In his book Ultimate Guide to Twitter for Business, online marketing expert Ted Prodromou offers an easy-to-understand guide to using Twitter that will help small-business owners generate leads and connect with customers. This edited excerpt is the first of a two-part series, the author explains the most common Twitter terms so users can get up to speed right away.
Like most technology, Twitter has its own language. Let’s look at the most common Twitter terms.
The @ sign is used to call out usernames in Tweets. You can say something like: “Hey @tedprodromou!” The @ works differently in Twitter than it does in an email address. When a username is preceded by the @ sign, it becomes a link to a Twitter profile. When you click on that link, you’ll be able to view the person’s profile to learn more about them.
If you want to send a public message to somebody, you start your Tweet with the @ followed by their Twitter name. For example, if you want to send a message to me, you start your Tweet with @tedprodromou followed by the message you want to send me in the Tweet.
All Twitter messages are public by default. That means everyone can see all of your Tweets. If you want to send a message directly to someone who’s following you on Twitter, you can send them a direct message (DM). This is like sending your friend a text on their phone, where only they receive it. Only you and your friend know what’s contained in that message.
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The Discover tab on your Twitter page is where you find Stories, Who to Follow, Activity, Find Friends, and Browse Categories.
To Favorite a Tweet means to mark it as one of your favorites. You Favorite a Tweet by clicking on the star next to the message. Do it when you want to show your appreciation to someone for creating a catchy or thought-provoking Tweet.
To follow someone on Twitter is to subscribe to their Tweets or updates by clicking on the Follow button in their profile. The more people you follow, the more Tweets you will see in your Tweet stream, giving you more opportunity to engage others in conversation.
A follower is another Twitter user who has followed you. The more followers you have, the more popular you are on Twitter.
A user’s “Twitter handle” is the username they have selected and the accompanying URL. Your Twitter handle is also referred to as your Twitter name. My Twitter handle is officially http://twitter.com/tedprodromou.
The # symbol is called a hash mark, and when used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet, it is called a hashtag. Its use began organically as Twitter users sought a way to categorize messages. Today, most Tweets contain a # and a keyword so people can easily follow a Twitter conversation involving sometimes thousands of people.
Your Twitter Interactions is the timeline in your @ Connect tab that displays all the ways other users have interacted with your account, like adding you to a list, sending you a reply, Favoriting one of your Tweets, or ReTweeting one of your Tweets. Viewing your @ Connect tab is a quick way to see who’s engaging with you.
When someone adds you to a Twitter list, you are considered “listed.” The number of times you’re listed appears in the statistics section of your profile.
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Lists are curated groups of other Twitter users. Twitter Lists are like distribution lists in email where you group people together so you can easily communicate with everyone at once. You can group people you are following by topics so you can quickly see the latest trends or conversations. Twitter Lists are sort of like Groups on Facebook or LinkedIn where you can join in targeted conversations based on specific topics.
Mentioning another user in your Tweet by including the @ sign followed directly by their username is called a “mention.” Another way to Mention someone is to add their username in a Tweet. If someone Tweeted, “Hey @tedprodromou I loved your blog post about Twitter,” it would be considered a Mention.
A name can be different from your username and is used to locate you on Twitter. Your name must be 20 characters or less. For example, my name on Twitter is Ted Prodromou, but my username is tedprodromou.
The Twitter page that displays information about a Twitter user, as well as all the Tweets they’ve posted from their account, is the profile page. Your profile also includes your bio, which is a 160-character description of you.
These are Tweets that are paid promotions or ads at the top of search results on Twitter. Promoted Tweets are targeted by keywords so they only appear at appropriate times.
All Twitter accounts are public by default. You can choose to protect your account so your Tweets will only be seen by approved followers and will not appear in Twitter Search. This is a great way for remote business teams to share information and keep in touch with each other when working together on projects.
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A Reply is a Tweet that is posted in reply to another user’s message. A Reply is usually posted by clicking the “reply” button next to their Tweet in your timeline. A Reply always begins with @username. If the @username is not the first word in the Tweet, it is considered a Mention.
RT or ReTweet
When you like someone’s Tweet, you can forward it to your Twitter followers by ReTweeting it. I like to add comments to my ReTweets to let people know why I’m Tweeting it. This can get tricky if the original Tweet is very long because of the 140-character limit. Sometimes you just have to ReTweet it without a comment. ReTweeting is like forwarding a funny joke someone emailed to you, or sharing a Facebook post you like.
Search or Twitter Search
The box in the top right corner of your Twitter homepage is the Twitter Search box. Twitter Search lets you search all public Tweets for keywords, usernames, hashtags, or subjects. Searches can also be performed at
. Twitter Search works just like any other search engine, but the results are limited to Twitter content.
A short code is the five-digit phone number used to send and receive Tweets via text message.
Stories on Twitter are found in the Discover tab. Think of Stories as expanded Trends. Stories are the Trends plus the links to the video, images, blogs, and web content mentioned in the Tweet.
Your Timeline is a real time list of Tweets from users you’re following on Twitter.
Every Tweet is time stamped, which can be found in gray text directly below any Tweet. The timestamp is also a link to that Tweet’s own URL.
Top Tweets are determined by a Twitter algorithm to be the most popular or resonant on Twitter at any given time. They are usually Tweets by people with the most followers or by people who Tweet often.
With over 150 million Twitter users Tweeting over 500 million Tweets a day, some topics become more popular than others. When a major earthquake hits Japan or a terrorist bomb explodes in the Middle East, thousands if not millions of people start Tweeting about the event. Usually they will add a hashtag to their Tweets so people can easily follow that topic. The Trends list on Twitter is a real-time summary of the most popular topics being Tweeted about at that moment.
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A Tweet refers to a single Twitter post or text message. Your Twitter homepage consists of your timeline, which is a history of all your Tweets and the Tweets of all the people you’re following.
An account holder on Twitter who posts and reads Tweets is a Tweeter; also known as a Twitterer.
An in-person networking event that’s promoted almost exclusively via Twitter is called a Tweetup. Tweetups have become very popular because you can quickly bring together a group of like-minded people who are following each other on Twitter. When you publicize the Tweetup on Twitter, the general public sees the invitation so you can attract new people to your networking groups with little effort.
When you want to stop following another Twitter user, you unfollow them. Their Tweets no longer show up in your home timeline.
URL shorteners are used to turn long URLs into shorter URLs. Shortening your URLs is important because you only have 140 characters available for your Tweets. Some URL shorteners include www.bit.ly, www/TinyURL.com, andwww.Ow.ly.
Your username is also known as your Twitter handle. Your username must be unique and contain fewer than 15 characters. It is also used to identify you on Twitter for replies and mentions.
A process whereby a user’s Twitter account is stamped to show that a legitimate source is authoring the account’s Tweets is a verification. It is sometimes used for accounts that have experienced identity confusion or to verify a celebrity’s real identity for their Twitter account.
Who to Follow
You’ll find Who to Follow in the Discover tab. You’ll see a few recommendations of accounts the Twitter algorithm thinks you’ll find interesting. The recommendations are based on the types of accounts you’re already following and who those people follow.
A widget is a bit of code that can be placed anywhere on the web. Widgets are very common in content management websites like WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla. A widget placed on your website or blog can automatically display your Twitter updates in real time.
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