A Twitter tutorial for beginners: part 2

Hold up! Before you read this advanced Twitter tutorial, check out the Twitter tutorial for beginners. Otherwise you won’t understand all these @’s and #’s.

So in the last tutorial you learned about tweets, tweeps, @’s, and #’s. Heady stuff. But we’re about to take it one step farther. Here’s how to make Twitter – the ultra-popular social network of the future – work for you.

Writing your own Tweet

OK, so you’re following every website on the in and you’ve seen every meme created in the last decade. Now what? Well, it’s your time to shine! Publish some tweets!

Composing a new Tweet is easy. The top right of any page contains a bright blue button; click it to start writing a Tweet.

Twitter compose new tweet button
Click the blue button in the top right to compose a new tweet.

When is it a good time to make a new Tweet? Really, any time! Some examples:

  • Your favorite sports team won a big game
  • You have some wisdom to share with the world
  • You read a great article
  • You want to shamelessly advertise (I do this a lot)
  • You’re eating a sandwich
  • You’re eating a really tasty sandwich
  • You’ve proven Fermat’s Last Theorem
  • You’re eating another sandwich
  • You feel like it

But mostly that last one. You can – in fact, you’re encouraged to – Tweet about anything. Just don’t Tweet so much that your followers get annoyed.

Twitter tweet compose window
Type into this window to compose a new tweet.

Remember: you’re restricted to 140 characters. You’ll see a counter in the bottom-right of the compose window telling you how much space you have left.

A note about links (URLs): Twitter automatically shortens them. That is, any website URL over 20 characters long (I think) gets its effective length cut down to 20. So if you include a long URL like, say, http://reallyamazinglyincrediblylongurl.com, it’ll only count as 20 characters. Bottom line: don’t worry about long URLs.

Direct Messages

Sometimes you don’t want to broadcast something to the entire world and want to message someone privately. In those cases, there’s direct messages, which – as you might expect – message directly to another Tweep.

If you send someone a direct message, it’ll appear on their dashboard (they can see it) and your timeline (if someone looks you up, they’ll see the Tweet), but your followers won’t see it on their dashboards. Essentially, a direct message isn’t exactly private, but it’s close enough, since most people only check their dashboards, where they won’t see the Tweet.

There are several ways to send direct messages:

  • Compose a Tweet where the Tweep’s handle is in the front. For instance: “@Phillies How about winning a World Series?” If you don’t know the person’s handle, type in their actual name and Twitter will help you find the Tweep.
  • Twitter direct message button
    This is on twitter.com/DisneyPixar (their profile page.)

    Go to the Tweep’s profile (twitter.com/[handle]), click the icon of a person, and choose “Tweet @[handle]”.

  • Click on the gear in the top right of any page, choose “direct messages”, and enter the Tweep’s name.

If the Tweep you write to responds, it’ll also be sent as a direct message. You’ll see the entire thread on your dashboard.

That reminds me…

Replying and Retweeting

Say someone sends you a direct message and you want to write back to them with a comment/question/witty retort/non-witty retort. No problem – click on the Tweet in your dashboard and you’ll see a text box you can craft your response in. In fact, you can reply to any Tweet, even a non-direct message (a normal Tweet.) The person who sent the Tweet will see your reply (as a direct message) and can then reply back to you.

If someone makes a Tweet you really like or you feel your followers could benefit from, you can Retweet it. Simply click on the Tweet and click the Retweet button (gee, wasn’t that simple?) Once you do that, all of your followers see the Tweet and a note that you retweeted it.

Retweeting usually implies you support what the Tweep is saying. Retweeting is a good idea if:

  • Someone you follow made a good remark/found a good article that your followers might like
  • You really agree with what someone said and just feel like supporting them
  • Someone gave a great reply to one of your Tweets

There’s another (less-used) feature of Twitter called Favorite, in which you mark Tweets as favorites. This is a pretty handy feature, though, to mark Tweets you think are important and worth referring to later. You probably get dozens to hundreds of Tweets per day, so you don’t have time to sift through all of them later. Favorite a Tweet (click on the Tweet, then click the star) if:

  • There’s an interesting article you want to read later
  • It’s a momentous tweet that you want to keep around for sentimental reasons (election results, your favorite team winning a championship, etc.)
  • You just like the Tweet

Later, you can see your favorited Tweets under the Me tab. No, I don’t understand why they’re there either.

Now what?

Now you’re an expert at sending Tweets, talking to other Tweeps, favoriting tweets, and – most importantly – the ancient and mystical art of Retweet-Fu. You also know – from the first part – how to follow people, tag your Tweets with #, and talk with @.

What’s left? There’s not much more I can do, except tell you to go out and try Twitter yourself. That’s the best way to practice your skills and – hopefully – pick up a few new ones. If you need anything, send me a tweet @hathix (you know how to do this, right? right?) and I’ll be happy to help you out.

I’ll leave you with a reminder of what the world could have been like had they invented Twitter earlier. Time to wax philosophical…

Retweet if by land, favorite if by sea.

Published by

Neel Mehta

Harvard College. Web developer. Sometime philosopher. Baseball junkie.

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