For the strategic use of new media


A Brief Introduction to Twitter

Posted: July 8, 2014 at 9:25 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

Many of you have asked us about Twitter, hence this post is dedicated to demystifying Twitter in the hope that more of you will soon be active Twitter users. This is particularly important for the journalists and digital campaigners amongst you.

We will begin with an introduction to the micro-blogging social media platform, Twitter. The uses of Twitter and the extent of its global reach are discussed, as well as how to link Twitter to other tools, such as websites/blogs and phones/smart phones. Twitter terminologies and signs are also explained.

Twitter is: A micro-blogging platform that allows a maximum of a 140 characters or less to be posted. This can include links to articles, images and video.

Twitter was initially designed to ask a very simple question, “what are you doing?”, to provide updates between friends. This is still the case, but like any digital tool, users are expanding the uses of twitter to new dimensions different from the original purposes for which twitter was designed.

In most cases twitter profiles are public, and conversations are also public for all to see, unless you send messages to someone’s inbox as a direct message. In this case that person must follow you too.

Twitter in numbers (2013) (1)Twitter has more than 200 million active users globally and almost 1 billion registered users; and if strategically used can help you receive very fast updates from your community of interest. (See infographic to the right for more twitter statistics).

Why use twitter?

  • To spread messages fast: for public awareness campaigns and information-sharing;
  • To communicate with large audiences;
  • To follow or cover events in “realtime”;
  • To crowdsource for ideas or information;
  • To fundraise for campaigns; and
  • To engage with your followers and non-followers.

How to gain followers on twitter

Twitter allows people to follow you based on their interests and the content of your tweets. Twitter has evolved into a community of people with specific interests. On twitter you can follow people you don’t know. You can even follow celebrities (artists, writers, politicians, actors).

It is a powerful Information and Communications Technology (ICT) tool, but it requires patience to build a community of followers. To gain followers you have to gain the trust of your “community of interest” by doing the following:

1. Being authentic

2. Being accurate; and

3. Posting frequently

Identifying influencers and new flowers on Twitter

Find and follow people whose Tweets interest you from your “Discover” tab. Browse tailored recommendations on the “who to follow page”, find friends using your address book, or browse categories of popular accounts. Based on your interests and the people you follow, twitter will also send you weekly suggestions of  who to follow.

Linking Twitter to other digital tools

Twitter works best when linked to other digital tools! It should not be used in an isolated manner for advocacy campaigns. Its real power is in combining it with other social media channels, such as YouTube, your campaign or institutional Facebook page, blog and/or website and even your mobile phones!

Linking Twitter to your website or blog

Want to link from your website to your Twitter account?

  • Go to your twitter account; then
  • Go to “settings”; then
  • Go to “widgets” and click on the button “create new”;
  • You will be taken to a page that says, “create a user widget”
  • Here you are prompted to choose a timeline that is either your: user timeline, tweets you have favored, specific lists you have created, or specific search based on a hashtag or topic. The most commonly used is the timeline, which will show all tweets you tweeted, retweeted and responded to.
  • When you make your choice press, “create widget”;
  • An HTML code will appear that you’ll have to copy and paste in the appropriate location of your website’s source code.

Linking twitter to your phone

For smart phones:

  • 75 percent of twitter users tweet from their phones. Linking twitter from a smartphone can simply be done by downloading the twitter application.

To activate sending tweets via text messaging using an old generation cell phone (i.e., not a smart phone):

  • Go to your twitter account (from your computer);
  • Go to “settings” and then “mobile”;
  • Indicate your “country” from the drop down menu,
  • Fill in your phone number; and
  • Choose your telephone provider (for Sudan  Zain carries this service).
  • Press the button, “activate phone”.
  • If you are inside Sudan, start tweeting from your phone by sending texts to the short code: 40404 (local texting fees will apply). This allows you to send and receive tweets.

Please note: at the time of posting this piece, the texting to twitter service in Sudan, from old generation cell phones, was discontinued by the local provider. Another option is to use long-code, which allows only one-way tweeting, meaning that you cannot receive tweets. International tweeting rates may apply. The long codes are as follows:

UK: +447624800379

Germany: +491724403473

Finland: +3584573950042

Twitter terms

Tweet: a message of up to 140 characters

Twitter feed: news feed of twitter messages by one user

Tweep: a twitter user

Following: the friends, groups, organizations, campaigns

etc…that you are following and receiving tweets from

Followers: “fans” or friends who are following your tweets

Hashtags: are words prefixed by # that are similar to URL links; they help users interested in specific topics or keywords to find relevant tweets. They are searchable and useful for archiving conversations and as an organizational tool.

Newsfeed: collection of new messages

Twitterverse: the realm of tweets and twitterers

*For more twitter terminology visit Twittonary: an online twitter dictionary that explains twitter related words.


Popular Twitter signs

@:use this when addressing or replying to another twitter user. Note that your conversation will be public or you will be introducing that person to others in your network;

d: signifies a direct private response. Others will not see this;

#: this is symbol for the hash that precedes a phrase or word as discussed under “twitter terms”;

RT: stands for ‘re-tweet”. Comes before any tweet that you want to “re-tweet”.

H/T: Hat tip, used for crediting another twitterer for a thought or reference.

Friday follow: recommending people to follow; also abbreviated as #FF.