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Twitter for Dummies

April 29th, 2008 · 38 Comments

If you have been to just about any “A List” blog in the past month, you will have noticed at least one reference to Twitter if not several dozen.  Twitter is the new must-have in the blogosphere.  But just what in the world is Twitter and why would you want to join the movement?  Have you looked at Twitter’s homepage befuddled and wondered, “Now what?”  Read on to learn why Twitter is popular and in demand.
(This is part 1 of a 2 part series.  Be sure to read Twitter for Dummies Part 2 as well.)

What is Twitter?

Twitter is considered microblogging.  Well, that narrows it down, doesn’t it?  Twitter is a place where you can send quick little snippets of information about what you are doing.  You can also reply to what other people are doing in small snippets.  It is a bit like Instant Messaging with the world or updating your status on Facebook or LinkedIn.  You may find it slightly more fun than blogging because you can have real time conversations with people.  Also, you get little glimpses into people’s lives that you might not see just from their blogs.


It has to be small snippets because Twitter only allows you to send messages that are 140 characters or less.  That’s right, just 140 characters.  So these tiny little messages you send with Twitter are referred to as “tweets.”

Why Would I Be Interested In Twitter?  Is Twitter a Time Waster?

There are lots of reasons to be interested in Twitter many of which boil down to finding another way to waste time on the internet.  But, there really are some cool reasons to use it that do not take too much time. 

  • Twitter for Blog Promotion – When used correctly, Twitter can be a powerful tool in your arsenal to promote your blog.  Darren Rowe of Problogger has 2 posts on this:  Twitter Tips for Bloggers and Benefits of Twitter for Bloggers.
  • Twittering to Pass Notes in a Conference – Remember when you used to pass notes in class?  Wouldn’t it have been fun to send a note without having to sneak it by the teacher?  Have you ever been to a conference and the discussion was not what you expected?  What if the instructor could see your commments about the event and make changes on the fly?  Twitter makes this possible.  There was a lot of twittering going on at the Johnson and Johnson Camp Baby and at SXSW 2008.  Wendy Piersall of eMoms at Home came to the realization that she might need to change her blog and brand.  She had a conversation over coffee in an airport with Hugh MacLeod because he twittered that he was waiting for his plane.  That conversation pushed her forward with what she was thinking about doing but was hesitant to do.   Her new brand is SparkPlugging.
  • Twitter as a Mini-Polling Site of Those Who Follow You - If you have a question about how to do something online, are researching for an upcoming blog post, or just want some advice, you can send a tweet asking your question.  You will get responses from those following you very quickly giving their answers to the question.  The more people who follow you and who you follow, the more effective mini-polling will be.
  • Twitter to Build Your Networking and Create Friendships – Like other social networking tools, Twitter can help you build a network and create friendships online.  Susan Reynolds posted about using frozen peas as ice packs in her recovery from breast cancer and started a movement.  This simple post started a viral movement.  She has close to 2,000 followers now. 
  • Twitter the News - As the internet has evolved, so has the way people get the news.  With Twitter, news organizations tweet their latest headlines.  Examples of twittering news organizations include:  Fox News, CNN, CBS, and BBC.  Additionally, you can twitter the newsmakers themselves.  For example, you can twitter The White House, US Senate, US House of Representatives, and Downing Street
  • Twitter to Create Lifestyle Changes - Read about how people are using Twitter to help them stop smoking and how others are using it to lose weight
  • Twitter for Event Promotion - If you have an upcoming event, you can use Twitter to promote the event.  You may have read about the San Francisco protests of China as the Olympic Torch Relay passed through San Francisco.  Did you know that Twitter helped protesters reorganize when the Relay was re-routed due to protests?  Whether you agree with the protesters or not, this is an interesting use of Twitter.
  • Twitter Milestones for Moms - As you know (or have probably heard from at least a handful of moms), there is not a lot of sleep and free time for moms of babies whether they stay at home or work outside the home.  There are so many little milestones to remember but the new mom may not have the time (or inclination) to get out a pen and paper to record them.  You know the milestones:  first bath, first time slept through the night, first time to roll over, first solid food, the list goes on and on and on.  With Twitter, a new mom can quickly grab her cell phone, which is probably always nearby, send a quick little tweet to record the moment and continue about her day.  Days, weeks, or months later she can go back to her Twitter account to see the event and the time and date.  As she has time (and more sleep), she can record it in her scrapbook or baby album.

