Anyone encountering Twitter for the first time can be forgiven for finding the site confusing. The first impression many people get is of a series of unrelated posts that are difficult to follow and even more difficult to read because of the use of abbreviations and symbols that make no sense to the uninitiated.
However, understanding a small number of rules and common practices could make the site much more accessible to anyone. And with a little practice sending tweets, people can go from beginner to seasoned expert in no time.
Rule 1: All posts are limited to a maximum of 140 characters.
The limit includes the spaces between words. That means that most posts will consist of about two sentences. Many people like to add links to online articles, so that means saving about 25 of the characters for the links.
Despite the short length, people find that Twitter is an effective platform for conversations with a wide range of people simultaneously.
Rule 2: Follow people you find interesting.
In general, tweets are open to the public and anyone can see what anyone else is tweeting by checking a person’s profile page. But the only tweets that appear in your Twitter feed (the left column in the diagram above) are those from people you follow. Most of your interactions will be with those people.
One way to get started is to search for topics of interest using the hashtag (#) system. Twitter users use the # symbol to mark topics in their tweets. So if a topic of interest is Israel, you would search for #Israel. The results, which include both pro-Israel and anti-Israel tweets, would look like this:
The results appear on the left side of the diagram. On the right side, Twitter offers suggestions of other people to follow. The more you tweet, the more Twitter knows about your interests so its suggestions become more targeted. While people have no obligation to follow you back, in many cases, people will, especially if you are writing posts on their topics of interest. Following people with common interest is one on the best ways to grow your own following.
Another way to find people to follow is to look at who else is following people you find interesting. For example, if you enjoy tweets from HonestReporting, look at others who are following HR’s tweets and follow some of them. A quick look at their profile pages will let you know if they share common interests with you.
And remember, use the hashtag #Israel to mark your posts so others can find them.