Twitter isn't exactly the most user-friendly social network to use.
People who aren't familiar with the symbols # and @ or even terminology like retweet and DM probably see Twitter as some sort of alien spawn they'll never understand. But it doesn't have to be that way. Believe it or not, Twitter was made to be incredibly simple. There's no crafting some elaborate profile or writing big, long statuses or liking tonnes of pages or any of that.
You simply create a profile, find a few people you want to follow, and start tweeting. We've explained everything you need to know, including the best tips to get you started and all the tricks that'll make you a pro.
What is Twitter?
Twitter is a public company/social network with about 310 million active users as of May 2016. The difference between Twitter and - let's say - Facebook is that instead of "friending" loved ones and acquaintances, you "follow" them or anyone else you want to see content from in your feed.
Also, instead of publishing long-winded statuses, you post 140-character messages called tweets.
What's the point of Twitter?
Think of Twitter as your RSS feed. You can follow news sites, celebrities, athletes, friends, etc, and their tweets will show up in your feed for you to read. It's like your personally-curated newspaper - only it's all happening in real-time. So, if you're watching a political debate, and you follow many political commentators, your feed will be flooded with news about the debate.
The best part about Twitter is that you can discover news and get the inside scoop as at it's happening, see events unfold across the world from the comfort of your home, and learn more about topics that are interesting to you.
How do you sign up?
- To create an account on the web, go directly to https://twitter.com/signup.
From there, enter your full name, phone number, and a password. Click Sign up for Twitter. You will need to verify your phone number via SMS text message. Once you've done that and clicked Sign up for Twitter, you can select a username (aka handle). You can type your own or choose a suggested one. From there, click Create my account.
How do you follow people?
To follow a person on Twitter, navigate to any user's profile (search for them using their actual name or handle), then click or tap the Follow button when you see it next to a user's profile photo or on a user's profile page. You can also click or tap the Follow button next to user search results or anywhere else you see the Follow button on the web.
What's all the lingo mean?
- Tweet: A 140-character message that can not only contain text but also photos, videos, and other forms of media. They are public by default and will show up your followers' Twitter feeds and searches unless they are sent from protected accounts (private accounts) or as Direct Messages. Tweets can also be embedded in webpages.
- Retweet: A tweet that is re-shared by another user to their followers. There are two kinds of retweets: the standard retweet and the quote tweet. Hover over a tweet and click the Retweet icon to instantly share it with your followers, or you can tap Quote Tweet and add a comment/your input to the original tweet when sharing it with your followers.
- Feed: When you log in to Twitter, you'll land on your home page. This is also called a feed or timeline. Your feed displays a stream of tweets from accounts you have chosen to follow on Twitter. You can reply, retweet, or like a tweet from within your feed.
- Hearts/likes: When you want to favourite a tweet or show interest in a tweet, you can tap or click the heart icon on it to "like" it.
- Handle: Handle is another way of saying username. Pocket-lint’s Twitter handle is @pocketlint and Twitter’s is @twitter, for instance.
- Mention: When composing a tweet or respond to a tweet, you can tag another user’s handle. This is called a mention. Mentions typically triggers a notification for that user. If you click on a mention, you will be brought to the mentioned user’s bio or profile.
- Direct Message: A direct message (DM) is a private Twitter message. Direct messages typically can only be sent to a Twitter user who is already following you, and you can only receive direct messages from users you follow. However, you can receive direct messages from anyone if you check the box next to Receive Direct Messages from anyone in your Security and privacy settings on twitter.com.
- Hashtag: The hashtag is any word or phrase preceded by the “#” sign. Hashtags are a simple way to make your tweet discoverable to people with shared interests. If you click or tap a hashtag, for instance, you will see all the public and recently published messages that also contain that hashtag. Hashtags first emerged on Twitter and are now used on almost every other social network.
- Moments: Moments is a hub on Twitter that you can find from the service's menu bar. Go there to access a expert-curated selection of the day's most interesting tweets and content.
Keyboard shortcuts can save you precious time. If you use Twitter on desktop, there are a number of shortcuts that will come in handy. For instance, tapping the “n” key will open up a compose box where you can write a new tweet.
The Tweet activity dashboard is a tool you can use to learn more about your tweets, including how people engage with your tweets in real time, how they trend over time, and other detailed insights about your audience. To get started, log in to analytics.twitter.com with your Twitter username and password to turn analytics on for your account.
Download your Twitter archive
You can download your Twitter profile as an archive. This allows you to browse your Twitter information, starting with your first tweet. To download and view your Twitter archive from a desktop, go to your account settings by clicking on the profile icon at the top right of the page and selecting Settings from the drop-down menu. From there, click Request your archive.
Twitter will send an email with a download link your email address. Once you receive the email, click the Go now button to log in to your Twitter account and download a .zip file of your Twitter archive. Unzip the file and click index.html to view it in any browser.
Advanced search is available from here. You can use it to conduct granular searches, making it easier to find a specific tweet.
There are several apps, plug-ins, and add-ons you can sign into, connect to your Twitter, and use to get access to helpful features that Twitter either doesn't directly offer or isn't good at offering. One such app is called Buffer. It lets you schedule tweets to go out at specific times of the day, which is handy if you don't want to annoy your followers with a blitz of links in 5 minutes.
Connect to third-party apps
A third-party app is a product developed by a company other than Twitter. You can give them access to your tweets and other Twitter data. Buffer, Seesmic, and Hootsuite are all third-party apps. You can learn more about how to connect to apps or revoke access to them from here.
Let's say you want to follow a tonne of political commentators but you only want to see their tweets during debates or at some other time. Instead of actually following them you can create a list. This handy feature is basically a curated group of Twitter accounts. You can create your own lists or subscribe to lists created by other users. Viewing a list timeline will only show tweets from the accounts on that list.
Mute instead of block
Mute is a great tool for ignoring harassers or annoying followers. It allows you to remove an account's tweets from your timeline without unfollowing or blocking that account. Muted accounts will not know that you’ve muted them. To mute someone from a Tweet, click More at the bottom of the Tweet and then click Mute. You can unmute someone at anytime, too.
Shopping on Twitter
You can buy products from certain sellers in your feed whenever you see a Buy button within the Tweet. But first, you need to add your credit card and shipping information to your profile. Just visit the Cards and Shipping tab within your Twitter settings.
Customise your profile
On your Twitter profile, you can add profile and header images, as well as information like your name, bio, location, birthday, and website. You can even change your profile's theme colour and pin a Tweet that other users will see when they visit your profile. To customise your profile, sign in to twitter.com or open your Twitter app (iOS or Android).
From there, go to your profile and select the Edit profile button. You can learn more about how to edit your information and theme from here.
Tweeting via text message
An alternative way of publishing a tweet - rather than posting through the desktop or mobile apps - is simply texting your tweet. If you add your mobile number to your Twitter account, you can tweet by sending a text message to a short or long code.
Accept DMs from anyone
You can receive Direct Messages from anyone - as long as check the box next to Receive Direct Messages from anyone in your Security and privacy settings on twitter.com. You can learn more about direct messages from here.
Two-step verification (or login verification) is an extra layer of security for your Twitter account. Instead of only entering a password to log in, you’ll also enter a code that is sent via text message to your mobile phone. To set it up go to the Security section under your Account in Settings. From there, drag the slider to turn on Login verification and tap confirm.
This FAQ page has more information about two-step verification.
TweetDeck is a free Twitter client that Twitter acquired. It's great for power users, as it lets you set up customised, auto-scrolling columns based around your feed, notifications, searches, trends and more. You can also access advanced searching and filtering tools in TweetDeck.