Wednesday 26 January 2011

Tips for the Twitter-curious. 2: A Guided Tour of Twitter.


Welcome to Day 2 of 'Tips for the Twitter-curious' . If the powers of persuasion I deployed in my 'Making a Case for Twitter' post have worked ... then by now you should have:
  • Chosen your username and hopped off to sign-up and added a profile photo and background image;

OR ...

  • Logged back in to a neglected account;

OR at the very least:

  • begun to consider that there's more to this Twittering lark than you first assumed and are quietly awaiting further coersion ... which is precisely what I'm here for!

In Lesson 3 [on Friday 28th] I'll be de-bunking perhaps the biggest misconception people might have about using Twitter by explaining how you can happily use Twitter without ever having to tweet anything yourself! But that's for Friday ...

... until then I'm 100% focussed on those of you who really do want to start tweeting but who are a little unsure of where to start:

In today's lesson I'm going to assume:

  • that you know nothing at all about the Twitter site;
  • that it's layout is a confusing foreign land;
  • and that its labels, links and buttons mean absolutely nothing to you.

If this isn't you - and you're a fully-fledged tweeter already - then instead, send a link to this post to someone in your life who you would like to take up tweeting ... and allow me to guide them around on your behalf!

Allow me to escort you around:

If you haven't already signed up to Twitter, then just treat this guide as a glimpse into all the main functions of the site - without having to try it out for yourself.

But if you have signed-up then open up another window in your browser now, so you can flick between my guide and your Twitter pages, to test out the tips in real-time as I walk you through it.

Right then, let's begin from home ...


  • Once you've logged-in to Twitter you will spend the majority of your time reading and working from out of your Home page:
There is nothing on there which is private, however only you see that specific page. Every Twitter user's Home page displays only the things specific to their own account.

  • Amongst other things, the Home tab houses the lists of people who follow you along with the people you follow. And the Timeline ...

  • The Timeline is the list of tweets written by people you have chosen to follow.
  • It's in chronological order with the most recent posts at the top.

Home and Timeline are the 2 main places where you'll deal with other people on Twitter.

Now let's move on to you for a moment.


Clicking on to the Profile tab takes you to a page displaying a list of all the tweets that you have ever written:

  • This is also the page that anyone who clicks on a link to your Twitter profile sees.
  • If you have a web-address you'd like to direct people to, make sure it's in your profile.
  • This is also where your short bio is displayed. Unusually for me, my Twitter bio is one of the few things online which I've never rewritten or fiddled with!
  • NB:[If you only want specific people to see your tweets you can secure your account so only people who you allow can view them].

Speaking of tweets ... are you ready to try writing one yet?


  • To Tweet you need to click back into the Home tab view.

  • You only have 140 typed characters to write your message - that includes all punctuation and blank spaces ... so type wisely;
  • The grey number in the bottom right counts down to show you how many you have left to play with.

As you get used to the format you'll begin to find ways to shorten what it is you want to say so that it all fits in.

As someone who loves words and language I relish the constraint and love seeing how I can condense an entire train of thought into a single succinct 140-character packet.

But if, unlike me, that's not really the kind of thing you do for kicks ...
  • ... don't worry if you can't fit everything into that limit at first, just write two tweets in a row!

Chances are, once you begin tweeting and following people [which I'll go into in more detail on Friday 28th] pretty soon, you'll want to aim a tweet directly towards someone in particular and they'll start tweeting directly to you too.

Here's where the @ symbol is vital.


  • Whenever you want to talk directly to someone specific - or mention them in any way in a tweet you simply type in @ plus their username into your tweet.
  • You can @mention any number of people in one Tweet.
  • If they are someone who follows you, they might just happen to notice your message in their regular Timeline at the time you tweeted it.
  • And it works vice versa too - someone may mention your name in a tweet, and you just might be in the right spot at the right time to notice it, or you spot it when you scroll down through the older tweets in your Timeline.

However this is not the efficient method of doing things!

