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What is Twitter?

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Everyone is talking about Twitter... 'tweets', 're-tweets', 'direct messages', 'tinyurl's, it's a smorgasbord of new terminology! 

What does it all mean?  Is it just another flash-in-the-pan trend?  What's the point?  Can it help my business?  Well be running a series of articles over the next couple of months to help you understand and use Twitter.

Topic 1 - What is Twitter?

When you use Twitter or you 'tweet', you're answering the question "What are you up to right now?"  You're tweets are limited to being short (no more than 140 characters - 1 or 2 sentences) and you can include links to websites if you wish.  To give you an idea of how it works, here some examples of our past tweets:

  • New website for Euro-Pacific Partnerships launched - this project was a blast, our contact, Liz, is awesome to deal with
  • Sketching out a website design for a Bristol law firm - loving using a pencil and paper instead of a 'puter...
  • It's coffee time! Say it with me everybody... COFFEE TIIIIIIIIME!

Twitter Terminology

As soon as you start using Twitter, you?ll notice a whole range of new language.  Here?s a quick list of definitions that you might find useful.  You don?t have to use any of these terms, they?re all optional ? but once you?ve gotten used to them, they make Twitter a lot more versatile.


Put the 'at' symbol in front of someone twitter username to talk to them directly or reference them.
Example:  @siteclick How do I add a picture gallery to my website?
 We would see this tweet directed at us in our Twitter account and be able to respond via Twitter as well.


RT stands for 're-tweet'.  If you read someone?s tweet that you like you can re-tweet it so your followers will also see it.
Example: I couldn?t agree more!  RT @siteclick Internet Explorer is making me lose the will to live?
In this example ?I couldn?t agree more? is what you?ve added.  ?RT @siteclick? shows that you?re passing on one of our tweets.  ?Internet Explorer is making me lose the will to live?? is our original tweet that you?re passing on.


D stands for ?Direct Message?.  Putting a D in front of someone?s @username let?s you send them a private tweet that only they can read.  You can only send direct messages to people that you follow on Twitter.
Example: D @siteclick I?ve finished the copy writing, just have to finalise it and I?ll email it across for you to proof.
We?ll receive this message via Twitter.  The ?D? means no one on twitter can see this message but us at Siteclick.
This is an example of a shortened URL.  Shortened URLs were created to save you space in your tweets.  Since you only get 140 characters for your tweets, a shortened URL will leave you more space for your message.


This is a hash tag.  Placing a hash tag in front of a popular word will turn it into a tag.  People can then search for these tags within twitter to see all of the relevant tweets.  You can have as many tags per tweets as you like (although it can become hard to read)
Example: Great article by BusinessLink - Plan to grow your business #small-business
'Great article by Business Link' is our description, 'Plan to grow your business' is the title of the article, ? is a shortened URL that leads to the article, ?#small-business? is a tag to let everyone know that it?s a good article for small businesses.

The Next Step

Our next article about Twitter will discuss the benefits of using Twitter and will include tips on how to get started tweeting right away.  You can subscribe to our blog via RSS to be notified of our free hints and tips as they become available.

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