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  1. 1. A TRUE BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO GETTING THE MOST OUT OF Twitter by Linden A. Mueller and Sarah J. Austin
  2. 2. Contents 4 The Tweet 5 Following 7 The @ Replies: Normal and Embedded 9 Direct Messages 9 Favorites 10 Retweets 11 Hashtags 12 Shortened URLs 13 Twitter Search 13 Automatically-tweeted Blog Posts 15 15 SMS and Mobile Platforms: Twitterfon 16 Dedicated web applications: HootSuite 17 Dedicated Desktop Applications: TweetDeck & Twhirl 18 Analyzing Your Twitter Profile 18 Managing and Interacting with People 19 Sharing Photographs 19 Staying Productive 20 Staying Informed 20 Sarah’s Essential People to Follow 20 Linden’s Essential People to Follow 21 Recommended Blogs & Articles
  3. 3. A True Beginner’s Guide to Getting the Most out of Twitter Thank You! After the positive feedback we received from our blog series, “A True Begin- ner’s Guide to Twitter,” we decided to put all of that information in one spot, so you can keep it to reference or pass along to other beginners on Twitter. This eBook, “A True Beginner’s Guide to Getting the Most Out of Twitter,” is a kit of Twitter definitions, tips, tools, and resources that will get you started on Twitter, whether you’re tweeting for yourself or your company or organiza- tion. And if you’re a Twitter veteran, well, we’ve got some handy tips for you, too. A quick word of thanks to Sarah’s husband Chris who graciously designed this document. We both love him (but not in the same way). Please check out his blog Esthetik, which features his commentary on design in everyday life, at or follow him on Twitter (@typografika). Another quick shout-out to Lorraine (@LorraR), a friend of Linden who has become a friend of Sarah and whose Twitter novice-ness was Linden’s inspi- ration for this project. And thanks to LifePoint Church (@lifepointozark), who got Sarah thinking about how Twitter can be used in ministry and who has been a Twitter guinea pig on this little journey. Thank you for downloading and reading our labor of love. Love for writing. Love for Twitter. And love for noobs. Certainly, if you have any questions, comments, or constructive criticism, we welcome them. Feel free to contact us on Twitter (@xgravity23, @sarahjoaustin), via email (lam@LindenAMueller. com,, or on our blogs (www.LindenAMueller. com/blog, Linden & Sarah 3
  4. 4. A True Beginner’s Guide to Getting the Most out of Twitter Introduction So you’ve heard about this Twitter thing and you want to join in, maybe start tweeting to connect with the members of your organization or with the read- ers of your blog. You’ve searched the web, but all of the guides you have found so far are aimed at niche users, users who have already mastered the basics. In this eBook, you will learn Twitter’s basic and advanced functions plus mul- tiple ways for tweeting on the Web, at your desk, and on the go. On top of that, you’ll get lots of recommended resources, so you can continue learning. Let’s get started! Basic Twitter Functions Twitter is simple, but we understand that everyone crawls before they walk, so this section explains the basic functions of Twitter and defines Twitter jar- gon. You’ll learn how to create a tweet, find and follow others, reply to other tweeple, send a direct message, and “favorite” important tweets. The Tweet This is the building block of Twitter, your 140-character message, sent out to the whole Twitterverse. What’s the point of a tweet? Well, it’s very much like the sta- tus in Facebook: a short summary of what you are doing now (an update) or a clever observation about the situation you find yourself in at this moment. As Twitter spread in popularity, many people starting tweeting links to im- ages or interesting articles, and we’ll tell you how you can do more with your 4
  5. 5. A True Beginner’s Guide to Getting the Most out of Twitter tweets in a later section. Many people have asked us, “What’s the difference between a tweet and a Facebook status?” And our best answer is Twitter is your Facebook status without the Facebook interface. Or it may be easier to think of Twitter as pub- lic instant messaging, a perpetual conversation with people all around the world because it also functions as a messenger, too. In fact, the way you use Twitter may be quite different than the way we do because so many third- party Twitter applications exist to make Twitter work for you. Following We suppose that if you like to make pithy statements to yourself about what you are doing, you don’t need to follow or be followed on Twitter, but we’re guess- ing that you’d like to use Twitter to interact with your friends and family, people around you geographically, celebrities, and news outlets, to name a few. At, navigate to an account page other than your own, and click the Follow button under their profile picture to begin following them. When you follow someone else, their updates will appear on your Twitter homepage (when you click on Home or Profile at and in your Twitter time- line. Unlike Facebook, following someone is not necessarily mutual, so you may add celebrities like @RainnWilson or bands like @Coldplay, but they will not necessarily follow you in return. Following and being followed is perhaps the most overwhelming part of get- ting started with Twitter. When you’re ready to start following others, click Find People at the top of your Twitter page. Twitter provides four ways to find 5
