Twitter For Beginners: The Basics (Part 1)

What are you doing?

Use Twitter to answer the question: What are you doing?

A while back, I promised to write about Twitter for those of you who are not yet addicted to it. In the last few weeks, I have wondered what I could say about Twitter that was fresh, practical, and hadn’t already been said. Hopefully, I’ve found that magical blend and this post launches you into the Twitterverse.

What is Twitter?

Twitter is a message service that allows you to send and receive short messages within your Twitter community. You define your personal community by following other Twitter users. You see the messages created by everyone you follow. Other people decide to follow you, and those people see the messages you send out.

Messages (called tweets) are short, only 140 characters long, so they are easy to skim. Each message answers the question “What are you doing?” You may think that it would be boring to read what people have for lunch or about their commute in traffic. Fortunately, most tweets are not about those things. Instead, you learn small details about the lives of the people you follow. In fact, you may be surprised to learn the small details about some of your best and closest friends.

Here’s a short video created by CommonCraft that explains Twitter (length 2:23).

Twitter in Plain English from CommonCraft

What Do People Tweet?

People tweet about the things they think about. Some of the more interesting people that I follow post tweets about the following types of things:

I’ve discovered that the quality of my Twitter experience depends on whom I follow. I follow people for different reasons. Some are friends, some are part of my local community, and some are people whose work inspires me to be better. If you don’t like your Twitter experience, follow different people!

Your Twitter timeline is the list of tweets that you can see because of the people you follow. Your timeline shows up on your Twitter home page (

There is also a public timeline that contains tweets from everyone on Twitter. You can review the public timeline using the Everyone option under your profile.

How Do I Find People?

When I first started on Twitter, none of my friends were using it. I did name searches, and I let Twitter go through my email addresses to find people I knew. No luck.

I began looking for people in technical jobs located in my town. I used the Twitter search feature, searching for the names of each local Phoenix suburb. The search results included people who listed their town in their biography.

I hoped to find people I knew, but instead, I found total strangers. I reviewed each person’s profile, and looked at the website link they provided to get a feel for them as people. I also reviewed their Twitter archive. Some of them didn’t click with me, but I found a lot of people saying interesting things from the start.

After collecting a group of people to follow, I started paying attention to whom they followed. This expanded my circle even further, and soon I was following 30+ people.

Another way to find interesting people is to search for specific words in the tweet stream (all tweets posted by all Twitter users). This works really well if you are looking for something specific. I searched for people who mentioned specific software I use, or the names of favorite authors, or places I love to visit.

What’s Next?

In my next blog post, I’ll cover more of the Twitter basics, including an overview of message types, setting up your profile, and how to pick an avatar.

About author:

Charlene is the information strategist behind Crow Information Design.

to “Twitter For Beginners: The Basics (Part 1)”

  1. [...] Steps for Twitter Beginners.” Another great resource is “Twitter for Beginners” part 1 and part 2 written by Charlene [...]

  2. Chad Swaney says:

    I find another everyday use that I have for twitter is getting short pieces of advice about specific questions or issues that I have that I know someone in the twitterverse will have an answer to, such as:

  3. Charlene says:

    Chad: That’s a great use for Twitter, and I’ll add that to my list going forward. I’ve heard people say that Twitter is the new Google, and that is what they mean, it’s a human-based search engine for knowledge.

  4. janflora says:

    I was actually trying to figure out twitter which I just joined yesterday and someone tweeted this link! Great info and advice…thanks!

  5. Charlene says:

    Jan: You are quite welcome. And keep following the person who sent you this link. That person is likely to keep posting great stuff.

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  1. What is Twitter and Twitter Resources — Daniel Hoang

    [...] Steps for Twitter Beginners.” Another great resource is “Twitter for Beginners” part 1 and part 2 written by Charlene [...]

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