Twitter Guide for Beginners
Ok, let's start at the beginning. If you're new to twitter here are a few things you need to know:
What is Twitter? What is it for?
Forget about Twitter being 'social media', don't worry about what a 'retweet' and a 'hashtag' are. These are just words and terms that you can get to grips with later. Essentially all you need to know is that Twitter is like a big room full of people chatting. They just happen to be chatting in very short sentences. Via Twitter you can tell the world about your new product, hear breaking news as it happens, find people discussing a TV show you're watching, talk to other musicians or designers or just lurk and see what celebrities are up to.
Where to begin?
You sign up for twitter here. First, you need to choose a username. This is how people will identify you, so if you are signing up as an artist, business, band or film-maker choose the most obvious way to recognise you in as few characters as possible. And try to avoid punctuation. So, if your band name is Zombie Kittens Attack you could use the full name like so: @ZombieKittensAttack or shorten it to @ZombieKittens so it doesn't use up too many characters if someone is tweeting you.
So what can I tweet?
Almost anything! Twitter is a free-flowing, fast-moving conversation, so don't worry too much about 'getting it right' - just leap in! You can write your own tweet of 140 characters about your work, your day or your thoughts. You can link to good websites. You can use a hashtag (more on this later). You can talk to someone by starting your tweet with @[theirname]. You can even send someone a direct message which only you & they can see.
Who should I follow?
There are thousands of different people tweeting about a plethora of subjects. And you can follow whoever you like to discover whatever you want. We'd suggest starting with a few of your friends, personal and professional contacts, then a few famous people that you like / admire. Search Twitter to see if they have an account (look out for a tick which shows it's a 'verified account' and not a fan page or parody account) then check out what they're tweeting. If it looks interesting click Follow!
What is a retweet?
A retweet is a quick way of repeating and sharing something you've seen on Twitter to your followers. If we tweeted 'Great story on the Guardian today: http://guardian.co.uk/' you can click the retweet button and share it too. If you want to add your own comment then you can 'quote tweet' and copy n paste our tweet along with your remarks: 'Very interesting, thanks for sharing RT @shipshapeMKTG: Great story on the Guardian today: http://guardian.co.uk/'. RT is short for retweet.
What is a hashtag?
A hashtag is any phrase with the # symbol in front of it. This is used to find all the instances of a specific phrase on twitter to create conversations. So, you can click the word with the # in front of it and find all the tweets about a particular topic. For example, you could tweet: "David Bowie is awesome! #music". This will add your tweet to the conversation about music and more people will see it. Hashtags are also used to make jokes too. For example, "David Bowie is awesome! #ApartFromInLabyrinth" uses the hashtag like an aside. Hashtags are a great way to reach more people with your message and be a part of a bigger conversation.
Who can see my tweets?
In short, anyone who cares. Unless you mark your tweets as private, anyone searching Twitter can see what you've written. The other way to see your tweets is to follow you. People who follow you then see your tweets in their 'timeline'. Your timeline is the live feed of tweets shown when you log in to Twitter, tweets written by people you follow. Bear in mind, though, that if you tweet someone a message and start it with @[theirname] then only people who follow both of you will see it. So...
Tweet 1 - A public statement
wow this is the best sandwich ever @bobsandwichguy - will be seen in the timeline of all your followers
Tweet 2 - A chat with a person
@bobsandwichguy this is the best sandwich ever! - will only be seen by those who follow both you & Bob
Who cares what I've had for dinner?
Twitter is full of interesting people sharing far more than what they've just eaten. Some people do tweet about their latest meal, but if you're not interested in that you don't have to follow them. Finding topics to tweet about is as easy as sharing the things you're interested in. If you're an artist, share news from the art world, an amazing animation, discussions on art topics and so on. And while we're at it, a word on self-promotion... As a guide, we advise that if you're planning to use Twitter to talk about yourself and your work, it's best to stick to the 80/20 rule. Share ideas, content, pictures and events for 80% of the time and only talk about yourself 20% of the time. No one likes to be stuck in a room with someone yammering on about themselves all the time... and Twitter is no different! Talk to people, create and join in conversations. It's a two way street!
What does #FF mean?
It means you're doing something right! On twitter there is a tradition of recommending other users to follow who tweet interesting things. This happens on a Friday and is known as Follow Friday, or (to use less of the 140 characters) #FF. If someone mentions you in a tweet with the FF hashtag, you're onto a winner! Yay!!! …and be sure to say thank you. It's also nice to spread a little love of your own too.
Will I get any spam or trolls?
Probably, yes. But the good news is you can just ignore it. If spam / fake accounts follow you it doesn't matter as you will only see tweets from people that you follow. If a troll contacts you, the simple advice is ignore them and they will go away. If not, you can report it. One final warning: sometimes you will receive tweets or mentions with a link in it. Be sure that the link isn't spam before clicking. Especially if it says something like 'You won't believe what people are saying about you [LINK]'. Do not click the link. If it looks suspect (even if it's from someone you know) then it probably is. If you're worried about this you can read more here
What am I waiting for...?
We don't know! Get stuck in, follow some fascinating people and start tweeting!