Twitter tips and tutorials for beginners

Twitter tips and tutorials for beginners7

Everything you have to know to start with Twitter

Twitter tool - Tweet topic Explorer

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06-26-2011 06-26-2011
- Tool that lets you quicklyi check what a Twitter user has been tweeting about using a tab cloud

Tweet Topic Explorer – is a neat tool that lets you quickly check what a Twitter user has been tweeting about. The normal way to check would be going through the user’s Twitter timeline which can be pretty time consuming. This tool helps you avoid that by showing the main topics in a tag cloud format. Read more: Tweet Topic Explorer: Explore A Twitter User’s Tweet Topics
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Kevin Rose: 10 Ways To Increase Your Twitter Followers

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06-18-2010 06-18-2010
- This guest post is written by Kevin Rose, the founder of Digg and the cofounder of Revision3 and Pownce. Kevin, who has over 88,000 followers on Twitter (making him the second most followed after President Obama), also

by Guest Author on Jan 25, 2009

This guest post is written by Kevin Rose, the founder of Digg and the cofounder of Revision3 and Pownce. Kevin, who has over 88,000 followers on Twitter (making him the second most followed after President Obama), also “bloggs” at He is an investor in Twitter.

Ten Ways To Increase Your Twitter Followers:

  1. Explain to your followers what retweeting is and encourage them to retweet your links. Retweeting pushes your @username into foreign social graphs, resulting in clicks back to your profile. Track your retweets using retweetist.
  2. Fill out your bio. Your latest tweets and @replies don’t mean much to someone that doesn’t know you. Your bio is the only place you have to tell people who you are. Also, your bio is displayed on Twitter’s Suggested Users page. Leaving it blank or non-descriptive doesn’t encourage people to add you.
  3. As @garyvee says, “link it up.” Put links to your Twitter profile everywhere. Link it on your Digg, LinkedIn, Facebook, blog, email signature, and everywhere else you live online. Also, check out the great feedburner-like badges from TwitterCounter for your blog.
  4. Tweet about your passions in life and #hash tag them. Quality content coupled with an easy way to find it never fails. If others enjoy your content, they’ll add you. Learn more about #hash tagging here.
  5. Bring your twitter account into the physical world. Every time I give a talk, speak on a panel, shoot a podcast, present slides, or hand out business cards, I figure out a way to broadcast or display my twitter account.
  6. Take pictures. Pictures are heavily retweeted/spread around. This one from US Airways Flight 1549 has been viewed 350,000+ times. For mobile pics use iPhone apps such as Tweetie or Twitterific, both which support on the go uploading.
  7. Start a contest. @jasoncalacanis offered a free macbook air if he reached the #1 most followed spot. That never happened, but Jason added thousands of followers…brilliant.
  8. Follow the top twitter users and watch what they tweet. Pay attention to the type of content they sent out and how they address their audiences.
  9. Reply to/get involved in #hash tag memes. lists the hot ‘trending topics. Look for the #hash topics and jump in on the conversation (see #4 for links to #hash instructions).
  10. Track your results. TwitterCounter will show you how many new users you’re adding per day and Qwitter will email you when someone unfollows you after a tweet.

If you enjoy this content, add me at, thank you.

Kevin Rose image
Birthplace: California
Companies: Digg, Pownce, Revision3, WeFollow, ngmoco, Six Apart, i/o Ventures, Sofa Labs, Digg, and more

Kevin Rose is an angel investor, serial entrepreneur and the Founder of Digg and WeFollow. Rose also co-founded… Learn More

Twitter image
Location: San Francisco, California, United States
Founded: March 21, 2006
Funding: $160M

Twitter, founded by Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams in March 2006 (launched publicly in July 2006), is a social networking and micro-blogging… Learn More

Information provided by CrunchBase

17 Ways You Can Use Twitter: A Guide for Beginners and Businesses

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06-18-2010 06-18-2010
- Twitter is a micro blogging platform which allows you to publish short messages. Here are some ways to use twitter and examples on how Twitter can be used.

