Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Why Use Twitter?

Last week we looked at some tips on how to use Twitter, but not why. There are four main reasons, which we shall explore in turn:
  1. Broadcasting
  2. Following
  3. 1-2-1 messaging
  4. Searching and discussing [ more...]

Twitter - Some Tips

Whether you are using Twitter for business or personal purposes, are new to it or experienced, here are some tips to utilise the tool without falling into pitfalls: [ more...]

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The Ins and Outs of Following on Twitter

Following is one of the simplest things to do on Twitter. You find someone who you know or looks interesting, and you click the “follow” button. Thereafter you see their tweets in your list (timeline). That’s it.

Well not quite!

Following is a lot more powerful than that, and has a number of pitfalls to watch out for.....

Direct Messages

If someone follows you, you can send them a “Direct Message” (starting DM @username). This is private, and is omitted from the full public timeline and the timeline for your own account (which publicly shows all tweets, including replies, that are not DMs). They can only send a DM to you if you follow them.

Conversely, if you follow then they can send you DMs. You may therefore wish to be selective about who you follow, though this is rarely a problem. You can always "unfollow" if necessary, as below.

Following for Profit

Some people are fanatical about how many people follow them. For people like celebrities from the TV, that’s understandable, as the bigger their audience the better, for when they are publicising their latest show or book.

The same applies to other people with a blog to promote or something to sell.

Other people will follow you simply to bring themselves to your attention, with no real interest in what you have to say. Indeed following people is potentially a good attention technique, if you have suitable details and links in your profile.


Many people expect you to follow the if they follow you - a "follow-back". Perhaps you’re not interested. If they know you, will they be offended?

Some people set up a system to automatically follow back. And/or they can automatically send a reply or DM to each new follower, with a thank you and perhaps a web link for whatever they are trying to sell or promote. But people don’t like being sold at, especially on Twitter, so it needs to be done with care. Something useful, perhaps free, if anything.


If you lose interest in someone you follow, you can unfollow as easily as following them.
But how will they react? You have to assume they’ll notice!

Private Tweeting

You can set up an account so that people can only follow you if you approve them. This can be useful for any group or club, but also helps you control who sees your tweets.

Go to Settings, Account, Tweet Privacy and "Protect my tweets". This can be done at the outset or at any time, but will not stop previous tweets appearing publicly in some systems.

In particular this prevents “bots” that automatically try to follow people joining Twitter or tweeting certain words, if that bothers you. This is only used rarely.


Some people reply to your public tweets. Replies can be humorous, or be useful, such as answering a question you pose.

But  some people’s replies become a pain, or just plain abusive. By “blocking” them, not only will they not routinely be sent your tweets, but they will no longer be able to address any tweet to you.

Follow Friday

To help each other build a list of followers, it has become traditional on a Friday to send out a list of people you recommend to follow, by adding the hashtag #ff or #followfriday. This can be done in one of three main ways:
  • A list of @usernames in one or more tweets
  • One @username per tweet, with some justification for the request
  • Including a link in a tweet to a list you’ve set up on another web site, possibly with reasons,
Any of these approaches is very public, so leave people out at you peril. One way is to only #ff people with whom you have had some positive interaction that week, but that requires keeping records!

Doing #ff’s properly can also be time consuming. An alternative approach is to thank anyone that includes you in their #ff list by tweeting their @username publicly with the #ff still in the text. Putting any character before the @username means all your followers will see it.

People following a multitude of people

To curtail automated following systems and other people only following for attention, there is a limit of following 2000 people, unless you are also being followed by a significant number of poeple. 2000 is more than enough for a normal user.  

Some people follow a large number of people, into hundreds and even thousands. This can simply be that they want to bring themselves to those people’s attention, blindly follow back everyone, or follow every new interest that comes to their attention.

That inevitably means that they don’t read the vast majority of the tweets they receive. If they follow you, they probably won’t see your public tweets. If you want their attention, you have to send a tweet with their @username in it, or send them a DM

Monday, 25 October 2010

How You Can Use And Abuse Twitter

Last week we looked at various aspects of social media. One of the “cons” was the need for CONversation. This is none more true than on Twitter, where you can tweet to the whole world, or send a tweet to one individual person.

It was @davegorman the comedian, if I remember rightly, who retweeted a few weeks ago that you should only ever [ more...]

