Welcome to Twitter! There’s a lot of confusing terms. What does the abbreviation Twitter RT mean? How do you reply to someone on Twitter? What are the definitions of all this slang stuff? Here’s the answers to your Twitter questions.
If your question isn’t answered here, ask me on Twitter – I’m @BrentO.
What RT Means on Twitter: ReTweet
RT is an abbreviation for ReTweet, which is like Repeat. It’s like forwarding, but for Twitters instead of emails. If you see something really cool from one of the people you follow, you may want to ReTweet it so that the people following YOU (and not the original person) can see it. In the example below, @amateria is repeating something from @kfoxaz about a new music service:
RT is slang, not a system function. Twitter doesn’t do anything special if you put in the RT.
If you liked that tip about RT, you’ll probably like My Free Simple Twitter Book.
How to ReTweet With a Comment
If you’re using a Twitter client like TweetDeck, it’s easy – click the Retweet button, then click Edit Then Retweet. The length thing can present a problem – if you’re retweeting someone else who already retweeted, you’re probably going to run out of space if you keep putting RT @UserName at the front. I tend to leave out people in the middle. It’s also okay to slightly reword people’s tweets to get them to cram into 140 characters.
If you’re using the Twitter.com web site, though, things are a real pain in the rear. There’s not an easy way to retweet with a comment – you’ll have to copy/paste the tweet, put RT @UserName in front of it, and tweet that with your comment. Ugh. It’s just another reason why I really like using a Twitter client program. There’s dozens out there for every phone and operating system.
How do I get people to retweet me?
First, you need to say something really interesting. If you’re just trying to get publicity, people probably aren’t going to help you, because you’re going to be seen as a spammer. Don’t just say, “Check out this video” or “Read my latest blog post.” Most people can’t be bothered to click on the link.
Give them a taste of something and make them want more. Here’s examples of tweets that perk people up and get them to click on the link:
- “I bet you’re suffering from this right now and you don’t even know it: http://….”
- “This is the best thing I’ve read today about ____.”
- “Here’s the top 3 ways to fix your ___ problem.”
These short, quick titles get the reader interested, get them to click on your link, and then if you’re lucky, retweet it to other people.
If you want other people to retweet it with their comments, keep your tweet WAY shorter than 140 characters. When someone RT’s you, they’re going to put RT @YourName in front of the space. My Twitter name is @BrentO, so when people repeat something I said, they’re adding “RT @BrentO ” to the front of the tweet, which adds 11 characters – meaning I gotta keep my tweets at or under 129 characters if I want ‘em retweeted, and if I want them to add comments, I need it to be even shorter than that. People love adding their comments to their retweets.
Who are some of the best people to follow on Twitter?
When you’re just getting started with Twitter, here’s a few of my personal favorites:
- BrentO – me, of course! I’m a geek, but I’m a nice guy. Promise. Feel free to ask me Twitter questions – I’ve been on Twitter for years, and I love helping people.
- DarthVader – not really Darth Vader, but if Twitter had existed, this is the kind of stuff Darth would tweet.
- BadBanana – subtle jokes from the Midwest.
- LanceArmstrong – he posts pictures & notes from his travels and training events.
- Rick_Bayless – Top Chef Master who really responds to his fellow cooks.
Why don’t people follow me back?
Just because you follow someone doesn’t mean they’ll turn around and follow you back. Some people are paranoid because they think you’re a twitter spammer, or maybe you don’t have your Twitter profile set up completely. Here’s a few pages where I explain why I follow people back – or don’t follow them back.
- Top 10 Reasons I’m Not Following You on Twitter
- Top 10 Reasons I *AM* Following You on Twitter
- How to Add More Info to Your Twitter Profile
What’s The Best Book to Learn Twitter?
I’m a big fan of The Whuffie Factor, a book about social media marketing. I wrote a review of the Whuffie Factor, and I’ve got nothing but great things to say about both the book and the author, Tara Hunt – she’s @MissRogue on Twitter.
Twitter OH is an Abbreviation for OverHeard
If you hear something funny or insightful with your ears (as opposed to reading it on Twitter) and you want to repeat it, you can prefix it with OH. Generally, this is used anonymously, not for quoting people, so you tend to read things that might be personally embarrassing to whoever actually said it.
In the example above, nmyra overheard a funny slam, but she’s being polite and not telling us who slammed who. It’s enjoyable to try to reverse-engineer who she’s around at the moment, but that is left as an exercise for the reader.
This is slang, not a system function. Twitter doesn’t do anything special if you put in the OH.