  6. 6. A True Beginner’s Guide to Getting the Most out of Twitter others to follow: • Find on Twitter. If you already have in mind the people you know who are on Twitter, you can search for them by username, first name, and last name. If you’re looking for someone specific, this is the best way to find them. • Find on other networks. If you’re brand new to Twitter, using your con- tact lists from Google, Yahoo!, AOL, Hotmail, or MSN is the fastest way to find people you know because Twitter pairs the email addresses in your accounts with existing Twitter accounts. • Invite by email. You can always share Twitter with someone you know by inviting them by email. Even if they choose not to sign up for a Twitter account, they can still follow you by texting ‘follow [username]’ to 40404 on their cell phones. • Suggested users. Unlike Facebook, Twitter’s list of suggested users are not necessarily people you know personally. More than likely, Twitter will suggest other users who are popular or important on Twitter. Once you’ve found a handful of people to follow, you’re on your way to a ro- bust Twitter account. If you’re still looking for people to follow, your best bet is to check out the profile pages of the users you know the best and study who they follow. Chances are they’ll know someone you know, too. 6
  7. 7. A True Beginner’s Guide to Getting the Most out of Twitter But a word of caution: Following too many people too fast (by the thousands) will raise a red flag to Twitter that you’re a spammer and increases the poten- tial that Twitter will suspend your account. And a note on who not to follow: More than likely someone will follow you that you don’t know, and that’s OK. It’s up to you to decide whether to follow them. If you don’t know them personally, it’s wise to check out their profile page. You’ll know they’re spammers by looking at their followers/following ratio; if they’re following hundreds or thousands of people but only a few hundred are following them, they’re probably spammers and following them is a waste of time. The @ Replies: Normal and Embedded You’ve read an interesting tweet and want to respond. What now? Simply begin your tweet with the at symbol, @, and the tweet’s author’s username, like this 7
  8. 8. A True Beginner’s Guide to Getting the Most out of Twitter From Twitter, you can also click the gray arrow that appears on the right of a tweet. A normal @ reply is your side of a public conversation. Your tweet will show up for that user when they click “home” on the Twitter home page, or if they click “@ Replies.” Normal @ replies are not private, but Twitter allows each user the ability to control whether or not they see @ replies that aren’t directed to them (change your settings by going to Settings > Notices > @ Replies). An embedded @ reply is a combination of a normal tweet and a normal @ reply. Unlike a normal @ reply, an embedded @ reply does not begin with @[username], but starts like a normal tweet: with text. Somewhere in the tweet, you will use @[username] to provide a link to that person’s Twitter stream, like this: Embedded @ replies serve two purposes: They share your current thoughts and they connect your followers to another tweeter who they might not be following yet. Unlike normal @ replies, followers cannot filter these tweets out by changing their settings, so you know that all of your followers will see these tweets. In March 2009, Twitter changed the way that @ replies are handled. Now, whether you mention someone by putting their @[username] at the begin- ning of the the tweet or embed it into your tweet, the tweet will show up when they click on @[username] on their profile page. They are now called Men- 8
  9. 9. A True Beginner’s Guide to Getting the Most out of Twitter tions, and it makes it much easier to carry on conversations with multiple people. Before Mentions, if you started your tweet with several usernames, only the first person would be notified in their @ reply tab. Now, everyone you direct a message to will know. In the rest of this eBook, we shall use the new term, Mentions. Direct Messages Direct Messages (DMs) are very easy to understand: They are private messag- es, readable only by the person you send it to. To send a DM, write simply start your tweet with the letter D followed by the receiver’s username. Favorites Found a tweet that you like and don’t want to lose track of? At, simply click the gray outline of a star that appears on the right-hand side of every tweet. It will be filled in with yellow, and the tweet will appear in your favorite list, accessible from your Twitter homepage, and more and more fre- quently, from within dedicated Twitter clients. Linden uses her favorites to keep track of tweets that are particularly witty or 9
