Making Sense of the Twitter Speak and Twetiquette

Twitter LogoI was at a conference recently where one of the attendees mentioned that although she’s on Twitter, she doesn’t understand half of what’s being said. “What’s a DM?,” she said. “And what’s the difference between RT and via?”

Twitter is deceptively simple.  You get 140 characters to speak your mind or share some news.  In some ways, Twitter is a lot like instant messaging ((IM) because people use acronyms to shorten common expressions. I found a good list of acronyms that pop up a lot of Twitter on the site.  My favorites?

  • LOL – laughing out loud
  • BTW – by the way
  • IMHO – in my humble opinion
  • TMI – too much information
  • FTF of F2F – face to face
  • LMK – let me know
  • TTFN – ta ta for now

In other ways, Twitter is different from IM because it has its own protocols and etiquette. Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • People on Twitter are called tweeter or twitterers
  • Your Twitter account is @username; for example, I’m @jmpineda
  • When you post an update on Twitter, you don’t twitter, you tweet
  • When you follow people, you get their tweets in your stream or Twitter app
  • People who follow you get your tweets in their stream
  • You can post a public tweet but directed at a specific person(s) by including@username in your tweet; this will cause your message to show up in a person’s replies. Be sure to check your replies on a regular basis to find replies or mentions directed at you.
  • A private tweet directed at a specific person is called a direct message (DM). You can only send a DM to someone if they are following you. To send a DM, click Message on the person’s profile. You can also go to Direct Messages from your profile and select a person from the dropdown; oddly, this list is random and does not contain everyone following you, so if you don’t find the person you want to DM, go to their profile or type “d + username + message”
  • When you see #phrase, this is called a hashtag, which is a category or tag. Twitterers use hashtags to participate in a discussion already in progress or start a discussion. For example, every Tuesday night, I participate in the #sbbuzz discussion; anyone who wants to participate includes #sbbuzz in their tweets; we all follow the discussion using and searching for the specific hashtag.
  • If you see a tweet that you like and want to repost it, that’s called a retweet. It’s common courtesy to give credit to the original tweeter by using RT or via.

Here’s how to make sense of the Twitter speak:

@danr Wow, you are the first person I know to try #VIA. Thanks for the review. Where did you buy it? Which flavor?
— This is a public tweet directed @danr.  I had previously tweeted about the new instant coffee from Starbucks called VIA. I used the #VIA hashtag to make my tweet more searchable to people following tweets about VIA.

Stephen Hawking retires from Lucasian chair of mathematics: via @akuchling
— This is a public tweet where I give credit to @kuchling for the original tweet.  I could have put RT or via @kuchling anywhere in the tweet.

@rkunboxed @ChelseaDwyer @pixelgangsta Thanks for retweeting the article about keeping women staff. So impt!
— I had previously tweeted an article and several of my followers had retweeted the post.  This is a public tweet, directed at the three people who retweeted and providing context and the URL.

Okay, this blog post is NOT meant to be an exhaustive list of what you can do on Twitter but I hope it’s a good intro. If you want more info, the Twitter portal has a lot of great information on how to use Twitter.

How about you?  What are YOUR favorite acronyms and Twitter tips?

6 thoughts on “Making Sense of the Twitter Speak and Twetiquette

  1. Great post! Big thumbs up to “You don’t twitter, you tweet.” That’s my big Twitter-related pet peeve.

    When I first started using Twitter, I couldn’t figure out #ftw and #fb, and I ended up having to ask someone, and I felt stupid. Twitter can feel clique-ish and inclusive, but it can also be receptive, so I encourage people with questions to just tweet it, and people are great about responding back.

  2. Twitter is awesome. That’s how I found about about this blog post, after all!

    It takes a little getting used to, but it is truly amazing how much info you can shoehorn into 140 characters. As time goes on it will become second nature to more and more people, without doubt.


  3. Thanks for the useful tips, Joanna. I signed up months ago, found it unfriendly, got impatient, and have been waiting for you (apparently) to clear up my confusion. Also, I’m wary of becoming an addict. Just in case, what’s the link to a Twitter 12-step program?

  4. Great post Joanna. Since using Facebook solely as a social utility, sharing pictures with friends and family, seeing what folks are up to for the weekend etc. It has been interesting, but fun adjustment learning how to use Twitter as a constructive and engaging tool to complement traditional marketing and comm. for small businesses, organizations and non-profits. I definitely don’t think I was alone when I say, Twitter can be overwhelming at times, and certainly does seem to be in another language, moving at the speed of light.

    I thought, okay, how hard could this be? In previous positions I worked all day with Medicare acronyms, did you know there is a specific code and acronym for cutting your toenails?! Crazy! Logging into Twitter and just beginning to translate the #, @, via, to RT or not to RT? …and WHAT DOES RT EVEN MEAN?! Just kidding, I know what it means, but I was making a point.

    Anyway, thanks for always writing these posts from multiple perspectives and for people with multiple levels of understanding. I feel that these days, a lot of the content on SN is either too high level and general or in the weeds. Here is a great YouTube video that is also very helpful called “Twitter in Plain English.”

  5. Pingback: Twetiquette? | MPowered Solutions

Comments are closed.