Twitter Basics

Posted July 9th, 2010 in Curriculum, Twitter by Keith PetriPrint This Post Print This Post

Students often overlook the value of the social network Twitter. The few that use the service do so in an irresponsible manner that damages their personal brand. Learning the basics and becoming involved can help individuals build credibility, connect with likeminded peers and potentially lead to gainful employment.

There is no need to use more than 140-characters to express a thought in our fast paced society. Get involved, be heard and become influential.

Twitter is an online micro-blogging and social networking site with upwards of 100 million users worldwide. The site presents opportunities for students to engage in conversation, keep in touch with old friends, share educational links, provide advice, and more!

If it all seems a little overwhelming, read the following overview of Twitter Basics. However, if you feel that you have a firm grasp of the service, eBranding Me would appreciate your feedback and to hear about your success stories in the comments section.


Sign Up

Registration is a simple process requiring the user to enter only their name, a password, email address and most importantly, their desired Twitter User Name (a.k.a. “Handle”). A Twitter handle is very important. Ideally it should highlight the user’s real name to create consistency across all online channels.

Secondly, a handle should be as short as possible. When you begin to tweet valuable information to your followers, they will want to re-tweet the update. During this process, the new tweet will be the original length, plus your Twitter handle, which could extend the length to over 140 characters. As Chris Brogan recommends on his list of “50 Twitter Power Tips,” “Leave 20 characters or more space in each tweet to improve re-tweeting.”



Every user should have a complete profile. Make sure to use all 160 characters available for your bio to express your strengths, interests and goals. As a student, potential employers search Twitter for viable candidates possessing the right skills for the job. If you are interested in computer graphics, specify which programs you are familiar with (i.e. Adobe Suite, Quark and/or Corel).

The link you provide on your Twitter profile can be argued to be more important than your bio. Be sure to channel your followers to a professional website: a LinkedIn Profile or personal blog. Make it worth the visitor’s effort to follow the link – make sure your profile is up-to-date and the content updated on a consistent basis.

It is necessary to have a professional headshot for your profile picture on social networks. eBranding Me recommends having a friend take a photograph at a local park. Having an image with no distractions or inappropriate references allows your followers to connect a face to a name and shows transparency. Always use the same image across all social networks you subscribe to for consistency.

Finally, a Twitter background is an additional option to develop your personal brand by highlighting a larger image of yourself, drawing attention to your contact information and directing viewers to your content on a personal blog or online portfolio. Neglecting to use this space is an oversight. eBranding Me recommends you use one of the Twitter Background tools listed below, or customize one yourself. However, the eBranding Me team is offering custom Twitter backgrounds to the first 10 readers who email “info [at] eBranding.Me” with the subject “Twitter”.



One of the most common questions eBranding Me hears from students in regards to tweeting is, “But what do I tweet? No one cares about what I ate for lunch today!” And guess what, you are RIGHT! Twitter is not about sharing insights into your personal life. Nor is it about blatant self-promotion. Twitter is a network to share wealth, engage in conversation and to help others. Your tweets should contain links to current news articles, questions you need answered, resources that could be valuable to others and anything else that will resonate with your followers.

All of your tweets make up your timeline. A timeline represents you as a Twitter user and can be viewed by all Internet users (unless otherwise protected with privacy settings). When someone is determining whether to follow you (receive updates each time you post), he or she will most likely analyze your recent tweets by reviewing your timeline. Thus, it is crucial to always have a balanced recent history – some conversational tweets, links to educational information and a clear focus on your industry or area.



Follow: Following others on Twitter is opting-in to have their tweets be displayed in your timeline. While many users follow friends and colleagues, it is recommended that you also subscribe to celebrities and businesses. For example, following the New York Times Business section will allow you to see constant updates on what’s happening on the “Street”.

Followers: On the right side panel of your Twitter profile will be your personal statistics. Displayed are the number of users you personally Follow, how many times you have posted an update and how many other users subscribe to your timeline. The latter are individuals who have elected to Follow you! Congrats!

URL Shortening: When sharing content, you will notice that some URLs (links to websites) are quite long; sometimes exceeding 140 characters by themselves! For this reason, Twitter users utilize URL shortening tools (see below for a list). These services include bit.ly, TinyURL, BudURL and many others.

@Replies: While Twitter was created as a micro-blogging service to enable individuals to post updates to be consumed, it is also a platform created to encourage conversations. When you want to “shout-out” to a Twitter user or respond to a users tweet, simply compose your response including their handle preceded by the @ symbol. For example, to reply to eBrandingMe (our Twitter handle), include “@eBrandingMe” in your 140-character update. We look forward to hearing from you!

Direct Message (DM): Direct Messages are Twitter’s tool to send private messages between users. Similar to @Replies, DM can be sent to eBrandingMe by starting an update with “d eBrandingMe” – be sure to note the space between “d” and the Twitter handle (unlike an @Reply). DM’s are useful when you are sharing sensitive information or an update that may only be relevant for one of your followers. However, in order to send a user a DM, he or she must be Following you.

# (Hashtags): A more advanced feature of Twitter is the “#”. This symbol enables users to tag their posts with a topic (i.e. #Privacy, #Education, #eBrandingMe). Other users may be tracking or searching for those terms and follow a trending topic. This is a great tool for students researching a topic (#FinancialCrisis), people interested in donating money (#Charity, #Donation), and individuals looking for gainful employment (#Jobs, #Employment, #Career). Hashtags are also used to organize conversations on a specific topic called Twitter Chats (see link for a detailed list below).


  • Twitter – Link
  • eBranding Me Twitter – Link
  • Chris Brogan – 50 Twitter Power Tips
  • URL Shortening Tools – Link
  • Twitter Chats – Link