17 Ways You Can Use Twitter: A Guide for Beginners, Marketers and Business Owners

twitterTwitter is a micro blogging platform which allows you to publish short messages of less than 140 characters through different mediums like IM, cellphones and the web.

It has a social element as well, as it allows users to befriend and monitor each other’s messages or updates. So what you have here is a publishing tool that can be either public and private.

It is similar to an IRC channel although messages are displayed less rapidly. Some have called it a slower version of internet messengers.

Twitter gives you a fragmented experience of opinions, events, news, ideas and feedback largely because its structured to accommodate non-contextual usability: You can easily follow thousands of users and listen in and enter into conversations conducted among multiple users at any point. And this is usually the case.

On the other hand, Twitter can be actively used as a tool to push out messages that capitalize on the attention you’re receiving from other users. Yes, I’m talking about self-promotion and marketing. This involves active user engagement.

Apart from its use as a info resource and publicity tool, Twitter is also a communication platform for individuals and their personal social networks. Leisa Reichelt calls this form of usage, ambient intimacy:

Ambient intimacy is about being able to keep in touch with people with a level of regularity and intimacy that you wouldn’t usually have access to, because time and space conspire to make it impossible.

Who cares? Who wants this level of detail? Isn’t this all just annoying noise?…There are a lot of us, though, who find great value in this ongoing noise. It helps us get to know people who would otherwise be just acquaintances.

It makes us feel closer to people we care for but in whose lives we’re not able to participate as closely as we’d like. Knowing these details creates intimacy.

Twitter and Marketing: A General Overview

Image Credit: wallpaper

There’s been a great deal of articles on how Twitter can be used for marketing purposes and I think most of them can be condensed to the simple aim of tracking and directing attention. Twitter allows you to monitor how influencers think or feel, you can also get into their attention zone via active networking.

For businesses, Twitter is another channel which connects current and potential customers with your product or brand. It allows deeply infiltration into the lifestyles of interested participants, which helps to build brand persistence/loyalty.

In its most obvious form, Twitter can be seen as a traffic generation tool. The placement of links within profiles and conversations can direct visitors to a specific website and is especially powerful if you pitch to early adopters and influencers.

As a lead acquisition tool, it doesn’t always reach the audience you want. Most Twitter users are somewhat web savvy and it is extremely difficult to target a specific subset of the general demographic and determine their level of potential interest.

As there isn’t an option to advertise within Twitter (unlike Facebook), Twitter marketing is a task that involves two-way audience engagement, on the part of the marketer or business owner. In a way, this is a good thing.

The Problem With Twitter

Twitter is not a difficult tool to use so there’s a low barrier of entry; Anyone can pick it up. What really matters is how it impacts your online habits and daily life. For many, Twitter is a distraction, albeit one that is very much welcome.

It saps your attention and pulls your focus away from other tasks. Kathy Sierra goes a step further and talks about the very real fear of being disconnected:

Ironically, services like Twitter are simultaneously leaving some people with a feeling of not being connected, by feeding the fear of not being in the loop. By elevating the importance of being “constantly updated,” it amplifies the feeling of missing something if you’re not checking Twitter (or Twittering) with enough frequency.

The issue here is that effective Twitter usage necessarily involves an investment in time and attention. One needs to be plugged in to a certain extent to reap the benefits that come from using Twitter. Even listening takes an effort.

17 Ways to Use Twitter: My Experiences So Far

Image Credit: wallpaper

I’ve signed up for a Twitter account a long time ago and used it sporadically because it never really did appeal to me. Last week I decided to give it another chance and installed Snitter, a desktop application for Twitter.

I started using it actively and gradually developed an avid interest. I think Twitter is a manageable process that can be adopted for all types of lifestyles, busy or inactive. You’ll just need to integrate it within your normal workflow. It’s addictive but once you understand how to use it, it’ll be a very effective tool indeed.

