Posted by: miilee | June 9, 2010

Understanding and Using Twitter

(I am breaking away from my chain posts in the Nomadic Monologues section about my recent trip to Ladakh with this, totally out of context post on Twitter. Realized that I have several family members and close friends who have twitter accounts but since they don’t know how to operate it, are in a state of virtual coma in our Tweetville. So here’s a Dummy’s Guide to Twitter!)

Ok, So you’ve gotten yourself a Twitter account, huh? Well, that’s as good a place to begin as any! (And in case you don’t have one, I’d recommend you get yourself one before reading the rest of this rambling post, cause it won’t be useful if you don’t have that account! )

Now a few things about Twitter. Imagine that is some sort of a huge club. It’s colossal and there are all sorts of people in there; like it’s a large, international, free for all party in progress.  Now when you enter this party, your handle (your name on twitter) is the name which people will use to contact you or converse with you. So now a few things:

1. Tweets:

When you have something to say; to share, you must frame it in 140 characters (since that is the limit that twitter has set for its users. )  type it out in the space right at the top of your page and then post it, or ‘tweet’ it. This is the space you’ll be using for that:

That's where you type your tweet

Once you do this, anyone who follows you, will see this on their timeline. (I’ll explaining “following” and “followers” in a little while) A Timeline is the real-time stream of tweets that you see on your home page. You’ll see the tweets of anyone whom you are following (yeah… yeah.. I’ll explain the “following” in a bit!)

In a Tweet:

Well, this may sound a little impossible but there are elements to a tweet. (Serious! even within those 140 characters!) You can understand these:

1. Hashtags (#): A Hashtag or ‘#’ is used popularly to define your topic of talk. There are several popular topics being ‘#’ (tagged) everyday and the ones that are trending the whole network appear in the “Trending topics” that you can see in the lower right column of your page:

Thats the list of trending topics

What’s special about the ‘#’ is that when you use it in a tweet, the word that it is attached with, becomes a link and on clicking it, you get a search result of all the other tweets that are using the same tag.

Eg:  you tweet: I just love #ABBA Songs!! They rock!!

Now, the ‘#ABBA’ has become a link and when you click on it, it will give a real-time search result of anyone else who’s used #ABBA in their tweet.

A note here; Though the tags are not case-sensitive (i.e. #ABBA and #Abba or #abba will all qualify as the same)  they are character sensitive. so if you want to tag ‘Bob Dylan’ it will have to be #BobDylan and not #Bob Dylan because in the latter case, only ‘Bob’ will become the tag.

some commonly used tags:

#NowPlaying or #CLT (Currently Listening To) is a tag when someone wants to share what music they’re listening to or movie they’re seeing.

#Having is used to share what the person is eating.

#Fail #Epic #Win etc are tags to indicate the positive or negative tone of the tweet or even to express a sentiment. Eg: “Went to see ‘Houseful’ today. what a waste of time! #Fail!! “

#FF or #FollowFriday is a popular tag used on Fridays when users recommend other users to be followed. You’ll understand these tags as you start tweeting regularly.

Beyond these there are thousands of tags that people use, generally something contextual or something from current issues etc… You can start your own tags. Eg when I am fooling around with my friends and we’re being overly dramatic, we use the #Nautanki tag. (‘Nautanki’ in Hindi refers to melodrama)

2. Mentions (@) : Like I said, Twitter is an ongoing party and when in that party, someone needs to talk to you, call out to you or drag you into a conversation, they ‘Mention’ you in their tweets. To do this, they will add a ‘@’ before your twitter handle (your name, remember?)  without a space and use that in their tweet. So how do you figure out if someone has mentioned you in their tweet? Simple. On that right had column of your twitter page, you’ll see something like this:

The elements on your twitter page

Under the ‘home’ tab, there is what is called the ‘mentions’ tab. (It is just your twitter name with a @ before it) Click here, and you’ll see a chronological listing of tweets where you have been mentioned. So if you log on a long time after you checked these last, to get a gist of what people were talking about when you were mentioned, read from the last tweet upwards. You too can mention people in your tweets by using a @before their names.

Here’s an example where a hypothetical rbca is talking to another hypothetical loej about something:

rbca: @loej hey dude! went for a movie with @rtn20 today! missed you a lot!

So now our loej knows that rbca was talking to him and even this rtn20 knows that rbca mentioned him in her tweet to loej.

Get it?

Also, every mention becomes a link to that person’s profile.

