A Beginners Guide to Twitter

What is Twitter?

A popular microblogging service – users post updates of 140 characters or less. It can be used for personal or business communication.
How do I get started?

Go to http://twitter.com; enter your name, email address and a password and click “sign up”. You will then be asked to choose a username and complete a short profile. If you’re intending to tweet on behalf of the organisation you work for check that there isn’t already an account set up before doing this…

What’s a Tweet?

A status update – normally limited to 140 characters. These can cover any topic you want and can include photos, videos and links to websites


What’s a Retweet?

Retweets are just a reposting of someone else’s update to your followers. You can retweet the whole status using twitter’s built-in retweet button or you manually copy the tweet with the letters RT in front and add in your own comment – remember to credit the original tweeter! You may also see the abbreviations MT or HT in tweets – they stand for mentioned through or heard through and indicate tweets where information has come from someone else at second or third hand.


I keep seeing tweets which include the symbol # in front of a word or phrase. What does that mean?

The hashtag is a way of grouping tweets by topic. So for example if you are talking about innovation you might use the hashtag #innovation. This makes it easy for people talking about the same topic to find your tweets. Hashtags are often used for conferences and events, allowing delegates to network virtually and organisers to share feedback about the event in real time.

Is it possible to use Twitter to engage with business and community partners?

Contrary to popular belief Twitter isn’t just full of people talking about what they had for lunch. Twitter is a really powerful social network and can be used to strengthen relationships with existing partners, develop links with new contacts and really raise awareness of what your University can offer to businesses.

How can I get the best out of Twitter?

  • Post regularly. Twitter is very fast moving, particularly if you follow a lot of people, so don’t worry about talking too much or about repeating yourself
  • Be approachable. Try to use a personal tone – don’t use language that is too academic or corporate. Limit the amount of automated posts e.g from your blog or from other social media sites – these are very obvious and can put people off engaging with you
  • Keep it brief. This allows people to add comments if they retweet one of your posts
  • Be social! You’ll get the best out of Twitter if you engage with other users so ask questions, start conversations and mention other users (using their @name) where relevant. Also retweet anything you find interesting – retweeting doesn’t imply endorsement
  • Build relationships. Make sure you respond to mentions and direct messages (where relevant) and try to follow those who follow you (within reason)
  • Use rich content. You might only have 140 characters but that doesn’t stop you from posting pictures, videos, website links, slideshows and so on. Use a URL shortening service such as ow.ly, goo.gl or bit.ly – that way you can also track how many people are looking at your posts
  • Use hashtags (sparingly). Use relevant hashtags for particular subjects or events – but don’t hashtag every word! Hashtagify is a good site for checking what hashtags are in use.
  • Promote your social media accounts. Ensure there is a link to your Twiitter account on your University’s webpage, on your e-mail footer and on any personal websites or blogs.