Having read a great deal of other articles on Twitter, I decided a do a quick summary of all the ways you can use Twitter for both your professional or personal life. Some of these methods go beyond the use of Twitter as a lifestreaming device:

  1. Personal Branding. Twitter is a social media platform you can use to build your personal brand. It has the primary benefit of developing a casual persona and establishes you as a social personality that is connected and approachable. As Twitter adoption increases, new users will be drawn towards well established Twitter personas.
  2. Get Feedback. Need an alternative perspective on how a website looks or the right course of action to take? Blast out a message asking for advice and you’ll receive replies from other users. This collective intelligence can be used as fodder for articles or projects.
  3. Hire People. Need a good logo designer, marketer or programmer? Send out a message asking for recommendations. This is a very quick and easy way to hire freelancers or even companies based on familiar recommendations.
  4. Direct traffic. Twitter can be used to get traffic to your websites or the sites of friends. If you ask your friends to tweet about it, the message will spread faster and further as other active users pick it up. There is a viral nature to all types of news, even on a site like Twitter.
  5. Read News. Twitter users often link to useful sites or articles and can be a source of scoops and alternative news. You can also subscribe to Twitter feeds for specific websites/conferences, which allows you to receive and view content quickly. This is very useful for active social news participants.
  6. Make New Friends. Like any other social network, Twitter has a built-in function for you to befriend and track the messages of other users. This is an easy way for you connect with people outside of your usual circle. Make an effort to add active users you find interesting. A Twitter acquaintance can be developed into a long lasting friendship.
  7. Network for benefits. Twitter can be used as a socializing platform for you to interact with other like-minded people, especially those in the same industry. It can be used to establish consistent and deeper relationships for future benefits such as testimonials or peer recommendations.
  8. Use it as a ToDo list. Use Twitter to record down what you need to do while you are away from the computer. Mark the tweet as a favorite to file it for referencing. Another alternative is to use an Online task management service that is synced with Twitter. One example is Remember The Milk.
  9. Business Management. Twitter can be used as a company intranet that connects employees to one another. Workers can liaise with each other when working on group projects. Particularly useful when certain workers go out often in the field. Updates could be set to private for security reasons.
  10. Notify Your Customers. Set up a Twitter feed for the specific purpose of notifying customers when new products come in. Customers can subscribe via mobile or RSS for instant notification. Twitter can also be used to provide mini-updates for one-on-one clients.
  11. Take Notes. Twitter provides you with an easy way to record important ideas or concepts you want to explore further. Include links relevant to ideas you want to explore. Note taking can also be done offline via mobile applications.
  12. Event Updates. Businesses can use Twitter as a means to inform event participants and latest event happenings/changes. This is a hassle-free way of disseminating information, especially when you don’t have the means to set up a direct mobile link between you and the audience
  13. Find Prospects. Twitter can be used as a means to find potential customers or clients online. Do a search for keywords related to your product on Twitter Search and then follow users. Tweet about topics parallel to your product and close prospects away from public channels by using direct messages or offline communications. Discretion and skill is needed in this area.
  14. Provide Live coverage. Twitter’s message size limit prevents detailed coverage of events but it can allow you to provide real-time commentary which may help to spark further discussion or interest on the event as other Twitter users spread the message. Very useful for citizen journalism.
  15. Time Management and Analysis. Twitter can simply be used to keep a detailed record of what you are doing every daily. This might be boring for others but this type of usage is useful when you want to analyze how you spend and manage your time.
  16. Set Up Meetings. Twitter can help you organize impromptu meetups. For example, you can twitter a message while at a cafe, event or art gallery and arrange to meet fellow users at a specific spot. It’s an informal and casual way of arranging a meeting.
  17. Acquire Votes. Send a link to your stories you’ve submitted in other social news sites like Digg. Sometimes your followers will vote up the stories because they agree with it. This allows you to acquire more support for your efforts on other social media websites.

I suspect I’ll be writing a little more about Twitter in the future including a roundup and summary of some of the articles I found really useful (there were quite a few).

Hopefully this article gave you ideas on how to use Twitter. If you found this article useful, feel free to share it with your Twitter friends. I’ll love to get some feedback. Do also check out my post on how to increase your Twitter followers.

