Twitter Basics

This morning there was a very upset “DJ” type person (more like a CD changer stuck in the 90’s), who got all upset when someone joined a conversation happening on his timeline.
It was clear that this “DJ” (who shall remain unnamed, as he tries to keep Fresh) didn’t understand the basic principles and workings of Twitter.
To make it easy (and I do apologise to said DJ for not including pictures), I am penning the basics of Twitter and how it works.
For the purpose of this post, we will use three people: @John, @Mary, @Andy (all fictional, of course, however, it is likely that these people do exist on Twitter)
John and Mary follow each other, Mary and Andy follow each other, and John follows Andy but Andy doesn’t follow John.

General Tweeting
Whatever John tweets can be seen by Mary and all of John’s other followers.
Whatever Mary tweets can be seen by John and Andy, and all of Mary’s other followers.
Whatever Andy tweets can be seen by Mary and John, and all of Andy’s other followers.
Because none of their accounts are set to protect the tweets, anyone on Twitter can go in and look at all their tweets.
When Andy mentions Mary by beginning the tweet with her handle, Mary will naturally see it, but only people who follow both Andy and Mary, like John, would see it. If you don’t follow Andy or Mary, you will not see the tweet.
If Andy mentions Mary by beginning the tweet with something other than her handle, then everyone following Andy will see it, regardless if they are following Mary or not.

Direct Messages (DM)
So you can see that nothing said on the general timeline is private. It is like talking out loud in public, The reason people tweet (well, one of them) is to air their opinions. If they do and someone joins the conversation, then don’t get upset, that is what you want, isn’t it?
If you don’t want someone to join the conversation, either ignore them, or move your conversation to a DM (Direct Message).
DMs are between two people, and no-one else can see it. If you want to DM someone they must be following you. So if John wants to DM Andy, he can’t, but Andy would be able to DM John, because John follows Andy.

Retweeting (RT)
If Andy tweets something, like a quote for example, only Andy’s followers would see it, and John wants to share it, he can retweet it, and then everyone following John will see Andy’s tweet.
Now there are different ways of retweeting (RT) something. If you don’t want to add a comment, you can just plainly retweet it. If you want to add a comment, there are two ways (preferred ways, but no-one is really laying the law down on this – it’s Twitter, not a formal forum) of doing it.
1. You can start with your comment, followed by “RT:”, then the original tweet with the person’s handle (I agree! RT: @Andy: @Mary is such a great person!
2. You can start with the quoted comment, and then add your bit at the end (“@Andy: @Mary is such a great person!” I agree!)
Personally I prefer the first method – it is neater and most Twitter clients/apps have it built-in like that. I have noticed that most RTs are done by people with BlackBerry clients. I guess it is because the (2?) clients available to BB users, and their limited user interfaces don’t allow you to see the conversation or thread. Well, it’s either that, or they are just RT’ing everything they reply to (please don’t do that, it is annoying)

Some other things you will see on Twitter:
Protected accounts: These users have chosen to protect their tweets. They have a little lock symbol on their profile, and if you want to follow them you have to request, and they then have to approve. Most Twitter clients/apps will also warn you if you try to RT a protected tweet.
Blocking: If, for whatever reason, you need to block someone, you just block them.
Hashtags: For certain subjects you add a hashtag (#). Like if I am talking about the TV show Fringe for instance, I would add a tag for it like #Fringe. Hashtags don’t work with spaces and other punctuation marks (except underscore _ ) – so if your tag has more than one word, just concatenate them #Thisishowwecongatenatethem
Muting: Some Twitter clients/apps allow you to mute users, other clients, and hashtags. So if someone is making noise on your timeline with excessive tweeting, you can mute them, and they won’t show up on your timeline any more. If you are lucky, and your Twitter client supports muting of hashtags, you can mute the tag (like #MUFC or #Idols). If you don’t want to see automatic tweets from say Daily Horoscopes, then you can choose to mute that “client”.
Echofon is a brilliant Twitter client/app for muting. You can mute clients, users, and hashtags with it.
Spam: Unfortunately Twitter has spam bots. A lot of spam bots. If your client supports them (they all should), then block them and report them as spam. DO NOT FOLLOW THE LINKS.
Bots: If you get followed by some bot (or someone which appears human, but isn’t) then I suggest you also block them. If you can see they spam, then report them for spam too. Ways to know they are not human? Well, I use this: If they follow a couple of people, have not tweeted anything, have some arb user name with a few numbers in it, and they have no-one or a handful of people following them, then they’re probably bots. Block them!
Strange DMs: If you get a DM along the lines of “I can’t believe he said this about you in his blog! [hyperlink]” DELETE THE DM! – it is a worm-type message, which will propagate itself to your other followers, and so on. Some even may tamper with your password/account settings, and you’ll get hacked. Delete these DMs without question or hesitation. My policy if I get this a couple of times from one user: unfollow them – then they won’t be able to DM you any more.
Images and photos: You can link and upload images in a tweet. You should be able to choose your image provider (Twitpic,, yFrog, etc.), or you can just use whatever you normally use and add the hyperlink to your tweet. (Remember that the general public must have access to the image you are sharing, or else they won’t see it) Linking something from your Facebook albums may not work if you set tight security.
Some Twittiquette (Twitter etiquette): Do not flood people’s timelines with garbage. You will get muted or unfollowed. Don’t get upset when people unfollow you – it is the nature of Twitter. It is not a popularity contest to see who gets the most followers. People follow who they want to follow, and whom they find entertaining. If you lose interest in someone, or they start annoying you, unfollow, and don’t be upset when that happens to you. It is how it is.

Some concepts and hashtags:
#FF is for Follow Friday. You add this to your tweet and mention someone to your followers, giving them a reason to follow the person. Don’t just stick #FF in a tweet and ramble off all the usernames you can fit into the remaining characters. That is stupid. Give your followers a reason to follow someone (@Andy: #FF Everyone should follow @Mary. She is really funny.)
#HHD or #HD is for Happy Hump Day, or Hump Day. Contrary to popular belief this is not about humping or anything sexual. Hump Day is Wednesday, which is the hump of the week, and Thursday and Friday are the downhill to the weekend.
#ThatAwkwardMoment is really annoying (to me, anyways). Most of the time the moment mentioned isn’t awkward, but just shows the daily intellectual challenges faced by the person tweeting it. Don’t use it, unless you are still in high school.

Well, those are the basics I could think of right now. There are some great Twitter clients available for iOS and Android devices, as well as for PC and Mac. I prefer to use either Tweetdeck on my PC, and Echofon on my iOS devices. I would highly recommend Echofon to iOS users. It is simple, elegant, and has all the features you need (like the important muting as mentioned earlier). BlackBerry users, sorry for you :p
Other services which integrate really well with Twitter are WordPress (this blog post will be automatically tweeted when I publish it), and Instagram. Instagram is a great photo publishing app for iOS devices, and can also be set to automatically tweet your newly uploaded photo. (it can also integrate with Facebook). Android users apparently are desperately looking for an Instagram version for Android. Hopefully the Instagram developers will help them out 🙂
be set to


5 responses to “Twitter Basics

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