Twitter is without a doubt one of the fastest growing social networking channels on the Internet today. Nielsen reported that Twitter had a massive 1,382 percent growth rate from February 2008 to February 2009.
As people are jumping on Twitter to join the conversations, many are not only faced with the challenge of answering the question, “What are you doing?” in 140 characters or less, but they are often overwhelmed by the terminology that is unique to Twitter. To help ease some confusion, here’s a list of some of the most commonly used terms and communication shortcuts on Twitter:
Starting with the basics, a tweet is a 140-character message or update sent via Twitter. Tweets can be sent by various means including your mobile phone, the Internet, or third party applications. Tweets are public and can be viewed by any Twitter user, with the exception of Direct Messages and Protected Tweets, both of which are mentioned below.
Also known as “retweets”, RT @username is a way to re-send a tweet. Through retweets, you are able to send someone else’s message to other Twitterers who are following you. Retweets are very similar to forwarding emails and out of courtesy, it’s best to credit the original creator with the @username.
These can be used to reply to a tweet, mention another user, or direct a tweet to someone. When replying to a tweet, the @username typically appears at the beginning of the tweet and when using the @username in the middle or near the end of the tweet, it’s often used to mention or direct the tweet to another user. It’s important to note that these replies can be viewed by anyone on Twitter and the @username is a way for others to know who you are “talking” to.
Direct Messages are tweets that are sent to a specific user and are not viewable on the public timeline. They are similar to Messages on Facebook, for those who are more familiar with that social networking channel.
Favorites are essentially bookmarked tweets. They are a way for you to share your favorite tweets with Twitterers. In addition to the short bio that you can provide about yourself, favorites enable you to showcase the type of information that is most interesting to you.
#hashtags (where the topic or keyword is used in place of the word “hashtag”) are used to group tweets by topic or keyword. To have your tweets grouped with others about the same topic, include the #hashtag in your tweets. For a look at the most popular hastags, visit http://hashtags.org/.
Now that you know the basics, you’re ready to jump in and start tweeting!