How to Get Started with Twitter

Now if you are convinced of a reason or two to use Twitter, you may be wondering just how to use it. 

  1. Setup a Twitter Account - Go to and click the “Get Started – Join” button. After joining, you will fill out your username and password. The next page will search through your address book to see if any of your friends are already on Twitter or you can skip this step. Now, you are ready to start “tweeting.”
  2. Use Twitter Through - There are many options for how to use Twitter.  The most obvious way is through the Twitter website.  You can enter your comments about what you are doing or reply to others through your Twitter homepage.  In the box underneath the question “What Are You Doing?,” type your first tweet and press update.
  3. Use Twitter Through Your Cell Phone - From your Twitter home page, select Device Updates: Now you will enter your country code (ie. “1″ for the United States) with a “+” before it and then your phone number.  Standard text messaging rates apply so make sure you have a liberal texting plan on your cell phone.  Check the box that gives Twitter permission to send you text messages.  Then twitter will send your phone a text and you will have to confirm it.  At that point, you can use your phone to send tweets.  So whenever and wherever the mood strikes, you can send a tweet from your cell phone.

Follow and Be Followed

Twitter becomes much more fun and useful as you follow more people and they follow you.  The larger the number of people you follow and who follow you, the more likely you are to have questions answered and to learn interesting things.  The more people you are following the more opportunity you have for conversations and to develop relationships.  You can read more benefits for increasing your social networking by reading Robert Scoble’s Twitter and Inadequacy (er, the Great Friend Divide).

There are a lot of people who will follow you automatically if you follow them.  You can search for users by name, location, or keywords.  I found some people who I follow who also live in the Atlanta area and some others who also have twins.  When you find a user you want to follow, you click “Follow” underneath their avatar to follow them.  At this point you can select whether or not you want their tweets sent to your cell phone or IM application.  If you are going to a conference you, might want to turn the device option on for the others who will be there with you. 

Once you find people you like to follow, you can look at the people they follow to find more people you might like to follow.  You can automate this process by using twubble.  Twubble looks at the friends you follow and finds other people you might enjoy following.

Wendy Piersall of Sparkplugging (formerly eMoms at Home) has created the Ultimate List of Mommy Twitterers.  This is a good place to start if you are looking for moms to follow.  Some other popular people to follow are Robert Scoble and Problogger Darren Rowe.

Of course, be sure to follow me.Follow Jen on Twitter

Basic Twitter Commands

Now that you are following a few people, you will need to use a few additional commands to get the most out of your Twitter experience.  Twitter does not have a lot of commands but does have a few very useful ones:

  • d username + message sends a direct message to someone who follows you. For example, “d jenuinejen good night” would send the message, “good night” from you to me and only to me.
  • @username + message sends a message to a user directly that is public and others can see. You will do this often when you want to create a conversation with others.  For example, if I sent a tweet that asked if you have seen the John Adams miniseries, you could reply, “@jenuinejen Yes that show is awesome”, I would get the message, “Yes that show is awesome” and others could see and join in.
  • You can find more Twitter commands by reading this post on Twitter commands.
  • Finally, if you want a simple Tweet Sheet also known as a Twitter Cheat Sheet, you can download it here. – Tweet Sheet

UPDATE August 31, 2008
Here is an article from MomAdvice listing 10 Useful Twitter Tools.

Now that you understand what Twitter is and how to setup an account, go get started.  Let me know what you think.  Did I miss anything that you think beginning Twitterers need to know?  Be sure to check back next week as I elaborate on some additional tools to make Twitter work better for you.  Finally, be sure to check out Shannon’s site for other Works for Me Wednesday participants. 

(This is part 1 of a 2 part series.  Be sure to read Twitter for Dummies Part 2 as well.)

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Tags: Blogs and Bloggy Stuff · Works for Me Wendesday

38 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Mrs. Fussypants // Apr 30, 2008 at 1:03 am

    Great post.

    I, Mrs. Fussypants, being of sound mind and body admit to being addicted to Twitter!

    I’m on as ‘ Fussypants ‘

  • 2 karla ~ looking towards heaven // Apr 30, 2008 at 1:13 am

    this is a super list!