How to Reply to a Tweet – Start with the @ Sign
If you start a Twitter with a user’s name, like @imelda, the message is considered a “reply” to that user. The reply shows up in the user’s Replies page on Twitter.
Here’s an interesting side effect: this reply will only show up in your Twitter page if you follow both TheFuzzball AND Imelda. If you follow just one or the other, this conversation won’t clutter your incoming Twitter stream. This is Twitter’s way of keeping “personal” Twitter conversations out of the mainstream. You probably wouldn’t find this conversation interesting unless you could hear both sides of it – for example, if I was only following TheFuzzball (not Imelda) and this Twitter came into my list, I’d have no idea what restaurant they were talking about. But since I follow both of them, this remark is useful to me, because I can see what Imelda was talking about before TheFuzzball replied.
Otherwise, if TheFuzzball had just put @imelda anywhere else in her tweet other than the beginning, the tweet would be visible to all of TheFuzzball’s followers, not just those who follow both TheFuzzball and Imelda.
In the example below, since KeviKev started his post with something other than a username (“Hey”), everyone who follows him will see his post – not just people who follow both him and amateria:
This is a real system function, not slang.
Using Twitter Through Your Company Firewall
If your company doesn’t allow access to Twitter through their web filtering systems, check out NutshellMail. It’s a free service that sends you a periodic “highlight reel” of your Twitter, Facebook or MySpace activity via an email. You can reply to the email and update your status or reply to tweets.
Even if your company DOES allow Twitter, it’s not a bad idea to try out NutshellMail just so when they run web reports it doesn’t look like you’ve been sitting around tweeting all day. Plus it helps you confine your Twitter use to short bursts, because you can pick exactly when you want the emails to come in. I get mine at noon (just before I break for lunch) and at 4pm when I’m in the doldrums anyway.
How to Delete Messages on Twitter
You can only delete your own tweets – things that you’ve posted, not things that someone else has posted. When you’re on Twitter.com, and you’re looking at one of your own tweets, you’ll see a trash can icon when you hover your mouse over the tweet, as shown in this screenshot:
If I click on the trash can icon, it’s as if my tweet never happened – it’s deleted. Be aware that if you tweeted something you now regret, it’s probably too late – people on Twitter tend to grab screen captures when somebody does something pretty stupid, like I did with Rod Sloane.
Twitter isn’t like email where you have to worry about cleaning out your in-box. The list of Tweets you get will always keep coming, and they’re always archived on your Twitter home page. It’s like trying to drink from a firehose: you have to stop trying to drink it all in, and stop trying to “keep up”. You won’t be able to do it.
Instead of deleting your old tweets or your read tweets, you’ll want to learn to use the tabs in Twitter’s web page, OR use a Twitter program that runs on your desktop to help you filter it all. If you’re using the web page Twitter.com to read your tweets, then check out the @Replies tab. That gives you a recap of anyone who’s started a tweet with your name, even if you’re not following them. Which reminds me….
How to Send a Message To Someone Who Isn’t Following You
Want to tell someone a secret, but they’re not following you? Well, uh, you can’t, because you can only direct message people if they’re following you.
Instead, send them a reply – this works even if they haven’t sent you anything first. Just start a message with @theirname, like @brento, and ask them to follow you so that you can send them a direct message.
Another method is to send them a reply and say, “Please direct message me your email address so I can send you something private.” Since you’re following THEM, they can direct message you with their email address without the entire internet seeing it.
Twitter Manners for Following and Followers
When someone follows you, you don’t have to follow them back. Don’t feel guilty. Take a look at their Twitter page, see if what they’re saying interests you and decide whether or not to follow them back. There’s no rules on Twitter, and don’t worry if someone gets offended because you don’t follow them back – they’re probably not the kind of friend you want anyway!
I like to think of it as newscasters: I watch the news on TV, so I’m kind of “following” the newscaster. However, the newscaster wouldn’t bother following me, because I’m not doing anything newsworthy. (At least, I hope I don’t end up on the news!) I’m not offended that the newscaster isn’t following me back, and you shouldn’t be offended if you follow someone who doesn’t turn around and follow you back. Spammers take advantage of this feeling of guilt.
Spammers On Twitter
Spammers will try to take advantage of you by following you, then hoping you follow them back. If you get a new follower, and their only tweet says something like “Get a Free Macbook Air!” or “Lose Weight Fast!” then they’re probably a spammer. They have automated systems that go out and follow thousands of people in the hope that a few will follow ‘em back just out of guilt. Don’t get suckered into it – all they’re trying to do is push advertising tweets into your Twitter stream.