3. ReTweets (RT) :

This is a very basic, simple thing. If you like someone’s tweet, like a quote or something quotable and you want to share it with people on your network, you ‘ReTweet’ it. The simplest way to do that  is to go to the bottom of that tweet. when your mouse enters the area of that tweet, you’ll see ‘reply’ and ‘retweet’ at the bottom right hand of that tweet. just click on the retweet, click ‘yes’ in the confirmatory box and the tweet is sent via your profile to your network. In case you want to add something to that tweet before you RT it, Then again, just copy the whole tweet along with the original tweeter’s name, paste it in your tweet section, add a @ before the original person’s name so that he/she knows you’ve used their tweet and then Put an RT before that and prefix it with whatever you want to add. Well, here’s an example

rbca : What awesome climate! I feel like dancing in the rain!!

now you agree with her so instead of just retweeting, you’ll make your tweet something like this:

you: I agree!!! > RT @rbca What awesome climate! I feel like dancing in the rain!!

Get it?

Now to the ‘Followers’ and ‘Following’

Following and Direct Messages:

Remember that thing I said about twitter being a party? Well, now people in this party offer handshakes to you all the time, if you’re active enough (or if you are a celebrity.. ) It is generally polite to return the handshake unless you have good reason not to do this. (or again, if you are a celebrity and there are way too many hands being offered to be shaken.)


Well, people who want to stay in touch with you or know what you are tweeting about, they ‘follow’ your profile. It is like offering a hand shake. To return the hand shake, you follow these people back. To do that, just hover over the name of that person, where it is mentioned in a tweet. When you do that, a little box materializes above their name, something like this:

That's what comes up when you hover over someone's name in a tweet

Obviously, just click on the ‘follow’ button out there. Another way of doing this is clicking on the person’s name which will take you to their profile. Right beneath their name, there will be a ‘follow’ button. Click!

Now what happens when you follow people? Remember that timeline I was talking about earlier? When someone follows you, your tweet goes to their timeline and whenever they tweet, their tweet comes to your timeline; the string of tweets you see when you are on your twitter home page. To see who is following you and whom are you following, there are two tabs beneath your name on the page, ‘Following’ and ‘Followers’, the former tells you whom are you following and the latter, obviously is a list of people who follow you.

Another thing, When two people follow each other, (This always makes me think of two people running around in circles!) they open another channel of communication; Direct Messages or DM’s. This is a private link between two people who follow each other; like a private inbox. These DM’s are also within 140 characters. If you want to send a DM to someone, go to their profile and beneath their name, you’ll see ‘send a message to ….’ click there and you’ll know what to do. The conversations in DM’s are very obviously off the public timeline and so are private.

A word here about Twitter vocabulary. A lot of words get, what I call, ‘Twitterised”  in there. Like the “Universe of Twitter” becomes “twiniverse” and a meet up of Twitter friends becomes a “TweetUp”  and ‘people on twitter’ are “Tweeple” and so on and so forth. So you shouldn’t have too much trouble understanding that!

Well,  there is a lot more in twitter from here on. About fooling around with your settings and themes and uploading a picture (all this can be done via the ‘settings’ tab in the upper right corner of the page) then there are lists too.

I’ll just explain what those are. You can keep track of definite groups of people via lists. You can make lists of people for your personal reference or you can follow an entire list of people. or get featured on a list etc… but that is a whole pot of fish in itself and you can figure that out as you work on the network.

For now, I think if you know what’s in this post, you’re set to go! So go on now! Log on to Twitter and jump into the madness!!

In case any of you still need help while you’re on the network, feel free to approach me there… just call out to @miilee and I’ll be there!!



  1. Indeed a detailed one…

  2. hahaha! you are #networking goddess!!! yup thats you now! 😉

    • lol!! so let my blessings be with the new comers!! 😉

  3. Nice effort to explain Twitter, now all those idiotic celebs who join twitter without knowing the meaning of ‘reply’ can read your blog and learn what is ‘twitter’ and learn how to use it. Mainly I need to pass this link to a new south indian celeb who joined twitter yesterday 🙂 lol..

    • lol!! Glad you found the post helpful. But I guess there isn’t too much of a point expecting a celeb to reply….. they must be gettin like a whole hoard of mentions every day! I’d imagine it would be tough for one person to respond to so much! Plus, they don’t have the luxury if free time the way we do.. 😉

  4. You might also want to link up to Mashable’s awesome guides for those who’ve graduated from the Latent Thoughts School of Twitter… 😉
    Thanx for this post, will be handy for many of my friends… 🙂

    • Latent Thoughts School of Twitter!! I like that!! I’m quite unaware about the Mashable’s posts… could you please share the links with me? I’ll put them in the post… 🙂 Thanks!!

  5. Thank you tweet-teacher for the handbook. Subject is quite interesting. #win 😛

    • 🙂

  6. Took a lot of effort writing this didn’t you? Will share this with mom. she wants to get started with twitter. Why don’t you be her trainer? 🙂

    • I’d be thrilled! Allow her to read this and I’d be mighty pleased to help her further… 🙂

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