    I’m on twitter ~ I’m karpo

    karla ~ looking towards heavens last blog post..Setting myself up for some public humiliation

  • 3 jenuinejen // Apr 30, 2008 at 6:38 am

    Thanks for commenting, Mrs. Fussypants and Karla.

    I forgot to mention that if you are on twitter or once you setup an account you can list your twitter name here. Thanks for reminding me!

    Everyone else, if you already have a twitter account or if you go set one up, please feel free to leave your twitter name here so others can follow you.

    jenuinejens last blog post..1

  • 4 Leslie // Apr 30, 2008 at 8:45 am

    This is really a fabulous post. I’ve been wondering about Twitter but hadn’t taken the time to look into it. But I just signed up! My username is lesliemaddox.

    Leslies last blog post..Works For Me: Prayer Journal

  • 5 jenuinejen // Apr 30, 2008 at 9:17 am


    I am glad the list is working for you. I will be sure to follow you.

  • 6 sandwiched // Apr 30, 2008 at 9:47 am

    Thanks so much for this! I was so curious, but I haven’t had the time yet to figure this out on my own. Way cool!

  • 7 jenuinejen // Apr 30, 2008 at 10:14 am


    I’m glad it answered some of your questions. Let me know when you sign up so I can follow you.

  • 8 Sheri // Apr 30, 2008 at 11:14 am

    I am not the sharpest pencil in the box, but this might help (might is the key word). I got signed up and then it’s all blurry.
    Why is it that outside the comfort zone is hard!?

    Sheris last blog post..But God

  • 9 Sheri // Apr 30, 2008 at 11:15 am

    ps – how do you learn all this stuff!!??

    Sheris last blog post..But God

  • 10 Audra Marie // Apr 30, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    I have a new toy now! Wow – I can see where Twitter can become totally addictive. I’m sassystyle on there. :)

    Audra Maries last blog post..WFMW: Flu Remedy Goodness

  • 11 I’m a Twitter, He’s a Twitter, She’s A Twitter… « Teen-preneurs // Apr 30, 2008 at 8:11 pm

    [...] through the most recent tweets, for instance we found a very good post by @jenuienjen titled “Twitter for Dummies” it was informative, and easy to understand. We also discovered a couple of other cool apps [...]

  • 12 Sheri // Apr 30, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    ok – that was TOOOOOOOOOOO easy!
    What if I don’t know any other twitters?

    Sheris last blog post..American Idol seems to have Jesus

  • 13 jenuinejen // May 1, 2008 at 8:21 am

    Thanks for commenting Anne Marie. I just signed up to follow you on twitter. Let me know how you like it as you start using it more.

  • 14 jenuinejen // May 1, 2008 at 8:32 am

    Thanks for commenting Sheri. I am glad you were able to get signed up on Twitter. Now, you can follow me: and I will follow you. Also, you can use the link in my article above to look at the mommybloggers who are using twitter and begin to follow some of them. Some that I enjoy following on Twitter are:

    These are not all I follow but these seem to be some of the most active ones that I follow. Sign up to follow some people. Then check out who they are following and maybe follow a few of those. Most people will follow you back if you follow them.

    Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any more questions.

  • 15 Nichole // May 1, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    Wow, that was a really comprehensive how-to! I have a Twitter account, but I haven’t done much with it because we don’t have unlimited texting on our wireless account and I’m pretty sure I’d get addicted quickly!

    Nicholes last blog post..Flash

  • 16 Randi // May 2, 2008 at 9:00 pm

    AWESOME post! Even a computer dud like me could get it! Thanks!!

    Randis last blog post..Forbidden Wednesdays – Belated Edition

  • 17 sandwiched // May 6, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    So cool…I’m on! And I even managed to get it on my blog.

    I feel a new addiction coming on….

    On Twitter, I’m “sandwiched.”

    sandwicheds last blog post..Tired.

  • 18 jenuinejen // May 6, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    Thanks for commenting Nichole. You might want to check back next week when I post Twitter for Dummies Part 2. It will highlight some desktop applications you can use in conjuction with twitter so you do not have to use your cell phone.

  • 19 jenuinejen // May 6, 2008 at 9:28 pm

    Thanks for commenting Randi. Let me know if you setup a Twitter account so I can follow you.

  • 20 chickadee // May 28, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    enjoyed that. great information. i’m a newbie to twitter.

    chickadees last blog post..Does it sound like I’m whining?

