A beginner’s guide to Twitter (and all those bamboozling terms)

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A beginner’s guide to Twitter (and all those bamboozling terms)

Twitter. It seems to be everywhere.

That weird little # symbol appears daily on TV and you can find that squiggly @ icon on business cards, the backs of cereal boxes and even on the odd t-shirt.

But for those of us who wouldn’t know a hashtag from a hash brown, it can all be a little confusing and, well, sometimes you just can’t bring yourself to ask about something everyone else seems to know all about!

So, here’s a simple and very straightforward introduction to Twitter and it’s often bamboozling terms, that’s guaranteed to get you walking the #walk and talking the #talk.

If you find it valuable, we’d be really grateful if you’d pass on a link or share it on social media.

Ok, so what is Twitter?

Aside from the sweet sound made by birds, Twitter is a social network that lets its users write (or ‘Tweet’) messages of up to 140 characters.

It’s about brevity and, no matter how important, eloquent or interesting your Tweet may be, it simply cannot be more than 140 characters.

Like Facebook, you can Tweet about anything you want and other people can ‘follow’ your profile to read your Tweets, just as you can ‘follow’ other people’s Twitter feeds to read what they have to say.

@ (The Twitter username)

Every Twitter username is preceded by the ‘@’ (pronounced ‘at’) symbol.

So, for example, Watermelon Media‘s Twitter username is @WatermelonMedia.

Similarly, the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot’s Twitter username (also called a handle) is @TonyAbbottMHR, while the Red Cross’ Twitter username is @RedCross.

Individuals or businesses can open a free Twitter account and every single one of them has a username that starts with @, so if you want to mention someone on Twitter, by including their username, your Tweet will link to their profile and be seen by them.

In the Tweet below, we’ve mentioned Facebook, so we’ve included (or ‘tagged’) their @ username, which means that if you click on the @ link, you’ll be taken to the Facebook Twitter account and they’ll also receive notification that we’ve Tweeted about them!

Glad to see @Facebook has updated its Scheduled Posts! It’s much more intuitive and sensible! #Facebook #SocialMediapic.twitter.com/ow3IfoJAfK — Watermelon Media (@WatermelonMedia) November 13, 2013


We’ve briefly mentioned ‘following’ other people’s Twitter accounts above and, though there are approximately 645 million active Twitter users out there, you don’t want to follow them all.

So, in order to ensure you only see Tweets from the people and brands you’re actually interested in, you can ‘Follow’ them.

The result is that every time one of the people you ‘follow’ posts a new Tweet, it will appear in your Twitter feed.

It’s a fantastic way to keep up with what your favourite politicians, celebs, TV show, local coffee shop etc are up to, as well as keeping track of the latest trends when it comes to your hobbies or interests.


If you’re having a conversation and want to mention someone or talk directly to them, you’ll say their name.

It’s the same in the Twittersphere.

If you want to talk about or to someone, you ‘tag’ them by using their @ username.

That means you can talk to any Twitter user anywhere in the world. Whether they respond is another matter, but, in theory, you can reach key influencers whose opinions matter and whose attention could be of advantage to your cause.

For example, if I’m a malaria researcher in South Africa who wants to alert philanthropist and tech guru Bill Gates about my recent breakthrough in malaria-related research, a particular interest of him and his charity, I could attempt to garner his attention by Tweeting about my research and ‘tagging’ @BillGates in my Tweet.

Even though he has 15.5 million followers, all of whom may feel similarly inclined to tag him, too, he may just spy my highly relevant Tweet in his Twitter feed and reply or retweet it to his followers.

Wow! Just imagine the possibilities.

Here’s another less serious example below.

When British comedian Ricky Gervais tweeted about Russell Crowe’s new film, Noah, he tagged the Aussie actor.

As such, Gervais’ Tweet would have appeared in the feeds of all 5.75 million of his followers.

And Mr Crowe saw it, too, because he was tagged in it. Rusty also retweeted it to his own fans, all 1.44 million of them.


.@russellcrowe good luck with that new movie of yours. I’ve heard it’s even better than the book 

— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) March 27, 2014

Hashtags (#):

Now, for those weird little # symbols we tend to see everywhere. They’re called hashtags and they’re a means of highlighting certain words or phrases so that others looking for those terms can find them amidst the 58 million messages that are Tweeted each day.

Hashtags are used on other social media networks, including Facebook and Instagram, too for the same purpose: to highlight specific themes, words and terms

If, for example, someone is looking for the best #pizza in #Melbourne, they’ll type these two words (with hashtags) into Twitter’s search bar, and BOOM, they’ll see a long list of Tweets that have included the words #pizza and #Melbourne.

Companies now use hashtags in advertising campaigns, as do charities, governments and, of course, individuals.

Check out:


Note, there are no spaces in hashtagged phrases.


Twitter is a social network, so it’s all about being social. Don’t sit in the corner and lurk. Get involved!

If somebody asks a question on Twitter to which you have an answer, hit the reply button beneath their Tweet and make yourself known by offering your advice, opinion or solution.

Don’t forget to hashtag the keywords so anyone else interested in the topic can benefit from your reply.


Seen something you like in your home page feed? Perhaps it’s a useful link to a story, a sage quote, a particularly funny Tweet or a post of such importance, you feel the need to share it.

Then do so. Share it!

You can share interesting Tweets by ‘Retweeting’ them.

Just as you received the post as the result of following the person who Tweeted the 140-character gem (or found them via a hashtag), you can pass it on to your followers by hitting the Retweet button, which will send an exact copy of the Tweet that caught your interest to all of your followers.

A Retweet attributes the original Tweeter, as well as notifying that person that you’ve shared their post.

If their information is relevant to you, it’s likely your followers will enjoy it too

Ok, so now that you have better understanding of Twitter (and you definitely understand the difference between a hashtag and a hasbrown), why not turn your theoretical knowledge into a little practical experience by signing up and Tweeting your heart out!

Oh, and don’t forget to #follow us @WatermelonMedia!

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