What RT Means on Twitter, Plus Direct Messages and More

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, @BrentO (me) repeats something from @buckwoody about the Leaning Tower of Pisa:

Buck originally tweeted that “The leaning tower of Pisa is just architecture in italics,” and I found that funny, but I wanted to add something more. So I repeated Buck’s tweet, and I put my own stuff in front. That way people know what part is mine, and what part is Buck’s.

RT is slang, not a system function. Twitter doesn’t do anything special if you put in the RT.

How to ReTweet With a Comment

If you’re using a Twitter client, it’s easy – click on Retweet or Quote Tweet, depending on the program.  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 280 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.

What does TIL mean?

Today I Learned. You use it like this to start a tweet:

What does OH mean on Twitter?

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, I was attending Vicky Harp’s conference session, and I wanted to tweet something really cool that she said, something my own readers would find interesting.

This is slang, not a system function. Twitter doesn’t do anything special if you put in the OH.

What does HT mean on Twitter?

HT is an acronym for Heard Through or Hat Tip. 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 edit tweets

As of late 2018, you still can’t. I know, right? Twitter has talked about adding this, but they haven’t done it yet.

The biggest challenge they’re worried about, apparently, is if someone tweets something, other people retweet it (implying that they agree with the original tweet), and then the original author edits that tweet to say something much worse. Say I tweet that I love kittens, and you retweet it because you love kittens too, and then I edit my tweet to say “I like raw cauliflower, retweet if you agree.” It might make it look like you like raw cauliflower too. (Honestly, it’s not that bad.)

How to delete tweets

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, click the down arrow next to the tweet, and then click Delete Tweet:

Deleting a tweet

Deleting a tweet

If I click on Delete, 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.

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.

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 280 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 even shorter 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.

How do I direct message (DM) people on Twitter?

Start your tweet with D and then the user’s name, like this:


If I click Send message, then Kendra will get my message – but only if she’s following me.

Direct messages are technically private – in theory, only you and the other person can read them. However, remember that tweets go over the Internet, and Twitter’s systems can have bugs, and anyone’s passwords can be hacked at any time. In the past, we’ve seen episodes where people’s direct messages were exposed. Don’t assume that direct messages are perfectly private.

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.

In the example above, TheFuzzball is telling Imelda about a place with a great veggie burger.

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.

Why do some replies start with a period, like . @?

If you start a tweet with the @ sign and a username, like @BrentO, then only your followers who also follow me will see it.

If you start the tweet with anything else, then ALL of your followers will see it.

Over time, people just decided to start their replies with a period so everyone would see it. They could have used any character or word. In the example below, @KeviKev used the word “Hey” rather than a period, and that works fine too:

Name Dropping

Name Dropping

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, I tweeted that I was done working at a particular conference, and talked about where attendees could find me.

Anytime someone uses the phrase #PASSsummit 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.

Should you follow back people who follow you?

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 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.

How do you get more Twitter followers?

It’s easy to get more followers.  Randomly follow new people, and if they haven’t followed you within a day, unfollow them.  Keep clickin’ that mouse, and you can easily hit a thousand followers within a few days. Use automated software to do it, and you can have tens of thousands of followers in no time.  Presto.  Mystery solved.

Trouble is, these followers are meaningless.  They may not have anything in common with you, may not be interested in what you have to say, and heck, they might not even be people.  They could be the robots we’ve discussed earlier.  I chuckle when I imagine an army of robots furiously following each other, trying to sell each other Viagra.

If you want real followers – meaningful followers – you have to do some work.  We’ll examine some different options and look at their pros and cons.

Say Something Retweetable

When you say something really interesting, people might repeat your tweet and include your name.  As new viewers see your tweet, they might click on your name, check out your profile, and follow you.

All it takes is one celebrity to retweet your useful/funny/whatever tweet and you can pick up hundreds or thousands of followers in a matter of hours.  The first time it happened to me, my web site crashed within minutes due to the load.  Demi Moore told her hundreds of thousands of followers that I had a good how-to-use Twitter page, and bam, game over.  I learned my lesson, upgraded my web server, and I’ve been able to survive it – and gain lots of followers – each time it’s happened again.

The best possible source for retweetable material is your own web site because you get twice the bang for the buck: people are repeating links to your site, which might gain you new Twitter followers and new blog subscribers.  Link to your Twitter account from all pages in your site.  That way, if someone famous tweets a link to your site (without including your Twitter name), their followers will see you’re on Twitter, and some of them will follow you.  Set up your blog so that whenever you post a new entry, it automatically sends a tweet – giving you another chance to be retweeted.

Don’t have a blog?  Relax, you don’t have to rack your brains thinking of interesting tweets.  Here’s a few good sources for things people are likely to retweet:

  • Breaking news, especially industry news that isn’t tweeted by traditional sources
  • One-liner jokes
  • Movie quotes

Whenever I’m surfing the web and I run across something that would make an excellent tweet later, I bookmark it.  Later, when I’m bored and I can’t think of something unique to tweet, I go back to my stash and pull out something good.  Even if life is boring, I can still tweet something interesting.

Have more Twitter questions? Want to thank me?

Follow me, @BrentO, on Twitter and feel free to ask me questions.

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