- The picture can be attached in a variety of ways. If you use Twitter's native picture hosting service (pic.twitter.com), it will show as a preview in most Twitter clients, and as just a link in some. The great thing about using Twitter's own hosting service, is that many people get free access to Twitter on their mobile plans - and it doesn't cost anything to view the image. This is important for people with a limited monthly data allowance.
- The username is unique, of course. It will always begin with the '@' character, and you're probably used to seeing them by now.
- You may find the 'follow' button on many different websites. It is a quick and easy way to follow this user's future traffic. The user will be notified that you've followed them. Use this button generously. If they turn out to be dickheads, you can unfollow them just as easily at a later time. Don't be afraid to unfollow people who tweet stuff that drives you nuts. This will keep your timeline clean and friendly, and ensure that Twitter is an enjoyable place, not a noticeboard of people's opinions you don't agree with. I once made a poorly worded and critical tweet about the Navy, and was unfollowed by 30 people pretty much instantly. I deleted the tweet!
- The hashtag. There may be several in a tweet. Hashtags always begin with the '#' symbol. It is a way of grouping tweets together so they can be searched for easily. TV shows often suggest a hashtag to use when tweeting about their show. To search the hashtag for other tweets, just click on it. This will create a Twitter search for this hashtag, which will display all tweets that have the hashtag attached. Be wary of tweets with lots of hashtags. Such tweets are usually selling something or pushing a barrow.
- The time and date of the tweet is important. Is this an old tweet, or a new one? Sometimes tweets that are months and years old can resurface, but most tweets will be almost live; real-time. This is the most powerful feature of Twitter - that it is fully searchable in real-time. It is the best way to find out about things happening right now, and that's why Twitter is quoted so much by mainstream media.
- A 'retweet' is simply someone else tweeting a copy of a tweet to their followers. Getting a retweet always gives you a sense of achievement and value - much like having your traffic on Facebook shared. People can make a tweet a 'favourite' tweet so they can easily find it later. We'll talk more about favourites in number 9.
- Reply button. If you'd like to join the conversation, use this button to reply to the person who wrote the tweet. In this way, tweets are linked together and you can follow a conversation thread of many tweets. Twitter will display the full thread for any tweet.
- The retweet button. Retweeting a tweet will make it appear in your follower's Twitter stream. The author of the original tweet will be notified that you've retweeted their tweet to your followers. You can retweet the tweet with all its metadata intact (preferred), or you can use the RT method, which destroys the original metadata but retweets the tweet with reference to the author. Any tweet with the initials 'RT' at the beginning is a manual reweet of someone else's content. You might use the 'RT' method if you wanted to add a comment to the tweet. RT stands for 'retweet', and MT stands for 'modified tweet', indicating that you've changed it slightly from the original (perhaps to fix a typo, or remove part of the content to make room for a comment).
- The favourite button. Or 'favorite', if you're from America... Clicking on this will store the tweet in your favourites, so you can find it later. The author will be notified that you've made their tweet a favourite. This is often used just to let the author know that you like their tweet. Your favourites can be viewed by other users.
I'd like to show you an example of one small thing I achieved in the last 24hrs just using Twitter. Like the rest of the world, I've been very upset by Robin Williams' tragic death, and I got to thinking about the pressure celebrities are under to deliver, all the time, especially artists. So I thought about it, and I narrowed down my list of much-loved celebs until I was left with just one - my all-time favourite author, Raymond E Feist. Now, I happen to know that Raymond uses Twitter, so I sent him this tweet:
According to some researchers, established writers and artists are 18 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population.— UberFacts (@UberFacts) August 15, 2014
@tyabblemons As well as I have any right to be. Thanks for asking.— Raymond E. Feist (@refeist) August 15, 2014
Twitter works. It's been working for me since 2009, and because I'm so passionate about it, I've copped my fair share of ribbing. But now I have people in high places asking me for help to become Twitter-savvy. I've been paid for some of this work, but mostly I do it for free, to help Victorians deal with the onset of wildfire (my passion). People who find things out in real-time via Twitter are proud that they've been able to find out about something few other people know about yet. They are the people that are always the first to tell you about some disaster in another country, or just around the corner, so in reality, Twitter reaches many other people who don't even use it. Latest developments in any issue is always the hot gossip around the water-cooler, or with friends at a social function. Like some people are hooked on Facebook, there are a lot of people addicted to Twitter, who won't get their noses out of their phones long enough to talk to anyone else. There are extremes in every area of society.
I propose that you think of Twitter as 'another source of information', even if you never make a tweet. In the event of emergency, always dial '000' in Australia and report it so crews can begin to respond, before you begin tweeting about it, tempting though it may be.