Twitter 101 – A Cheat Sheet for Terminology, Hashtags, Lists and More
Updated on November 29th, 2016
We’re all spending a lot of time on social media these days. Whether it’s to stay in touch with friends or to follow along with the latest news and trends. In fact, the average person is estimated to check their social media accounts 17 times a day.
If you’re marketing your own business, you likely have an online presence of some kind – and whether it’s a website, Facebook page, Twitter account, or all of the above, being online ensures that you can engage with your customers and potential fans more quickly and easily.
But sometimes the online conversations out there aren’t always the easiest to navigate, and often the platforms that we use to engage in those conversations can be tricky. Twitter is especially hard to figure out for new users.
The Problem with Twitter
There are a lot of people active on Twitter these days – according to Statista at the end of the second quarter of 2016, Twitter averaged 313 million monthly active users.
But frequently, small and medium sized businesses run into the problem of just how to market their companies on the platform. It can be a challenge to find the right kinds of conversations to participate in, and even more challenging to determine what kind of content to share with your audience.
There are a lot of brands doing this right, however, who have also seen great engagement with customers and even more brand loyalty because of their Twitter following.
But to get to that stage, you first need to come to grips with Twitter 101, which is why we created the Twitter Cheat Sheet. The cheat sheet will help you better understand what @mentions, #hashtags, RTs, DMs and Twitter Advanced Search are all about.
It’s the starting point for what could be a fruitful relationship between your business and the little blue bird.
The Twitter Cheat Sheet
Our Twitter cheat sheet is ideal for beginners setting up their Twitter account, and for anyone who needs a refresher on the platform and the best ways to use it. Feel free to download and print off, so that you can use it as a guide on your Twitter journey.
Let’s take a look at the basics and get to know some of the terminology around Twitter.
When you set up your account, you’ll need a username or Twitter handle, which is usually your name or company name.
The Bluewire Media Twitter handle is @Bluewire_Media, and you’ll find your handle featured under your profile picture on your Twitter page (see image below).
It’s likely that you’ve seen or heard of hashtags, but don’t let the fancy language trip you up. A hashtag is simply the hashtag or pound symbol, followed by a word or phrase, and it’s used to identify a topic or trending issue on Twitter.
In the example above, Entrepreneur is using the trending hashtag for National Coffee Day. If you click on the hashtag, you’ll be taken to the entire Twitter conversation happening under the #NationalCoffeeDay hashtag.
Let’s say you want to reach out to someone on Twitter, but don’t want to make it public for others to see. You’ll want to send that Twitter user a Direct Message, in this situation.
You can do this by going to their profile and clicking on the “Message” button to send them a personal, private note.
You can read more about Direct Messaging and Twitter guidelines around receiving messages here.
Tweets, Retweets and Trends
A Tweet is simply a 140-character message that you post on the Twitter platform. A Tweet may contain photos, videos, and links (as long as it fits in the 140-character limit).
A Tweet of someone else’s that you share publicly with your audience is known as a Retweet. You can retweet a Tweet by clicking on the icon underneath the message.
Retweets are a great way to pass along news and interesting content from other users, and they also help you generously connect with them. Twitter also gives you the option to add your own comments before Retweeting.
Tweeting and retweeting are the best ways to engage in the conversation that is going on. If you want to see what conversations are trending on Twitter, just go to the home page and look to the left of your screen. The Trends section of the page will show you what hashtags and other conversations are hot at any given moment.
Lists on Twitter are simply a way of categorising the people you follow. Lists can be a great way of engaging with a particular group of people — whether those are bloggers that you admire or coworkers, you can keep them all in one place with a Twitter list.
I could write an entire article about how to use lists on Twitter, but there are already some great suggestions out there, including this one from Buffer.
Twitter Best Practices
There are certainly a lot of ways that companies have screwed up on Twitter, but following a few guidelines can help you avoid too many mistakes if you’re new to it all.
The three we mention on the cheat sheet are about thanking people who have followed, mentioned or retweeted your content. They might seem obvious, but it’s amazing how many people forget these basic guidelines.
If you get a notification that you’ve got a new follower, it’s always appropriate to reach out and thank them for finding you on Twitter and following you. You can tweet to them or send a Direct Message.
If you get a notification that someone has retweeted one of your tweets, it’s a good policy to thank them for sharing your content. The same goes for if they mention your Twitter handle.
Depending on how you’ve set up your account, you’ll get email notifications about new followers, retweets, etc. but you can also find out where you’ve been mentioned or Retweeted by clicking the “notifications” tab.
Twitter Advanced Search
Twitter has a search bar at the top of every screen, but if you’re looking to find more in-depth information, you might consider the Advanced Search. You can get to the Advanced Search function by going here.
There are several ways to search Twitter, but I’ll just cover the basics.
To find an exact phrase on Twitter, include *stars* around the words you want to search for to get back only results with that specific phrase.
Typing in *Bluewire Media*, for instance will only return results with the exact phrase “Bluewire Media.”
Typing in “OR” in between the words you are searching for will return data with either of the words you’re interested in.
Using the advanced search, you can refine your search results so that you find information containing specific hashtags, that were tweeted by a specific person, or that were tweeted on a specific date.
You can even search by the sentiment of the Tweet – if it was positive or negative, for instance, or if the Tweet was a question.
Getting Started On Twitter
While it may seem daunting, especially when there are so many other brands and individuals using Twitter, getting involved on Twitter and joining the conversation doesn’t have to be a disaster.
Download our cheat sheet and get your Twitter profile set up, and you’ll be tweeting with the best of them in no time.
What are some ways that you think Twitter might help your business? Has engaging with your customers been harder than you thought? Let us know in the comments below.
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