A guide to Twitter for beginners.


As a Twitter user, I invite lots of friends join the application and ‘Follow me’ on there. Quite a few people invited don’t know what it is that they are being invited to, so this essay explains Twitter, step by step how to navigate around and make the best of Twitter.


First of all, look at what Twitter is. It’s a social networking site, but unlike others, such as Facebook, it has only one basic application, a box in which you get a maximum of 140 characters (including spaces and punctuation marks) to answer the question, What are you doing? Every time you write on Twitter you are replying to this same single question.


This is similar to the Facebook status bar application at the top of the Facebook page that lets you sum up your most recent experiences or mood at any given time, but unlike Facebook, you don’t get bombarded with invites to play zombies, pirates and to become a fan of the East Cheam Fish & Chip Shop. With Facebook, you can end up with hundreds of useless invites and requests to do various things, and it often becomes impossible to keep up and still find time to do other things in life. With Twitter, you can join in on threads or not at your own discretion without getting swamped with a backlog of cyber-traffic. .


While many Twitters, (or Twits), use their 140 characters to say what they are doing that day, from going to the movies to see (insert film title of choice), or listening to (insert radio or MP3 or CD track of choice), others use the space given more creatively, telling one line jokes, writing Haiku, etc. Among the most frequent uses however is the plugging of web pages and blog updates, or in commercial sites, linking to promotional ads for products. Many people use the 140 characters to open a quick portal to a bigger body of information. The diversity of Twitter’s uses makes it remarkably flexible and immediate in ways that the multiple functions of  the bigger social networks don’t. My website’s search engine status has risen dramatically since I started using Twitter.


So, do you actually want to be a Twitter? Where do you start?  First of all read some Twitter pages. Try it step by step from here. Click on my own Twitter page at  You’ll see my profile picture and my username arthurchappell.  You’ll see some of my Twitter followers pages listed on my page. Click on some of them and read them too if you wish. The more pages you read, the more you will get ideas on how yours will be used best. You will use a similar user name if you join Twitter. You may do as I do and just merge your real forename and surname into a single word, or you may be more creative. You might want to even pretend to be someone else, either a real person, (there are many fake celebrities on here as well as on other networking sites), or you might just want to use a pseudonym. You can read as much as you like without creating a Twitter page. To interact with Twitters you must set up your page. Go to  and follow the simple instructions. Decide what you want to say about yourself in your profile and what your username will be. Your Twitter address will be  but with your user name where mine is.


Look at my page again. Below my photo and name are my replies to the What are you doing? Question. The most recent ‘update’ reply is always going to appear at the top. Scroll down and follow Twitter instructions for earlier ravings from me. 


You will also, if you touch the various Tweets (as such messages are called) see an option to reply to any given message, and that will let you e-mail me in Twitter message bodies (140 characters maximum) and share your views with me.  You can also add a message you like to a collection of Twitter favourites (only once you start your own page). This will be important if you get lots of followers as messages will come thicker  and faster  the more people you interact with. (You can limit this if you wish by making sure you only get followers who you want – you can also block any other Twitter users from post in to you (it also stops you seeing their pages). This will help prevent Twitter being flooded with Spam, (unsolicited advertising) which is a problem, but much less so than on Myspace.


To the right hand side of my Twitter page you will see a biography box, enabling me to say what I do, and summarize the kind of things I like. It enables me to provide a link to my website too. If you set up a free twitter account, you get a profile page enabling you to add similar information of your choice.  Follow Twitter’s instructions – It is quite easy. Adding a photo is quite straight forward too. You can edit your details at any time.


Below that are three important columns, labelled Following, Followers, and Updates. The Updates list simply tells you and your visitors, and followers how often you have posted a new tweet message. Post often and you get more attention, and potential followers.




These are the people who have found your page, and they have not just read a message or two, but have then added you to their list of people who’s messages they like enough to want to return to and read again in future. The more followers you have, the more your page is appreciated on Twitter.  Generally, most people have a lot less followers than people they themselves follow. Some Twitters will, as a courtesy, invite most or all  followers to the following, and vice-versa, but most do not. The Twitter community picks its followers discreetly. A follower to your page is a great privelidge. Respect them, and try to interact with them whenever possible.


Your earliest followers are likely to be immediate friends, people who you know and meet up with in real life as well as in cyberspace. (No, having a following doesn’t mean you now have a religious congregation, worshipping you as a God).


Once you have joined Twitter you can tell your online friends about your Twitter page in several ways.


1/ Just e-mail your Twitter link to everyone around.


2/. Display your link prominently on your web pages, blogs, and even on Facebook, Myspace, etc.


3/. Facebook has a useful application relating to Twitter  where Facebook users on Twitter leave their Twitter addresses.  You can find out which of your Facebook friends are also on Twitter from this, though only if your friends have subscribed to this free application.  They may have both Facebook and Twitter but not access to or knowledge of this application.


4/. Twitter itself has a good search facility, labelled Find People, at the top right hand corner of your page. Use it first to look which friends on your e-mail address book, AOL, Messenger, pages, etc are on Twitter or who Twitter can invite for you. Now use the Find on Twitter option and a search engine box will appear. You can type a friend’s name in, and if that is their user name, the search will find them. If they use an alias, it won’t. Where  the Twitter search engine comes into its own is in general searches. Key in words associated with your interests, and the search will find pages relating to them. Key in your home town, Manchester for me, and lots of pages are listed, the ones with most followers first. Now try other words of interest to you, for example, writers, publishers, Goths, whatever floats your boat. Like minded pages arise for you to click on, and you can decide page by page if you want to follow them or not. Some people you follow will follow you in return. Always check their page before deciding to follow them or not. You are not obliged to follow any of your followers.  Most people you follow won’t follow you.


