The indie author’s guide to Twitter for beginners – Part II

The basic terminology and etiquette of Twitter.

Now you have your twitter account, you’re going to want to start tweeting.

One of the first things you need to understand is about the length of tweets and the impact this has on any web link urls that you want to add into your tweets. There are various web shortening sites that will do the job for you. I use  because it not only stores the addresses, but I can get some useful analytics as well which show how many times my links have been clicked. All you do is paste in the url that you are going to add into your tweet, and it will produce a reduced length version. Click on the ‘copy’ button, and paste it into your tweet.

When you look at other people’s tweets, you may see that there a lots of # tags incorporated. These are really useful – and you need to understand how they work …

# hastags

# Hashtags can be included anywhere in your tweet, and is used to denote a particularly relevant word. For example, if you were to tweet “my latest book is available for the #kindle…” it makes it much easier for others to find in a search. The use of the hash tag automatically flags this as a searchable term to the Twitter software – it is shown as a link in your Twitter stream. So you can either do a search on #kindle in the search box, or if you see a tweet with #kindle in it, you merely have to click on the word within the tweet to see all the most recent tweets from anybody that contain #kindle. This is another great way of find people to follow – people who have the same interests as you. When you see the tweet stream produced by clicking #kindle, you can choose to follow anybody that is listed. It’s as easy as that. It is recommended that you don’t spam with hash tags though – a maximum of 3 is recommended by Twitter.

What about some of the other tags and twitter prefixes?

@ sign

@  We talked about @signs in the first post – they come at the start of your twitter handle. But there are a few subtleties to understand in the use of the @sign. First of all, if you post a tweet with the @sign as the first character (followed by a person’s handle), the only people that will see that message are the recipient, and people who are following both the sender and the recipient. Nobody else. So when you click to reply to a post that somebody has sent to you, their handle will come up first, and it won’t be seen by all their followers, or yours – unless they are one and the same.

However, if you embed an @sign followed by a Twitter handle into the body of a message (ie NOT the first character), that is known as a Mention – and as this is just an ordinary Tweet that happens to include somebody else’s Twitter handle, all your followers will see it. This is really important if you are specifically trying to get a message across to one person that you would dearly love to share with all your followers.

Okay – confused? Let’s make it simpler. In the first part of this post, I mentioned  the following :

  • I follow Tom. I can read all his tweets, but he can’t read mine.
  • Dick follows me. He can read all my tweets, but I can’t read his
  • I follow Harry, and Harry follows me back. We can both read each other’s tweets
  • John follows Tom, and he follows me as well.

I see a tweet from Tom which I think is interesting. He doesn’t follow me, but I can send him an @reply (because I can send one to anybody). I send him a tweet that begins with @tommy_twolegs (his handle). Tom can see this, because it’s sent to him. John can see this because he follows both of us. But Dick and Harry – who both follow me – don’t see it because they don’t follow us both.

However, if I put a word or a full stop in front of that reply, everybody that follows me will see it as well, and that could be really useful. Let’s say that Tom has tweeted “I’m looking for a really good #thriller for my #Kindle. Any suggestions?”

I see this because I follow him. I want to suggest he reads my book – but why lose an opportunity. I could reply with “Hi @tommy_twolegs. If you’re looking for a good #thriller, can I suggest Only The Innocent [include url here]”. Because I put something in front of the @sign, this will now be seen by Dick, Harry and John and by Tom (but not by Tom’s followers).

Another useful thing to know about @replies it that sometimes you have no idea what somebody is replying to! It may be a tweet that you sent ages ago. I got one yesterday that said “What a nice thought to wake up to!”. I had no idea what he meant. But if you click on the tweet in Twitter, the original message that it was a reply to will be displayed on screen. Very helpful, and it can really keep a conversation going.


DMs – Direct Messages. You can only send Direct Messages to people who follow you – not to anybody else. This is a private communication between two people. These are often used to thank people for following them, and can be accessed either directly through Twitter – or if you use one of the tools mentioned in the following section. The same rules apply with regard to the length of the tweet – but it is a communication just between the two of you.


RT – or ReTweet. If somebody posts a tweet that you think your followers would be interested in, just click ReTweet, and it will go to all your followers, who may in turn RT it to their followers. You need to write tweets that others are going to want to RT as well – because that’s how you build your network. But be kind about this. If people are always RTing your tweets, return the favour with theirs. Otherwise, they will stop.  I use a tool to help with this – as described in the next section.


Lists become extremely useful when you are following a lot of people. You simply click on Lists, give your list a name, and then start to add people to it. It allows you to organise people by interests, for example. But you can do much more with lists, and I recommend you visit this page to get a fuller understanding of how they might work for you in a more advanced way.  One thing that I do is create a list of people who regularly RT my tweets. When I am online with Twitter (or Tweetdeck) running, I can open that list, see what people on the list have tweeted, and then RT them too. Otherwise, finding their tweets in a massive stream becomes difficult.

And then there is the whole vocabulary of Twitter. There are lists and lists of terms used by the real Twitter fanatics, and most are of no use at all to the majority of Twitter users. Tweeps is quite a good one – meaning Twitter + peeps (friends) – ie your friends on Twitter, but if you want to know the full vocabulary, I would seriously recommend doing a Google search and finding the Twitter dictionary that you like the best. There are several, and I don’t have a favourite (but feel free to suggest one).

In terms of etiquette, we have talked about RTing people who RT you. It’s also quite polite to say thank you to people when they have been RTing your messages all day. It makes people feel that they are appreciated.

Also, spam is frowned upon. In fact, Twitter will not allow duplicate tweets to be sent within a short time scale. The tweet will be rejected. It’s hard to say what that timescale is, but from my reading it appears to be 48 hours. You can overcome this by making minor variations to your tweets, but it’s better to generate new and interesting ones regularly – or at least have a significant number of recurring ones so that the same ones only appear every three days or so.

If all this is seeming to be a bit much, the next section explains some of the tools that you can use that will make your life so much easier.