Twitter 101: Common Abbreviations, Hashtags, Mentions, Handles, Time Commitments, and Tips for New Users
Are you thinking about joining Twitter? Over 140 million people already have. It’s worth trying, especially if you are in business with a focused area of interest. Twitter works best if you have only one or two areas of interest that you tweet about. In fact, it’s similar to blogging because Twitter is just micro-blogging. Small posts of 140 characters or less meant to tantalize, communicate concisely, and drive traffic to your website articles.
I was a hold out of Twitter for many years. In fact, I only joined about 1 month ago. The thought of hearing about any persons minutiae of their day didn’t appeal to me. Turns out, everyone feels that way and there aren’t that many people who actually tweet such details. You can always unfollow those types too and never hear their time-wasting tweets again. What I found great about Twitter is that I could follow anyone with similar interests to me. I can get news, industry research, and just about anything I want by following people with those interests. It surprised me that Twitter was just as capable for business as it is for the consumer.
Being new to Twitter can be overwhelming. Especially since people are abbreviating and using a unique Twitter language. The lingo can be downright frustrating to learn sometimes. Not too mention hashtags (#something). What does it all mean? How do you use it?
Common Twitter Abbreviations
RT = Retweet. When you rebroadcast somebody else’s tweet – usually you credit the originator.
MT = Modified Tweet. Basically a retweet that has been modified by the new poster.
#FF = Follow Friday. When you use the #FF hashtag, you are encouraging your followers to also follow the folks you mention in your tweet.
DM = Direct Message. A form of privately and directly contacting a Twitter user. A person must be following you in order for you to direct message them. A DM is private and can only be read by the recipient.
Twitter Hashtags (#) and Mentions (@)
A hashtag (#something) is a way of categorizing your tweet. You’re just indicating what the tweet is about. Hashtags might seem complicated but they really aren’t. The most practical use of hashtags are for placing tweets into Twitter “discussion forums”. Often people will gather around an event and chat through a special pre-determined hashtag. Think of them as a way to categorize your tweet into an open discussion forum.
Some people also use clever or humorous hashtags just for the fun of it.
If a hashtag gets used frequently and in great volume, the hashtag is considered to be “trending.” Which just means that lots of people are talking about a topic. Search engines and news outlets use these trends to determine what is currently important to the world.
The @ symbol (@someone) is just a way to talk directly to a person or to mention them in your tweet. Please note that this tweet is still readable by everyone, not just the person you used the @ symbol with. If you use the @ symbol with someone’s Twitter name (also called a handle), Twitter will notify the person that you “mentioned” them. In order to survive on Twitter you must have conversations with people. You may mention someone whether you follow them, they follow you, both, or neither.
If your tweet involves a person or company, it is polite to mention them so that they are aware of the discussion.
Picking a Good Twitter Handle
Your Twitter handle is important! Choose wisely. A “handle” is the special Twitter system name you’ll go by. To make things harder on you… You only get a max of 15 characters for your handle.
Should your Twitter handle use your real name or your business name? This is a tough question to answer. Preferably, make it as personal as you can. So if you’re a small business where you are the well-known frontman of the business, maybe use your personal name. At minimum, put your personal name as the “Name” in your account profile. In fact, you might want a handle that is your business name and a name that is your personal name.
If you’re a big corporation or large organization… You might as well stick with the strongest brand. For example, BC Hydro is just “bchydro” on Twitter. Since the person behind the tweets is not as important as the business brand.
Don’t fret about your handle too much though! You can always change it later.
Twitter Time Commitments
In my opinion, Twitter is more time consuming than other social media platforms. It’s best to Tweet several times in a day and spend time interacting with people. Usually I’ll spend 30 minutes to 1 hour on Twitter a day! Be prepared for that.
You can get by with less time of course. Remember, you set your own time priorities. However, your following may grow slower if you spend only a few minutes on Twitter a day.
A Couple More Tips to Grow Your Twitter Following Faster
Here are a couple more final tips for you:
1) Post a profile picture. Use your face preferably. Or use your logo if you are not revealing the person behind the tweets. Nobody wants to follow an egg (the default profile picture when you have not set it).
2) Fill out your bio section. 160 characters that just about everyone will use to determine whether they’ll follow you. Set it in your profile. Be sure to describe your interests in your bio and what topics you tweet about.
Any Other Tips?
We’ve looked at Twitter from a new users perspective in this article. You got a good list of the most common Twitter abbreviations you’ll come across. Then we talked about Hashtags and Mentions. Your handle is also important so we covered a few tips about that. And finally you got an estimate of how much time you might want to commit to Twitter every day.
Do you have any other tips a new Twitter user might find useful? Did I overlook something in this introductory guide? Let everyone know what you think by commenting below!
Be sure to follow me on Twitter if you have an account.