Twitter 101 – The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide

I’ve had a long love affair with Twitter – it is my favourite social, and professional, networking tool. This is guide I wrote for work colleagues to help them get started with Twitter. I hope you find it of some value too.



What is Twitter?

Twitter is a micro-blogging tool and social networking platform that allows user to share small, bite-sized bits of information (140 characters or less).

Why would you use Twitter?

Twitter has no fixed structure or purpose beyond communicating information – it is what you make it. Because of this you can use Twitter for a myriad of different things including:

  • Gaining access to real-time news from around the world
  • Creating and sharing content and links
  • Networking with other people in your profession or industry
  • Using it to build a personal brand and promote your work
  • Following, and interacting with, your favourite celebrities, brands, artists, journalists, politicians (anyone in the public eye)
  • Keeping in touch with friends and family
  • Meeting new people – it is common for Twitter relationships to move into real life (yes, I can prove it!)
  • Conducting research, identifying trends and understanding public opinion
  • Complaining about, or accessing, customer service

Or anything else you can think of!

How is Twitter different from Facebook?

Twitter is quite different to Facebook – here are some reasons why:

  • Facebook is mainly about interacting with your existing social circle and people you know – Twitter is more about interacting with strangers who share common interests
  • Facebook content has a longer lifespan – Twitter content is in real-time and drops off quickly (most interactions are recorded within the first hour after a tweet is posted)
  • Facebook content is more likely to include personal updates (pictures of kids, pets, trips) – Twitter focuses on news and content that is timely and relevant (commentary, opinion)
  • Facebook has more overt advertising – for now, Twitter relies less on advertising and more on endorsement and word of mouth
  • Most people tend to set their Facebook to ‘private’ – Twitter is mostly ‘public’
  • Facebook’s pace tends to be fairly slow (people spend more time and post less) – Twitter is much faster (people spend less time on it but post more)

Set up and Profiles


  • Your twitter handle is your profile/ address on Twitter – it is always prefaced with the ‘@’ symbol – for example @Beyonce, @KimKardashian.
  • The URL for your account becomes this – for example
  • You can also have a name which accompanies your handle – for example ‘@spokenli’ is my handle but I go by the name ‘Anika’ on twitter
  • Because popular names/ handles can be in short supply, or to protect anonymity, many users choose to use an alias on Twitter – I chose @spokenli because my firstnamesurname is long and @anika was taken
  • If you want to interact directly with people on Twitter you need to use their handle (with @ symbol) otherwise they won’t see your tweet


  • Twitter allows you to use both a profile picture (referred to as an ‘avi’ – short for avatar) and background image. You should upload this as soon as you start otherwise you will default to the twitter ‘egg’ which is commonly associated with spam accounts.

    Don't be an egg
    Don’t be an egg


  • Your bio is a couple of lines about you – if you are setting up a twitter account a bio helps you be seen as legitimate and not spam. This is mine at time of writing (I do change it periodically):



The blue tick

  • The blue tick means you have been verified by twitter – this is helpful given large number of parody accounts that exist.  For example Lady Gaga official (above) versus Fan – non-official (below):
Official (above) v Non-Official (below)
Official (above) v Non-Official (below)

Tips for setting up your Twitter profile like a pro

  1. Set up a proper profile with photo otherwise you may be mistaken for a bot and reported as spam
  2. List your interests in your bio – search for others with similar interests to follow (even if this is just that you both live in Adelaide!)
  3. Spend some time watching how seasoned twitter users operate – this is the best way to learn

Your Twitter Community


  • The twitter community revolves around followers – you follow people, people follow you.
  • Followers are different to the concept of ‘friends’ on Facebook because a ‘follow’ isn’t automatically reciprocated – follows are often random strangers, there is no obligation to follow back – who you follow is completely up to you.
  • Someone who follows you will see all your tweets unless you are speaking directly to someone (using someone’s @handle at the start of your tweet) – you will see all the tweets of the people you follow

Everyone else

  • As long as someone’s twitter profile is set to public you can still view their recent tweets – twitter provides a search function to look up names – you can also use hashtags to find people of interest.
  • You can interact with anyone on Twitter at any time – you don’t need to follow them to do this.


  • If your account is public anyone can follow you. However, if someone is harassing you there is an option to ‘block’ a user – this means they cannot interact with you and you will not see any tweets (including retweets) of theirs in your timeline.
  • You can also report them as spam.

 Tips for getting the most out of your Twitter Community

  1. The more people you follow the more will generally follow you back – generally you’ll pick up 1 follower for every three people you follow first (and twitter is better with more people)
  2. Don’t automatically follow everyone – be discerning otherwise your timeline may get cluttered with spam – check previous tweets and profile before you click yes.
  3. Don’t worry if people unfollow you – Twitter is in constant flux and many of these are just spam bots seeking to increase their own followers
  4. Building followers takes time and effort – best tips to do it quickly are to engage often, provide regular, interesting content and follow other people back.

