Twitter: Top Ten Terms (and Power Tips)


Twitter: Top Ten Terms

Twitter: Top Ten Terms

I’m teaching a class this week on Twitter to an audience with some people who are unfamiliar with Twitter. Every social media manager also has favorite power tips to go along with these terms. Here are my top ten “must-know” definitions, along with some “power tips.”


Every update you post to your followers on Twitter is called a tweet. Every tweet has a 140-character limit (including your handle). Remember: Your tweets are public and searchable by anyone on Twitter, even if they don’t follow you, so be careful about what you say. Deciding what you don’t want to tweet about is as important as deciding what you will tweet about.


Engagement means responding to and conversing with your followers and others on Twitter. Most successful accounts engage on Twitter daily.

Power Tip: Monitor who follows you, who @mentions you, and engage with those people daily. These are the things I do when I first log into Twitter.


Twitter is for sharing things that your followers might find useful, interesting, or entertaining. The “retweet” is a manifestation of this. When you see a tweet that you think your followers would be interested in, hit reply, copy and paste the tweet, then send.

Power Tip: If you just hit the “retweet” button, often people will not “see” the tweet, especially if they’re using a third-party Twitter application.  If there’s space, you can add a comment, such as “Great Idea!” Here is how to send a perfect retweet.  


This means “modified tweet,” which is a retweet that you edited to save space.

Power Tip: To really boost a tweet’s power, add an image.


When you want to “tag” someone in a tweet, use an @ before their Twitter username (for instance, @Carol_Stephen). Add this mention and they’ll get a notification in their “Mentions.” This serves a dual purpose: they’ll know you are reading their tweets, and you’re giving them credit for finding great content.

Power Tip:

This is a newbie mistake. If you tweet @username without a period in front, only your mutual followers (in other words, people who follow both you and @username) and the person you’re tweeting to will see it in their streams. Add a period or other character before @username so that all of your followers will see your tweet in their streams. 


A “DM,” or “direct message,” is a private message between two Twitter users. It’s different than a public @mention because in order to send a DM, the recipient must follow you. Select companies can send DMs without following.

Power Tip: Do not automate direct messages. Asking someone to “like you on Facebook” after they just followed you on Twitter is antisocial and may cause you to be unfollowed. Many people consider DMs to be spam.

Hashtag (#)

This innocent-looking symbol is a hashtag. Use it in front of other words in a tweet to provide context or to organize a search for specific topics on Twitter. Be careful not to overuse hashtags. More than one or two will turn off your followers. Here are more details about hashtags.

Power Tip: Use hashtags in your own profile to attract followers in a particular niche. For instance, I have #Startups in mine.


Your home page has a feed of tweets from the people you follow (click on “home” to see them), while your profile page has a feed of your own tweets (click on “tweets” to see your own tweets). 

URL Shortener

Since tweets are limited to 140 characters, services have popped up that shorten website addresses so you don’t use up too many characters in your tweet. These services are called “URL shorteners” because “URL” (Universal Resource Locator) is the technical term for a web address. URL shorteners create short addresses that work just like a longer URL.

Power Tip: Third-party apps, such as Hootsuite, have URL shorteners built into them.


Check What Your New Follower is Tweeting Before Following Back

Check What Your New Follower is Tweeting Before Following Back

A “follower” is someone who follows you on Twitter and sees your updates on their home feed. Just because someone follows you doesn’t mean you have to follow them back!

Power Tip: Check someone’s top ten tweets to see if they are interesting. You can also add people to a list even if you’re not following them.

Bonus Terms

FF or #FF

#FollowFriday was started by Twitter users as a way to recommend other Twitter users. It happens on Fridays; you can search Twitter for the hashtag on Fridays. Many followers also use #FollowThursday (or any other day) to recommend people.

Power Tip: Recommend one favorite account per tweet, and tell us why to follow that person. For instance, are they funny? Are they super-engaged? Do they have beautiful images? Give us a reason to follow. Otherwise, #FFs can become spammy.

Trends or Trending Topics

Any person, place, thing, or idea that a lot of people are tweeting about all at once is a trend. Find trends on the left side of your Twitter homepage.

Power Tip: Tailor trends by choosing your city or country. If your tweet relates to something that’s trending, use a trending hashtag to identify it and boost your tweet. For instance, if you’re at a San Francisco Giants game, you could tweet a photo and the #SFGiants hashtag–the Giants’ official hashtag. In San Francisco, The SF Giants trend often.


Twitter as a Listening Tool

Listening Tool 60 kb

One day, while chatting on Twitter, I got this tweet from @Tsledzik, above, and got to thinking about how to use Twitter as a listening tool. Yes, everyeone says Twitter can be used that way, but how does that work? What does that look like on a day-to-day basis? Large companies or brands can search on their own names or special hashtags. But how can a Startup just starting out or smaller company use Twitter as a listening platform? Here are a few simple ideas.

Use Twitter to Listen

Use Twitter to Listen

Click on @ mentions

From the Twitter client, click on the @ or connect sign right at the top of the screen. Your interactions will appear in the column and you can easily thank or respond to people. Yes, this is basic, but some people only seem to use Twitter to broadcast, and listening doesn’t even occur to them.

Use Hashtags to Search

Use Hashtags to Search

Not only can you use hashtags to allow people to search for your tweets, you can use them to search for any topic you can think of that might allow you to start conversations. For example, type in #Startup in the search bar to find others tweeting about startups. In the example above, I searched on #Startup problems, with only the word “startup” hashtagged (it’s unlikely that #StartupProblems would give many results). Now you have a whole string of possible people to talk to. Note: the top result is promoted, and like the top search results on Google, you may want to overlook it.

Create a List

You may want to listen to local news through Twitter, or what people in a certain geographic area are saying. You can create a list called “Locals” or “San Francisco” and add people to that list. This is a great way to cut down on the “noise” of Twitter. And you can make your list private or public, depending upon whether you want to be in stealth mode.

Trending Topics

Trending Topics

Another easy way to listen on Twitter is to monitor trending topics. They are in the left-hand column. When I wrote this post, #ParentsFavoriteLine was trending, which seemed to be mostly kids making fun of things their parents said. That might be a good one for a teacher to monitor. Trending topics change quite often during the day, and are a good way to keep up on popular news. Here’s a fascinating article on MIT’s algorithm on predicting trending topics.

How Do You Listen?

I would love to hear what you have to say! Leave me a comment below! Thank you!


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