Twitter for Beginners: Taking the Steps to Your First Tweet

A guest post by the multi-talented Ashley Faulkes: I have gotten to know Ashley through the LinkedIn group Bloggers Helping Bloggers. After discussing a few web topics, we agreed a post on Twitter for Beginners would be of great use to those small business people just starting out in social media. Thank you, Ashley! (introductory note by Leora)

twitter birdie

Social Media is a powerful tool for the modern small business. And Twitter is one of the most important ones.

Don’t be intimidated by Twitter. Grab it by the horns and get on for the ride.

To make the ride as easy as possible, I have created this guide for beginners to help understand how to create an account, and get started with Tweets and Followers.

Let’s go….

Create an account

Creating an account on Twitter is quite easy. They don’t require much information, just your name, email and a password.

But once you have an account there are a few things to consider.

Creating your Twitter name

When you use twitter, you need a username. This is not always your full name, so you need to come up with something that works for you.

A Twitter name:
– is limited to 15 characters including letters, numbers and underscore (ie. “_”).
– should be recognisable (ie. Either your name as one word, your brand/company name etc).

** Funny names are ok if you are not worried about branding or customers, otherwise think about it seriously

Filling out your profile

Once you have your username, update your user profile and add the following so people know a little about you or your company.

Note: this is under the Me menu at the top. Then Click on the top right “edit” to add the following information

twitter profile example on Twitter for Beginners

  • Photo (your main photo or logo)
  • Header (the image behind your photo if you want one)
  • Name (should be filled in already)
  • Location (if you want people to know where you are)
  • Website (your website URL)
  • Bio (a description of you, your interests or your company and what it does/sells)

** The most important are the name, photo and bio.

You can also choose from Twitter’s default background images to make your homepage look a bit more stylish. Or upload your own.

Twitter Basics

With a complete account, now you are ready to tweet!

Before you head off and start tweeting there are a few things that are helpful to understand.

The @ Symbol

When sending a tweet to someone, people’s names start with an @ symbol.
For example, your friend John Smith, might have the twitter name johnsmith (although that name is probably taken already!!).

And when you tweet and want to mention him you would write

Eg. I was just visiting my friend @johnsmith on the weekend.

The # Symbol (and Hashtags)

Hashtags as they are called, are groupings or topics within Twitter.

Add them to your Tweet when you want it to be found in or to be part of this topic.

These are useful because people doing a search on twitter will see your tweet under this tag when they search for that word.

You can place these anywhere in the tweet, but I find it more useful at the end where it does not disturb the main text.

Eg. #socialmedia, #2012olympics, #justinbeber

Types of tweets

Sending a tweet is very simple, but it can sometimes be more complicated than you realise.

So before you make a mistake and send the wrong person a message or include the wrong people, take a look at these examples.

Personal (Private) Message

If you really want to send a private message to the person via Twitter, this is how you do it:

Eg. D johnsmith this is my personal message to you

Note: It is the D that is important at the start of the tweet

Who sees this?
– Just you and them

Reply or Semi-private Tweet

If you wish to send a message to someone, include there name at the start of the Tweet. This is the default when you hit “reply” in twitter which is below the tweet.

twitter reply

Eg. @johnsmith hope you are having a great day

Who sees this?
– You & them
– and all people who follow you & them (so it is not private, it’s kinda private)
– So if you have followers that don’t know(follow) them too, they won’t see it
** Beware, johnsmith will only see this reply if he is following you

Normal Tweet

If you put the @johnsmith later in the message (anywhere but the first character), even more people will see the message

Eg. Did you see this message @johnsmith
Or .@johnsmith did you see this message (note the dot at the start)
Or hey @johnsmith did you see this message

Who sees this?
– You and them
– All your followers
– All their followers

Beware the Twitter Limit

There is a character limit of 140 on Twitter. In the message box there is a number at the bottom that goes down as you type, this is how many characters you have left. All characters are included eg. Links, hashtags, people.

Retweets (RT)

If you find someone’s tweet interesting and you think they are worthy of sharing to your followers, this is when you retweet.
Below the actual tweet, is a button you can use to retweet. Just move your mouse over the tweet and you will see it.

twitter retweet RT

The original tweeter’s name is usually added to the end so they know how much you like their tweet.

Double check you have not gone over the twitter limit and click Retweet.

Following and Followers

So who are these mysterious people. The following and the followers. Sounds a bit like a cult?

Your followers are people who are interested in what you are tweeting, and your tweets appear in their Timeline (this is a list of tweets that appears when you login to twitter).