And yes…please follow me on Twitter and say hi! I’m always looking to follow new people so don’t hesitate to introduce yourself. I’m pretty friendly and open to new experiences. ^_^

For more social media optimization tips, subscribe to Dosh Dosh today.

Written by Maki

Social Media Marketing

320 Comments - Share Your Thoughts
  • Very interesting. I haven’t tried Twitter yet, although I’ve heard a lot of people really love it. It seemed like a distraction to me, and my time for working on my business is pretty limited anyhow. Nice to see some of the ways it can work.

  • nice one – I’ve got a similar post queued at ProBlogger for the next few days. Looks like you beat me to the punch on this one.

    Was going to publish it last night but Twitter’s had big problems since the MacWorld keynote so I thought I’d hold off for a few days

  • Twitter is neat because you start doing it and the fun is in the doing itself. You are updating your friends about silly little things, and they are doing the same for you, and the whole thing sort of sucks you in. You don’t think it’s going to be addictive or engaging with such a limited message length but it really is neat.

    Definite potential for distraction. Lots of opportunity there as well. Great post!

  • hey,
    I remember using twitter long time ago, but it annoyed me to hell when I was constantly twittered as I had accidently put in my profile that I am 24/F/Italy. But Yes I have been using Snitter recently and surprisingly its a altogether different thing. Wnder whats changed! THanks for the post anyway!
    I m writing apost in my blog and trackbacking one of yoru post, hope you dn’t mind,

  • Great timely post on Twitter, Maki. More and more people seem to be adopting it for many of the uses mentioned here. I’m glad you put in the link to Kathy Sierra – miss her writing. :(

  • über interessant! Thank you! :)

  • I really like to use Twitter as a personal productivity tool. To record important ‘to do’ things or to take notes, like in items 8 e 11.

    Items 12 e 14 are also pretty nice. It’s perfect for that.

  • Thanks Maki. This is a very timely article. I’ve just started on Twitter myself.

  • I’ve started using Twitter for another part of my life as well … tracking, and encouraging me to exercise.
    Using the robot I get graphs of my workouts and it I’m slacking off my friends can see and nag me!

  • Thanks for the great article. I’ve never used twitter but I’ll be checking it out after reading this.

  • There are definitely ideas here that I want to use more “strategically” with twitter. Up to this point, it’s just been fun to see what people are doing and “chase the stars”. I really can see how twitter can be a great way to promote what you are all about.

    One of the best things I’ve found through twitter is the branding. I go to a conference in California and people actually know who I am because of my twitter username (mollermarketing). Great post – I’ll write something about this on my blog and link you in for sure. Thanks.

  • Great article – I never quite understood the point of twitter before – but I think I’ll be checking it out now!

  • I like twitter and use it almost everyday, but the problem with it is the search option. You can only search a specific name and nothing else. I think they should improve the search option and add more features such as: country, age etc.

  • Interesting post. I have a twitter account, but I so rarely remember to update it. I’ll probably try out this Snitter program you speak of =) I’m also following you now. Feel special.

  • Hey Maki… I’m a new Twitter convert and am loving it. Your list of uses for Twitter was great as I had already used it for some of those purposes, but hadn’t even thought of some of the others.

  • “You’ll just need to integrate it within your normal workflow.”

    Most definitely. Like you, I’ve had an account for a while but only recently started really using it. Installing Twitterfox, helped me a lot in integrating it into my normal workflow, as did adding the “TwitThis” bookmark.

    And I’d like to echo NowSourcing’s remark about missing Kathy Sierra’s writing. CPU was one of my favorite blogs.

  • I just signed up for an account in Twitter and I must say I really am enjoying posting updates and as well as reading my friends’ updates.

  • I too thought of using it for an action and capture system. Would need to be extended, though… Also, backup would be a concern, as would search. Thanks!

  • Great list – got me thinking & has taught me a thing or three.

    I’ve had access to Twitter since end November, but to be honest have only put in occasional updates on what I’m doing as I don’t often have the time to Twitter. (Also not sure I can justify it time-wise – is it a good ROI for me? Not yet sure)

    However, I can certainly see the benefits of Twittering as a means of continuing the conversation with potential sales leads, particularly when selling big ticket items.

