Twitter jargonbuster

If you’re new to Twitter, there are 10 bits of jargon that it would be useful for you to understand. They are mostly words comonly used in the English language, but have a specific meaning within Twitter:

1. A Tweet is a broadcast of up to 140 characters (based on the average text message (SMS) of 160 characters less 20 characters for the username). Note that Twitter is an engagement medium not an advertising medium so the objective of your tweets is to start a conversation, not just make announcements.

NEW! Expanded tweets. Currently only for select organisations e.g. The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

If you link to an article, your followers will see a little button on the tweet labelled “View summary”. If they click that, they’ll see: The article’s headline, the author’s byline and Twitter handle, the publication’s Twitter handle, a photo from the piece, and even a short snippet from the article.

Main tweet <140 characters. Headlines <70 characters. Snippets <200 characters.

2. Retweet or RT is when a tweet is forwarded to other people – this is the viral power of Twitter. For your most important tweets you can add a call to action i.e. ‘Please retweet’ or ‘Pls RT’. This means there is more chance your message will be passed on by your network to their own networks so you reach more people (but only if your tweet contains perceived value e.g. a useful link).

Top tip: Keep tweets < 120ch to allow room for the retweeter’s username as well as your own when they are retweeted

3. You Follow someone if you are interested in reading their tweets

4. You Unfollow someone if you do not want to read their tweets any more (note that people can Unfollow you too)

You may wish to unfollow dormant accounts, those who tweet too much or too little, and any spammers

5. Your Followers are people who choose to follow you and read your tweets

Note that not all your followers will be online at the same time as you, so they will not all read all your tweets. You can use tools such as Tweriod to find out when most of your followers are online.

6. Put the @ symbol before the username to make it an active link (no space between). An @Mention or @Reply is a public message (can be seen by anyone who is following you)

If your tweet or retweet starts with @username it shows on your timeline and goes to that person only

If you add anything except a space (even a full stop) in front of @username, it goes to all their followers too

7. D (D space) is a Direct Message / DM / private message (can only be sent between people who follow each other and can only be seen by them)

Note there should be no @ before the username for a direct message

8. Lists are a great way to organise the stream of Twitter witter

So you don’t miss anything that’s important, you can set up lists by keyword e.g. your company name, your topic. You can also set up lists of people e.g. social media experts, celebrities

9. Trending topics are what Twitter says most people are talking about right now

Unless you are Apple and have just launched a new iPad, or you’re Lady Gaga and have just worn a meat dress, it’s hard for most of us to become a trending topic

10. #Hashtags are a way of grouping all tweets for a certain keyword together

Hashtags can be used to:

  • group information e.g. #sbt2012
  • demonstrate expertise e.g. #prclinic
  • show personality e.g. #happygiraffe
  • headline/caption your tweet e.g. #justkidding (this form of usage has escaped into spoken language too)

  • recommend a fellow tweep (Twitter-user) e.g. #FollowFriday / #ff

Top tip: To type # on Mac = Alt + 3

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