  • 21 Top analyst twitterers / analyst twitter index « Technobabble 2.0 // Jul 30, 2008 at 8:25 am

    [...] Recommended reading if you are not sure of the value of twitter:Ten Reasons Why Twitter RocksShould AR participate in online conversations?Twitter for Dummies [...]

  • 22 Work At Home Mom Tara // Aug 22, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    Thank you so much for visiting my blog and offering your Twitter help posts!

    I knew there had to be some Twitter commands! YAY! Thanks for sharing.

    Do you find that most people you follow will follow you back?

    Work At Home Mom Taras last blog post..Twitter..My new Twitter Venture

  • 23 jenuinejen // Aug 23, 2008 at 6:14 pm


    It was a pleasure to visit your blog and I look forward to following you on twitter.

    Most people do follow you back when you follow them. There are some people who will unfollow tweeps that do not follow them. I try to follow everyone who follows me and every couple of weeks I (somewhat randomly) add more followers.

    There are some spammers on twitter. Before following someone, I generally check to make sure they follow roughly the same number of people that are following them. For instance if they follow 200 and 150 follow them, then I will follow them. If they follow 1,200 people and only 100 follow them, I generally do not follow them. Also, I check their tweets to see what they generally talk about.

    Plesae let me know if you have any more questions!

  • 24 Sara AKA "Deal"icious Mom // Aug 31, 2008 at 8:34 pm

    Thanks for the comment on my blog. I added a link to your post about Twitter in to my post so that my readers can come read yours. It is very informative. Thanks!

  • 25 Michael@ Awareness * Connection // Sep 1, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    Jen, very nice piece on Twitter covering all the essentials. The stuff on supporting weightloss and quitting smoking is intriguing, esp as a therapist. Thanks for the thorough intro/summary. Very nicely done.

    Michael@ Awareness * Connections last blog post..Save the Words for the Happy Times, Part II

  • 26 Mary // Dec 14, 2008 at 12:25 am

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

  • 27 jenuinejen // Dec 15, 2008 at 8:37 am

    My pleasure, Mary! Let me know if you have any Twitter questions. I will do my best to answer them for you.

  • 28 Twitter For Dummies // Dec 23, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    [...] [...]

  • 29 Daltonsbriefs // Dec 27, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    thanks again for stopping by our site, you’re way ahead of me here but looks like we’re thinking about the same things. I really don’t think #TCOT is a finished project when it merely signs up people who are already blogging or online and lets us all follow and connect. #TCOT also needs to help train “not so early adopters” to become online activists for their local and regional causes. Sounds like you’re on the right path and I’ll look forward to seeing more of your posts

    Daltonsbriefss last blog post..The 3rd Party Conundrum

  • 30 Travelwriter // Jan 12, 2009 at 1:53 am

    Thanks for this compendium and for your follow!

  • 31 remowill // Jan 19, 2009 at 11:54 am

    I use Twitter as an announcement medium. I try to post my networking activities so my followers can come too.

  • 32 Nathaniel // Feb 18, 2009 at 12:17 am

    Thank you for this post, I just needed a little coaxing to get back into it, I am now an official motweeter! user: nathanielburns

  • 33 Software, Twitter, etc. « The Zetetic // Feb 19, 2009 at 3:49 am

    [...] Here is an excellent explanation of Twitter to help get you started. [...]

  • 34 ZuDfunck // Feb 23, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    Great stuff here



  • 35 PaulaS // Feb 27, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    Okay I’m going to go home tonight and try some of these tips. Right now I’m super confused but I think this will help. Thank you.

  • 36 Amy // Mar 4, 2009 at 9:23 pm

    You are so sweet to link up to my Twitter article. What a great overview and can you believe I had no clue on the DM shortcut. You have saved me a great deal of time, my friend :) Thank you again!!

  • 37 WFMW: Twitter « Sandwiched // Mar 10, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    [...] to Jen, who got me hooked on Twitter with her Works For Me Wednesday post on Twitter. Here’s to spreading the Twitter [...]

  • 38 Chuck Collins // Mar 14, 2009 at 8:00 am

    This is remarkable! I will link this on my blog this weekend about Twitter. Thanks so much for following and for taking the time to compile this excellent primer.

    Chuck Collinss last blog post..Guest Blogger: Tim Daugherty