    This can fill in the gaps between IM and Push Broadcasting of traditional email campaigns?

    I guess, it’s also useful for leaders to converse with their followers & listen to them.

  • Excellent post, Maki. I haven’t started using Twitter yet but I will start using it soon…

  • I haven’t used Twitter too much recently. I did find it very useful when I attended Blog Orlando. Josh Hallett, the coordinator of Blog Orlando, set up a “Blog Orlando” group.

    During the “un-conference” as Josh calls it, we could Twitter back and forth to each other. If we had a question about a session or couldn’t find something, we could send out a Tweed and get an answer.

    During the opening session, Josh sent out a Tweed saying the first person to show him the Tweed wins a free ipod.

  • Excellent post and nice review and great presentation… i like it


  • I’ve been using Twitter for quite a while. It seems to me that Twitter works best when you invite your followers to the site. Not try to find them there.

  • Thats some really good points.

  • Intersting article. I would like to ask permission from author to copy part (with link to original) of it as introductory and discussion for members.

  • I love Twitter. I use it all day everyday. I have created a couple different profiles that use twitter feeds from my blogs to automatically post. I get many new visitors from it!

  • Their are some really great points. I like the way he shows 3 different ways to use twitter. Building friends first let’s people know you have something to offer and you are not just marketing to them.

  • I like all the points offered. I have never used twitter and plan to start using it today. The post shows how to use twitter to still offer value in the midst of the marketing you are trying to accomplish. People are more willing to listen if you offer some value as well as your sells pitch.

  • Hi Tamar

    Another amazing post…I am a new user on Twitter and I already see quite a few benefits of following the right people.You get snippets of information and links to resources that are quite helpful….thanks again:)

  • I will use twitter for my blog. How good is to promote

  • Yes branding can be really crucial in your marketing, when u banrd yourself or your blog you can really convert very good as people will trust you.

  • I like Twitter as a micro RSS feed when I’m *really* having attention deficit breakdown. “Argh, my reader’s got too much stuff to even look at it . . . but hey look, new Hugh Macleod post. And off I go.

    It does kind of make me sad when someone is interesting but posts so many damn Tweets that I have to unfollow them.

    Merlin Mann is the Twitter master as far as I’m concerned. Just the right frequency and they’re usually hilarious.

  • I am using user/tool to post to my Google Calendar. Very cool. I also am using Remember The Milk.

  • Maki, great post as always. One thing I would like to ask is that are you using any SEO plugin for this wordpress blog or is it just standard out of the box.


  • I have a Twitter account. I use it to post short messages of what I was doing–some not relating to my blog.. I still update it, but only a few times a month. After reading this, I’m going to start using it more. Thanks for the post. :)

  • Good concluding article of many articles that have been published before on this topic.

    We use Twitter to communicate about the latest updates on our website.

    In addition we wrote an article on microblogging for the enterprise:

  • twitter sux… i dont like it :(

  • Hey Maki, great post. It’s nice getting a comprehensive list of ways to use Twitter. So many people seem to think the tool is completely irrelevant and unusable. But, as I always say, if people are using it to communicate, then marketers can use it to communicate as well.

    I’m subscribing to your Twitter. Although, truthfully, I don’t use it a lot. As soon as I get my internet-capable phone I’m sure I’ll be a Twitter addict. Soon isn’t soon enough.

  • It was translated into Chinese now.

  • I haven’t used twitter in yet but maybe I should start.

  • Maki -
    Thanks for taking the time to write this information-packed review about Twitter. I found you through Muhammad Saleem’s Pronet Advertising blog and it’s no wonder he recommended your post. Great stuff!

  • I love this article. By the way, I take DoshDosh very seriously and if you check my site – it is one of the Top-5 investments blogs already, thanks to doshdosh.Rob

  • Hate to open up a can of worms, but something usually neglected with Twitter is the Google Juice you can get out of creative linking. Very surprising, but I have noticed it. It took a friend pointing it out to me.

