How to use Twitter Writing your first tweet

Once you've signed up for a Twitter account you're ready to write your first tweet.

All the instructions in this Twitter guide refer to using the Twitter website. Most of Twitter's features are also available in Twitter software and apps, but they will be laid out slightly differently. Once you're comfortable using Twitter you may want to try using an alternative to the Twitter website. 

Twitter followers

As long as you don't set your Twitter account to be private (see Tweet privacy below) everyone who wants to will be able to see your tweets by going to your Twitter profile page at To see what you're tweeting would therefore require them to come back to your page on a regular basis. Instead, by following you on Twitter (becoming your follower) they will be able to see all your Tweets listed, along with those from all their other followers, on their Twitter Home screen. 

To follow someone, you can go to their Twitter profile page and click the "+ Follow" button below their profile picture (avatar). 

Twitter screenshot - what's happening tweet

Writing a tweet is as simple as typing in the box, answering the question 'What's happening?' and clicking 'Tweet'

How to write a tweet

Having signed in to your Twitter account on the Twitter website, you can simply type your tweet into the white text box beneath where it says 'What's happening?' 

Alternatively, you can click the 'New tweet' icon in the top right of the Twitter window, next to your username. This brings up a dialogue box in which you to write your tweet.

Whichever method you use, there's a character counter below the box, which counts down from 140 characters as you type. If your intended tweet is too long, the character counter will go red and show a negative number and the 'Tweet' button next to it will be greyed out and unclickable. An error message will appear if you try to Tweet longer than 140 characters, saying 'Your tweet was over 140 characters. You'll have to be more clever.' In this case, you'll need to try and edit your tweet down so that the meaning is still clear. Try abbreviations, removing some punctuation and rewording phrases to make them more pithy.

Adding links to tweets

Although you can use Twitter to simply give short text updates, up to the 140 character limit of course, many tweets also include links to other websites. You can either use Twitter to promote links to your own content, for example your blog or small business website, or to anything else on the web that you'd like to share with your followers and the world!

Website links (URLs) can be very long - for example the full link to a Which? Best Buy laptops is: If you pasted this link into a tweet there would be very little space left for your words. 

This is where a URL shortener comes in. This is a service which takes the original long URL and makes it much shorter, while still taking you to the same place when it's clicked. One of the most popular URL shortening websites is Simply copy and paste the long URL into the box on the website, and then copy the short URL into your tweet. If you decide to use a Twitter app, rather than the Twitter website, many of these include an automatic one-click URL shortening function.

Twitter screenshot - tweet location

Twitter lets you add your location to each tweet automatically

Tweet locations

You can choose whether to include your location with each tweet. Although this can have really useful applications such as finding tweeters who are near you, there a privacy implications of letting the world know where you are at regular intervals. Twitter gives you complete control over whether the location function is applied to your tweets.


Hashtages, denoted using the # symbol before a word, are used to mark key words or topics in a tweet, and can be used to categorise tweets. Popular hashtags are used to show the most popular topics that people are tweeting about at any point - these are called 'Trending Topics'. Trends are shown in many places, but the main place you'll see them on the Twitter website is in the right-hand side of your Twitter homescreen. You can use a hashtag anywhere in a tweet, but try not to use too many - three hashtags per tweet should be enough. 

Hashtags are useful for people searching for tweets on a specific topic - for example, during major news events, hashtags could vary from #RoyalWedding to #planecrash. Clicking on a hashtag in a tweet brings up a screen showing search results for all other tweets which include that hashtag. 

Twitter screenshot - retweet button

Use Twitter's retweet button to pass on interesting tweets to your own followers


If you like what someone else has tweeted you can Retweet (RT) it to your followers. Anywhere on the Twitter website where you see a tweet you like, hover over it, and click the 'Retweet' link. 

Retweeting is often used as a measure of the popularity of an individual tweet. If you tweet something especially interesting, funny or timely, and your followers agree, you can expect your tweet to be retweeted to many hundreds, thousands or millions of people worldwide.

To see everything  you've retweeted, or which of your tweets have been retweeted, click on the 'Retweets' tab on your Home page.

@ Replies and Mentions

If you want to reply to someone else's tweet you can click on the 'Reply' icon underneath the tweet. This starts a new tweet with the text @Username. For example if you're replying to a message from WhichTech, your reply would start @WhichTech. You can then type your reply following the @ reply, and then click 'Tweet' as normal. @ Replies are visible to everyone, will appear in your timeline and in the timeline of the person you reply to. 

@ Mentions are any tweets that include @Username anywhere in the 140 characters, not necessarily at the start. 

You can search for any mentions of yourself, or another Twitter user, by typing @Username into the Twitter search box.

Twitter screenshot - sending direct messages

Twitter lets users who follow each other send private Direct Messages

Direct messages

If you want to send a private message to another Twitter user, you can send a Direct Message (DM). Only you and the recipient can see DMs, but the person you want to send a DM to must already be one of your Twitter followers.

Go to the Profile page of the user you want to send a DM to, and click on the envelope icon. This brings up a pop-up window where you cany type your DM and click 'Send'. A quicker method of sending a direct message is simply to put 'd' followed by the username and message text into the status update box - e.g. 'D whichtech Really enjoyed listening to your latest podcast'

Deleting a tweet

If you make a mistake you can delete a tweet. Simply hover over the tweet on your Profile page, and click the 'Delete' button. This will remove it from your followers' timelines, but there's nothing you can do if other users have already retweeted it. That's the power of Twitter, so think carefully before you tweet something you may regret later.

Unfollowing and blocking people

It’s easy for a ‘following’ list to become unwieldy, and for you to be bombarded with updates. Removing people from your ‘following’ list means you'll no longer receive their tweets in your timeline. 

To trim down your list, visit your ‘following’ page and remove people by clicking on the ‘Remove’ button next to any of the people you follow.

Blocking someone instead of removing them means not only do you not want to follow them, but you want to deny them the ability to follow or reply to you, too. The person will not be notified that they've been blocked. To block someone go to the profile page of the person you wish to block, and click ‘Block’, which can be found under the Actions panel in the sidebar.

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