  10. 10. A True Beginner’s Guide to Getting the Most out of Twitter astute. Sometimes, she uses them to mark a tweet that she wants to look at again later, maybe because it contains a link to something that she wants to read when she’s on her computer (and she’s viewing it from her iPod Touch). Both of us tend to comb through our favorites regularly and if a tweet has lost its zing, we’ll un-favorite it. Remember, favorites are public because anyone can view them by going to your profile and clicking on “favorites” in the right-hand menu. Advanced Twitter Functions Once you’ve been on Twitter for a day or two and you’ve nailed down the basic Twitter functions, you can move on to the advanced functions. “Advanced” is a little misleading because these functions are easy peasy; however, they are a little less essential than the very basics. Retweets A “retweet” (RT) is just like clicking “forward” in your email: When you come across an interesting tweet that you think your followers should read, copy the tweet, paste it into a new tweet, then add RT @[username] to the begin- ning of the tweet, like this. If you have room, you can add a comment between RT and the @[username] part of the tweet (just like in the image above), but because of the 140-charac- ter limitation, this is not always possible. Most Twitter applications now include a RT button that fills in everything for you, so all you have to do is click retweet and submit. This makes it super easy 10
  11. 11. A True Beginner’s Guide to Getting the Most out of Twitter to forward those tweets that catch your eye. Some people think that retweeting is spammy because it is completely un- original content. You might consider instead sharing why you like the tweet or link and using “(via @[username]) at the end to give credit to the original author instead. Don’t worry too much, though; retweeting seems to be the standard in the Twitterverse right now, so don’t retweet too often, weigh the two options, and go with whichever method suits you best. Hashtags If you’ve been observing the Twitterverse for any length of time, you might have noticed tweets containing the number symbol and a word, something like this: Many websites use these so-called “hashtags” to track what is “trending” (popular) on Twitter at the moment. Even though that example tweet doesn’t mention Lost at all, it is about the show and should be counted if you want to know what people are talking about on Twitter right now. In this way, hashtags are something like an email subject line: They tell your readers (and anyone analyzing tweets) what you are talking about in your tweet. They can be at the end of a tweet, like above, or embedded into the tweet, like below. No matter whether you embed your hashtag or put it at the end of the tweet, it will show up in a Twitter search or trending report. and Tagal. 11
  12. 12. A True Beginner’s Guide to Getting the Most out of Twitter us are two websites that track the use of hashtags on Twitter and are useful resources if you’re looking to use a hashtag but aren’t sure if it’s in use or how it’s being used. also allows you to define hashtags. One final note on hashtags: We recommend that the first time a hashtag is used, it should be defined with the hashtag #define. A tweet that defines each hashtag will help future users understand when the hashtag should be used. While lets you define hashtags, those definitions are not accessible through Twitter Search. If you use a #define hashtag, users searching tweets will find your definition. We recommend first defining in a tweet, then adding your tag and definition to for maximum impact. Shortened URLs Many interesting applications have sprouted because of Twitter, and URL shorteners are one of them because URLs are long and hog all of your limited characters before you’re able to explain why you’re sharing a particular link. URL shorteners take an original URL, smash it down to 15 or so characters, and provide a new URL. If you are using the site to post your sites, you will need to either install a bookmarklet, like the ones offered by Snipr or TinyURL, or visit their websites to shorten your URL. Most third-party apps include a URL shortener within their interfaces or a bookmarklet for your browser to make URL shortening easier. 12
  13. 13. A True Beginner’s Guide to Getting the Most out of Twitter Twitter Search Twitter has a built-in search that searches all tweets in the public timeline. At, you can do a simple search if you’re looking for a simple keyword, but if you want to narrow that search to a location, person, date, or many other limiters, use the advanced search tool. Once you have the results that you like, you can subscribe to those results via RSS to receive future up- dates that meet the same criteria. Automatically-tweeted Blog Posts One reason many people start tweeting is to advertise their blogs to a new readership. You can shorten your URL (see above) and type in your post title manually, or you can take advantage of the many services that will access your RSS feed, package your post title and a short summary (if you so choose), and tweet your blog posts on your behalf automatically. Twitterfeed is prob- ably the most popular site offering this service, but HootSuite does this too. 13
  14. 14. A True Beginner’s Guide to Getting the Most out of Twitter One word of warning: Some people might consider this spamming if you only send out tweets that promote your blog or website. Twitter does not exist pri- marily as an advertising medium but for community building, and as such, if you use it for only advertising, you will not win favor from the very people you are trying to attract to your brand. Besides, building community is the way to build success on the Internet. Twittering on the Web, at Your Desk, and On the Go The beauty of Twitter is its API (application programming interface) that al- lows third parties to rebundle Twitter’s information into other websites, desk- top programs, and mobile phone applications; therefore, it allows you to use Twitter as it best suits you and your online lifestyle. One characteristic of the Twitter API is that it requires you to enter your Twit- ter username and password on other sites that use the Twitter API. This means that Hootsuite, TwitPic, and all other Twitter-related websites will ask for your confidential information. Do not be alarmed. But do make sure you are log- ging in to a valid website. Linden usually waits several weeks before using the 14