  • Off-topic: You love Clannad aren’t you. Especially Tomoyo eh?

  • realy interesting. i will try.


  • You can also use Twitter as a storytelling medium:

  • Great list. I just posted one myself for using Twitter as a marketing took for the video game industry. I especially like 10, 12 and 16 as those where on my list too. You can check out the post below if you are interested.

  • I use Twitter (and Jaiku) for occasional Haikus.

  • Twitter is good as long as you don’t have a phone that requires you to manually download each text message (like 98% of Nextel hpones, also including Boost Mobile, which I have).

    I casually communicate with a few people over Twitter, and closely follow one of them. However, it is a bit disconcerting to recieve Twitter updates any time of day (including during class in a school that almost outright bans cell phones).

  • Nice! Loved the tip about Branding because that’s what I’m working on.

  • Thanks for a great article. I think Twitter can be good for some marketers and product owners, and others will benefit more from other tools. I have printed it out and will read it on my train ride home. Old-fashioned, yes, I know:-)

  • i stumbled upon this since i don’t know that much about twitter but could not really figure out anyway twitter could be of productive value. quite frankly, i’m still skeptical, despite this well written article. however, i’m totally mawking the wallpapers used in the presentation! good article, thanks for the info even though it is not relevant to me at the moment.

  • I just finished up a tutorial on posting to twitter automatically using your Gtalk status message.
    It’s located here:

    Check it out and let me know what you think.

    Rob Edwards

  • You can also use Twitter for expense tracking and reporting by sending direct messages to the user “xpn”. Details at and .

  • Thanks for a great article. I think Twitter can be good for some marketers and product owners, and others will benefit more from other tools. I have printed it out and will read it on my train ride home. Old-fashioned, yes, I know:-)

  • I casually communicate with a few people over Twitter, and closely follow one of them. However, it is a bit disconcerting to recieve Twitter updates any time of day (including during class in a school that almost outright bans cell phones).

  • wow, nice post! I learned a lot…

  • I’ve just started using Twitter and lacked somw direction as far as how to use it goes but after reading this article, I might give a little bit more effort into using it.

  • …loved the way you broke down the possibilities. I’ve been using Twitter for over 6 months, and still don’t have a firm handle on it’s best use. I like the idea of a reminder to buy milk, but do I really want my clients to see that? Welcome to the wonderful world of Web 2.0 :-)

  • | I like the idea of a reminder to buy milk,
    | but do I really want my clients to see that?

    Direct messages to RememberTheMilk (rtm) do no get posted on Twitter, rather they get sent directly to RememberTheMilk, to be used to add a ToDo to your own personal list of ToDos, that are not publicly viewable.

  • grace v on February 11th, 2008

    I just started using twitter, so this article is a great eye-opener for how to use it, but here’s my problem: I’ve only got like 5 friends that use it. What is the best way to browse for new friends in some kind of meaningful way?

  • It sounds like I need to get to Twittering. Thanks for the Information

  • I have used twitter after your reading your post and it works for my blog. I have few traffice from twitter and i have also started using pownce as u said in one of your post. thanks mate you are a dude


  • Twitter is something I haven’t really gotten into yet and I’m having a hard time mustering up the gumption to get into it. I think since it seems so similar to the “Status” field on Facebook, and having away messages (and now status messages as well) on AIM, it adds yet another ‘away message’ type blurb to keep track of.

  • Just realising the power of Twitter now … it’s good, very good.

  • wow! super great tips! thank you Maki! =)

  • Thanks for the article. You gave me another to open a twitter account, and I just did. You can “twitter” me at

  • I have enjoyed Twitter thusfar. An amazing array of characters out there. I’ve had time to meet a lot of quality peeps who are following me and I’m growing a list of people I like to follow.

    Great opportunity to share the latest and greatest going on with my business, with nutrition, with how to make money online.

  • Dosh Dosh made a good overview of ways Twitter is used.

    I find it interesting to see that Twitter is used also for:

    - internal business communication: connecting employees with one another;
    - for customer services – notifying customers of e.g. new products and releases

  • New to Twitter, but absolutely loving it. Thanks so much for tip 17 in particular. Brilliant!

