Twitter and you: Orientation

In the last Twitter post, I covered the basics of what Twitter is and how it can be useful to you. I assigned you the task of starting a twitter account and making a few tweets, just to get you familiar with the basics of how to use the service.


When you first logged in, you were probably presented with a screen similar to the one below, which is what it looks like when I log in to There are a lot of links and a lot of icons on this page. Let’s find out what they do.

Item 1 on the image above is the tweet bar. This is where you type in your Twitter posts. Just click in this box to put the cursor there and get started.

As soon as you click on the box, the Tweet button will appear on the right bottom of the box, as well as a number. This number starts at 140, which, if you remember from my previous post, is how many characters a tweet will hold.

Item 2 in the above image is your “timeline.” This is where tweets from the people you subscribe to — or “follow” — will appear. So if you’re following Paris Hilton (for some reason) or cable news host Keith Olbermann, their tweets will appear in this area for you to read.

Hover your mouse over any of these tweets, and it will highlight that tweet and cause a few new buttons to appear. Check the image below to see what I mean.

These are the ways you interact with a tweet. You can add it to your list of favorite tweets. You can “retweet” it — meaning to forward the tweet on to your followers, who may or may not be following Mr. Olbermann. Or you can reply to Keith directly and start a conversation.

If you click on some part of a tweet that’s not a link, it will bring up a bigger version of it in the sidebar area next to the timeline, as you can see in the image at left.

This sidebar tells you even more about the tweet by placing it in context. Was this tweet a reply to someone else’s tweet? Did people respond to the post? Who else has retweeted the post already? The sidebar will tell you all this and give you the favorite/retweet/reply options for every tweet listed.

As an aside, did you notice that there is a little blue check mark next to Olbermann’s name? This check mark means that this is a verified user, meaning that it’s really Keith Olbermann. Twitter has gone ahead and made sure that it’s not some kind of imposter. So, when you see the little blue check mark, you’ll know you’ve got the real person.

Finally we get to Item 3 in the big image we started with: the sidebar area. This area will be filled with information about your Twitter account: how many people you follow, how many are following you, how many tweets you’ve posted and what topics are popular or “trending” on Twitter right at that moment. The sidebar also has a list of people Twitter thinks you might like to follow, based on the people you’re already following. The information in this area changes based on what page you’re on, so keep an eye on it.

How do I follow someone?

Say you spot someone in that Who to Follow area in your sidebar and you want to subscribe to their updates. How do you actually follow them?

For example, Twitter thinks I’d be interested in following Matt Gouras from the Associated Press or Jamee Greer from the Montana Human Rights Network. Following either of them would be as easy as hitting that little “follow” link next to their names.

Alternately, I could click on the link to Matt Gouras’ profile (that’s the “mattgouras” in bold type next to his picture). This would take me to Gouras’ profile page on Twitter, where, right below his image, there’s a big Follow link.

Any profile page you visit on Twitter that belongs to someone you don’t already follow will have a similar link. If you are already following that person, the options that appear below their profile picture will differ — basically offering you options for unfollowing that person, organizing them on lists or, if need be, reporting them as spammers. I’ll explain the details of this in the a future post.

OK. That’s a bare-boned orientation to the Twitter website. I’ll delve more into the process for interacting with other users and starting conversations in the next post. Until then…


2 thoughts on “Twitter and you: Orientation

  1. Pingback: Twitter and you: Vocabulary lesson | Digital Now Bozeman

  2. Pingback: Twitter and you: Searches and lists | Digital Now Bozeman

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