Vice versa: you follow people who’s tweets you are interested in, and their tweets will appear in your Timeline.

But how do you find these people?

In the beginning who might want to search for people you know in the Twitter Search or simply ask people you know what their twitter name is?

Beyond that you can use the #Discover menu of twitter to find people with similar interests, find friends via your email accounts etc.


So now you

  • have a twitter account
  • know how to find followers
  • how to properly address people
  • add hashtags to categorize your tweets

There is of course a lot more to Twitter, but first get comfortable with this and then check out some more info on sites such as these:

Ashley Faulkes

Ashley Faulkes is a web developer with over 10 years experience working with a variety of companies in Switzerland. His Mad Lemmings Blog aims to help bloggers, small businesses and web developers.

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29 thoughts on “Twitter for Beginners: Taking the Steps to Your First Tweet

  1. Have used Twitter since 2009 and find it very useful.

    New members should be careful how they brand themselves because if they give the wrong impression people will not want to follow them. The same applies to what they tweet.

    The only problem is that so many members get hacked and sent out viruses. So new members beware of direct tweets stating you have been photographed with a link to your picture. It’s a virus.
    Catarina recently posted…Are you into diagnostic thinking?My Profile

    1. Catarina, good points on both the hacking problems (pick a strong password!) and how you brand yourself via Twitter.

      As I follow a lot of local people (anyone in New Jersey and many in Philadelphia), I would suggest adding a word or phrase about location in your bio. It might get you more local followers, whether your business is local or local and global.

  2. Twitter is useful in getting a short promo message out to your network, or little snippets that show folks who you are and/or what you like. I like it because I can work to define my business a little bit each day.

    1. Those sound like good approaches to Twitter, Edward. When I first started using Twitter (2008? 2009?), I had no idea what to say. At some point, I wanted to establish myself as both knowledgeable in WordPress and local to New Jersey, so I tweeted on those topics. Lately, I have focused on retweeting some of the better posts of bloggers that I admire and with whom I have a connection.

  3. Twitter can be a super asset for anyone trying to promote something. It is also as great way to meet and interact with others. It never hurts to review stuff like this. I don’t use hash tags a well as I should. So thank you for the reminder. 🙂
    Susan Cooper recently posted…Steelhead Vineyards: WinesMy Profile

  4. Hi Leora, This is a great guest post that will be very helpful to people not knowing how to get started on Twitter. So many people are intimidated by Twitter, yet the platform is becoming more powerful.

    I would also add not to confuse Twitter with Facebook. Unless you restrict your account the world can see what you tweet so don’t overshare your personal life.
    Carolyn recently posted…What’s New at Google 2013My Profile

    1. Carolyn,

      That’s a great point about Twitter being public. I don’t know many people who do protected tweets, and you can really expose yourself if you are not carefully tailoring your tweets. Maybe a good suggestion is to read for a while, that is, be an observer, and then craft some tweets.

    1. Now there’s a good tip: shorter user names. I picked the url for this blog because I was able to squeeze in the “biz.” Short helps on the web in general.

  5. Hey Leora,

    This is all good info that I could have used starting my twitter account, its been trial and error for me. But I think the thing on folks minds (like myself) is growing your followers and having more engagement! That part takes a bit of time!

    1. A post on increasing Twitter engagement sounds like a great idea – maybe I’ll find someone who will write a guest post on that topic. Or I can plan to write one in the summer. Whenever I write a post, I find it a great opportunity to learn more about the topic myself.

  6. I have started using Twitter more often and find tutorials like this really helpful. Even if I think I have a handle on things this provides some more confidence that I’m actually doing what I think I’m doing. 🙂

    1. Good point, Debra. Even if you are already doing something in social media or SEO or in blogging, a post that reinforces that you are doing the right thing is a confidence booster.

  7. Some of you have mentioned finding more followers as a big issue once you get going. I have been trying where you can find new people to follow via influencers. Once you follow a bunch of people many follow you back then you can use justunfollow or similar to get rid of the excess (ie people who ignored your follow – often 50% or more). This way you can find people in a specific area who like a certain person. I might post on this at some point in the future with my results.
    Ashley Faulkes recently posted…Google Plus – What’s New Part 1 (Images)My Profile

  8. Great advice for the fledgling Tweeter! One of the things I love about Twitter is that you actually get to know people, and have some great conversations. People who only use it as a one-way medium are really missing out!

  9. I dont class myself as old, 36, but I had no idea about Twitter with the @ and # signs and what they were. So cheers!! I have a Twitter account but just never used it due to this and the lack of time to find out how to use it

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