As someone becomes a follower, and decide if you want to follow them in return. To do  this, click on the Followers button, and the list of followers you have accumulated will appear. Next to each name is a button labelled Follow. Click on that and you should immediately become their follower. The only way this won’t happen is if they have set their Twitter page to privacy settings, in which case they can receive a notification of your application to be a follower, and decide manually to add you or reject and block you (as you can also do to others). If a potential follower has blocked you, then you should not find any trace of them on Twitter.




In most cases,  clicking Follow will automatically make you that person or organization’s follower. This will put their profile picture or avatar in a little box under the heading of the people you follow. As you add more people you want to follow, this block of images will grow until  you have thirty people to follow. If you add more than thirty people, a random selection of your followers will be given on your Twitter page, and there is a button to click on under that enabling you to see them all (though if you amass 1,000’s of people to follow scrolling through the lot becomes time consuming to the point of nigh on impossible).  The little avatars are a great way to see and increase followings. If you move a mouse over a friend’s followers and followings, the names of their friends will pop up. If you see a mutual friend, or just someone who looks interesting, click on their picture and you go to their Twitter page. You will see their most recent messages there. If you like them enough, start following them too, by clicking the FOLLOW button on their page. Your friend’s friend is now your friend too. Surfing through such followers lists is the quickest way to find people you want to follow. Don’t do it for the sake of it though.


Many people try to become the king of Twitter by adding more people to follow than anyone else. That is foolish and pointless.  It is easy to follow a bunch of strangers, without having the slightest interest in reading their Tweets.  Anyone could have a 1,000 new people to Follow every day, but why? What counts as real Twitter kudos, is the number of followers you have.  


When someone becomes your follower, even though you don’t know them personally or how they found you, check their Twitter page, and see what they say about themselves. If they have virtually no Tweets and lots of people listed as being followed but few if any followers of their own, avoid them. They are probably Spam merchants or potential hackers. Block them immediately. If they show mutual interests, have a good page, and share some of your friends, they are good to have in your following. Ideally, send them a thank you message for being your follower. Their page, as yours, has an option for sending and receiving private messages. These will also be in 140 character blocks though. If you need more freedom to talk or exchange messages, send them your e-mail, or a link to Skype, and discuss matters outside of Twitter. 


As your list of your followers and those you follow expands, you have greater freedom and range of friends to choose from. You may notice many network groups, such as The BBC, and CNN, and various famous people’s names crop up. You may want to add Stephen Fry  to your friends, though don’t expect him to follow you back. He would never keep up with everyone who follows him (he is the most successful British Twitter online at present).


                                                OTHER TWITTER PAGES


Your Twitter profile has links to several important Twitter pages.


Your home page is that at which your all of the people you follow post their Tweets, _They actually post them on their own page and they go to all their followers) and the most recent will be at the top. As your population of followers grows this starts to move quickly. You might see a whole page of tweets by different people you are following, running down in chronological order. You won’t be able to read every thread or Tweet. On a friend’s page, you see just their messages set out again from most recent first, downwards.  Your home page is also where the Tweet box is, enabling you to post your own latest answer to What are you doing?.


The Profile page – Here you can see, edit or delete your own posted Tweets, and have access to your followers and the pages of those following you. 


Settings enables you to edit your profile pages, add your picture or remove it, and set other useful options too.


Help is Twitter’s advice page on any hang ups you have, and has a useful Frequently asked questions page too. The page also tells you what kind of postings can get your account banned or suspended; which includes spam, flaming, excessive bad language, etc, as in many such systems.


Sign Out is self explanatory. You can stay logged in and Twitter will load you right to your home page whenever you click on a link to your home page without you having to retype your password.  Signing out will mean you have to sign in again on  your next visit.  


                                                POSTING TWEETS 


This is a big question and one that i am now giving a web page of its own. WHAT TO WRITE ON TWITTER 



                                                OTHER INFORMATION


Decide early on how much traffic you want to take on as a Twitter. Do you want lots of readers and followers? Do you want to follow hundreds of other Twitters or just a few? If you want lots, you will see that your list of followers and followings, is set out so that the most recent additions are on top. Before your followings grow to a population of hundreds or more, start copying and pasting links to the pages to add to a file on your computer enabling you to keep the list of friends listed from A To Z or in any other sequence you wish. You’ll be able to click straight to their pages rather than go through lots of other Twitter pages to reach them.


                                                OUTSIDE OF TWITTER


There are several useful must-see pages of use to anyone using Twitter.


Wikipedia gives  a terrific history and assessment of Twitter

Guardian feature – Making the most of Twitter Very handy feature with lots of handy links. While I use Twitter from my home computer, you can access it from a Mobile phone too – see how from the links on this page.

Twitterholic This page not only lists the top 100’s of Twitter users,  with links to their pages, Globally, nationally and regionally, it also enables you to see a graphic chart of your own twitter page ranking.  As I write (February 16th 2009) my stats read Arthur Chappell is ranked 72,078th on twitterholic! (by followers) Arthur Chappell is ranked 30th in their location on twitterholic! (by followers in 'Manchester, England')  Not bad considering I have only been on Twitter since February 9th  2009. (It is now February 21st  2009)  


Google alerts – A useful tool for lots of searches and Twitter is no exception. Add the word Twitter as that which you want updates on and Google will send your e-mail address  a daily digest of the latest Twitter related pages its bots have found online.


MISTER TWEET  Twitter assistance and advice page – An essential addition for many users.

TWITTER  Official updates on what is happening in the Twitting world.




MY FAVOURITE TWITTER PAGES  Some of these are useful to you as well as entertaining.

Arthur Chappell.