  • […] Extra twitter reading […] Different Ways to Use Twitter […]

  • I just started using twitter last week. I still have not found or experience the rave that everyone is speaking of. I have connected twitter with my blog, a small announcement tool but as I said before I am not totally sold on it.

  • Thanks… great post! now I know what all this Twitter hype is all about.

  • I’ve been thinking about studying twitter traffic possibilities. I googled and I’m glad the top result is very reliable and information jammed.

    Good post Maki…


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Newbie's guide to Twitter | Webware - CNET

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06-18-2010 06-18-2010
- CNET has created a newbie's guide to Twitter. Read this blog post by Rafe Needleman on Webware.

Newbie's guide to Twitter

If you're not using Twitter yet, you may feel as if you've missed out. Twitter has not only tipped the tuna, but by some estimations, it has already jumped the shark. Don't be put off by its excessive popularity with SXSW geeks or by the whining of Twitter haters who missed the fun. Twitter is an interesting and practical real-time messaging system for groups and friends. It's just not completely obvious how to get into the "club." So, here's a newbie's guide to this new platform. We don't cover every feature of Twitter, but this should help get you started.

What is Twitter?

Twitter is an online service that enables you to broadcast short messages to your friends or "followers." It also lets you specify which Twitter users you want to follow so you can read their messages in one place.

A popular Twitterer

(Credit: CNET Networks)

Twitter is designed to work on a mobile phone as well as on a computer. All Twitter messages are limited to 140 characters, so each message can be sent as a single SMS alert. You can't say much in 140 characters. That's part of Twitter's charm.

Twitter is useful for close-knit groups (although there also are some fairly large mobs on Twitter). If you follow your friends, and they follow each other, you can quickly communicate group-related items, such as "I'm going to the pub on Fourth Street, come on along." Twitter is conceptually similar to Dodgeball but is simpler to use.

If you enter items into Twitter, they can be private, so only friends you've authorized can see them. Items can also be made public, which means anyone who knows your Twitter ID can read and subscribe to them.

Twitter is free.

Continue reading to learn how to get started, hook up your mobile, send your first "Tweet," follow friends, and direct Twitter. We also show you some advanced features and Twitterers worth following.

How to get started

Look for this.

(Credit: CNET Networks)

Go to and click "Join for free." For best results, use your real name when signing up; otherwise your friends won't be able to find you easily. It's also helpful to upload a picture. If you select the "Protect my updates" box, people won't be able to read your Twitters unless you authorize them. You'll have more fun if you leave this box unchecked. Just be sure not to Twitter, "Leaving house open and unlocked for the weekend: 1520 Main Street."

Now that you have a Twitter account, tell your friends your username or send them the link to your Twitter page. Each users has his own page, in the form (Example: my Twitter page is

Hook up your mobile phone and IM account

The Twitter network works for you even if you're not at your computer or browsing the Web. Once you are registered, you can connect your mobile phone and instant messenger account. Go to Settings > Phone and IM. Connecting your phone and IM programs to your Twitter account is a straightforward process. Note that messages you view on a phone or an IM program also are readable on your personal Twitter Web page.

You can make Twitter send you a message every time a user who you are following has posted a Twitter message. This can be fun, but it will drive you crazy if you are following a lot of people. If you don't want to be barraged by a stream of random messages but still want friends to be able to reach you, select "Direct Message." Then when other users send a message to you and you alone, you'll be alerted on your phone or IM account. Otherwise, you won't get an alert.

Sending Twitter messages, or "Tweets"

Sending a Tweet from a mobile

(Credit: CNET Networks)

You can send a Twitter message, or "Tweet," from any of your registered devices.

From the Web page, enter a message in the entry window at the top of the page.

From a mobile phone, send an SMS message to 40404. Your phone's caller ID is attached to your Twitter account, so the system will know it's from you.

From IM, message TwitterIM if you're on AOL, or if you're on Jabber/GTalk.

In all these cases, all your "followers" will see your message on their own Twitter pages and possibly on their mobile devices as well.

