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The Beginner's Guide To Twitter

New to Twitter and want to know what the hype is all about?

More than simply a social media site for connecting with friends, Twitter has become the world's largest public forum, becoming a worldwide source for breaking news and allowing the everyday person to connect with celebrities and high profile spokespeople. Whether you want to keep up to date on the latest headlines surrounding your favourite interests or promote a cause/business/personal project, Twitter can be the perfect tool for doing this.

In the beginning, using Twitter may seem daunting - especially with all its complex terms like 'hashtags' and 'retweets' and 'moments' (all of which will be explained later on in this guide). The site is however remarkably simple once you get to grips with it.

How To Set Up An Account

Creating an account on Twitter is easy. When signing up you'll need to come up with a username (also known as a @name). This should ideally be your full name so that people can easily find you - if it's not available consider using initials or adding numbers to the end (for example, @JoeBloggs123).

You'll want to then add a profile picture and a header image. It helps to make your profile more personal by using a photo of you as your profile picture, although your header image can be anything you want. Make sure that images aren't too stretched or pixelated to give your Twitter page that extra impact.

You then have a bio to fill in. It's only 160 characters (Twitter's whole premises is about being short and snappy), so think of something that will grab people straight away.
There's also a space to add a website link. This could be a personal blog, a business website, a Facebook page or a LinkedIn Profile - anything that gives more information about you.

Hey presto! You now have an account. Now you can start creating posts, following other users and getting other users to follow you.



What Are Followers?

Twitter works by following other users and having other users follow you. When you follow someone, every Tweet they post will appear on your wall. You can find other users by searching their name in the search bar in the top right hand corner.

If you're hoping to follow a famous figure or important businessman, look out for a tick symbol next to their name as you search them. This means that that their account is 'verified' and that they are the real person (there are lots of fake accounts dedicated to celebrities, but these won't have a verified tick next to them). Only people of certain status can get verified.

You'll want people to follow your account so that every Tweet you post gets read. Try first getting all your friends to follow you on Twitter. Interacting with other Twitter users (more of this later on) and generating lots of Tweets will also get you more followers. Gaining lots of Twitter followers isn't easy, but that's much of the appeal - it becomes a challenge that spurs you to create more interesting Tweets and to interact with other users.

It's possible to change your privacy settings so that you only share Tweets with certain people. This defeats much of the point of Twitter - it's a site for connecting with strangers rather than friends like Facebook. That said, you may need to protect your identity for work or other reason but still have a use for Twitter, in which case you can click on 'Settings and Privacy' under the profile tab in the top right hand corner (the profile image between the search bar and the 'Tweet' button). Here you can set various parameters such as only allowing your followers to view your Tweets, blocking users or limiting Twitter data.

Under this 'Settings and Privacy' section, you can also alter the way you receive notifications. For example, if you don't want your phone buzzing every time your Tweet gets a like or if you don't want to receive emails of every person that follows your account, you can turn off these notifications here.

There's also the option to limit certain content you see. Twitter automatically hides sensitive content for example, which you can choose to turn off.

Writing A Tweet

Hitting the 'Tweet' button allows you to write a Tweet. This can obviously be anything you desire - although must meet a maximum of 140 characters. Tweets can contain images, videos and GIFs, although these all take up character space. You can also mention other users and add hashtags, which leads onto the next important question.

What Is A Hashtag?

One of the most iconic features of Twitter is the hashtag. This is done by putting the '#' symbol before a word. A hashtag has to be a single word, although that can be multiple words joined together e.g. '#NewMusicFriday'.

Hashtags simply notify others of a topic, making your tweets easier to find for those interested in such a topic. They could help provide context to a tweet e.g. 'Got my costume ready #Halloween' or 'at the launch party #iphone7'. They could alternatively be incorporated into the Tweet e.g. '#Dunkirk was an incredible movie'.

If a hashtag gets regularly used multiple times by lots of people, it usually becomes a 'trending' topic, which you will see highlighted in the box to the left below your profile. By keeping an eye on trending hashtags, you can often get an idea of the biggest world news topics and the subjects that most people are interested in at that moment.

Replies, Likes And Retweets

When other people tweets things, you can react to their tweet in one of three ways. You can publicly 'reply' to their Tweet to start a conversation with them. You can simply show your appreciation for the Tweet by hitting the 'like' button, which is displayed as a heart symbol. Alternatively, you can 'retweet' their post - this is essentially sharing a user's post with all of your followers.

