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Page last updated at 17:21 GMT, Friday, 12 March 2010

Click essentials: Making the most of Twitter

LJ Rich has an essential guide to help you get started on Twitter and share your thoughts with the world.

Since January 2009 when pictures of the US Airways Airbus landing on the Hudson river in New York was tweeted (published), the micro-blogging service Twitter has been growing in popularity.

Currently more than 50 million tweets are sent per day according to its latest figures. In 2007 the figure was 5,000 a day.


Twitter is, essentially, a micro-blog, or a mini online diary. You can type the answer to "What Are You Doing?" in 140 characters or less as frequently as you like.

It is now proving more than the passing fad some thought it to be when it started in 2006.

Part of the reason it has become so popular is that people tweet from the web, mobile, or by SMS.

Nowadays there are two main ways people use it - either posting or "tweeting" yourself - or just following the tweets other people write.

This is similar to writing a status update on Facebook so you can see what others are up to, or talking about, and vice versa.

Twitter timeline
The Twitter timelines shows tweets from the people you follow

You have to sign up first for the service, and get started by simply typing the answer to "What's Happening?".

Other people will be able to see the list of updates on your page, depending on your privacy settings.

After logging in, find and follow others by clicking on their @name or by searching for them.

Once you hit "follow", their updates (or tweets) will show up on your homepage in chronological order, along with the other people you follow.

People who subscribe to your updates are called "followers". See how many you have underneath your profile picture.


Tweet as much as you like, but bear in mind that 30 updates a day will bung up other people's homepages so they might stop following you.

Many people reckon a happy medium is to start off tweeting around five times a day.

If you just want to follow other people, your Twitter account works like a bookmarking service.

@ and RT
Re-tweeting message
You can share others' tweets with your followers via a re-tweet

Using the @ sign in front of a name will make it clickable. It also gets someone's attention.

Reply to them with the @ sign in front of their name - this tweet will come up in their "replies" section and not get lost in the stream.

If you are re-tweeted (RT), it means that someone has read your tweet and forwarded it to their stream - people do this to get answers, or to disseminate information.

You can share something you have seen with others by adding "RT" to the beginning of a re-tweet.


You can send messages privately on Twitter, as long the recipient is following you.

Like e-mail, you need to be careful with your personal details. Direct messages are now prone to phishing scams where fraudsters attempt to get you to disclose your login details.

If you get a vague message asking you to click on exciting-looking links, it needs to go straight in the bin - especially if they take you to a fake login page. Don't do it!


Hashtags are labels in tweets which make it possible to see a group of tweets about the same subject.

Put a hash sign in front of a relevant word makes it easily searchable. For instance #bbc will filter all the tweets that have been tagged under that hashtag.

It does not matter where the hashtag goes in the tweet.


You can send pictures to Twitter from your phone, just log in to something like Twitpic or Yfrog using your Twitter login details, and upload a picture. Those sites automatically tweet the photo for you.

Browser add-ons like Power Twitter will enhance your web experience by automatically expanding links and pictures.

If you want a deeper experience, get advanced functionality through various Clients such as Seesmic, Dabr, Hootsuite and Tweetdeck - are browser-based or stand-alone programs which allow users to manage multiple accounts, picture uploads, and mobile uploads.

Services that shorten links such as bit.ly are useful because many URLs can be long and take up many of the 140 characters.

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