To begin with, if the person you @mentioned doesn't follow you they will not see your tweets in their timeline. And you won't see your name @mentioned by anyone you don't follow ... unless you:

  • Instead - you click on the @Mentions tab to see ALL the occasions where your name has been mentioned, right across Twitter, not just amongst people you follow.
  • This is how you can get the attention of anyone on Twitter.
  • As long as you use the @username method, they will see your message under their personal @Mentions tab.

But what if you want to write something a little more private?


In 'old Twitter' - the version before the current interface, these were known as 'Direct Messages' which probably explains them a little more obviously.

  • Click the Messages tab to where you can write a message which will only be sent to the single person you select.

  • This message will not appear in their Timeline, rather it will go to their Messages folder, avsilable from clicking the Messages tab.
  • You can only send a direct messages to a mutual contact ie. a person who you Follow AND who is Following you in return;
  • It's more private than a general tweet - and is sometimes easier to do than turning to your email etc once you're already logged on and using Twitter.
  • That said, I only use them occasionally.

I think our tour of the most interesting Twitter landmarks is heading toward the end. There's just time for a few more mundane, but important, places first:


  • Clicking the Settings tab takes you to your behind-the-scenes account pages.

  • From here you can do things such as change your password, alter your profile photo and connect your mobile phone to your account. Then you too can tweet from the bus / train / waiting room like so many others do!

You can actually tailor all the settings so you can choose to receive text messages when you're tweeted at or when someone directly messages you etc. Just see what works best for you.

If you're still a Twitter-virgin your homework today is:

  • To consider just trying it out.

After all it is free and you've got the shiny, full-colour guide above to help you now!

  • If you're still unsure if it's really something you want to take-on then you could even set up an account and not mention a word of it to anyone if it feels like too much pressure!

If you've already signed-up or are a still a relatively new user:

  • Go back over everything you've just read;
  • Take the tour again on your own and click on all those areas I've covered;

Then ...

  • Write a general tweet, about anything at all;
  • Write a tweet which mentions someone else using the @username method.

And that's all for today's class, thanks for attending!

I'm going to let you rest-up now ... you're going to need your energies for when we start following people on Friday!

Julie :-)

p.s: Remember to contact me via the comments section below or via Twitter itself, if you want to be added to the Twitter-curious list.

I'm not automatically adding all my new followers to the list in case they've followed me for a different reason ... [What? there might be other reasons ...].


  1. Loving this already. I'm glad you cover the @username bit, I had missed all the tweets you had sent me!

  2. I never did sit down with that cup of tea and read our first days notes ... right, going to do that as soon as I finish catching up with my blog reading :) thank you so much for all this lovely info.

  3. Great post Julie! Clear, well laid out and perfectly illustrated! The thing about the @username is a revelation! I did used to get direct messages sometimes, but I didn't know anything about the @username possibilities....hmmm...may have to do some experimenting! Thanks for this series...

  4. Am still keeping up, Julie! Great post, and off to do my homework ...

  5. As a fearful twitter newbie..I'm hanging on every one of your instructional words. Thank-you for such detailed step-by-step advice.
    mspics - is my twitter user name.

  6. Ok, I have joined in on the fun and I did a tweet about your new class. At least I think I did...LOL!

  7. Think you're explaining twitter beautifully, particularly like the illustrations. Even though I'm an old, jaded twitterer please can I join your role call?

  8. Just found your tutorial via Rebecca. I've had an account for a year but didn't know how to use it. Thanks for this. I'm @bloombakecreate



  9. I finally got round to reading your Twitter-curious series, Julie.. after how many months?!! Up to this point, anyway!

    With two boys engrossed in the telly and a cup of tea in hand, I figure I have a few minutes at least.. please could you add me to your Twitter-curious list?

    Thanks! :o)


  10. Even though Twitter has updated since you wrote this, I managed to find everything you spoke about. The @mentions took me a little longer but when I did find it, it seemed so obvious! I might even get around to tweeting something ... :D


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