How to Twitter: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide For Using Twitter

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Learning how to use Twitter can seem overwhelming at first, but with this guide you’ll soon be on your way to becoming a tweeting superstar.

Before you get started, just remember that like all things in life, you get out what you put in it. If you genuinely take the time to build a community on Twitter you’ll see it can be an amazing place full of endless possibilities. Let’s get started!

How to Twitter: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide For Using Twitter

twitter bird

What is Twitter?

Twitter is an extremely fast moving social network that uses microblogging as a way to get instant news/updates. Twitter is called a microblogging platform because you’re only allowed to use 140 characters to send your “tweet” (message or status).

Create A Twitter Account

The first thing you’ll need to do is create an account. Go to and using your email, sign up. Twitter will send you an email to confirm that your email is correct.


Now you’ll have to pick a username (don’t worry if you pick a name that you later regret. You can change your twitter account name down the road). If you’re creating a personal account, I suggest you try your real name first and if it’s taken then you can get creative from there. If you’re creating a brand account then try your best to find a name that represents your brand.


Once you pick your username Twitter will send you on a bit of a tutorial. Don’t rush through this part if this is your first rodeo. They’ll ask you to start following people next. You can follow the people they suggest or search if you’re looking for someone specific. Don’t be shy when it comes to following people. This isn’t Facebook where the norm is to consider that person a “friend”. Following people who interest you is totally normal and acceptable.


Update-Your-Profile copySetting Up Your Profile

Hover over the + (plus) sign and begin editing your profile. Upload a headshot of yourself (You can be creative here but remember the goal is to connect with people so if your profile image is too abstract then others may have a hard time getting the sense that you’re a real person).

Next go to settings and begin checking to make sure that everything is set up accurately (time zone, protect your tweets, language, tweet location, etc…).

Email Notifications- Don’t forget to click on the tab that says email notifications because if you’re start getting really active on Twitter those emails can get very overwhelming/annoying.

settingsDesign- Twitter gives you the chance to show off a bit of your personality with design of your background. Don’t worry if you’re not an artistic person because they do have some themes you can choose from. If design is your thing, you may want to consider creating your own background.

Mobile- If you have a smartphone, you may want to consider just downloading the Twitter app. If you really want to tweet on the go, then connecting your mobile phone to your account and texting your tweets may be an option for you.

What is “Following?”

These are the people that you’ve chosen to “follow”. It basically means that you’ll receive their tweets in your stream and they’ll receive  a notification that you’ve chosen to follow them.

followers-following-compose-tweetWho are “Followers?”

These are the people who have chosen to follow you. You’ll start off at zero until you start tweeting or if the people you’ve followed decide to follow you back.

Compose Your First Tweet

Make sure your first tweet is thoughtful and represents your personal or corporate brand. Don’t be afraid to be bold but again make sure what you write represents you. Yes you can delete tweets but once it’s out there on the internet you can never truly take it back.

140 Characters

It’s true you’re only allowed to use 140 characters when you send out a tweet so make every word count. The more you tweet the better you’ll become at parring down your phrases and becoming a 140 character master. Because you only get 140 characters you may be tempted to not use punctuation. Bad idea. With so many people tweeting at once, if your tweet is hard to read then people will just skip it. Spend the time constructing your message so it’s legible.

What Does “@” Mean on Twitter?

The @ symbol means tweet “at” someone. For instance my twitter handle is @djthistle. Meaning if you want to mention me in a tweet you need to tell the tweet that we should include the twitter handle “djthistle” by writing something like “It was great meeting you @djthistle”.

What is a ReTweet?

A retweet is when someone finds your original tweet so compelling that they want to tweet it again to all of their followers. It should be taken as a compliment if someone retweets you. Take the time to thank them and engage with them on whatever the tweet was about.



Here is an example of a tweet that I retweeted. One of our authors Jessica Ann tweeted a link to an article written by Brent Carnduff, so when I saw this come through my Twitter stream I retweeted so that all of my followers would see it as well.

What is a DM (Direct Message)?

This is Twitter’s version of  private message. In order to send someone a DM they have to be following you (this is suppose to cut down on spam). If you send someone a DM that you’ve just connected with make sure you’re not trying to sell them something right away. Establish a relationship first then once you’re really connected you can mention to them that you wrote a book on the fine art of making an alpaca sweater and you would love it if they checked it out.

Note: A lot of people use different services to send auto-DMs. Some people like them and some people hate them. I dislike them. Especially the people who send me a link to buy something when we haven’t even said hello yet. Not a fan.

What is a #Hashtag?

A hashtag (represented by the pound “#” symbol) is a way to categorize topics. For example if I wanted to tweet out:

I can’t believe the King of the North is dead! #GameofThrones

The hashtag #GameofThrones will make sure that everyone following that hashtag will see my tweet even if they don’t follow me. Then maybe they respond or retweet it and we strike up a geeky conversation about Game of Thrones, and now I’ve made a new connection or two.

Following to Follower Ratio

This is an important ratio to be aware of on Twitter. Don’t become obsessed with it because then you’ll lose the true meaning of building a community on Twitter. As you can see on my @djthistle account, I have a Following:Follower ratio of 19,891 to 20,876. This means that more people follow me than I follow them. Which in the world of Twitter is a good thing. Why is that? Well simply put if you just simply follow a lot of people and not as many people follow you back then you’ll come across as looking like a spammer. Also, Twitter puts a limit of how many people you can follow. You’re allowed to follow 2000 people at first, and after that, they put up a wall. You’ll only be able to follow a certain percentage more than how many people follow you.