Friday, 15 October 2010

Twitter Tips for Newbies, Noobs and the More Experienced

I’m often asked how to use Twitter. Carol Vorderman recently tweeted a question about who can see the messages ("tweets") she sends to specific people. So here are a few tips on this and other subjects.

These tips apply whether you are tweeting in a business or personal capacity, and are for the more experienced as well as for newbies: [ more...]

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Tweet Location Issues

Twitter lets you publish the location from which you are sending your tweets with each tweet. However the system is unreliable, for both Old Twitter and New Twitter. The automatic system making mistakes, and then over-rides what is set manually.

Tweets that are being sent from "Windsor and Maidenhead" are sometimes coming out there, and sometimes (and repeatedly) in Wiltshire!

Anyone know how the system works, and what's going wrong?

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

New Twitter - How to "Find People"

If you want to find people, and wondering where the OldTwitter "Find People" function is in NewTwitter:
  • Use the main search box at the top of the screen and
  • Then click the "People" tab
Alternatively, if the username is similar to the real name, then you can probably spot the relevant username in the initial search.

A standard search on tweets is the only way of finding a new user (in OldTwitter or NewTwitter), provided they've made at least one tweet. This is because it can take some considerable time for a new account  to appear in the tweep database behind the "Find People" search.


Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Quick Tips re Usernames

When you sign up for Twitter for the first time, you are asked to enter:
(1) "Full name" such as Fred Smith or Driving Business
(2) "Username" such as fredsmith23 or drivingbusiness

The username is significant for 3 reasons:
(a) It appears at the start of every tweet you make, and is therefore the main name people see
(b) Your account can be found using
(c) It is also the username you use to login to Twitter and associated services

The username can be up to 15 letters or numbers, without spaces. The only special character permitted is the underscore as in fred_smith.

You can use a mix of upper and lower case characters, e.g. fredsmith23, FREDSMITH23 or FredSmith23. This username will appear in tweets exactly as entered.

But for other purposes such as login, the case is ignored. All these 3 variants of fredsmith23 could be used to login to the same account. This means that every username is unique, ignoring any differences in case. So once someone has registered fredsmith23, the case variants are not available to be used by any other users.

You can change the username at any time, as long as the new name is available. But beware - older tweets found by Twitter searches will still show the old username. Anyone clicking on the old username will not be redirected to the new username account. So worth getting the username right at the outset, or before you've made many tweets.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Quick Tip re Replying using Direct Message

If you are replying to someone who is following you, you can make it private by clicking the reply button, and adding "DMspace" in front of the user name. e.g. "DM @username".

Direct messages do not appear to your other followers, and do not appear in public searches.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Quick Tip re Twitter Add-Ons

There are several pieces of software that allow you to access Twitter without logging into Twitter itself. These provide a number of benefits, such as automating re-tweets, seeing replies to you more easily, and popping up a window when new tweets are received.

But beware. Such facilities mean the system is accessing Twitter regularly. Depending on how this process works, a substantial amount of data can be downloaded. As much as 1GB per day has been seen.

So if you are on a link with restricted data volumes, worth checking how much data your Twitter software is consuming.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

A question ....

Is there any individual or business that doesn't have a good reason to be on Twitter? Now? Or in a year's time?

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Quick Tips re Re-Tweeting

You'll often see the letters RT followed by @username. This is the convention where someone has received a tweet, and decides to forward it (or "re-tweet" it) to their own followers.

It's generally a good thing to do. In Twitter itself you have to do this manually - copy and paste the tweet and add "RT @" in front of the username at the start of your re-tweet. Some add-on software automates the process.

Warning But do realise that tweets received with a padlock symbol after the user name is from someone who doesn't allow the public to see their tweets. Only re-tweet if it's already in the public domain, or otherwise OK.

If you want your tweet to be easily RT'd, best to ensure you don't use the full 140 characters - use no more than 120, to leave 20 free.

Quick Tips re Direct Messages

If someone is following you, you can send Direct Messages (DMs) to them. Just put "DM @username" at the start of your tweet. These messages are private, and do not appear to your other followers.

If you and someone else are following each other (you follow someone and they follow you back, or they follow you and you follow them back) their name will appear in the drop down box at the top of the Direct Messages screen in Twitter's own web system.

