On Friday, I received an email that one of my followers Elaing8 was now following me on Twitter. As I welcomed her to that strange and wonderful world, I realized that it takes a little getting used to. So I figured for those newbies out there, I’d do a short introduction to some of the terms and ways of

First, choose a name to use. It can be your real name or an alter-ego. Since I want my fans/readers to be able to find me easily I use my name LeahBraemel as my Twitter ID. Others, such as Inez Kelley use a funny name – hers is @iamachiapet (I am a chia pet – her avatar is even a head with the chia herbs growing around it, which she says she resembles.) Don’t make it too long because when people reply to you it’ll cut down the number of characters they’ll be able to use. Shorter is better.

So I’ve decided upon a name and signed up. Now what?

Now you need to figure out who you want to follow:

Following:  These are the people whose tweets you want to be able to see when they post them. They may be your friends, or people whose blogs you follow such as Jane from @DearAuthor or Sarah from @SmartBitches.  They may be writers like me @LeahBraemel or @VivianArend (or the ones I’ve mentioned in the #FF section below). Even the big names are there @JKRowling recently joined the ranks, though she’s not sure how much she’ll twitter. Or you can follow people in your industry. For authors, we tend to follow editors such as my former editor (I miss her) @AngelaJames or my new editor @TeraK *waves*, publishers such as @avonbooks, or reviewers such as Coffee Time Romance @CoffeeTimeRoman or All Romance eBooks @allromance.

You can follow your favorite celebrity — I’m sure you’ve heard about Ashton Kutcher’s  attempt to reach a million followers. (he’s @aplusk by the way) or his equally famous wife, Demi Moore (@MrsKutcher) You can follow news people such as Anderson Cooper (@andersoncooper) or Ann Curry. Or news groups such as @BreakingNews or maybe you’d rather follow a local news station or program (I follow City’s Breakfast Television – @BTtoronto In fact I replied to BT once and they put my twitter page (that includes my covers) up on their morning program. Score!) You can follow bookstores and corporations, you name it.

By the way, for the more famous Twitterers, such as Ashton or Demi or JK, look for a blue check mark beside their name – that tells you that Twitter has proven that it is the real person twittering, not someone who is twittering under an assumed name. Which is the reason JK ended up joining Twitter because other people who posting as if they were her.

Then you’ll want to have your own Followers:   A follower is very simply someone who follows your tweets (in other words, they can see what you tweet.) A fan if you will. They find you by various methods – maybe they’ve seen someone they follow reply to you, or they’ve clicked on someone else’s twitter page and gone through the list of who that person follows.  (That’s how I started off, I found people I admired, or friends, and looked to see who they were following and picked and chose from there.)  Another way you can get followers (and these usually aren’t ones you want) is people who follow the general twitter stream – yes, everything you tweet is out there for anyone to see if they follow the main twitter stream. That’s how you end up with people trying to promote their latest get-rich-quick scheme or their Britney porno videos.Yes, even twittering garners you spammers. The thing is, just because they can see your tweets doesn’t mean you can see theirs. Some people block them automatically, some people don’t because they can’t see their tweets. The choice is yours.

You may also gain twitters because you’ve mentioned a keyword that someone has searched for.  I once mentioned I was rendering a video using Final Cut Pro while I was making a book trailer a while back. Within minutes I had a whole whack of video editors following, along with the Final Cut Pro people. I asked a question about insurance and had an Australian insurance company follow me. I mentioned I’d taken a BDSM course and … well, yes, I ended up with a half dozen professional Dominatrixes following me. (Or is that Dominatri?)

If you don’t want someone to follow you – that Britney porno video pervert for instance, then you can choose to “block” the follower from seeing any of your tweets. (Twitter will send you an email saying someone’s following you and give you a chance to block them there, or you can go to the person’s profile page and on the right hand side bar you’ll see

Note:  It is possible to “lock” your account so only people who follow you can see your tweets – they won’t be put on the public stream. And they can’t follow you without your permission. (People do this to limit the spammers.) However, just ask @HockeyVampiress how that can affect your entries in Tweet contests. If someone’s tweets “The first 5 people to Tweet me win a copy of (insert book here)” and they don’t follow you – they will not see your Tweet no matter how many times you send it. It’s extremely frustrating.

Do I have to follow someone because they’re following me?  Nope. You definitely don’t want to follow the porny gals, or the “Get Rich Quick” people. Well, maybe you do, I don’t. If you take a look at Ashton Kutcher’s account, you’ll see while he’s got 3,688,808 followers (at least he did at the time I wrote this), he only follows 220 people. There are people who will autofollow anyone who follows them. I don’t. I can’t. I already follow over 500 people and the stream is getting unwieldy.

Don’t forget you need to Tweet:  The main rule here? Your message can contain no more than 140 characters. (I believe because that’s the limitation imposed in text messaging on a cell phone.) So you end up using a lot of short forms. Srsly, Ppl, U may need 2 shorten Ur msg. Oh, and no, once sent, you can’t edit your message. You may be able to delete however. But it has been sent so anyone who has already received it … yeah, they’ve seen your error in all its glory.

Your tweet can be personal:

eldest son came home and said “why’s it smell like maple syrup in here” Um, that’s the burnt coffee pot 🙁

Or maybe you want to offer the Twitterrealm a recommendation:

Finished @CatherineWade‘s Another Time Around. A wonderful classic contemp romance (no sex) Read it with tissues handy http://bit.ly/Mst7F

You’ll need to Reply (sometimes called a Mention) to other Twitterers (Twits?): When you want to reply to a person’s tweet, you need to draw their attention to your post – they’ll be able to see it whether they follow you or not if you put in their id.  It’ll look something like this:

@Christine_dAbo I’m editing, I’m supposed to be cutting OUT words, instead I keep adding, LOL. @jkcoi

That’s a reply I made to author Christine d’Abo. Notice that I have included JK Coi’s twitter ID there too as it was a three-way conversation. If I hadn’t included JK’s ID, she may not have been able to see my reply to Christine. What’s that again? If you’re following Christine’s posts but not mine, you won’t see my reply to her. Or vice versa. So often conversations can appear one-sided. This can be avoided somewhat by putting another character as the first character in a tweet. Some people do it by simply putting a period in front so it would appear “.@Christine_dAbo I’m ….”

