How to use Twitter What is Twitter?

Twitter is an online service that allows you to send short, often frequent messages, known as ‘tweets’. Tweets can cover breaking global news, local issues, promote or sell something, be humourous, trivial, conversational or simply reflect the minutiae of life. Twitter is a type of social networking site, and is often referred to as a 'micro-blogging site' due to the short length of tweets compared to a traditional blog. 

More than 200 million people have Twitter accounts worldwide, and when you write a tweet, theoretically any one of them could read it and reply. If someone likes what you're saying on Twitter they can 'follow' you - the more followers you have, the larger your audience.

Twitter screenshot - @WhichTech

Each Twitter user has a profile page where you can click to follow them

How do people use Twitter?

Simplicity has played an important role in Twitter's success. The service was originally based on users answering a single question: ‘What are you doing?’. This has now evolved into 'What's happening?'

Twitter at its most basic is used primarily to discover the latest news related to subjects you're interested in. It's an exciting, instantaneous, always-on social network.

As the Twitter homepage says: 'Follow your interests. Instant updates from your friends, industry experts, favorite celebrities, and what's happening around the world.'

Users' answers to that question - tweets - must be under 140 characters in length. The process of sending a tweet - tweeting - is done via any, or all, of the following methods:

  • the Twitter website (
  • the Twitter mobile website (
  • SMS on any mobile phone
  • a smartphone Twitter app
  • computer application such as Tweetdeck.

To get an idea of what other people are saying or doing on Twitter, check out Twitter Search ( and tap in any subject that interests you. The search results constantly update, so you'll get an idea of the sheer breadth and frenetic pace of Twitter, especially if you search for something that is extremely topical. 

Signing up to Twitter

If you want to create your own Twitter account and start tweeting, you need to go to the Twitter homepage and enter your full name, an email address and a password. 

On the next screen you'll get a chance to choose your Twitter username. This is the most important decision to make as your Twitter username will appear next to every one of your tweets when other users see them. It will also be visible when other users reply to your tweets. Although the maximum length of a Twitter username is 15 characters (letters, numbers and the underscore symbol '_' ) there are benefits to having a username that is as short as possible. The 140-character limit on tweets means that shorter usernames take up less space in messages, so there's more room for the message itself!

As Twitter already has many millions of users, if you've got a reasonably common name in real life, you may find it's already been taken. In this case, you may need to be creative with your username. Either play around with your initials, add some numbers to the end, or go for a nickname rather than your real name. If you're planning to use Twitter for work, however, try and keep your username sounding both professional and descriptive.

Your Twitter profile page will be available at Unless you've chosen to make your Twitter account private, the whole world will be able to see this profile page, and all the tweets you post to it.

Finding your way around the Twitter website

The main way of navigating around the Twitter website is the top menu bar. From left to right, this includes a search box and links to 'Home', 'Profile', 'Messages' and 'Who to Follow'.

  • Home screen - shows a live timeline of tweets from everyone you follow and a list of Twitter trending topics
  • Profile screen - shows a live timeline of your own tweets, access to Favorite tweets and lists, plus a summary of your Twitter profile
  • Messages screen - a record of your conversations (Direct Messages you've sent and received)
  • Who to Follow screen - Twitter's suggestions on who you could follow, based on the users you already follow. You can also browse users by their interests, or find friends who are already using Twitter, by connecting to your contact lists in Yahoo!, Hotmail, AOL, Gmail or LinkedIn

That's the basics of Twitter covered, now you're ready to find out how to tweet...