Just like a private telephone line. But beware:

  • Don't be too confidential in case the DM gets out into public domain. (In particular do you trust who you are sending to absolutely?)

  • Like any form of communication, don't over use it, especially if you don't know them that well

  • If you send a DM to someone who isn't following you, Twitter suggests you send a message "follow @username". But note this appears in your public timeline that all your followers see

  • A follow request to someone who has blocked you won't reach them

All of a Twitter! (Quick Tip on Usernames)

The username that appears in each tweet is unique across the whole Twitter system globally, with no national variants.

As an individual or business, have you reserved your preferred usernames, before someone else takes them?

Multiple user names are permitted, but beware, don’t overdo it. See imminent instalment.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Quick Tip re Unwelcome Followers

Sooner or later you will find you are followed by people that are unwelcome, often pornographic, that you simply don't want to be associated with! Indeed it's worth monitoring your followers from the outset.

Just click on "Followers" then "Block" then the large button "OK I still want to block this person" to confirm. (Or click the browser's back button to cancel)

If at any stage you want to reinstate a follower, find their account and open it to see their tweets. On the right hand side is "Actions" and you can click "Unblock".

Quick Tips re Editing/Deleting Tweets

It's not possible to edit a tweet. If you get it wrong or need to tweak it, you need to post a new tweet. You can then delete the old.

Beware Deleted tweets still appear in searches! So never post what you might wish to retract.

But you can also turn this feature to your advantage. Try searching on #B0010, #apprentice, #yasmina, #kate and #pricing for an example.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

It's Happening (Man)

Literally. Twitter is what people are doing, thinking, saying, seeing, hearing, feeling now. Right now.

It's rather like CB radio. You can listen in to what other individuals are saying, and chip in yourself when you've got something to say. Except tweets can link to further detail, and remain as a permanent record that people can find later.

Who do you want to listen to? What do you want to say?

Friday, 5 June 2009

Quick tip re Replies

If you set your account to "Protect my Updates", only people you allow to follow you can see your tweets. But this also means people who aren't following you can't see your replies.

Quick tip re Following

A new user won't appear in the "Find People" or "Search" functions until they have posted their first tweet, and then there can be a delay.

If you know their username, sign into your Twitter account, and then go to You can then click the "Follow" button.



Twitter is a free broadcasting service which is growing rapidly into a ubiquitous form of communication.

It is an example of a “micro-blogging” “social networking” system where you can link to other people to “follow” their short “update” announcements. These are called “tweets”.

Tweets can include links to blogs, web pages, photos, videos, music and any of the other social networking systems such as MySpace, FaceBook, Plaxo and LinkedIn.

And because tweets are no longer than SMS messages, tweets can be sent and seen from PCs, mobile phones and any other mobile or internet-enabled devices.

For example this tweet from includes a useful saying, a web link for further detail and a hash-tagged search term #kpis:

drivingbusiness #B0009 "What gets measured gets done." #kpis

What does Twitter say about using Twitter?

Twitter’s web site suggests “Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?

This is the basis for tweets made by comedy stars such as Stephen Fry and Jimmy Carr. They make several tweets every day of what they are doing or thinking.

But why would you want to use it, for business or personal reasons?

"What are you doing?” is just the tip of the iceberg. Rather like having a CB radio transmitter/receiver, Twitter is a simple broadcasting tool that also lets you and your business do two things in one place:

1. What do you want to tell people?
· Business news
· Special offers
· Tips on technical topics
· Etc etc, only limited by your imagination

2. Who do you want to listen to? You choose who you follow:
· News feeds
· Entertainment venues and entertainers
· Business topics
· Characters, friends and family
· Etc etc

There’s also a third use. Twitter also allows you search on specific topics, with or without the hash tags. Unlike Google and other search engines, searches show the latest tweet at the top. So it’s the latest thinking and news you see first.

In Conclusion

As Twitter allows you to broadcast, follow and search on business and personal topics, it’s a really useful and fun system.

But beware. There are lots of traps for the unwary, and Twitter doesn’t always work as you might expect!

This blog will cover some of the key points you need to know to use Twitter productively and safely. Next instalment will cover the advantages and issues with using multiple accounts.

Do click the "Follow" button to see future instalments.