What’s that RT in front of a message mean? That stands for ReTweet. It means the tweet is important enough that someone’s felt it necessary to repeat it, to pass it on to their followers.  It might be a news announcement – there were a lot of retweeting of death announcements in June 🙁 Or maybe it’s a warning about a virus being spread around.

RT Interesting reading @mashable 4 Teens Sued for Obscene Fake Facebook Profile – http://bit.ly/ZceXQ (via @eHqnKatherineT)

Or you may have seen me talking about retweeting my posts about my contest. Here’s one that’s going on right now by Toronto Romance Writer Eve Silver. 

RT @Eve_Silver: 1 wk left 2 enter my Sept SEDUCED BY A STRANGER website contests! 2 contests. 2 chances to WIN! http://tinyurl.com/lsdkmj

What’s with those funny URLs? Because you’re limited to 140 characters, and some web links are so long, Twitterers use programs to shorten their links — bit.ly or tinyurl for instance. (I use Tweetdeck which autoshortens the URL for me. I’ll post more on the various programs you can use tomorrow.)

What’s a DM?  It’s a Direct Message – it’s a way of sending a message directly to a person without anyone else seeing it. It’s a place where you really can screw up if you’re not watching what you’re doing. You may think you’re DMing someone when it’s actually a reply and everyone will see. So like all things on the net, be really careful what you put out there.

Oh, and DM’s? You can only send a DM to someone who is following you. For instance, I can send Ashton Kutcher an @reply which he could see, but since he doesn’t follow me, I can’t send him a direct (private) message, nor could he send me one because I don’t follow him.

I keep hearing people refer to Hashtags, what the heck are Hashtags?:  It’s a way of grouping responses so others can easily find your tweet by attaching a title starting with a # sign. For instance, there are authors who want to talk about the writing process and get together every Sunday afternoon. They will add #Writechat to their tweet, and then others will set up their various programs (again, I’ll discuss them tomorrow) to search for that “hashtag”.  Twitter will also keep track of the number of hashtagged conversations and list them in the “trending topics.”

What are all these #FF posts? (or #FollowFriday): A hashtag that is used every Friday for tweets recommending people to follow. The best #FF posts have WHY you should follow them.  For instance I might say

#FF @inkyelbows because she draws some hilarious comics about writing and the web.

But I also might just post a whole bunch of suggestions:

#FF @jkcoi @kimberchin @Christine_dAbo @WylieKinson @ruttanamy @Maya_Banks @LaurenDane @iamachiapet

Well, you get the idea. But see how the first one has more power – you know why or if you’d want to follow them, whereas with the second one you might not realize they’re all authors. And no, you don’t have to follow all of them, you pick and choose which one to follow from that list.

Okay, that’s given you a basic idea as you get sucked into the Twitterverse. Tomorrow I’ll give you a brief preview of the various programs you can use to make it easier to follow the tweets you’ll be seeing. (TweetDeck, Seesmic, Twitter Gadget, and a couple others.)

Then, next week maybe we’ll look at getting you a Twitter intervention – because you can very easily be sucked into the void and lose all track of time as you Twitter.

Twitter 101
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9 thoughts on “Twitter 101

  • September 27, 2009 at 8:52 am

    Hi Leah,
    I freely admit it..I put the Twit in twitter…I was tinkering around with it the other night..I liked finding all the backgrounds..lol.
    I find its one big MSN messenger that anyone can read,and I rarely have a lot to say on a good day.I'm not that interesting 🙂
    I need a twitter for Dummies book 🙂 All the retweeting,#FF,finding people to follow, it can be exhausting.
    I don't get how its so addictive,maybe its because I haven't put myself out there yet,I don't know.I don't even do Facebook or stuff like that.But I thought I'd give twitter a try,I felt like I was being left out and behind.
    I'm not an idiot when it comes to computers,really,if anyone has a problem with there's its me they come to. But twitter for me I don't get the appeal.I'm gonna stick with it and try to figure it all out..thanks for the twitter 101 class 🙂
    I'll be here for lesson 2 tomorrow.

  • September 27, 2009 at 10:42 am

    Hi 🙂
    Thanks for the great beginners tutorial on Twitter Leah.
    I might add to it a most important point: Be Yourself.
    All the best,
    twitter: @RKCharron

  • September 27, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    You get those Britney video followers, too? I thought that was just something us dudes deal with. When "she" follows, she follows in threes.

  • September 27, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    Thanks — I didn't know half this stuff and I"ve been Tweeting for a couple months. Srsly stpd.

  • September 28, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    Huh….. Leah forgets the HV again….. LOL Great post for the newbies….

  • September 28, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    tsk tsk tsk, HV. I DID mention you – in the Notes section: "However, just ask @HockeyVampiress how that can affect your entries in Tweet contests."

    I'm always thinkin' of you, darlin'

  • September 29, 2009 at 4:18 am

    Geez, I totally don't get how to do Twitter or how to Tweet I suppose would be more accurate. I barely have this blogging stuff figured out. Facebook still confuses me! Oh well, what is a girl to do?

  • September 30, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Hangs head….. missed that shout out…

Comments are closed.