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10 Quick Tips To Easily Understand Twitter

Leo Widrich
Leo Widrich Team Buffer

5 min read
You will learn

Twitter is the most awesome place to be, I’ve found. But looking back to when I started out, there were lots of things I didn’t quite understand.

Recently a few people approached me and asked a few questions that for most of us are so normal that we wouldn’t even think about them. Yet, it made me realize that many things on Twitter aren’t quite self explanatory.

So here are a few quick clarifications to make it a little easier to get started on Twitter:

1.) What happens if I put an “@username” at the beginning of my tweet?

One thing that gets confused frequently is how to use @mentions. The most important bit here is that if you start a tweet with an @username, then only the person following you and the person you are replying to will see the tweet. Normally this is a tiny amount of people, as starting a tweet with a username is mainly used to interact with only one person.

However, by glancing over your timeline, anyone can see this tweet, it just won’t come up in their stream of tweets.

2.) How many people can I follow?

Twitter has imposed a limit on the follow ratios of your account in order to keep aggressive following that has little to do with interests low.

You can follow up to 2000 people without any limits. Beyond that, you can always only follow 10% more then people following you. So if 4000 people follow me, I can at most be following 4400.

3.) Why should I keep content tweets short?

There is lots of great advice out there, suggesting that you might want to keep tweets referring to articles short. This is to make it easy for others to retweet this tweet, so your username can be added and remain under the 140 character limit.

Another reason is that short tweets are often easier to read and get picked up more often by others. I have looked at one amazing Twitter user, perfecting this pattern.

4.) How often should I tweet?

When I first came on to Twitter, I was blown away by how often some people are Tweeting. Don’t worry, you don’t need to pump out dozens of Tweets at the start.

Some interesting research suggests that tweeting 2-5 times a day, as you start out, is totally fine. Simply go ahead and fine what works best for you. In general, there is no rule to this, but in order to get the hook of Twitter, starting to tweet regularly has worked very well for me.

5.) How can I follow hashtags and what are they?

A topic that long remained a mystery for me was the use of hashtags. In short, they allow you to connect everyone on Twitter using a certain keyword, putting a “#” in front of it. So instead of following individuals you can follow these words, such as #twitter, #startups or any other term you can think off.

You can simply click on the hashtag in your Twitter stream and see all the people mentioning the same keyword.  If you are using a Twitter client such as TweetDeck or HootSuite, you can also set up specific columns to follow a hashtag.

6.) Is Twitter like Facebook?

Yes, there are definitely a few similarities. Yet, the most important things to differentiate is Facebook’s focus on friends and the Social Graph. Twitter in comparison tries to be focused on the topics and content and fosters more what is called an Interest Graph.

Although there is no one use case, the general expectation to follow topics that interest you has worked very well. This means that there isn’t necessarily a demand for a mutual friendship and followings can happily happen one way only.

7.) How can I kick off conversations?

Now even though Twitter is the most open platform there is, exactly this can sometimes be daunting. Everyone is busy and chatting away with others. How can you too get involved more easily?

There are a few very simple techniques that allow you to do this, by simply retweeting or relating to an article one of the people you follow have written.

8.) What is Twitter etiquette?

Being such an open platform, where everyone can communicate with each other, without sending friend requests or the like, has led to establish a few unwritten rules.

These guidelines should simply help to make conversations flow easily and politely without anyone being harmed. The most basic rules are to include the username of others if you retweet a tweet or to simply reply in a timely manner. For more Twitter etiquette tips, you might want to read this article.

9.) What is a Twitter Chat?

Not everyone is online all day in order to discuss the things that interest them. Here is where Twitter Chats come in. Twitter Chats are generally a lot of fun online events, where people gather to discuss a certain topic for usually one hour.

In order to keep everyone in the loop, there is an agreed hashtag, that allows you to follow the discussion. Only this week, we launched a new Twitter Chat called #ToolsChat discussing the best Twitter Tools to use.

10.) Will it be fun?

Oh yes, Twitter is a lot of fun. What I found works best in order to make it fun is to invest a little time to understand what it is all about.

Usually, this doesn’t have to take long and I hope the above tips are a good start to make yourself comfortable. I might want to add here that the crowd on Twitter is very helpful and open minded. Don’t be shy and jump in.

I hope these tips help you to get started with Twitter. Many people said in the past that Twitter might be hard to get at first. Yet, once you find your use-case in order to make Twitter work, it will all come very easily. So maybe, the best piece to make Twitter exciting for you, is to play around lots and see what works for YOU.

Have I missed anything? Do you believe there are other essentials to get you started?

Photocredit: sandwichgirl

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