Twitter jargon-buster

This is a Twitter jargon-buster I’ve put together for a workshop. Feel free to amend and use as you see fit.

A Twitter profile displays the most recent tweets by that user. A complete Twitter profile displays your name, photo, bio, location, website and details about your account (number of tweets, number of followers and number of users you’re following). Your profile is publicly available at Most people will not spend very long looking at your profile. They will look quickly to see who you are and what kind of things you tweet about before deciding whether or not to follow you. This is very often the only time they will ever look at your profile so it’s important that it is complete.

You have 160 characters to introduce yourself in your Twitter bio. Think of it as a name-badge. It should include information about who you are and what you’re interested in (i.e. what you’re on Twitter for and likely to tweet about). It can include #hashtags and @usernames.

A Twitter message limited to 140 characters. All your tweets are public in that they appear on your public profile with the most recent at the top. This is not where most tweets are seen though. Most tweets are seen / shared / replied to in a user’s timeline.

This is your homepage on Twitter. It displays tweets from people you choose to follow, with the most recent at top. This is not an ‘Inbox’. You have not ‘received’ any of these tweets, they are simply visible to you.

direct message (DM)
Private messages between users. A DM from another user to you is only visible to you and the sender, like a 140 character email (or an SMS text message). You can only DM users that are following you and other users can only DM you (back) if you’re following them.

You need to follow other Twitter users if you want to see their tweets in your timeline. If they want to see your tweets, they can follow you. New followers are visible on your Interactions page. If someone if has followed you, it’s because they’re interested in seeing your tweets. When another user follows you, have a look at their profile to see who they are – they might be worth following back. You need people to follow you on Twitter in order to build a useful network.

Unfollow a user to stop seeing their tweets in your timeline. Users will follow other users if they think they’re likely to tweet things that are interesting or relevant for them. If this turns out not to be case, they can unfollow them. People will often unfollow other Twitter users if they don’t tweet at all, if they tweet too much or if what they tweet is annoying or not relevant for them. For more information about what people like and dislike on Twitter, see this research from the LSE:

protected profiles
A Twitter profile the user as elected to keep private. To see tweets from these users, they have to approve your request to follow them. Keeping your profile private severely limits what you can do with Twitter and arguably defeats the point of using Twitter.

Each Twitter user has a unique username characterized by the ‘@’ symbol in front of it. Placing the ‘@’ symbol in front of a word in a tweet tells Twitter to interpret that word is a @username and it’ll automatically appear in the tweet as a link to that user’s Twitter profile. This also ensures that that user sees that tweet because it will appear on their Interactions page. This is known as mentioning someone in a tweet and can be used to talk directly with or about other Twitter users.

@ reply
Not all tweets are visible in the timeline. If your tweet starts with a @username, Twitter interprets it as part of a conversation between you and that @user. As such, it deems it only relevant for those of your followers who are also following the other user as well. They might see it in their timelines but the rest of your followers will not. It is still technically public though because your profile displays all your tweets (including these) with the most recent at the top. Similarly, you will only see conversations in your timeline if you following both users involved.

retweet (RT)
A tweet that is shared because it is deemed important, useful or interesting for more than one following. If you see a tweet in your timeline that has been useful or interesting for you, consider retweeting it for your followers. They will then see it in their timelines exactly as you did in yours. Your followers then have the option to retweet it, reply to it and/or follow that user, etc. If you see a tweet in your timeline by a user you are not following it’s because someone you are following retweeted it. Retweets are how notable information is shared on Twitter.

quote tweet
Like a retweet but instead of a shared tweet, this is an original tweet that contains some or all of the content from another tweet (attributed to that @user). This allows you to add your own comment, include usernames of others who might find it interesting or simply reproduce that tweet as your own. It’s important that your followers can distinguish between quote and comment. 

Hashtags can be included in a tweet and are used to tag tweets with a similar theme. They are normally words preceded by the ‘#’ symbol. Twitter will automatically turn any word (or combination of letters and/or numbers) that starts with the ‘#’ symbol into hashtag. If you click a #hashtag Twitter will search for all tweets that contain that #hashtag. This is useful to find out more information about a certain topic or to find other Twitter users interested in a certain topic. #Hashtags are commonly used for real time events such as conferences and TV programmes because Twitter users can find, follow and/or reply to tweets from other people interested in that event by following the #hashtag.

Trends on Twitter are like real-life headlines. They are the words, phrases or #hashtags most people are including in their tweets at any given moment. Trends can be set to worldwide, nationwide or city-wide.

search feeds

Twitter can be used like Google to search for weblinks. It sometimes returns more valid results than Google because it returns the most recent tweets first. You can save search terms and use them to keep track of certain words on Twitter.

You can add particular Twitter users to particular lists which allows you to refine your timeline to tweets about a particular subject or from a particular group of people. As well as create your own, you can also use other user’s lists. Lists can be useful to find Twitter users interested or working in a particular field, for example economics:

The ‘favorites’ function on Twitter allows you to save a tweet for later which is useful if it includes a link to something you’d like to read but don’t have time now. Your ‘favorites’ folder is accessed via your profile. Thus it is public – but I’ve never looked at anyone else’s favorites.


One comment

  1. Pingback: Twitter basics: do too many tweets make a twit?

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