Twitter: 10 Step Beginners Guide

May 20, 2011 View Comments by Steve

Sign up

Just head on over to and hit the Sign up button. You only have 15 characters for your username, and try and make easy to remember, avoiding using numbers if possible.

Start following

After the first signup page you will get an interests page. Use the search box to search for people, businesses or topics you want to follow. Once you follow these people you will a get a flow of tweets from these people which can acts very much as an interactive news feed. The example below shows me looking for events in Manchester. Having found someone I want to follow I just click the plus button. You can import your contacts from LinkedIn, Gmail or Hotmail too and Twitter will look for users with the corresponding email addresses and allow you to follow them. If your contacts are locked away in Outlook or another desktop address book you can export them to a free Gmail account and then import to Twitter from there. If this last step is too much hassle don’t bother you’ll soon find the people you want to follow anyway.

Setup your profile

Find a digital photo of yourself crop it square in a photo editing tool on your computer or a free online service like Picnik. Upload the photo of yourself in GIF, PNG or JPEG format. In just 1 or 2 sentences briefly describe who you are. If you have a blog or other web presence you might want to add it as a link to your profile. You can also add a background image to your account although this is usually just used by businesses to add extra brand awareness. Also make sure your timezone is correctly set in the settings page. I also like to check the box “Add a location to your tweets” which means you notify people where you are when you tweet. I think this just adds an extra richness to the experience.

Setup your phone

Twitter’s simplicity really comes into its own when your on the move. If you have a smartphone then install the twitter for iPhone, twitter for Android, twitter for Blackberry or twitter for Windows Phone 7apps. They make sharing tweets, photos and links really easy. If you haven’t got a nifty phone that works directly with twitter then no problem twitter was designed to work completely with text messages too. The initial reason for the 140 characters or less restriction on tweets was because that was the maximum size of a standard text message (SMS). Twitter was designed for use with mobile phones from the very beginning. In your settings area you can add a mobile phone number which hooks up your phone to your twitter account and means you can tweet, get direct messages and even follow people just by using text messages.

Learn some basic tweet commands

  • RetweetA little like email forwarding if you like a tweet you read then just click the retweet link at the bottom of the tweet and all of your followers will see this tweet which will be attributed to the original author rather than you, but they will be able to see that you retweeted it. You will also see retweets sometimes formatted like this RT @orig_tweeter_name: Their original tweet
  • Reply If a user called johnsmith34 has tweeted something you want to respond to then your response would be something like @johnsmith34 Yes please. This response is visible to everybody who looks at your feed directly but it won’t appear in their feed unless they are the user johnsmith34. So its a message directed at johnsmith34 but is still visible to everyone via your twitter home page. If you want to reply but make sure all your followers see it then just start the tweet with a full stop (or any character other than the @) e.g. .@johnsmith34 Thanks for the help, your awesome. So this looks very much like a reply but you are also making a point of broadcasting it to your followers.
  • MentionIf someone gives you a “mention” then it means that somewhere in a tweet they have put your twitter name e.g. Loving the cool designs from @cooldesign right now.
  • Direct message (DM) If you want to send a private message to a user through twitter you can do this easily too by putting a d at the beginning of the message for example d johnsmith34 Don’t forget the milk. Notice no @ this time but a space after the lowercase d. This message can only be seen by johnsmith34.
  • Hashtags If you are joining in with a conversation about a particular a particular topic then people tend to use a hashtag which is a # sign followed by a word or words with spaces removed e.g. #bbcapprentice. This makes it easy for everyone on Twitter interested in what people are saying on a particular topic, in this case The Apprentice TV show to read and interact in the conversation. So just add this tag anywhere in your tweet and it will be picked up, for instance Lord Sugar is looking very dapper tonight #bbcapprentice. Twitters own search doesn’t refresh automatically right now so if you want automatic updating try Tweetdeck, Monitter or Tweetcanal.

Learn what to say and how to say it

Although originally twitter was all about saying what you are doing right now that isn’t really the way its turned out. The most useful and engaging content on twitter tends to be news, quotes, opinion, links to interesting web pages and links to interesting photos and videos. If you’re tweeting a link then copy and paste the link address into a link shortening service like first. If you do this a lot then make it even easier with the sidebar If you want to tweet images then use a website like where you can easily upload images and tweet about them. Better still if you have a smart phone get a twitter app so you can take photos and tweet them in a couple of simple steps.

Learn a little twitter lingo

Be yourself, be friendly and positive, keep your tweets clear and concise. Instead of hard selling products, service or content just be engaging and helpful people will respect this and then you’re more likely to build the relationship you’re after. Retweet the tweets you like rather than copying their content and making them your own, it’s only fair and acknowledging peoples good tweets will help you make new connections. Also there are a few hashtags and keywords you will see that are worth understanding. Don’t worry you’ll soon get the hang of the lingo and its fun learning.

  • #ff or #followfriday This has become a twitter tradition. You can recommend some people that you follow to your followers and as the name suggests its something people tend to do on Fridays!. Here’s an example follow friday tweet #ff @garyev23 @treygrey00 These guys no there stuff on career development
  • OH: The means overheard and is usually followed by a quote that the tweeter overheard. OH: Is diet coke good for you?
  • RT: This means retweet, which means passing on someone else’s tweet to your followers. See step 5 for more details.
  • #inFor people with a LinkedIn account connected to their twitter feed this causes the tweet to be pulled in as their LinkedIn status. Ignore this unless your interested in connecting up to a LinkedIn account. If you want to connect them just head over to your linked in profile and add your twitter username.
  • #fbYou can use your tweets as your Facebook status updates. Our favourite Facebook app for this is Selective Tweets which will only update your Facebook status if you add #fb to the end of your tweet.

Don’t forget its almost all public

Twitter isn’t like many other social networks like Facebook or LinkedIn where you control your network by making sure both parties agree to the connection. By default everyone in the world with an internet connection can see your tweets not just your followers. There are 2 exceptions to this. Firstly if you send a DM to a follower and secondly you can choose to protect your tweets in the account settings area which means only people you allow can see your tweets. This is not really what Twitter was designed for and isn’t used widely. If your not sure whether you should share the information your about to tweet then don’t.

Make new connection

If you want to meet people through twitter then just use the search feature to find the people with similar interests. If you have a twitter mobile app it may well let you search for people or tweets nearby too. Once you’ve found them follow and interact by helping them out where possible. There is also the opportunity to meet up in person with tweetups. These are events that can be organized by anyone and involve meeting up with twitter users in real life usually for a drink or a bite to eat.

Try out some 3rd party tools

Now you’re a twitter expert you may want to try some software tools to make your twitter life more fun and productive. Twitter’s short messages really comes into its own when you’re on the move. To help out there’s Twitter for iPhone, Twitter for Android and Twitter for Windows Phone 7. There are also great desktop apps Tweetie is our favourite for Mac and Tweetdeck Desktop is another great Windows & Mac client. If you want to use twitter as a business marketing tool then try the powerful Hootsuite our favourite social networking business tool that includes analytics, multiple account support and Facebook support.

Enjoy twitter, have fun with it, learn lots, and meet interesting people. Don’t worry if it doesn’t all make sense right away, just signup start following and you’ll soon pick it up from the way other people do things. There’s plenty of time to get good at it. I guess its a bit like learning a new game or sport. Have I missed any important tips here? Did this help you get going on twitter? Let us know in the comments below.


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