Twitter allows for messages of up to 140 characters. That doesn’t seem like much, but many abbreviations have been established and the characters can include links to other content and photos can be added. Because most urls are very long, a url shortener such as bit.ly, goog.le, tinyurl.com, is usually needed to be able to fit it within that limit. Twitter’s url shortener is t.co. See examples of short urls in the screen shot below.
Topics are marked with hashtags (#). See the example of #USRC in two of the tweets in the screen shot below.
People who post can be “followed” which creates the content a Twitter user sees in the message stream. Hashtags gather all the comments from everyone who used the same hashtag as a summary, a good way to view all discussion on a topic as well as to identify people who share your interests.
Twitter posts can be retweeted, another good way to find people to follow. You can follow those people to expand your content stream. Often you will get a thank you from the original poster if you retweet a post. This is another way to identify people to follow.
You can mention someone on Twitter by including the at sign (@) before their Twitter handle (the “username” of the Twitter account holder). The example above from NPR illustrate two such mentions.
Twitter also provides notifications to let you know who is following you, who has favorited your tweets, and who has retweeted your tweets. On that same page Twitter lists trending hashtags, another way to locate people or organizations to follow.
Start by checking out posts such as #writing. Twitter can be a useful source for information to re-post on other platforms, such as Facebook, your own blog, LinkedIn, Google+ or as links in e-mail messages. When the time is right, add your own Tweet.
Use Twitter as a resource until you are ready to use it as a tool.