How to Get Started on Twitter (Part 1)

Learn why it’s so popular, and how you can use it — It’s never too late to get started!

With hundreds of millions of users worldwide, Twitter has become one of the biggest sites on the web today.

Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho captured the essence of Twitter when he said, “Twitter is my bar. I sit at the counter and listen to the conversations, starting others, and feeling the atmosphere.” And it’s true. From the comfort of your computer screen, you can pull up a virtual stool next to anyone–from your favorite celebrities to your next-door neighbors.

Here are five reasons that people all over the world are using Twitter:

1. Interesting People. We all have people that we are fascinated by and would like to know more about. On Twitter, you choose who you want to listen to and communicate with. Whether it is your favorite author or your local mayor, odds are they have a Twitter account to promote themselves and interact with fans and constituents, respectively. You can follow them with a simple click.

2. Sharing Information. While many social media sites are bogged down with pictures from parties, event invites, and who’s friends with who, Twitter is about information. Forget emailing a million friends the great article you just read, posting a link on one’s Twitter account has quickly become the most non-intrusive way to share and find new information.

3. Breaking News. In the modern era, Twitter has become one of the fastest ways to spread information. When a story breaks, it’s usually on twitter before the next day’s paper.

4. Company Contact. Companies love twitter, and your favorite ones most likely have an account. By following a company, you will have access to news about their latest products and promotions. Tweeting at them is now also one of the fastest ways to communicate with a customer service representative.

5. They Get to the Point! By limiting the length of messages to 140 characters, Twitter makes people get to the point. These short messages, or tweets, are much more likely to keep your attention and allow you to consume information faster than ever before.

Interested in giving this free social network a try? Read on to learn how to sign up and start receiving real-time information that interests you!

Sign up — it’s free!

To sign up, visit www.twitter.com. Simply fill out the form (pictured here) with your name, email address, and a password that you’ll remember. (Be sure to write it down, just in case.)

Twitter Sign UpOnce you’re registered, you will need to create a username. Chances are that the username you want is already being used by one of the 650 million people who are on Twitter. Don’t worry too much about getting it perfect, because your actual name will be displayed much more prominently than your username.

LeBron Tweet

How to follow people, publications, and companies

Your homepage, or twitter feed, will only show interesting content when you follow other Twitter accounts. To follow a person, publication, or company, simply search for them in the search toolbar at the top of your screen.

User Search
For celebrity accounts like Barack Obama, always make sure they have a blue checkmark next to their name before you follow them. That means they’ve been verified.

If you don’t see who or what you’re looking for in the drop-down menu, click the link at the bottom that says “Search all people for [your search term]”.

Once you find who you’re looking for, click on their name or picture. You will be taken to that person’s profile page, which displays their bio and all their tweets. Click the follow button.

Follow ButtonNow every time that account sends a tweet, it will show up in your feed. You’ll also notice that all of that account’s previous tweets are now in your feed when you return to your homepage. To do return to your homepage at any time, click on the Home icon in the toolbar.

Home Toolbar

Now get following! Below are some suggestions organized by interests to help get you started:

Who to follow

News: CNN, New York Times, BBC

Reading: Guardian Books, NY Review of Books, Random House

Politics: NPR Politics, Politico, Dave Weigel

Humor: The Onion, Conan O’Brien, Stephen Colbert

Sports: SportsCenter, Bill Simmons, PTI

Your Friends: Just search their names, or ask them what their Twitter names are!

Next week, we’ll cover how to send your own tweets and interact with other folks on Twitter!

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