Generally a successful tweet is one that encourages lots of likes, replies and retweets, perhaps even resulting in new users following your account.

Mentions

Occasionally you may want to get the attention of another user on Twitter with your Tweet. You can do this by containing their username within the Tweet e.g. '@JoeBloggs123 what do you think of this video?'. The username can be placed anywhere within the Tweet, but must have the '@' sign placed before it.

When you mention someone, that person will be alerted. They may then choose to reply, to like your tweet or retweet it. Be aware that certain high profile Twitter users may be constantly being mentioned by other users and so may not be able to reply to your Tweet - if they do, feel privileged.

You will similarly be alerted if someone mentions you within a Tweet.

Direct Messages

Mentions are public conversation starters, which means any other user in the world can get involved. If you want to have a private conversation with a user, you can instead use the 'Direct message' feature. This can be done by clicking on the envelop icon labelled 'messages' in the top left corner, to the right of your 'notifications'.

In most cases, both users will need to be following one another in order to direct message each other. There is an option in 'Privacy and Settings' in which you can allow strangers to direct message you, but generally you should keep this to followers only.

Pinning Tweets

You can decide to pin one of your own Tweets. This pinned Tweet will then be displayed permanently at the top of your wall, so that it is the first Tweet people see when they click on your profile. This could be done as a means of promotion - for example, a tweet about a new product of yours or your latest album. Alternatively, it could be a popular Tweet of yours that was well received.

To pin a Tweet, click on the downward arrow symbol on the top right hand corner of your chosen Tweet. This will cause a drop down box to appear - you will then see the option 'Pin to your profile page'.

GIFs, Images And Videos

When writing a Tweet, you have the option to contain other bits of media such as images, GIFs and videos. These are displayed as small symbols in the bottom left hand corner of the 'Compose new Tweet' box.

Images and videos can be selected from your personal library, whilst GIFs can be selected from an open library provided by Twitter. These are all great for making your post more engaging.

You will also notice a bar chart symbol on the bottom of the 'Compose new Tweet' box - this allows you to create a poll. A poll allows other users to vote and is a great way of encouraging interaction.

You may also see another symbol which sets a 'location marker' on your Tweet. To allow this you must go into your 'Privacy and Settings' - this will notify your follows of where you have posted your Tweet from.

What Are Moments?

One of Twitter's newest features is 'moments'. You can access these by clicking on the lightning symbol between 'home' and 'notifications'. Moments are essentially news stories provided by other users. They compile Tweets related to a theme, creating a news story out of them. Twitter automatically provides moments for you that it thinks suits your interests. The site gets this information by analysing the users you follow and the Tweets that you like.

You can also create your own moment within this section. You can choose the title and images within it and the Tweets that you'd like to feature within your moment.



Using Twitter For Business

Twitter isn't just used for personal use and many businesses are realising its potential as a great marketing tool. If you own a business, it could be worth setting up a Twitter page for your company. All of the rules from above still apply - you'll probably want to use a logo instead a photo though and you'll obviously want to keep a more professional tone.

There's an option on Twitter to promote Tweets, giving them more exposure by targeting them directly on strangers' Twitter feeds. This involves paying a bit of money - your promoted Tweet will run for a certain amount of time depending on your budget. You have the option to set the target location of your Tweet, which could allow you to advertise a local business more effectively.

Similarly you can also create ads for Twitter. Like promoted posts, these will be visible for a certain period depending on your budget.

Twitter Tips And Tricks

In order to get the best reaction out of your Tweets, there are various tips and tricks that you can use. Try not to make your Tweets mundane (no Tweets about eating cereal or having a bath - who wants to read that?). The more funny or exciting they are, the more reactions you'll get. Hashtags, images, videos, GIFs, polls and other features can also make your Tweets stand out.

You should try to Tweet frequently. If you don't Tweet for a while, people may lose interest in your account and unfollow you. However, you should also try to make your Tweets meaningful. By giving your opinions on local news, you can stay current and be someone worth following.

Interact with other people as this will help you to gain the recognition of others. Retweet other people's content, but don't allow your Twitter wall to be entirely made up of retweets and none of your own content.

Remember to promote your Twitter account in other places to. This could include letting your Facebook friends know you're on Twitter, putting a link to your Twitter account on LinkedIn or even adding a plug in to a website or blog you own so that visitors can immediately follow you on Twitter. You can even put a link to your Twitter account in your email signature when contacting people.