Everything you need to know about Twitter

Left out? A beginners' guide to the omnipresent social media platform

The Knowledge

Beloved by news reporters, celebrities, sports stars and politicians, Twitter, the online micro-blogging site, has revolutionised social media. It’s little wonder, as the hot marketing tool is free, easy to use and interactive. Just keep these tips and tricks in mind while tweeting…

Twitter terms
Tweet: A 140-character message
Feed: The stream of other people’s tweets you see on your homepage
Handle: Your username, for example @timeoutabudhabi
Direct Message, or DM: A confidential, 140-character message between two users
@: Use the ‘at’ character followed by a handle to reference another user

Step one: Decide on your purpose.
Twitter is all about connecting with like-minded people using as few words as possible. Deciding on your intention on Twitter will help you choose who to follow and what kind of information you should share. While Twitter can be used as a source of communication, entertainment and news, you could also use it to promote your business – so choose an appropriate profile picture and username. Now might be the time to reconsider using @monkeyman for the launch of your new accounting firm.

Top tip: Take a close up headshot to make yourself easy to identify.

Step two: Get followers
Unless you’re a celebrity, the chances of having more than your mum and a handful of your best mates following you when you start on Twitter is unlikely. To gain followers, create an interesting profile biography, which is a brief description of your purpose on Twitter. This makes it easier for people to find you on Google, which then boosts your profiles’ reach.

An ideal biography is intelligent, creative and to the point; @pizzahut’s for example, is ‘Ever wonder how round pizza fits into a square box, or why there isn’t delivery in your area? Give us a shout when we do a great job or tell us when we don’t.’

Following others in the hope they’ll follow you back is a common way to gain followers. To keep them, maintain the relationship by retweeting any relevant content they create and favouriting their tweets, which notifies them that you admire their tweet.

Top tip: Restrict yourself to 100 characters instead of 140 to allow others to add comments.

Step three: Retweeting
A retweet re-posts tweets you’ve read and liked, so they say as much about you as your tweets do, while exposing your profile to other users. They are symbolised with the letters RT at the start of a tweet.

Top tip: If someone frequently retweets you, return the favour.

Step four: Using hashtags
Considering over 500 million tweets are posted every day, you can understand why it can be difficult to track them all. Hashtags overcome this by categorising your tweets to form part of a specific conversation. They turn words that directly follow it into a searchable link. Some of the most popular hashtags in 2014 include #iphone, #nowplaying and #rt.

Top tip: #Hashtags are #great – just don’t #over #use #them. Use less than three per tweet.

Step five: Get trending
Trending describes topics which are being discussed more than others. It also determines the most up-and-coming matters from across the world, in real time. Last month, the most popular Twitter trends included #MH17, referring to the aeroplane that was shot down over Ukraine, and #4YearsOfOneDirection, referencing the popular boy band.

Top tip: Keep in mind that topics that have been popular for a while are unlikely to trend again.

Step six: Protecting you and your tweets
Exercise caution when deciding how much information you want to reveal. Avoid posting information which damages your relationship or employment situation – advice Connor Riley, a student at the University of California didn’t follow. After tweeting, ‘Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work,’ Cisco withdrew the offer. Make sure you don’t unintentionally post private details such as your phone number, home address or when you’ll be away on holiday, either, and try to verify the authenticity of information before acting on it.

Top tip: Protect your profile with strong passwords.

Top tip: According to Sysomos, a social media monitoring solution, Twitter peaks 11am-3pm in the United States. If you’re targeting a US audience, tweet at these times – otherwise tweet around noon in the UAE to get heard.

The top five most followed twits

1 Katy Perry (@katyperry)
2 Justin Bieber (@justinbieber)
3 Barack Obama (@BarackObama)
4 Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13)
5 Lady Gaga (@ladygaga)

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