The popularity of Twitter is soaring, with thousands of new users signing up each day. I first heard about the bustling social network a few years back at a backyard BBQ. I remember my friend Andrew telling me about tweets, retweets and timelines. It all sounded incredibly confusing. Shortly thereafter, I took the Twitter plunge and haven’t looked back. It’s been an incredibly rewarding experience, save for the time it sucks from my productivity. So what is Twitter? How does it work and why should you consider joining?  Read on for our comprehensive beginner’s guide to Twitter for iPhone and iPad.

guide to twitter

What is Twitter
A social network of 500 million interconnected users who send short messages, also called tweets. These messages are limited to 140 characters, which also happens to be the same limitation of text or SMS messages. Users can link to photos, websites and even other users. There are no fees or charges to join.

Why Twitter
One of the many things that makes Twitter great is that you create your own social experience. On Facebook, you sign up with your real name and slowly start to accrue friends. On the Internet, the definition of that word becomes very loose. Chances are pretty good that you’ll see invites from people you’ve met at some point in your life. That’s in stark contrast to Twitter, where you can choose complete anonymity, if you so choose. Being a journalist, I use my real name on Twitter, Google + and Facebook. Additionally, I have no issue being associated with my tweets, even the embarrassing, not so great, wish I could take them back tweets.

Twitter allows me to select people, companies or websites of interest to me. When you accept a friend on Facebook, it’s a two-way street. Both sides see an immediate influx of status updates from one another. On Twitter, you can be much more selective about what you see in your timeline.

Definition: Timeline is a chronological stream of tweets from people you follow.

Tip: If someone follows you, they see your tweets. Unless you follow them, you won’t see their tweets in your timeline.

Getting back to why I love Twitter and why I think you will love Twitter. My interest lies solely in smartphones. Ok, smartphones, sports and who doesn’t love cats. When you first sign up to Twitter, the service forces you to follow a number of popular accounts. Twitter does this so you don’t start with an empty timeline, because what fun would that be? The ideal version of Twitter that I am pitching to you, and what works for me, is to find engaging individuals who bring something to the table. Are they an industry leading expert in a field that you have interest? Are they ready and willing to engage in conversations on Twitter.**

Tip: Their recommendations aren’t so great. Use the ‘Unfollow’ button to remove them from your timeline.

** Some folks on Twitter have celebrity-itus. They fail to understand that conversation builds upon the greatness of Twitter. Feel free to adopt your own policy, but I provide users a short leash. If I engage a user in a conversation on multiple occasions with no response, they get firmly planted in the nofollow category. While Twitter can be a one-way street if you choose, the proper etiquette is to response to someone who takes the time to send you a message. Like any social network platform, it thrives when people interact. That takes two or more.

Bonus tip: This rule of thumb might at times feel heavy handed. Let’s face it, any message that I send to @KimKardashian is not likely to get a response and rightly so. Actual celebrities, those with thousands upon thousands of followers, are just not able to respond to everyone. They get a pass.

Followers, Following and Unfollows

Definitions:
Followers: These are the people who in their timeline receive your messages.
Follow: When you follow an account, tweets from that user will appear in your timeline immediately.*
Unfollow: When you unfollow a Twitter account, it removes them from your list of followed accounts and you will no longer see tweets from that account.

*Private accounts will require the user approve of your following their account.

Tip: Be careful about following and unfollowing. Some users track who unfollows them and will block you. If someone is having a bad tweeting day, but are generally good follows, simply wait it out rather than unfollow them.

Bonus Tip: Some accounts on Twitter are following thousands of accounts. In some cases, this is done to boost their own followers. They aren’t really reading your tweets or mine or probably most of their timeline. The tip here is to be wary of who you follow and don’t feel as if you need to follow something as a courtesy.

Usernames
You can select a username of your choice, provided no one currently uses or holds that name. The maximum number of characters for a username is 15.

Tip: If you have various online social accounts (Instagram, Forums), consolidating them under one username is a great way to manage your online social profile. It will also help you remember your login credentials.

How to send messages and private direct messages
To interact with a user, you use the @ symbol, followed by their username along with your message. There are multiple ways to message a user and they all have different results.
Sample tweet:
@davezatz For me, the light is a deal breaker. Put in 10 LED high hats, only to remove them within a day. WAF was very low.

Only Dave and users who follow both Dave & I will see this tweet in their timelines. If someone follows Dave, but not me, they won’t see it. If someone follows me, but not Dave, they won’t see it. If I want my timeline to see my tweet to Dave, here’s how I would compose it.
.@davezatz For me, the light is a deal breaker. Put in 10 LED high hats, only to remove them within a day. WAF was very low.

The period or any text preceding @davezatz would mean everyone in my timeline would see this tweet, regardless of whether they followed Dave.

Tip: If you love technology related to TV, it’s hard to find a better follow than @davezatz.