  15. 15. A True Beginner’s Guide to Getting the Most out of Twitter newest Twitter fad website to make sure that it isn’t phishing for usernames and passwords, or asks @sarahjoaustin or @llcadle, two of her tweeple who are in the know about Twitter trends. Note: All of the instructions in the Basic Functions section work no matter what platform you use, although many platforms have streamlined the mention, retweet, and direct message functions. If you are connected to the internet, the most straight-forward way of tweeting is by going to, logging in, and publishing a tweet. It’s a no-frills interface, but it gets the job done. SMS and Mobile Platforms: Twitterfon You don’t have to be on a computer to tweet, and this is one of the things that makes Twitter so powerful. Even without a smartphone, you can tweet by sim- ply sending your tweet as an SMS message to 40404. You can send DMs and mentions and use hashtags just like normal. If you do happen to be using a smartphone, then you have several other options available to you, and while you could pay for Pro or Premium apps, there are via- ble free options, and Twitterfon is our favorite. Twitterfon’s no-nonsense interface is intuitive and has a short learning curve compared to other free options. This is, however, a highly subjective observation, so we recommend that you try all of the free options listed below and tweet with each one for a day or so. If you are like us, a clear personal favorite will present itself fairly quick. Other SMS and Mobile Platforms • Twitterific (Premium version available for $9.99) • Twittelator (Pro version available for $4.99) • Tweetie ($2.99) • Twitterberry (free) 15
  16. 16. A True Beginner’s Guide to Getting the Most out of Twitter Dedicated web applications: HootSuite You also don’t have to be on to tweet, which seems silly, right? You’d think that a company would want to keep its users on its own site. Nope. Twitter is very generous in sharing itself with other websites. Many of these websites improve upon Twitter’s basic format by allowing you to man- age multiple accounts, schedule tweets in advance, and add editors to your Twitter accounts without handing out passwords. Our favorite third-party website is As of this writing, it’s still in beta, but the developers are adding new features weekly. In addition to the bright interface, easy management of multiple Twitter accounts, and pre- scheduled tweeting, we especially like to see statistics on items we link to, the ability to add Google AdSense code to tweets, and funneling our blogs’ RSS feeds to our Twitter accounts. One major reason to choose HootSuite is for managing multiple Twitter ac- counts. If you got into this Twitter thing to help promote your business (web- 16
  17. 17. A True Beginner’s Guide to Getting the Most out of Twitter based or not), you will need a public Twitter account for that purpose, but you might consider using a personal account to get your bearings in Twitter. Go ahead a set up both accounts now and configure HootSuite to give you ac- cess to both. From this one interface, you can send tweets from both accounts without first logging out of one account to use the other. You can even, if nec- essary, post the same tweet to both accounts. Dedicated Desktop Applications: TweetDeck & Twhirl The last method of accessing Twitter is via a dedicated desktop program like TweetDeck or Twhirl. These two programs are free, and both provide basic Twit- ter functionality. In addition, they both use Adobe Air to keep memory usage to a minimum, and both display small on-screen notifications when a tweet arrives. Though they are similar in many ways, we like them for their differences. In particular, TweetDeck is useful for organizing tweets by columns. In each column, you may specify what tweets are shown: all friends, mentions, direct messages, favorites, etc. Additionally, you can use a Twitter Search within TweetDeck and assign results to their own column. For example, when Lin- den tweets about Lost, she can add a #lost column that imports all tweets from all users that include the #lost tag. This allows her to see what others think about the show, meet other tweeple with similar interests, and converse with them. Twhirl, on the other hand, is particularly useful for managing multiple Twitter ac- counts. Each account you add has its own window, and in each window you view the account’s Twitter feed live. Twhirl allows you to control what notifications appear on your screen, so you’re not overwhelmed by the tweets coming in. Sarah runs both programs simultaneously to manage her multiple Twitter accounts. She uses TweetDeck for her personal account and uses Twhirl to get updates on two other accounts she manages. So she’s not overwhelmed entirely by all those updates, she has set TweetDeck to update only every 15 minutes, and Twhirl only notifies her of mentions and DMs. 17
