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Twitter 101 for Small Business

Quickstart guide for diving into Twitter quickly and effectively


What is Twitter?

Twitter (www.twitter.com) is a platform for posting very short messages (also called "tweets") of 140 characters or less. There are many websites and applications you can use to post to and read . You only receive tweets from people you choose to follow.


Post (also known as a status updates) to Twitter are commonly called tweets to differentiate them from Facebook status updates or blog posts.

"Tweet" can be used as a noun: "The tweet you sent about taxes was interesting. Thanks!"

"Tweet" can also be used as a verb: "Tweeting interesting links would find helpful is a sure way to gain more followers."

Followers, Following, and Friends

The beauty of Twitter is you can craft your own Twitter sphere by choosing to follow certain people. Navigate to that user's Twitter homepage (eg., mine is at http://twitter.com/gregorygo, and click on the "Follow" button. You will now see that user's tweets when you're logged in to Twitter.


To reply to or reference another Twitter user, put the @ symbol in front of their username.

For example, my Twitter username is "gregorygo". If you wanted to send me a tweet (ie., post a tweet that I would see), put "@gregorygo" somewhere in your twee

Twitter will automatically link the @username text to the user's Twitter home pag

RT or "retweet"

To retweet means to post someone else's tweet and crediting them with it. The convention for retweeting is to put "RT @username" in front of the tweet you are retweeting. It's polite to leave the original tweet as unedited as possible, though it's acceptable to edit the tweet for length or clarity.

For example, if I posted this tweet:

Best Twitter apps for small business owners. http://bit.ly/JsC79

...and you found it interesting enough to share with your followers, you can retweet it like so:

RT @gregorygo: Best Twitter apps for small business owners. http://bit.ly/JsC79

DM or "direct message"

These are private tweets that can only be seen by the recipient. You can only send direct messages to people who are following you, so you can't use DMs for spamming.

URL Shorteners

Because you're limited to 140 characters per tweet, most people use URL shortening services to post links.

Original link: 72 characters

Shortened link: 19 characters

The more popular URL shorteners are: tinyurl.com and bit.ly.

Most Twitter clients will have built-in URL shortening because it is such an integral part of twittering.

(Note: because links are hidden, and depend on the 3rd-party's servers, it's important to choose a service that will be around for a long time. If the URL shortening service goes out of business in a few months, all those links you share using that service will become dead links.)

Twitter Clients, Apps and Tools

Twitter's decision to have a wide-open API (letting developers access all the same public data available to itself) is critical for their success. It is because of this API that Twitter has become more of a platform than a service. Hundreds (thousands?) of websites, iPhone apps, desktop programs, and other Twitter clients have sprung up to make it easier for you to interact with Twitter.

Some Twitter apps use the available data for statistics. For example, you can use Twitter Counter to track the number of followers you have over time.

You don't need to install one of these 3rd-party clients to use Twitter. You can always use the basics of tweeting from the Twitter website or via SMS text messages.

Find a Twitter client for you: Top Twitter Clients for Business

Ready to get started?

Here are great tutorials for new Twitter users:

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