Twitter: Tips for Beginners & Twitter Apps to Try

March 4, 2009 by Lisa Oshima | Mobile, Social Media

A while back, I posted 5 Great Reasons to Twitter.  As Twitter continues to pick up steam (it’s seen especially rapid growth since December), I thought it would be helpful to provide some hints/tips for those who are just getting started with Twitter.

Figuring out who to follow:
When you’re new to Twitter, it’s tough to know who to follow.  If you know a few people on Twitter already, following them is easy.  Discovering new people (or companies) to follow is a bit more of a process. Here are a few tips to get started:

  • Find out who your ‘real life’ friends are following (go into their profiles and click on “following).  Browse the profiles, and follow anyone you think sounds interesting. You can always un-follow them later if you find their Tweets aren’t as good as you’d hoped.  As you discover interesting people, see who they follow.  You’ll have an interesting tweet stream before you know it.
  • You can also search for topics that interest you, using Twitter’s search facility.  Follow the people who you think have interesting things to say on the topic, and engage them in conversation (more on having a conversation shortly).
  • Once you start following a handful of people and having conversations, you can use 3rd party tools like “Mr.Tweet” which will help you discover followers and recommend people with similar interests follow you.

Having a conversation:
The most fun/interesting thing about Twitter is the conversations you have with other users.  Interaction is what makes Twitter engaging/sticky.  So, if you’re new to Twitter, don’t just post you’re up to/ what you find interesting, start a conversation with someone about it.  And, if someone strikes up a conversation with you, write back!

  • Replying (@reply):
    • To write back to someone (or target a message visible by everyone to a specific Twitter user), click the arrow under the star on any message you see on Twitter.com or enter the @ symbol in front of a twitter users’s handle (i.e. @lisawhelan) before the message you write on twitter (i.e.: @lisawhelan I saw your blog post about Twitter.).
  • Direct Messaging (D@reply):
    • To send a direct message to someone that no one besides that user can see, but a D@ before the message you send (i.e.: D@lisawhelan I’ll see you at the movie theatre at 8pm.)

Using Twitter on a PC or Mac:
You can always go to Twitter.com, but there are more feature-rich sites you can use that plug into Twitter’s back-end.  Here are a few that are worth trying:

  • Web-based solutions
    • hootsuite
      • Runs on any standard browser
      • Currently in Beta (formerly known as BrightKit)
      • Features:
        • Manage multiple Twitter profiles
        • Add multiple editors
        • Pre-schedule tweets
        • Check stats and analytics from the dashboard
        • Search Twitter for keyword information
        • @Reply and Direct Message
    • Itweet.net
      • Runs on any standard browser
      • Features:
        • Built-in auto-refresh, search and hashtags
        • View user bio, location, URL inline with tweets
        • Watch conversations with “in reply to” links
        • NEW! bit.ly URL shortener and TwitPic uploaded
    • Tweettree
      • Runs on any standard browser
      • Features:
        • Displays your Twitter stream a ‘tree-like’ format, so that you can see the posts people are replying to in context.
        • Pulls-in external content from the following sites so that you can see it in your stream, without clicking through each link: YouTube, Flickr, TwitPic, FriendFeed, Seesmic, Qik, Lala, Blip.fm, and more.
    • Tweetvisor
      • Runs on any standard browser
      • Features:
        • Manage multiple Twitter accounts
        • Get real-time updates about favorite topics, news and tweets
        • Groups
        • Tagging friends
        • Inline video replies
  • Software for your Mac or PC
    • Thwirl
      • Runs on Windows (2000/XP/Vista) and Mac OSX
      • Features:
        • Thwirl notifies you when new messages arrive
        • Shortens long URLs  (with bit.ly, snurl, twurl or is.gd)
        • Allows you to cross-post updates to your favorite social networks like: Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Jaiku, and Ping.fm
        • post images to TwitPic
        • Makes searching for topics easy throughTwitter Search and TweetScan.  Allows you to save searches.
        • Automatically finds tweets that mention you (i.e. retweets and other mentions of your @handle)
        • Lets you record a video on Seesmic and post it to Twitter instantly
        • Gives you realtime Seesmic updates using XMPP
        • Checks spelling (US English only)
    • TweetDeck
      • Adobe Air desktop application currently in Beta
      • Runs on Max OSX and Microsoft Vista and Windows XP
      • Features:
        • Split your Tweets into topic or group specific columns (i.e. establish different columns for your @ replies, specific search terms, and more)
        • Stores all tweets, so you can see tweets that happened overnight
        • Sits on your desktop and can be easily resized to take up part or the whole screen
    • Twitterific
      • Supports Mac OSX, iPhone, and iPod Touch
      • $14.95. Buy it on the iTunes store.
      • Features:
        • Supports multiple Twitter accounts
        • Auto refreshing at user defined intervals
        • Replies and direct messages are displayed inline
        • Number of unread tweets shown in the Dock
        • Delete tweets from Twitter quickly and easily
        • Auto show / hide when new tweets arrive
        • Control over window layering and priority
        • Single click access to user profile pages
        • Switch between friend and public tweets easily
        • Keyboard shortcuts for list navigation and more
        • Control Twitterrific with AppleScript
        • Audio notification for new tweets
        • Hotkey to show / hide tweets
  • Plugging Twitter into your Favorite Social Networks
    • Many of the above solutions include automatic updating of your favorite social networks with your tweets.  You can also do it directly through Twitter by going here.