  18. 18. A True Beginner’s Guide to Getting the Most out of Twitter Other Twitter Tools & Resources We learn about new Twitter tools and resources every day, but there are so many, you can easily become overwhelmed. We’ve categorized them by func- tion and given them a brief description. We hope you’ll find them useful, too. Analyzing Your Twitter Profile • Mr. Tweet: Discover recommended tweeple based on your current connections. • TweetStats: Tells you when you tweet most, who you mention most, and your most-tweeted words. • Twitter Grader: Find out where you rank among all tweeple. • Twitalyzer: Measure your impact and success in social media. • Tag your Twitter profile with keywords so other like-mind- ed tweeple can follow you. Managing and Interacting with People • MyCleanr: Find out the people you are following who aren’t using Twitter any more. Tells you how long ago in years and days since they last tweeted and lets you delete right from their interface. • Tweepler: Sort through your new followers, view their last few tweets, and make an educated decision as to whether to follow them in return. • Tweeto’clock: Find out when it’s best to tweet someone to get a response. • Twimailer: Get more information directly in your inbox when someone fol- lows you. • Twitoria: Just like MyCleenr, find out the people you are following who aren’t using Twitter any more. Tells you the how long ago in days it was they last tweeted and displays their profile information. • Twitter Karma: Displays mutual Twitter relationships, tweeple you are fol- lowing but who haven’t reciprocated, and who follows you but you haven’t reciprocated 18
  19. 19. A True Beginner’s Guide to Getting the Most out of Twitter • Twitter User Classify: This Greasemonkey script puts a color-coded bar at the top of each Twitter profile to tell you that user’s following-to-follower ratio. Sharing Photographs While Twitter is a text-only medium, once again, its open programming plat- form allows the flexibility of tweeting photographs with tools like TwitPic. com. Simply login to TwitPic with your Twitter information; upload a photo; add some tags, a location, and a message; and click Post It. TwitPic will tweet a link to your photo and your message to your Twitter account. Staying Productive • Google Calendar: Add events to your Google Calendar from Twitter. • Package Tracker: Get near-instant DMs whenever your package from UPS, FedEx, USPS, DHL (and others) is updated. • Remember the Milk: Send items to your Remember the Milk to-do list straight from Twitter. • Timer: Set the timer to DM you at a specified time. 19
  20. 20. A True Beginner’s Guide to Getting the Most out of Twitter • TwitterSafe: Back up your followers just in case. In addition to the items listed above, the article “Live Inside Twitter and Still Stay Productive” from Mashable lists some other useful productivity tools. Staying Informed • Follow your Congress-tweeple or sign a petition to get them on Twitter. • CNN: Get top news stories from • NPR News: Get top news stories from National Public Radio. • TwitPoll: Poll other tweeple and get instant results. • Favotter: Stay on top of what other tweeple are calling their favorites. Sarah’s Essential People to Follow • @BabyDots: A personal friend with an Etsy store. Lots of links to her un- believably cute children’s clothes. • @ChurchTechie: Author of The Reason Your Church Must Twitter. Lots of new Twitter tools and resources, especially for ministry. • @Coldplay: Updates from the crew and band while they’re on tour and on the go. • @NBCOlympics: Busiest when Olympics are in progress but provides ath- lete news year-round. • @MowgliAustin and @handsomeRav: My cats. They’re full of snarky com- ments and requests for tuna. • @tweeples_guide: Shameless plugging. This is the account I use to share Twitter-related articles and tips. Linden’s Essential People to Follow • @HotDogsLadies: Random, snarky tidbits from the life of Merlin Mann • @OzarksRedCross: Shares info on upcoming events, training, and when nec- 20
  21. 21. A True Beginner’s Guide to Getting the Most out of Twitter essary, emergency information. Look for your own local Red Cross here. • @Rosso: Techie, photographer, cook, traveler, and writer. If you know me, it’s pretty obvious why I like her tweets from that description. • @MollyDotCom: Frequently hilarious posts from a CSS/Opera maven who loves her cats • @Problogger: Lots of links for bloggers and tweeters, plus interesting tweets about his life in Australia • @PenelopeTrunk: As far as I can tell, Trunk is the master of telling an en- tire story in those 140 characters. You can learn a lot about efficient tweet- ing from following her. Recommended Blogs & Articles • Twitter Fan Wiki • •’s Twitter Lists • 3 Things Twitter’s Been Doin’ For Me Lately (sja) • 3 Must-Have Twitter Tools for Multiple Account Management (sja) • Guest Post: How Twitter Made Me a Better Social Networker (sja via lam) • Why I Separated My Twitter Account: 3 Reasons to Consider (sja) • Twitter Nation? Give it a Whirl! (lam) • Hone Your Writing/Editing Skills: Another Reason to Give Twitter a Try (lam) • Twitter in the News: The Gettysburg Address, Twitpitches, and Twitstories (lam) • Twitter Saves (lam) 21
  22. 22. Creative Commons 2009 Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License