TECHGEEK.com.au’s guide on Twitter (for beginners)

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After the bump from Rove, Twitter has become popular in Australia. While it isn’t in the same league as MySpace and Facebook, it does prove that Twitter’s own success come from word of mouth – since a similar thing happened in the UK with Jonathon Ross (@wossy) and Stephen Fry (@stephenfry).

Twitter’s idea is pretty simple – you post small updates on your profile, and people can reply or view them. So simple that many people like the idea (and here’s a small acronym for you: KISS [Keep It Simple Stupid] ) .

If you haven’t signed up, click here to go to the link; but if you have, you can now read through this tutorial on how to use Twitter.

Writing a message!

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This is pretty simple, and you don’t really need any help. But as a refresher – your messages go at the top text box, and messages have to be 140 characters. You can, however, send more than 140 characters, but it will get truncated. If you have a URL that is too long, they will cut it down by showing the first few letters and then the three dots.

NOTE : If you don’t want your message to be truncated, or the URL – always use services like tinyurl or bit.ly, as they can massively reduce a long URL to a very short one. Plus, tinyurl allows you to create a custom name for it, so you don’t have to remember some random jargon.

Replies, Retweeting and Direct Messages

Did you know that you can send replies to other people’s messages, or “tweets” (and remember that!)? It is very simple: just put the @ sign and the username of a person. However, you cannot put the @ and the person’s username anywhere, IT MUST BE AT THE FRONT!!!

If you are not replying, but just want to link to someone’s username; then just put the @ and username of the user in anyone’s post.

Retweeting, or just sending the same message from one person to all your followers, is also simple. Just put in the RT and the username (remember – @ and the username). It doesn’t really do anything, but it tells that you are just repeating it, and not plagiarising it.

So, a recap:

  • @username (then message) – Replying to a tweet.
  • @username in anywhere of the message (except the start) – Linking to a profile.
  • RT @username (then message) – Retweeting.

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Direct Messaging is somewhat different. There are two ways you can do it, using a short-hand code, which we will not cover, or using the Direct Messaging tab. We suggest that you use this, as it makes it much easier and not have it shown publicly.

This is the only way to send a message in private, meaning that it will not appear to anyone except for the person you specified. However, the person you specified must be a person that you are following (it doesn’t matter if they are not following you). You can see in the image that you have a dropdown menu – that’s where you select a username.

Other than that, the same principles apply.

Following, and Following more people

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Following a person is very simple. Just go to someone’s profile (like mine @terencehuynh), and click the Follow button. It is so simple that you can add almost anyone. However, remember – it isn’t like Facebook, where if you befriend them and they have to befriend you. Twitter users don’t have to follow you.

Design and Customise!

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The best part of Twitter is that you can customise your very own profile. While you have 12 set themes you can choose from, you can create your own. Previously, you really need to be a designer or a geek to know what you have to do, since you need to know the hex code of a colour (like the colour black would be #000000 and the colour white will be #FFFFFF).

Now, you can just use a colour wheel to customise it. You can also see it in real time – which is pretty neat. However, if you are pretty proficient with CSS, you won’t be able to do it here.

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Fill it with useful information!

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If you want to find followers, you have to follow some simple things – like always write a snappy biography. People who follow you will either be your friend or be individuals who find you pretty interesting, so make it descriptive of you – and more like your personality, and not someone you are not.

Be smart on where you put your location as well. Do not put your SUBURB, but put in the nearest city near you (like for me, Melbourne).

Update it Constantly!

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Don’t be a person who leaves it abandoned, Twitter at least every day. But while everyone knows that you can’t be on Twitter every day, applications have been created to sit on your desktop to help you look at your Twitter stream, while you are searching for other stuff.

You can SMS your tweets as well, but you need to make sure that your phone number is linked to your profile, or else it would make a new account for you. If you think that’s a bit too hard, just put in m.twitter.com in your mobile browser and send tweets from there.

And that brings us to the end of our basics of using Twitter. Make sure you follow @techgeekcomau and @terencehuynh (me) on Twitter to get your way started on Twitter.