Using Twitter from a Mobile Phone

  • There are three basic ways to interact with Twitter from a mobile phone.  The best option for you depends on what type of phone you have and how often you use Twitter.
    • 3rd party software application: The most feature-rich option for power Twitter users with an iPhone or other supported smartphone and a data plan.
    • WAP (mobile web): Quick and easy option, if you don’t Twitter often and/or there isn’t a good 3rd party application available for your phone.
    • Text (SMS): A great option if you’ve got a very basic “old school” mobile phone, don’t have a data plan (but do have a SMS plan or don’t mind SMS charges), and/or if you want to reply to a message quickly, without launching your mobile browser.
  • To get started using Twitter with a mobile, you’ll need to add your mobile number to your Twitter account by logging into your Twitter account and going to http://twitter.com/devices.  The following page will help you with the complete mobile set-up process.
  • 3rd Party Mobile Apps
    • There are more 3rd party Twitter apps than you can shake a stick at.  Pick one based on your mobile operating system.
    • Some of the best mobile Twitter apps I’ve seen are available for iPhone via the iTunes App Store including:
      • Twittelator Pro. This version has a TON of features.
      • Twitterific
        • Supports Mac OSX, iPhone, and iPod Touch
        • $14.95. Buy it on the iTunes store.
    • If you’ve got a Blackberry, Windows Mobile or Symbian smartphone, Android or other smartphone, check out your favorite smartphone store to see what’s available or do a Google search. There are a ton of options.
    • ShoZu (one of my clients), also supports posting to Twitter.  ShoZu supports multipe OSes and is pre-loaded on many Motorola phones. It is a social media gateway that allows you to push content to/from over 50 social networks from your mobile phone.
  • Mobile Web
    • Twitter has a WAP site (m.twitter.com), but it has very limited functionality.  You can’t easily do @replies, favorite tweets
    • I prefer using Dabr, which offers a more feature-rich WAP experience for Twitter. It supports @replies, favoriting, and more.
    • Other WAP options for Twitter include:
  • Text Messaging/ SMS
    • Once you’ve added your phone to Twitter, just send the verification code in a text message to the Twitter phone number assigned to you in your settings page.  Once your phone is verified, send Twitter a text message and we’ll post it to your profile page and send it to your followers. (Find out more cool things you can do with your phone here!)
    • Note: Twitter doesn’t charge you to use SMS, but your operator/carrier will charge you for each SMS you send (and, in some countries, for the SMSs you receive). So, you may want to consider an SMS plan before enabling SMS for Twitter.
    • Twitter has 2 SMS short codes and three long codes (for international users):
      • In the US, use 40404.
      • In Canada, use 21212.
      • In Sweden, use: +46 737 494222
      • In Germany, use +49 17 6888 50505
      • Anywhere else, use +44 7624 801423
    • A list of the commands you can use when you interact with Twitter via SMS can be found on Twitter’s SMS help page.  The basics are:
      • @username + message
      • D username + message
      • WHOIS username
      • GET username
      • NUDGE username
      • FAV username
      • STATS
      • INVITE phone number

I’d love to hear your thoughts/additions. Tweet away!  Here’s my Twitter profile.

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Post to Twitter

  • [this is good] I like how in depth this is as it can seem really complicated for a late adopter. I haven't jumped on the Twitter boat yet, as I am still evaluating the merits of Plurk, Twitter's less-popular little cousin.

  • Thanks for that.

  • [this is good] Cool wrap up of the what and how of twitter. I've been going back and forth with it and am still figuring out how to incorporate it into my digital life.

  • juls

    Suggestions I'm playing with are:

    – 'Twitterberry' app for Blackberry, more info here: http://www.orangatame.com/products/twitterberry/

    – 'Destroy Twitter' similar to 'Tweetdeck' an AIR app http://www.destroytoday.com/projects/destroytwi

    For those with an Android phone there's http://twidroid.com/

  • Judy

    [this is good] I got a Twitter account before I was able to fully care for it and promptly killed it like Lennie Small killed his cute rabbit.
    I get it now but Twitter apparently doesn’t allow users to initiate an account with the same email address used the first time around. So I ate my piece of humble pie and sent in a request to have my original account restored.
    Thanks to you I’m waiting with a good set of guidelines on how to make better use of it the second time around.

  • Judy

    [this is good] I got a Twitter account before I was able to fully care for it and promptly killed it like Lennie Small killed his cute rabbit.
    I get it now but Twitter apparently doesn't allow users to initiate an account with the same email address used the first time around. So I ate my piece of humble pie and sent in a request to have my original account restored.
    Thanks to you I'm waiting with a good set of guidelines on how to make better use of it the second time around.






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