Over time, Twitter has gotten better at trying to catch these types of spammers before they get too far. There’s a limit now that you can’t follow more than 2,000 people because the spammers were just trying to follow everybody, and taking the Twitter server down. Speaking of which…
What’s the Fail Whale?
When Twitter’s servers get overloaded, they show a cute picture of a bunch of birds trying to lift a whale out of the water. This is more load than the birds can handle, obviously, so they’re going to fail.
When you see the Fail Whale, it’s time to take a break from Twitter for an hour or two. Something big is happening, and Twitter’s going to take a little while to recover from the pressure. This seems to happen during major events like earthquakes or when Twitter gets mentioned on TV.
The Fail Whale was created by artist Yiying Lu.
Using Twitter to Update Facebook
If you use FaceBook, you can have Twitter automatically update your status on Facebook whenever you post a tweet. It’s free – just go to the Facebook Twitter application setup page, log in, and give it your Twitter information. Facebook will ask if you want to update your status automatically whenever you post a tweet, and you’re all set!
If you use more social networking services like Flickr, LinkedIn, and so on, then consider using Seesmic to update your status. When you post a message on Seesmic, it automatically posts that message across all of your social networking sites.
Seesmic is only used for posting, not for reading, so it may not make sense at first. Here’s how I use it: when I sit down at my computer in the morning, I post a message on Seesmic saying what I’m up to today. That way, the message goes across all my social networks. Then I go into Twitter, and I use Twitter as I normally would. When something really big happens, like if I get news that I want to share with everybody on all my networks, then I’ll go back into Seesmic and post another message, but otherwise I only go in there when I’ve got something important to say.
What is # on Twitter? It’s hash tags.
Hash tags or pound signs (#) help to designate topics that people might search for – especially when they want to distinguish the word from a common phrase. In the example above, BrentO (me) tweeted about a conference in Seattle. The problem is that the name of the conference is PASS, which is a very common word. If people just searched for PASS, they’d get results about passing a test, passing a football, passing a policeman at high speed, yadda yadda yadda. That’s why we start certain terms with # tags.
Anytime someone uses the phrase #PASS in their tweet, it will be much easier to find in search.twitter.com than if you just searched for PASS, because the word PASS will match all kinds of stuff like football passes or people saying they’ll take a pass.
This is slang, not a system function. Twitter doesn’t do anything special if you put in a # phrase.
Twitter HT means Heard Through
If you found out about something through a Twitter user, and you want to name ‘em by name, you Heard it Through them. This is different than RT, because it usually means you heard it in real life, not over Twitter.
How to Add Info to Your Twitter Background
On my Twitter page, I’ve got a little sidebar on the left side showing more information about me like the things I tweet about and the places to find me online.
To build one of these for yourself, I wrote a Twitter profile tutorial post.
Marking a Tweet as a Favorite
When you hover your mouse over a tweet on Twitter.com, you’ll see a star icon. Click it, and the star will light up, indicating that this tweet is one of your favorites. Here’s an example:
You can then click on the Favorites link on your Twitter home page to see the list of tweets you’ve favorited.
Gotta be honest here – not a lot of people find this useful. I like it because I do a lot of presentations, and I favorite tweets when I want to take a screen capture of ‘em later and use them in presentations. I favorited this one because @way0utwest said something brilliant that I plan to quote a lot!
Searching for people to follow on Twitter?
On the Twitter.com web site, click on the name of a person whose updates you find interesting. You’ll be taken to their Twitter page, and on the right hand side, you can click on “Following”. That gives you the list of people THEY follow. Sometimes (but definitely not always) you’ll find them interesting too.
More of My Twitter Articles
- My Simple Twitter Book – free download for a limited time!
- Top 10 Reasons I’m Not Following You On Twitter – wondering why nobody’s following you back?
- Top 10 Reasons I *AM* Following You – how I pick who gets past my virtual bouncer.ee different Twitter clients.
- How to Make a Bigger Twitter Profile – when people glance at your Twitter profile, they make a snap decision about whether to follow you. Give them the information they need to make a good decision.
- Browse All Posts Tagged “Twitter”
- How To Start a Blog – decide why you’re blogging, because that’ll affect the type of blog you start and how you build it.
- Browse All Posts Tagged “Blogging”
Want More Blogging & Twitter Tips? Follow me on Twitter. I tweet whenever I post a new blog entry, so you’ll always know when I’ve got new stuff. See you online!