Ways to interact

NB. Descriptions here are based on use of the native twitter smartphone app (other platforms work in slightly different ways)


  • Tweets must be 140 characters or less (this includes spaces)
  • Tweets can include links to websites or images (which are converted to URLs)


The twitter community revolves around followers – you follow people, people follow you.

  • Followers are different to the concept of ‘friends’ on Facebook because a ‘follow’ isn’t automatically reciprocated – follows are often random strangers, there is no obligation to follow back – who you follow is completely up to you.
  • Someone who follows you will see all your tweets unless you are speaking directly to someone (using someone’s @handle at the start of your tweet) – you will see all the tweets of the people you follow

Retweets/ RTs

  • This is the simplest way to interact on Twitter – it is the process of sharing (reposting) someone else’s tweet with your followers.
  • You can retweet the whole tweet or retweet as a quote and add your own comment.
  • For example, hover over the arrow button on the tweet below – it gives the option to retweet if you want.



  • When you use someone’s @handle you are ‘mentioning’ them on twitter – this is the method for communicating directly with a twitter user – below is a reply (mention ) to Beyonce’s tweet above.

A fan replies to Beyonce's tweet


  • Mentions appear in your notifications tab – this is mine



  • When you use someone’s handle at the start of your tweet only that person and anyone else who follows both of you will see the tweet in their timeline. Followers who don’t follow both will not see the tweet – in this way conversations between twitter users don’t clog up timelines.


  • If you want to speak to someone but also do want everyone else to see it, you need a character before the ‘@’ symbol For example:


This tweet would be seen by everyone (because it starts with a full stop)

.@spokenli has joined twitter, say hello!

This tweet would only be seen by those users who follow both the person producing the tweet and spoken (because it starts with @)

@spokenli has joined twitter, say hello!


  • You can also ‘like’ a tweet by clicking the favourite button (star) – this will send a notification to the tweeter and also saves it in your favourites file. Favouriting is also a good way to save tweets or links to read later.

Direct Message/ DMs

  • If you want your conversation to be completely private you can ‘direct message’ someone on Twitter if you are both following each other. Direct messages will appear in your message tab.
Direct messages - Twitter
Direct messages – Twitter

Hashtags/ #

  • Hashtags collate information on a topic into one stream.
  • You can search hashtags or click on them to view everyone tweeting on this topic.
  • Hashtags are a popular way to drive conversation and engagement around an issue and to make tweets easily searchable.
The Twitter hashtag
The Twitter hashtag


Tips for being a top tweeter

  1. The best tweeters include a mix of: content they share (both information they have sourced and RTs), interesting observations/ ideas they have come up with, images, interactions with their followers and contributions to hashtag conversations – relying too much on one of these may annoy your followers – mix it up!
  2. Don’t use too many hashtags – 1 or 2 per tweet is the convention.
  3. Don’t DM without reason – people hate spam.
  4. A retweet is generally viewed as an endorsement unless you explicitly specify it isn’t – be wary of what you retweet and check it is from a legitimate source first.

    Ok, but how should I start?

After I signed up to Twitter it took me about a year to take it seriously. I’ve since signed up a number of friends and colleagues who are now committed tweeters just like. Here are some ways to ease in:

Follow a hashtag (perhaps your favourite TV show or sporting event) – good ones to start with with include:

  • Your country or city (in my case #Adelaide and #Australia)
  • #QandA – Q & A on ABC TV has probably the most active twitter conversation around any TV show and is worthwhile playing with to get you head around how twitter operates
  • #Aleague, #AFL, #Ashes (if you like sport – look out also for game specific hashtags – e.g. #ADLvCCM (Adelaide vs Central Coast Mariners))
  • Interact with people who share common interests – for example, if you enjoy photography search for people tweeting about ‘#photography’
  • Follow your favourite celebrity, journalist or organisation – ask them a question, retweet something you agree with, look at what other people are saying about them.

Tips for getting started on Twitter

  1. Be prepared to play – most people don’t ‘get’ twitter first time – give it time
  2. Twitter only really makes sense when you start interacting with people – the best way to start is to find someone similar to you and give it a go
  3. Unlike Facebook, unsolicited interactions on Twitter are the norm – you don’t have to know someone to tweet, favourite or mention them (and they won’t think you are strange for doing so)


Phew. That was exhausting, but in case you are interested in reading some more here are some really cool links:

The 46 stages of Twitter (this is the best (funny) list of what a typical twitter newbie goes through – as I said above, stick with it, give it some time and it will eventually click)

Twitter terminology (the Twitter dictionary by Twitter)

Twitter for beginners – basic guidelines before you start (a great list of basic conventions)

What do you use twitter for? (A great list of responses to a question The Guardian UK posed to its readers – the responses are incredibly varied)

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