What is Twitter?

What is Twitter?
At its simplest, Twitter is a mini-blog where you record your thoughts or what you are up to in 140 characters or less. The enforced brevity of the service keeps the chat pithy; users often highlight favourite stories on the web, post pictures or talk about news or TV shows.

How do I sign up?
Simply go to Twitter.com and sign up. It is an easy-to-use, free service.

What's the difference between Twitter and Facebook?
Twitter is a bit like status updates on Facebook. Unlike other social networking sites, it's not about connecting with people you know, it's about following people that interest you. Crucially, in Twitter you choose whose updates to “follow”. They appear automatically on your home page. Most people begin with a circle of friends but many find that they break out of this circle once they become regular users.

How many people use it?
Analysts estimate that there are 1.2 million active users, posting more than 2.25 million tweets every day. It is particularly popular in the UK (there are more Twitterers in London than any other city in the world).


1 Find some people to follow. Use the “find people” feature or search for subjects (go to search.twitter.com) that you might be interested in. Check the profiles of people who are following others who you follow. Try out a few. Follow at least 30 people to get a lively home page. Then start posting your updates. Don't expect many to follow you immediately. It will take some time and those you follow do not automatically follow you.

2 Be short and sweet. Quality matters more than quantity when it comes to “tweeting”, so don't use your 140 characters every time. Keep it light and chatty. Some tweet ten times an hour, some ten times a month. Tweet as often as you have something to say and your network will build. If you attack people, people will shun you. Use Tiny URL to turn long web addresses such as http://technology.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/tech_and_web/ the_web/article5565696.ece into this: http://tiny.cc/hzYBB

3 Observe the etiquette. If someone you follow posts an interesting update or link - copy and paste it into your update box with RT (retweet) at the start and post it.

4 Reply to someone by putting @ at the front of the name of the person you are responding to. Even if they are not following you, they are alerted to your post. Remember everyone can see these. If you want to message someone privately put a D or DM in front of the name and then your message.

5 Experiment. Twitter.com is a great platform but it is not very user-friendly - try one of the applications that outside developers have built: a favourite is Tweetdeck but there are also Twhirl and Twitterific. These give you a stand-alone home page where you can search Twitter, and they provide instant URL shortening, @ replies and retweeting, among other things.

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