Tweeting Egypt

The Social Media of the Egyptian Uprising

Tweeting for Beginners

A Beginner’s Guide to Twitter

  1. What is Twitter?
  2. Why is Twitter important?
  3. Twitter vocabulary
  4. How to tweet
  5. Getting follwers/following more people
  6. Advanced Twitter

Section 1: What is Twitter?

Twitter enables people and organizations to communicate quickly with short messages. It is a great tool for self-promotion and dissemination of the news.

Section 2: Why is Twitter important?

Twitter, like Facebook, has recently proven itself useful as a tool for organizing and transmitting news stories. It is a great way to reach young and international audiences for free. It is often used as a marketing tool, because it allows for rapid repetition of a message. In the past few months, Twitter has become an essential part of communications in the Arab World, with both revolutionaries and conservatives swapping stories, stating their opinions and building a community. La MAP should be part of that community.

Section 3: Twitter Vocab

Tweets: 140-character messages that people and organizations transmit instantly, with text, links, videos, photos or any combination of all of the above.

Followers: People and organizations that sign up to receive or follow your tweets. They are the equivalent to Facebook friends. Your tweets automatically appear on your followers’ homepages as soon as they open Twitter in their Twitterfeeds. An updated tally of your followers and how many people/organizations you follow will appear in the top left sidebar after you sign in to Twitter next to your Twitterfeed.

Handle: This is another word for your username. This website’s is @TweetingEgypt. My personal handle is @WordsOfSarah. It is a good idea to make this your name, your company’s name or some combination of the two. That makes it easy to find.

Twitterfeed: The list that you see on first opening Twitter in the center of the page is called your Twitterfeed or Newsfeed. It shows all the most recent tweets from the people/organizations that you follow, and it updates instantly (at least in theory – it might be delayed based on the speed of your Internet connection). If you have had Twitter open for any length of time, a box will appear at the top telling you how many more tweets have appeared on your feed since you first opened it or last updated. Click on that box to see the new tweets.

Retweet: This is both a verb and a noun. It is the action you complete when you click the two arrows that form a square above a tweet, sending it out to your followers’ Twitterfeeds. So for example, you can retweet something the New York Times posts, and you can also have a certain number of retweets, meaning that number of people have passed your tweets onto their followers.

@Mentions: These are tweets in which someone has referenced your organization specifically by adding the @ symbol to your username in their tweet. You can see all your most recent @mentions by clicking the @Connect tab at the top of your twitterfeed. That will give you two options on the left of the screen: select “intereactions” to see @mentions, retweets and people that have recently begun to follow you.

Lists: If you want to regularly look at what a user tweets, but you don’t want their tweets to appear in your Twitterfeed or to show up as someone you follow (for whatever reason), you can add them to a list.  To add someone to a list, go to their profile (you can do this by clicking the picture next to their handle and clicking it again when it pops up in front of your Twitterfeed), click the gray square with the silhouette of a man’s head and shoulders on it and select “Add or remove from lists…” A window that says, “Your lists” will pop up. Either check off the box next to the list to which you want to add the user or click “Create a list.” This will prompt you to give the list a name, brief description and to decide if you want it to be private or public. If it is public, anyone can choose to “follow” your lists (essentially adding it to their own lists). If it is private, no one will see it except you.

Direct Message: Direct messages are like 140-character emails that will only be seen by the sender and the recipient. You can only send and receive direct messages with people who both follow you and who you follow. If they do not follow you, you cannot direct message (or DM) them. Also, if you do not follow them, you cannot DM them.

Section 4: How to “Tweet”

First, go to and sign in at the top right of the screen.

Write a message that is 140 characters (that includes letters, spaces and punctuation) or less in the box at the top left of the page that says “Compose new Tweet…” Be careful to keep the tweet under the character limit! Tweets that are cutoff make you look like a rookie.

Including a link – Sometimes including a link can be difficult, because web addresses (also called URLs) use many characters. To avoid this problem, copy the link from the top of the article page, go to and paste the link into the white box. Then click “shorten.” A link that is shorter than the original URL will appear in that box; copy and paste that into your tweet. It will lead users to the article page that you indicated. Twitter will also sometimes shorten links for you.

Mentioning Other Twitter Users in a Tweet – One way to encourage other people and organizations to pay attention to your tweets is by mentioning others in your tweets. For example, if a tweet referred to the White House, you could link to their twitter account by typing the @ symbol + their handle.

Example: I went to the @whitehouse today.

Using Hashtags (#): Hashtags are used to make a phrase in a tweet easier to find when searching Twitter. They are often used by organizations who hope others will tweet about the same things they are, such as an event. They can also be used to establish a presence on Twitter, to give the greater community the impression that a lot of users care about the same thing. To include one in your tweet, type # + the phrase you want without any spaces.

Example: #Egypt remains divided one year after Mubarak, but #Jan25 still going strong

Shorter tweets are easier to read and more convenient for your busy readers. Taking out words such as “the,” “a” and possessive pronouns can keep you within your character limit without losing the meaning of the sentence.

To exit Twitter, click on the gray silhouette of a man’s head and shoulders at the top right corner of the page, and select “Sign out” from the dropdown list that appears. This also allows you to see if you have any direct messages.

Section 5: Getting Followers/Following More People

For most organizations and many people, the goal of using Twitter is to get your message out to the most people possible. That means always increasing your number of followers. As said above, mentioning other users in your tweets is one way to increase your followers. Another more basic way is simply by following any user that you think might be interested in your tweets.

Following Other Tweeters – There are several ways to find new people to follow. Once you start following them, your handle will appear in their list of followers, and they will be likely to add you back. To follow other people try…

  • Checking your list of followers, located in the upper right corner of your main Twitter page. If you see someone there that you are not yet following, click the white button that says, “Follow.” It should then change to a blue button that says, “Following.”
  • Searching for tweets about your interests. Type a word into the box at the top of Twitter that says “Search” and hit enter or click the magnifying glass. This will bring you to all the most recent tweets that include that word. If that finds someone you would like to follow, click the picture next to their tweet. A window will appear. In this window, click the white button that says “Follow.” It should then change to a blue button that says, “Following.” The only case when this won’t be true is if the user has a private account. In that case, it will change to “Pending.” If your request to follow them is approved, their tweets will be added to your Twitterfeed.
  • Searching for specific people. You can also use search to find specific people by putting their in the search box name, hitting enter and clicking the “People” tab underneath “Tweets” on the top left sidebar.

Section 6: Advanced Tweeting

Twitter is, overall, one giant conversation. When you get comfortable using the basic functions of Twitter and establish a good number of followers, you can then use Twitter to start a conversation with your audience. Try tweeting questions that are open-ended (meaning they elicit responses other than yes or no) to learn more about your followers and to engage them. You can then use their responses to help you decide what to tweet about in the future.

Be sure to keep track of your @Mentions. Followers can act as fact checkers and copy editors, alerting you to the existence of typos or mistranslations, as well as bigger errors. Though criticism might seem harsh sometimes, you have to take in any feedback they give and use it however you can.

Twitter can even act as an alternative place to post content. Websites like let you upload photographs and link to them in your tweets.

One last way to increase your followers is by tweeting about Trending Topics. These are keywords that Twitter has noticed are appearing more than any other words in tweets across the world. You can find a list of the most recent trending topics below the tally of your followers. Reviewing these will also help you to understand what your audience is most interested in at that moment.

Good luck and happy tweeting! – Sarah Parnass

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