While these messages are different, they are both public. To send a private message, Twitter suggest you use a Direct Message or as the cool kids say, DM.

Tip: You can only send a Direct Message to someone that follows you. You don’t have to follow them. However, if you send someone a DM, it would make sense for you to follow them, so they can send you a proper private reply.

What is retweet?
You don’t have to author all your tweets. If you find an interesting tweet, you can share it with your timeline using Twitter’s retweet function, also known as an RT. As you browse the web, you’ve undoubtedly seen twitter buttons on post, just like this one. The corresponding tweet will appear in your follower’s timeline. They’ll see the original user who sent the message and will know that you felt it important enough to retweet. Remember, retweets are messages you are sharing. You might not have written the tweet, but an RT is not much different than if you had.

If you’ve found this article helpful, please share it.

Tip: Some people use the retweet option in most Twitter options or use the RT suffix. It’s your personal preference, but you’ll get more out of the 140 characters if you use the built-in option.

How to use Favorites on Twitter
Guess what is one of my favorite features? Seriously, this is a great way for people to like your tweet. Sometimes a response isn’t necessary. If I post an Instagram photo or reply to a tweet, I’ll often receive a notification that someone favorited my tweet. Sometimes a tweet doesn’t need a reply, but the corresponding user thought enough of your tweet to give you a hat tip of sorts. I see favorites as a thumbs up, like and generally a way of saying they enjoyed my tweet.

Best Free Twitter App for iPhone and iPad

If my argument for why you should join and take part in Twitter was a success, now is the time to get the best free Twitter app for iPhone and iPad. That happens to be the official app, which has started to improve enough where it has almost become my go to app edging out Tweetbot, which is the best paid Twitter app.

  1. Creating a new account and setting Up Twitter
  2. Since iOS 6, Twitter benefits from deep integration with iOS. What this means to you is that it’s easy to setup and you can use it throughout iOS, not just in the app. Hoping to leave something for our advanced Twitter article, let’s focus on the basics of setup.
  3. Navigate to Settings > Twitter.
  4. Select Add Account (If you previously setup an account, enter your Twitter username and password).
  5. Select Create Account
  6. Enter your full name, email, requested username, password and verify your password.
  7. Set options for “Find Me by Email”. If you set to On, friends, family and those who you’ve interacted with over email can locate your Twitter account by your email address.
  8. Set options for “Tweet Location”. If you set to On, you can select to have your approximate location on individual tweets included.
  9. Click on Sign Up.

If you haven’t already, download the free Twitter app for iPhone and iPad.

Exploring Twitter

Open up the app and let’s start exploring some of what we discussed earlier in the article. At the bottom of the app are four tabs, critical to your Twitter experience. Let’s peruse them from left to right.

Home
This is your timeline. This is where you’ll spend eighty percent of your time reading tweets and retweets from people you follow.

Timeline

Connect
This is one area where the official app shines. You’ll see all interactions with fellow Twitter users. So not only will you see messages directed at you, but you’ll see when someone has retweeted one of your tweets, favorited one or followed you.

Connect on Twitter

Discover
The goal here is to expand your exploration of Twitter users and accounts. Using a mix of people you follow, you’ll see recommendations and tweets that Twitter feels is a good fit for your profile. At the top right is a search icon, so you can manually search for a particular topic of interest.

Discover

Tip: I often use the search feature to find information not otherwise available on Google. Need to know if there is a Netflix outage, this is your go to source. If it’s happening now, it’s happening on Twitter and search is the easiest way to tap into news.

Me
Hey, there you are, on Twitter. Tap on the photo to either add or edit your photo. You’ll also see a list of your tweets. The tabs below your account are tappable, so you can view your list of tweets, list of those you follow and those who follow you. The envelope icon is where you’ll find your direct messages, as well as compose new private messages.

Me on Twitter

Sending Your First Tweet

No pressure, but the world is watching every single one of your 140 characters. Make them count. At the top right of every window is the compose tweet button. Tap on it to reveal the compose window. The keyboard will pop-up and you can type your message.

At the bottom of the compose window are three icons. The first allows you to share your approximate location. At a concert or ballgame, adding your location might add context to your tweet.

People love pictures. The saying goes, every picture tells a thousand words. Well, since we have only 140 characters, adding a picture can add value and say so much more about your tweet. Tap on the camera icon to bring up ‘camera mode’, where you can snap a photo. If you have a previously taken photo you’d like to use, select the camera roll to the right.

Twitter for iPhone add photo

Check for typos (who am I to talk) and tap on the ‘Tweet’ button.

Congratulations! You’ve completed Twitter 101. Hopefully you’ve found this article helpful and are on your way to enjoying one the best social networks on the Internet. If you have questions along the way, feel free to comment below or tweet me. My username on Twitter is @meinck. For site news and other helpful iPhone and iPad how-to guides, follow @everythingicafe. Have fun tweeting!