What is Twitter? How Can I Use it Better?

what is twitter

There are still many people out there asking what is Twitter all about, anyway? And to those people I would like to say “HELLO! Read on and I will teach you!” To get right into the learning, Twitter is a micro-blogging social media platform. You send out short messages to your friends (or followers, as they are called on Twitter), and they can reply to you in short messages, or share (retweets is the term!) your messages with their followers.

Twitter is probably the best place on the Internet to find out what’s really going on right now. People live tweet the events around them, and you’re free to see the world through their eyes. If I had to answer a question on what Twitter is good for, I’d say it’s our best first-person news sharing service …ever.

What is Twitter: The basics of the blue bird

The first thing you must get familiar with is the concept of micro-blogging. Specifically, that Twitter has a character limit of 140. That means that you can write anything you want on Twitter …as long as it takes up 140 characters or less, including spaces. Exceptions include:

  • Links take up 23 characters automatically, regardless of length.
  • Images take up 24 characters, regardless of size.
  • Videos take up 23 characters, regardless of length.

Those are the basic rules of character length on Twitter. You’re free to mix and match as many as you like …as long as they still all fit under 140 characters!

The next most basic, and fundamental, aspect of what Twitter is all about is #hashtags. Hashtags were invented to make things easily searchable, and have evolved to be, basically, a link. A hashtag links to every other tweet on Twitter that also uses the same hashtag. This can be tricky to understand, so I’ll look at some examples.

Silly hashtags trend, or get popular, all the time on Twitter. People catch on to them, create their own tweets with the hashtag, and on and on it spreads. A recent one I found funny was #PoliticalSuperheroes:

It works like this: I see this tweet shared by someone I follow, and I laugh. Then, I can click on the hashtag, #PoliticalSuperheroes, and it takes make to a screen where all of the top tweets using that hashtag are:

what is twitter hashtags example

Are you asking yourself right now why this happens? What is Twitter, a big joke factory? Well, yes and no. People also use hashtags to connect with larger, and more serious, stories as well. Famous examples include:

Click on any of those hashtags and you’ll see Twitter user’s most honest, useful, hateful, and real answers, opinions, thoughts, and …spam. Hashtags are a free-for-all world where anything goes, and that includes you!

What is virality like on Twitter?

Every social media platform has some viral aspect to it as sharing information is the point of social media. On Twitter, this virality largely comes from the retweet. Any message which you send out is seen by your followers, who have a few choices. They can @reply to you, ‘Like’ you, or retweet you.

Once they retweet you they are sending your tweet to their followers. It looks like this:

what is twitter retweet example

It will say “RT” and then the name of the original tweeter. As you can guess, retweets are incredibly important on Twitter. It’s why retweet services do so well, it’s why so many accounts ask for retweets routinely, and it’s why you need to focus on getting retweets, too. Your account will not grow without them.

Something which is playing more and more importance in virality is Twitter Likes. These used to mean, well, next to nothing. Now that Twitter is driving their results with algorithms rather than displaying real-time tweets, Likes can help drive your tweets higher in results shown. That’s why you’ll now see tweets asking for both retweets and likes:

Both metrics are used by Twitter, and Twitter users, to determine if a tweet is worth their time or not.

Advanced Twitter use: Videos, GIFs, growing an audience

You can go right ahead and use Twitter any which way you’d like. But if you want to be important, an account that people really listen to, you need to take on some advanced Twitter tactics.

First up is branding your account. Making your account about something is important. You can follow any endless numbers of teenagers with Twitter accounts about their daily lives. That’s fine if you want to speak with your friends, but popular Twitter accounts need something more.

Important branding tips to consider:

  • Your profile and header image. They need to be related to your topic. Include a little bit of text in the header image to share more information.
  • Your bio must mention your topic. People will read it and judge whether or not they want to follow you based largely on this piece of information.
  • Your tweets must stay on topic. Seriously, if I follow you because you talk about video games, but you go off half the time about last night’s episode of The Bachelor, I’m going to locate that unfollow button and click it.

Branding is very important on Twitter because people want to know why they should follow you. If you don’t give them a reason they will ignore you. You can use a Twitter followers service to push your followers numbers up for social proof, and that will help, but long-term results require real branding.

Other fun things to use on Twitter include Twitter video, YouTube video, and GIFs. Twitter and Youtube videos can be a fun way to convey more information to your followers. Here’s Hormel Bacon having some fun with video, and their spokesperson Harley:

Another good use of moving images is GIFs. They’re simple to load, which is good considering most people are on Twitter using their phones. Here’s a fun example:

The person who created this GIF saw a huge return on the time invested in it: Nicki herself retweeted it!

What is Twitter really all about?

You could say that the entire point of Twitter is to share information, especially current events, quickly. The next step in Twitter’s proper use is using hashtag to organize your tweets with other tweets. Another great tutorial we have is my recent How to use Twitter like @KatyPerry. She has the most Twitter followers in the world, you’ll be sure to learn something!

If you want to randomly connect with other people who share similar interests to you, Twitter may be the best place for it online. Twitter is one enormous conversation that we’re all having together, and you can find the one corner of the room where your people are meeting and speaking with one another. All it takes is to know how Twitter works with hashtags, branding, and advanced tactics which help you stand out.


Feature image via ra2studio / Shutterstock

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