HowTo Twitter – The Basics

The basics of Twitter explained in a bit more than 140 characters

Below are the common things you can do or might run across while using twitter. I’ve also provided some useful and fun tools to check out. I’ll use my twitter name, @covati, in the examples, feel free to @ me with any comments or suggestions.

A tweet
This is what you call an individual message that you send to twitter.

Tweeps or Tweeple
Yea, you’ll get this a lot, throw TW in front of any word (like peeps or people) to get the twitter version of that word. Try not to over do it, it can get twonfusing and twannoying.

140 character limit
This is the most obvious thing about twitter, you are restricted to 140 characters per tweet. This is pretty simple but leads to the abbreviations used below.

Replying to Somone – the @
If you want to talk to someone publicly, then just use @covati, this can also be used to just reference a person. It’s important to use the @ because many twitter tools will automatically create a link to their twitstream if you do this.
If you want this to show up in their replies listing, then you need to make @covati the first thing in your tweet.
You may have noticed that @ is also a verb, you @ someone by sending them a message on twitter.

Direct Message
Use this if you want to talk with someone privately. You just type “d covati Your Message Here“. Depending on your settings in twitter, direct messages might be sent to your email or be accessed directly via twitter.

The idea here is that you enjoyed a tweet so much that you want to pass it along, like forwarding an email, but less annoying. Some, but not all, tools support a one-click retweet. You can easily emulate this by typing “RT @covati: Copy and paste their message here“. You may have to wordsmith a little to keep it under the 140 limit, that’s ok.

follow covati
This is how you follow someone from directly within twitter, of course you can visit their twitter page and click the follow button as well.

URL Shortening
In order to talk about something and provide a link to it within 140 characters you often need to create a shorter version of a link. A number of url shortening services have sprung up to allow this. tinyurl is probably the most popular, but many others are out there. I love (note: I run :)

Twitter Tools
You can use the web interface at Twitter which is easy to access from anywhere. But power twitterers often like to use other apps, such as Twhirl (included integration with Seesmic& FriendFeed), TweetDeck (My current tool of choice), or Twitterrific (Ad supported). Tweetdeck and Twhirl are Adobe Air apps, so they run on any computer but require you to install Adobe Air. Check out my earilier blog post for a review of these twitter apps (except for tweetdeck).

That’s the basics of twitter, there’s not a hell of a lot to it. Get out there and starting tweeting with your tweeps.