What Even is Twitter? A Basic Guide to Basic Twitter Questions

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It’s one of the most important social media networks ever; in fact, it was one of the first social media networks ever, being released in 2006, only two years after Facebook. Now, almost 20 years after its release, and with more than 330 million average daily users, it’s surprising to note that there are still people out there who are unfamiliar with the platform. We’re here to change that by helping you understand some of the lingoes, and answer some questions you might have about the microblogging site.

What is a Twitter Handle?

A twitter handle is basically your username: it’s the name you use when you’re on the platform and the URL that your profile will use. Twitter handles must be no longer than 15 characters, and can only contain alphanumeric characters (A to Z and 0 to 9), with the exception of underscores.

A twitter handle doesn’t have to be the same as your Twitter name: your Twitter name can be as long as 50 characters and can be changed from time to time. However, your Twitter handle can’t be changed, so make sure you choose a handle that you’re comfortable with; you’ll be using it for the rest of your tweeting days.

What Does @ Mean on Twitter?

Twitter mention

Using the @ symbol on Twitter allows you to tag another user in a tweet or a reply, notifying them that they’re being spoken to and/or added in a conversation. When a person uses the @ symbol with another Twitter profile’s username, they’re replying publicly to that user (although other people can still see the exchange).

This is where the expression “don’t @ me” comes from. The expression is used when a person doesn’t want to discuss something with anyone and is generally used to excuse oneself from existing conversations about that topic, and any future conversations about that topic.

What is a “Retweet”?

Retweet button

A Retweet is a way for someone to share another person’s tweet on their feed. When you retweet (or RT, as the kids say), you can either share that person’s tweet as is or add comments of it. If you’re retweeting with a comment, your comment will show up in a separate box, with the tweet you’re retweeting being placed in a box inside your tweet.

Retweeting is one of the cornerstones of the Twitter eco-system. Yes, original content is important, but Retweeting, or RTing, is what gets all this content to spread. Basically, retweets are what make tweets, things, people, and situations go viral.

What is a “DM”?

The term DM is short for Direct Message and is a way for two Twitter users to exchange messages privately. It’s basically Twitter’s version of instant messaging, and just like other platform’s instant messaging service, Twitter’s direct messages, or DM’s, is a way to send texts, images, and even videos.

In January of 2020, Twitter also introduced emoji reactions for Direct Messages. This allows people to ‘react’ to individual messages with emoji-like reactions. While it’s mostly used for private conversations, it’s also a great way for brands to interact with their brands in a private setting, especially when discussing sensitive topics.

What is a Hashtag?

Hashtags playing tag
Retrieved from Tenor

A hashtag, or #, is a type of metadata (that is, a type of data that talks about another type of data) tag that’s used on most social networks to identify that the specific tweet is talking about a specific topic or theme. Basically, it’s a way for social media users to label their messages. It’s most commonly used on Twitter, and when a user taps or clicks on a hashtag, they’re shown tweets from other people that contain the same hashtag.

Hashtags are usually used so as to be part of a larger conversation, usually a hot topic or an ongoing trend, but corporate accounts and other brands also use hashtags to see how many people are talking about their product.


Why is Twitter Free?

Twitter was, is, and always will be, free to use. Of course, accessing Twitter via your phone’s data or tweeting something via SMS, you’ll be charged according to your mobile carriers’ SMS and data charges. However, the Twitter service itself is free, and it supports itself through advertising.

In fact, Twitter earns almost 90% of its revenue through advertising alone, while the rest comes from data licensing, stock trading, and service fees for its ad exchange. Twitter advertising can take the form of promoted tweets, promoted accounts, promoted products, promoted trends, and many more. At the end of the 2010’s, Twitter saw its company revenue peak at $787 million, an 18% year-over-year increase throughout the decade.

Is Twitter Connected to Facebook?

No, Twitter is not connected to Facebook; in fact, they’re completely separate companies and platforms and operate two very distinct timelines. However, you can connect your Facebook to Twitter, or your Twitter account to your Facebook account, so that a post you make in one platform is automatically posted in the other.

This is called cross-posting and is a great way to stay relevant in both platforms. While Facebook and Twitter are separate companies and platforms, they also acknowledge each other as a rival but complementary social media platforms, and while they are in active competition with each other, they’re not above allowing users to interact with each other by sharing things in each platform.

Does Twitter Use an Algorithm for its Feed?

Yes, Twitter uses a specific algorithm on its timeline. This algorithm gathers data from Twitter users and tailor-fits a feed that is able to incorporate both their user’s likes and dislikes and their advertiser’s needs and wants. Twitter played around with this algorithm a few times from 2012 to 2016, and they’ve been constantly been trying to perfect it since.

Of course, not everyone enjoyed the algorithm: almost immediately after it was launched, Twitter users complained en masse to the platform, saying that they were not fond of the change. Twitter finally caved in and gave users the option to switch off the algorithm within their personal accounts.

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