Twitter 101: Defining Twitter Terms and Functions
A few months ago, I heard someone ask what a “twitter taghash” was. If you don’t get why this is funny, this article is for you. One of the biggest challenges for entering social media is understanding the language. Each platform has its own set of terms that you have to learn – and then remember. Undoubtedly, Twitter is one of the most foreign social media languages to learn. It’s only sometimes intuitive, and most of the time it’s confusing.
Let me help you translate “twitter speak” into everyday English for you.
Follower: This is intuitive, but a follower is anyone who has chosen to see your updates. It’s the same as someone “liking” you on Facebook.
Following: Again, intuitive. Anyone whose updates YOU want to see.
Tweet: Any update that you write and send to your followers. It has to be less than 140 characters, and it can include multimedia like video, images, links to articles – and all of these are shown as URLs in the tweet. Since tweets have to be so short, an easy way to cut down on characters in URLs is by shrinking them. You can use the website tinyurl.com to shrink a URL so it doesn’t use up your whole tweet.
Hashtag: This is not a taghash (do you get the joke now?) and it doesn’t have to do with fried potatoes. A hashtag is the symbol “#” followed by a word or phrase that helps your tweets be visible to other people following that hashtag. For example, I tweeted an infographic about SEO the other day and I hashtagged the word “SEO” so that other people who are either following that keyword, or searching for it, could find this tweet and be further educated on the topic. You can see I also did “#infographic” for anyone that might be looking for infographic.
You can also see trending topics by hashtags on twitter. This actually comes up on the left-hand side of your twitter page. You can set this to see global trends or local trends (by selecting a city close to you). If you happen to see a hashtag that is relevant to your business, you can tweet using that hashtag for greater visibility of your brand.
Retweet: This is any time when a follower wants to send your tweet to their followers. They can choose to “retweet” your tweet and it will show up to all their followers. For example, you can see that I re-tweeted an article from Fast Company. It shows up to my followers like this, but underneath the tweet it says, “retweeted by Caitlin Dodds” so my followers know why its showing up for them. It’s like “sharing” something on Facebook.
Mention: A mention is when you tag someone in a tweet using the @ sign. You can use this to send a direct tweet to someone – if I wanted to tweet at Web Talent Marketing I would use “@socialmediafirm” within my tweet. You can also use this if you got an article from someone, or if you want to make sure someone sees an article. For instance, if I wanted to tweet an article from Web Talent, I could tweet something and say “via @socialmediafirm”.
Favorite: If you like a tweet, but don’t want to retweet it to all your followers, you can simply “favorite” the tweet. It’s like “liking” something on Facebook. In the tweet from Hootsuite, you can see that my options for interacting with the tweet are to “reply” (sending them a tweet), “retweet”, or “favorite” it.
Lists: This is a great tool for big brands and businesses. This allows you to separate your followers into different categories. You don’t have to be following these users to put them on a list. For instance, I have a list for “Social Media/Marketing” and I add users to that list who I think provide a lot of great value for social media. I particularly like to add users who have great content, but tweet so often that it clogs up my twitterfeed. I love what Hubspot does, but the tweet so often that I never see anything else. By adding them to a list, I am able to see their tweets when I want to, but not have to worry about my twitterfeed being bombarded.
DM: This stands for a direct message. If you don’t want to send a public tweet to someone, you can choose to directly message them. However, if they are not following you, they will not receive your tweet. This is helpful for brands so they don’t get spammed. DMs are limited in characters as well, so it’s a great way to start a conversation and then take it offline to email or a phone call.
Hopefully this short list will help you understand the language of twitter a little bit better. However, if you simply remember that a twitter user is a “tweeter” that “tweets” and not a “twitterer” that is always “twittering”, you’ll be a lot better off than most of the general public.