With that said, at the beginning it can be difficult to grow your following so you should be active in following and connecting with like-minded people and industry leaders.

How Do I Get More Followers?

This shouldn’t be your ultimate goal on Twitter. Creating and curating great content for your followers should be. If you do that, then the following will come. However, I totally understand that you want to grow your following so that people will see all this great content that you’re tweeting. I wrote an article called “How Do I Get More Twitter Followers?” that should help you out.

Can I Promote Using Twitter?

Twitter is an incredibly useful marketing tool if used correctly. The short answer is yes, you can promote yourself, product, or brand on Twitter and do so successfully as long as you don’t do anything spammy. If you give to your communities more than you receive then you’ll be in great shape. Provide value and be helpful as often as you can.

What’s a Tweetchat?

A TweetChat is a way for a group of people to come together (usually scheduled for once a week or once a month) using a hashtag to talk about a topic that interests them. For example if you’re into media related stuff you may want to join in on #MediaChat every Thursday (10PM EST). To get started you simply follow (click) the hashtag “#mediachat” and on Thursdays starting at 10PM PST people will start tweeting about that week’s topic using that hashtag “#mediachat”. You follow along, add to the conversation, and ask and answer questions by tweeting while always using the correct hashtag.

What Tools Should I Be Using?

There are a number of different tools out there that will help you get more out of Twitter. You should also check out Rebekah Radice’s article:”Use these 8 Twitter Tools Now or Hate Yourself Later

Hootsuite- This is a great tool to start off with. It’s easy to set up and you’ll get the hang of it in no time. You’ll be able to follow different streams and hashtags to stay organized on Twitter. You can also get the Hootsuite app for your cell phone or tablet.

Hootsuite Tweet Chat

Buffer- Buffer is a great way to spread your tweets out over time. Buffer can optimize the best time to send out your tweets to get the most exposure to your audience.

buffer app


Tweetdeck- Similar to Hootsuite. Tweetdeck is owned by Twitter so you know it’s a going to be a decent product.


FollowerWonk - A great resource for people who want to analyze their followers, following, and lots more.


Bit.Ly - Shorten your links and keep track of how many people are clicking on them!

Twitter Feed – Twitter Feed is a great way to set up automation of your tweets with some of your favorite RSS feeds (be careful because it’s often frowned upon in the twitterverse to not respond if people are engaging with you about an auto-tweet you sent out).


What tools or suggestions do you have for people to get the most out of Twitter?

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DJ Thistle
D.J. Thistle is a co-founder of SteamFeed, a blog that focuses on the latest trends in social media, technology, and marketing. His passion in technology is only rivaled by his desire to connect with others through social media. He has been a featured speaker multiple times on how to get started in social media at various wine industry events. He has spent the last 9 years teaching in public and private schools in Massachusetts and California. He is happily married and enjoys every moment of raising his beautiful daughter.
DJ Thistle


I'm a husband, father, educator, geek, bookworm, stock market enthusiast, and some would call me an Apple fanboy. Co-Founder of @SteamFeedCom
Your Business is Doomed if Marketing, PR, and Sales Are Siloed via @steamfeedcom - 53 mins ago
DJ Thistle
DJ Thistle

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  1. When I first started on Twitter I was scared of being followed back, but was THE answer for me, automating n replying back to ppl Really helps your cause. I’m almost at 3100 followers & I thank that usefultTwitter tool! :-)

    • Eric, TwitterFeed can definitely be a helpful tool if used correctly, which sounds like what you're doing. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

  2. DJ, sensational post! Soup to nuts tweeting here, a 101 for anybody who uses the network. Twitter is funny; many see it as noise but engagers know better. Promote, comment, thank, share value and the number of quality of your followers increases in a big way.

    Stopping in for 5 minutes daily ain't gonna cut it lol…..unless you are a celeb ;) Other than that be active. Tweet 20 or more times daily. Respond to your @ replies for a few times each day, retweet others, share other people's content through tribes and you can grow a massive, responsive following in no time.

    Thanks for sharing!

    My recent post Bizarre Graffiti Penang Malaysia

    • Absolutely Ryan! I appreciate you taking the time to stop by and comment on my article. Also, thanks for all the SteamFeed shares and comments. We've definitely noticed. :)

  3. Danuta Newman says:

    A great read and helpful as I am trying to set up my twitter account. Thank you

  4. Great introduction to Twitter! Here's a free tool suggestion, a search engine for Twitter hashtags: Our goal with it is to allow users to find the best hashtags for their needs; check out the beta features – soon we're going to release them to everybody! Ask me if you have any questions

  5. Thank you for the twitter edumacation! Cheers!

  6. Annelize de Beer says:

    Excellent. Is there no way that we can get this guide in a PDF format.

  7. Great article buddy, I love Twitter and spend much to much time on it….ha ha ha. This is really a well put together article, well done. BTW I love followerwonk

  8. Thanks DJ… Nice primer!
    I'm often trying to educate/convince people of the "WhyTo" Twitter.
    Your article make the next step… the "HowTo" …easypeasy

  9. madlemmings2013 says:

    Very detailed and impressive summary on twitter. One of my favourite topics :> I wish you had written this 6 months ago. You might also want to check out my slideshare I just did on getting more followers. A fun way to write about a topic!! Keep up the rockin content DJ
    My recent post Get Twitter Followers – Like a Rockstar

  10. DJ, this is a great primer article. So folks didn't have to go by just dimensions I made an actual Twitter profile header image template. This should help folks with design implementation. There is both a PSD (Photoshop) file and a PNG they can use for reference with dimensions.
    My recent post How to Copy Twitter Lists, Consolidate and Manage Them

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