Very Basic Guide To Twitter

These days, if you want to be a writer, you’re told you need to have an author platform. But what do those mysterious words mean? They mean having some kind of presence on the internet. And to be honest, if all you want to do is write books, the internet can be scary and feel like a waste of precious writing time.

Twitter seems to be the social media site that confuses people the most. Everyone knows what Facebook is, because your mum, your next door neighbour, and his dog have a Facebook account. And blogs are easy to explain: they are online diaries/journals/newspapers/magazines – whichever you want. But Twitter? It has its own special language, spammers abound, and when you flick through the site it can seem incomprehensible at first.

So, I’ve compiled a basic guide to Twitter for anyone who doesn’t have a clue what to do on it:

What do I do on Twitter?
You post messages of 140 characters max (about 20-25 words) for the whole world to see. Each message is called a Tweet.

Are the tweets of the whole world in my Twitter feed?
No – your news feed only consists of Tweets from people you “follow”. But you can use the search feature to see the Tweets of the entire world, or any person you choose.

How do I find people to follow?
If you know your friends Twitter names or usernames put them in the search box (i.e. I am Elise Edmonds, account name @writeredmonds). If you want to follow celebrities, type their names into the search box.

I’m following loads of people and my news feed is a mess – how do I see the tweets of my friends?
You need to create a list – click on your profile and go to lists. Name the list and add friends. Then when you click on the list you get a news feed of people in the list only. Lists can be private or public. You can follow other people’s lists.

What if spammers follow me?
Twitter spammers can be people who are selling followers, porn accounts, general rubbish, and constant advertising. If someone follows you and you don’t want them to, there is a block feature within the settings cog icon.

What are hashtags?
Hashtags # show popular words and phrases on Twitter. If you look to the left-hand side of your profile you will see a list of the most popular hashtags right now. Click on them to see all posts that include that hashtag. It’s a good idea to put a hashtag on a post because it makes your posts more visible.

Popular writing hashtags are #amwriting #writing #amediting #writerproblems

How do I talk to people on Twitter?

Public mention: Include their @accountname in your Tweet and they will be notified of the message. You can mention more than one person in a post. There is a reply arrow below each Tweet to allow you to easily reply to a person’s Tweet and notify them.

Note: if a Tweet starts with a @username, the Tweet does not appear in the main news feed, but it does appear on your profile, and the profile of the person you mentioned. It also appears in the feed of any lists you are added to.

Direct messaging: click the envelope button at the top of the page. Type in the @accountname to message the person. These messages are private and are not restricted to 140 characters.

What are favourites?
Clicking the heart beneath someone’s tweet is basically telling them you like it.

What are retweets?
Retweets are when you put someone else’s tweet on your page. If you see a good tweet you can share it by clicking the retweet button. You can choose to add a comment to a retweet – this is called a Quote rather than a Retweet. For example, you can retweet someone’s book and say ‘ buy this it’s great’.

That covers all the basic features of Twitter – happy Tweeting 🙂


  1. A really helpful post for Twitter newbies like me! Thank you so much for sharing this, Elise 🙂
    I took your advice and created a list. Now I’m less overwhelmed by the sheer volume of info in twitter.
    Maybe you could do a post on twitter games next? 😀

  2. I like the idea of having a series of posts on Twitter! I’m pretty familiar with it at this point (she says as she tries to create ALL the lists), but I definitely think there are things I don’t know yet, and certainly people who would love a simple guide like this!

    1. magicwriter

      Mmm I’d like to learn more about how to use it effectively too. Haha I created ALL THE LISTS too but now I have this giant list of writers and I wish I’d split it up a bit more.

  3. I still don’t like Twitter LOL. But since people I actually know have been active on there more, it’s gotten a little easier to stand. Though it feels like I could just connect with those people elsewhere.

    The list thing I wish I knew when I started. I have 1k followers now and the thought of organizing them is daunting. I wish there was a way to search through all followers for keywords and then add those people to a list.

    1. magicwriter

      Yes, I need to relist some of mine and it’s a pain. I tried looking for software or an app to do it, but I couldn’t find anything particularly useful. I’m still keeping an eye out. Will let you know if I find better tools for it!

  4. I wish there were more basic posts like this! I mean basic as in ‘how to’ not in terms of your writing! I pick up social media fairly quickly but it can be a minefield and we could all do with some help in the initial stages. When I first started on Twitter I found it the least ‘friendly’ in terms of how to start using it – no info at all. Now I’m tweeting like a boss, but it took a few goes at it!

    I would also add to your list to fully engage with other people. Chat, socialise (it is social media after all) and don’t bombard people with self-promotion. It becomes very dull and the endless direct messages of an impersonal nature to like, follow or buy are, in my opinion, bad taste – especially if I’ve only just followed a person. Where’s the relationship?

    That said, Twitter is useful for expanding your network and I would recommend it!

    1. magicwriter

      Great point on networking and being social. I love the way everyone is so accessible on Twitter.

      I know I found Twitter pretty confusing to start with – it seemed like everyone was speaking another language!

      1. magicwriter

        Yes all these social networking sites have their own nuances. It’s a lot to learn if you want to do several of them effectively. I’ve been sticking to Twitter to start with.

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