because it’s too short or because i don’t dare post there… twitter’s like my other blog where i could rant freely if i wanted to.

  4. Cat says:

    Thanks. I just love it because it’s just a message, nothing complex! Simpler than blogging!

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  8. Man of Roma says:

    Very good guide. Now I know much more. I’ll give it a good try. Only problem being that from Italy one can only send updates, not receive them. Could be an advantage though. We’ll see. Ciao e grazie Cat!!

  9. Cat says:

    That is only if you use it with a phone though, something I’ve never done myself.

    But, they are working on implementing the SMS service for Europe I think.

    And thanks. :)

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  14. Josh Watson says:

    Great post/article. “Twitterspeak” can be quite confusing! Thank you for the read – this blog is definitely being bookmarked.

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