Following and joining friends

If you've gotten this far, you're able to send messages into the Twitter system, and your friends can find your account and follow your updates. Here's how you can see their messages.

I am not yet following Brian. If I click "add," I will be.

(Credit: CNET Networks)

On the Web: to add a friend, first be sure you are logged into your account. Then go to his or her Twitter page and press the "Add" link in the "Actions" box. To find a user page, use the search box on your own Twitter page.

Once you click "Add," you'll start to see his or her Tweets on your page if his or her account is set for public access. If the account is private, the system will send a "friend" request that must be approved before you start to see updates.

You also can see who your friends are following by hovering your mouse pointer over the pictures in the sidebar on your friends' pages. Those pictures are of their friends--the users they are following. If you click on one of those pictures, you'll go to that user's page, where you can add him or her, too.

You can see all the Tweets from any person's friends by clicking the "With Friends" tab above his or her message window. Or you can turn that off and see only his or her Tweets by clicking the obliquely named "Previous" tab.

On the phone or IM: send the command follow username to register your phone or IM account to receive public Tweets from a user. You also can invite people based on a phone number: SMS add phonenumber to 40404, and you'll start following the user at that number; if the person at that number isn't a Twitter user, he or she will get an invitation to join.

Managing your friends is much easier by using a full Web browser, but you can do everything on a mobile phone if you wish. See this page of the Twitter Help file for full commands, including details on the all-important Leave (to stop following) and Drop (to remove from your friend list) commands.

Want to be a Twitter nag? Send nudge username and they'll get a request to send a current Tweet.

In case you were wondering what the numbers mean...

A bunch of numbers are on your Twitter page. The most important figures are these:

  • The number of "followers" you have. These are the people who are paying attention to (following) your Tweets.

  • The number of "friends" you have. This is the number of people you are following.

Public figures and Twitter celebrities will have more followers than friends. People who want to watch more than participate will have more friends than followers. People who just use Twitter to communicate just within their own social group will have roughly the same number of friends and followers.

Person-to-person Twittering

You can send a Twitter message directly to another Twitter user with the Direct command. Enter d username message, and users will get your ping if they have direct messages enabled on their phone or IM account.

If you enter a Tweet with @username at the beginning of it, your message is understood as being intended for that particular person, although others will be able to see it. (However, @ tweets won't show up on your home page unless you are the intended recipient.) Be sure the person who you want to see your message is following you, or they won't get it.

Turning off Twitter

Twitter messages may drive you insane. If you want to turn them off, here's how: send the command Off, Sleep, or Stop to Twitter. To turn it back on, send On, Wake, or Start.

If you're sick of Twitter on the PC, just avoid the Web site!

In a Web browser, in your settings page, you also can define a period of time during which Twitter will not bother you by phone or IM. This is useful if you ever want to sleep.

Advanced features

Twitteroo, another way to Twitter

(Credit: CNET Networks)

You can apply your own design to your Twitter home page: it's fairly straightforward. Our advice is to avoid using the "tile" option for your background image unless you are aiming for the assaultive MySpace design aesthetic.

Twitter also can be used via third-party programs that run on your desktop or in your widget/gadget engine. See our story, Six ways to improve Twitter.

Twitterers worth following

In addition to your friends, you might want to follow some of these famous (or useful) Twitterers. Many people are still experimenting with Twitter, so we can't vouch for the long-term quality or frequency of updates from these users:

  • CNN: Newsfeed of high-profile CNN breaking stories.
  • John Edwards: Twitters from the campaign trail
  • Robert Scoble: Popular feed from ubergeek and Twitter fan Robert Scoble.
  • Evan Williams: Founder of the company that built Twitter.
  • Rafe Needleman: I wrote this, I must be interesting.
  • Caroline McCarthy: Another Webware writer and ardent Twitterer.

  • 130diggsdigg Happy Twittering! Got tips for other users? Add them in the talkback section, below.

Rafe Needleman writes about start-ups, new technologies, and Web 2.0 products, as editor of CNET's Webware. E-mail Rafe.