How to master Twitter

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SET IT UP

Choose your handle. You can be as public or as close to your given name as you wish, and you can change it later. Pick a password and make it complex, but something you’ll remember. Also get in the habit of changing your password quarterly for security purposes.

Follow people. Don’t be shy about it, but think what kind of updates you want to see: news outlets, your friends, favorite businesses, brands or schools. You can change in your user settings whether people can add you directly or if you prefer to approve others’ follow requests. Many schools use Twitter for quick news and announcements.

GET TWEETING

Putting down your thoughts and announcements in 140 characters or less can seem daunting, but in the age of texting, online chat and even Facebook, we’re getting used to speaking in short phrases. You may be surprised with how much you can say. Here’s an example:

“Hello world! Today marks my maiden voyage in the Twitterverse. I’m interested in Chicago #news, #rollerderby and #craftbeer. What about you?”

This is exactly 140 characters, hashtags and all. Which leads us to our next step in Twitter orientation.

HASHTAGS

Hashtags, or the pound sign (#), denote keywords in tweets. This makes the entire Twitterverse searchable. Click the “Discover” menu at the top of the page, and type any subject, such as “Chicago,” “education” or “college.”

RETWEETING

Want to pass along someone else’s tweet? Click the retweet symbol to send the same tweet from your account. If you want to add your own comment, though, you’ll need to copy and paste the text into a new tweet first. The Twitter mobile application allows a “quote tweet” function, however, which makes this easier.

TAGGING PEOPLE & DIRECT MESSAGES

The tagging function is the way to engage others in conversations. Tag people in posts by using the @ symbol right before their name. Do note these posts are visible to anyone. If you want to talk to another user privately, clicking the person symbol and select “Send a direct message.” Direct messages can be seen and sent by users who follow each other.

LISTS

Lists are a great way to organize what you see, with or without following people. It essentially categorizes Twitters accounts into topics of your choosing.

Once you’ve clicked someone’s Twitter name, click the person symbol. A drop down menu will give you the option to “Add or remove or remove from lists.” Create a new list, give it a name, and choose whether you want it public (meaning any Twitter user can view your lists and who’s on them) or private (only you can view your lists and who’s on them). Click “Save list,” and you’ll return to a listing of your lists. Check which one to save the person to, and you’re done.

To view your lists, click the “Me” menu at the top of the page, and click “Lists” in the left column.

Twitter also allows you to view and add other users’ public lists, which can save you time by letting you see their followed users (so you don’t have to follow them all).