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A Guide to Twitter for Dummies

A Beginner’s Guide to Twitter

So you’re interested in Twitter. Welcome. Here is a guide to help you through your first couple of weeks. It will seem odd and pointless at the beginning but I promise you it’s worth it.


First, register an account. Pick a cool username but keep it short. You will one day be identified by this name in public and in front of your friends, so make sure it is something you actually like. You can always change it later on, but that’s not advisable. You want to build a recognizable handle for yourself.

Go to settings and make changes to set up your profile. Pick a photo to go with your handle. One of your face would be nice, unless you wish to be anonymous, then a cartoon of your face works just fine. Then write a bio. You only have 160 characters so stick to adjectives that describe you. People will read your bio to decide if you would be interesting to follow. Be honest. Don’t repeat your location because that shows already. Here is a good example from @footnem (which is how we refer to Fady online and how we will soon refer to you, by your @username).

Passionate about Tech, Photography, Music, Football, F1 and an Adrenaline junkie extreme sports lover. Living in my own Matrix Universe.

From his bio, you can tell that @footnem will be tweeting (writing updates) about tech, photography, music, football, and formula one. You can also tell he will be quoting the Matrix often and making existential remarks. Do like him and write up a bio that describes you. Then change your background and color scheme into something cool.

And now for the big moment: your first tweet. Most likely, it will look something like this:

Hello twitter! Umm.. what do I do now?


This is really stupid. Why am I here?


Tweet tweet… (or some other joke variation on how you feel like a bird now)

Congratulations. You have shared your first tweet with the world. Except no one is listening… yet. We will get to that part. First, some notes about tweets.


Twitter is a micro-blogging service, which means that you can send little updates in the form of 140 characters at a time. You will learn to be brief with practice. Think of it as writing headlines rather than sentences. Tweets are linked to each other automatically using a system called hashtags. A hashtag is any word preceded by a # sign, such as #France #tech #love, etc. When you hash a word, it becomes an automatic link to all other tweets that include the same hashtag. It is like a keyword or a tag. For example, if you click on #Lebanon here, it links you to all tweets that are tagged with #Lebanon. Of course, the hashtag must be related to your tweet. Here is an example:

Just watched Blue Valentine in Empire Sodeco and I highly recommend it! #movies.

Building Connections

Relationships among tweeps (that’s what we call people on twitter) exist in the form of following. You will see on your profile a list of people you follow and people who follow you. Start off by following some people you find interesting. Here are some good people to start with:

As soon as you start following people, twitter will give you automatic recommendations. Follow those too. Start off with 30-40 people to follow and you will soon find more that interest you. Once you follow people, their tweets will appear in your timeline. They will get a notification that you have followed them and they will most probably then check out your profile. And if they find you interesting, they will follow you back.

Interacting with Other Tweeps

Now it is time to interact with your twitter community. There are two ways to do this: by talking to a tweep and by retweeting what they post. Talking to tweeps is public and anyone can see your tweet (unless you send a direct message, which is private). You do this by simply mentioning the person’s username in a tweet. For example:

@meetsamer hello, how are you today?

Samer (very smart dude you should also follow) will then see your tweet in his “Replies” or “Mentions” timeline. This grabs his attention better than if you just tweeted something without mentioning him, since he can’t possibly read every single tweet in his timeline because he follows hundreds of people. He will then probably click on “reply” and answer you in a tweet. You can also tweet to multiple people in the same update. For example, some tweeps like to say “France” to their twitter friends in the morning like this:

France @yasminehajjar @gabdallah @LeGustav @AwanTeaShop@Beirutiyat @NasriAtallah @monakaraoui @_Archangelus_ @Shanty2

Also, when you mention someone with their @ username, it becomes automatically clickable to their profile. The second interaction is called retweeting, by which you re-post what someone else has posted because you find it interesting and want to spread it. To do this, you can use the automatic retweet button that you will find under every tweet. This will re-post the tweet as-is onto your profile with the original tweep’s photo. Or you can retweet manually by copying and pasting the tweet using the following forumla:

RT: @cedarseed: The latest volume of Malaak is now out in bookstores!

Always give credit to tweeps if you are re-posting something they have said or linked to. Twitter is big on giving credit where credit is due, so don’t go plagiarizing tweets. Always mention where you got them from or else no one will like you.

Sharing Links

The most interesting part of twitter (besides meeting cool new people who will eventually become your friends) is the sharing of news and links, which is unmatchable anywhere else. Twitter is a terrific source of news because you are getting links recommended by actual people. To share a link on twitter, simply copy and past the URL into your tweet.

Most links, however, are too long to fit into your 140-character limit, so you will need a URL shortener such as Most sites that provide a link to tweet their articles will do this automatically.

That should be enough for you to start out on Twitter. It’s very intuitive so you will quickly get the hang of things. You can stop here now or you can continue for more useful tips.


Other Useful Tips

Offline Activities

Community offline organize regular tweetups, which are hangouts for people on twitter to meet in person over coffee or drinks or a planned activity. You will read about these when they come up on your timeline, so make sure to join one. The community also (un)organizes a GeekFest which is a cool event that brings us together to learn about techie things through peer presentations.

Protected Tweets

If you’re worried about your tweets being exposed publicly, you can opt for privacy (protected tweets) in your settings. That way people need to request to follow you before they can see your profile and tweets.

What is #FF?

#FF is a hashtag for “Follow Friday” and is a twitter tradition whereby every Friday, tweeps recommend others that are interesting for their followers to check out. It’s a good way to get introduced to other tweeps and to also share your appreciation for the people you follow. Here is an example:

#FF @migheille for geeky updates and quirky reflections on life with the slowest internet connection on earth

What is +1?

Sometimes tweeps retweet something with a +1 (or + whatever digit) before it to show their approval of what is being said. For example:

+100 RT: @alainclasse: Smoking should be banned in all public places in #Switzerland!

Direct Messages (DM)

You cannot send a direct message to a tweep who does not follow you. But you can mention anyone in your tweets, whether they follow you or not.

Twitter Clients

Twitter clients are software applications that are an alternative to the twitter website. Two popular examples are TweetDeck and HootSuite. I personally use Echofon, which is a FireFox extension that I find lightweight and easy to use. But you might want to stick to Twitter in your browser for now and then experiment with clients when you have gotten the hang of it.

News Sources, Businesses and Organizations

There are many Lebanese and Arab news sources on twitter that tweet links to their websites, such as: @naharnet @al_akhbar and @nowlebanon. You can follow those too or you can choose tweeps that are very active news sharers such as @BeirutSpring. There are some businesses too but those aren’t very active, except for @AntoineOnline. There are also some active organizations like @nasawiya and @SMEXbeirut.

Twitter Lists

Lists compile similar tweeps together so that you can see a timeline of all their tweets on the same page. You can add multiple tweeps to a list and you will be added to lists too. Here is one of my lists: Lebanon, which includes 50 tweeps who are in Lebanon. You can use it to find more people to follow.

How many Swiss are on twitter?

I’m not sure. There are many who live here and many who are abroad. I would estimate at least 500 active tweeps and maybe a couple of thousand if you include the ones who are rarely active. But the community’s growing every day.

Is everyone friendly on twitter?

No, just like in your offline life. Most people are very polite and friendly, but you will bump into a few bullies. Unfollow people who annoy you and if it gets to a point of harassment, you can block them from accessing your profile.

Live Updates & Citizen Journalism

Twitter is a great way to get quick bits of news across from an event. This works well if you have a twitter app installed on your smartphone and if it allows you to upload photos and videos.

There you go. Happy tweeting!

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