Firstly, welcome to Twitter. Before someone comments on it, I'd just like to say that I've done this completely myself. It's not endorsed by Twitter in any way.
If you're reading this, you've now joined Twitter and already have a screenname. If you haven't already joined and want help with that, please tell me in a comment and I'll try and do another fact sheet for you, though that may not include pictures.
Now, having joined Twitter, you may have some questions about it, including:
Question 1: I just joined Twitter and now I don't know what to do. It says 'update' but I don't know what to put or how to do it.
Question 2: I don't understand these things on my homepage
Question 3: How do I reply to people?
Question 4: What's this following thing and how do I do it?
Question 5: Direct messages? What are they?
Question 6: There seem to be people updating to Twitter using things that aren't the web
I aim to answer all of these in this fact sheet.
First off, when you start using Twitter you'll log in and find your homepage on the web. For privacy I've edited the screenshots and removed other peoples tweets. Anyway, your homepage will look something like this:
You'll see your details on the right hand side. I'll go through the links down the side as we go through. If you're wondering why my background looks different to yours, don't worry. You can change this in Settings. I won't be going through the things in settings because it's easier if you have a play yourself to sort that. Same with pictures, but, if anyone's really stuck, let me know on a comment and I'll try and help. Can't promise anything though!
The main part of this Twitter homepage has status updates on it. When you're a new user, you won't have any status updates to start with, and the first few you have might only be your updates. As you follow more people, their updates will show in this feed as well. I'll talk more about this in a bit when we get to following people. You will however notice that @Lutitia has a padlock next to her name. This user has protected her entries so her status updates will only appear on the homepage feeds of those who are friends with her. If you don't want your updates to be visible to the world, you can choose to protect your updates. This is a personal decision, but it does mean that you won't end up with replies from random tweeters who could turn out to be new followers!
When it comes to updating, essentially what you're doing is updating your status. Twitter asks one question: What are you doing? Now, you can answer this, but you could put whatever's on your mind at the time. It's up to you.
However, how do you actually go about updating your status?
Write what you want in the white box at the top, but make sure you stay unde 140 characters. As you type, that 140 written at the edge of the box will start to count down through the numbers. If you have too many characters in your proposed tweet, the counter number will turn red and go into minus numbers. I should clarify there that 'characters' refer to any letter, space or element of puncuation (full stop, comma, exclamation mark etc). You then press 'update' and your update, or tweet, will appear underneath in the feed on the homepage. You'll see that it also appears under the white box. This is handy to remind you what you tweeted last, especially when you're following lots of people and your feed updates regularly.
New tweets will appear at the top of the feed, but they can seemingly 'move' quickly, especially if you're following lots of people. If you have tweets you particularly like, you can 'favourite' these. Hover over the tweet you like and at the end a grey star will show at the end.
If you want to favourite a tweet, click on the star. You will then be able to see it if you click 'Favourites'. Only tweets you deem as favourites will show up under this link. You don't have to use this, but you can if you wish to keep track of certain tweets.
As Twitter is a social networking site, it's understandable if you wish to reply to someone's tweet. To do this, again hover over the tweet you wish to reply to. You'll see an arrow appear at the end of the tweet. Click on this arrow and the users screenname (with the @) will appear in the white box at the top.
Write your reply as normal.
All replies that are sent to you will appear in your @ replies link. If you click this link, you will see all tweets from people that have your screenname preceeded by an @. Please note, there is no gap between the @ and a person's username if you wish to tweet at them. In my case it would be @ladyofsalzburg as shown on this picture
When it comes to tweeting @ someone, it doesn't matter where you put the @screenname in your tweet. Because your new tweet has @ in it, it will appear in the @replies link. All of the people on here tweeted directly at me. Please note that you will need to put the correct screenname in for each person you're tweeting at. Typos will mean that your friend may not see the reply if they have lots of followers tweeting on their homepage because it won't appear on their @replies, it will only appear on their normal homepage.
You can reply to as many tweets as you wish. If you want to have an ongoing conversation with a fellow Twitterer, you can!
Before I move on to following people, let's just go over one more thing to do with updates.
HELP!! I've made a mistake and put the wrong thing on my tweet! If this is you, do not panic. If you tweet the wrong thing, don't worry, just hover over the offending tweet and you'll see a bin appear at the end underneath the star. If you need to delete the tweet, click the bin. It will then check that you wish to delete it, but it's quite self explanitory here.
Followers and following people
Twitter doesn't have 'friends' per se. On Twitter you can follow people and they can follow you. You don't have to follow everyone who follows you, it's up to you who you follow.
This is my profile. On here you can see that I am following 53 people but 64 people are following me. Essentially you can follow anyone. There are hundreds of thousands of people on Twitter, if not more. If you find someone you want to follow, you'll be able to press the 'follow' button on their profile, it's that simple!
As I said, there are lots of people on Twitter and there are things you can do to find people on Twitter. This is fairly easy, just click on 'find people' and you'll be able to either search for people by name or username on Twitter, look for people through email systems.
Using the different sections on here (it's best to have a play about yourself depending on what you have/want to look for etc) you can look for anyone. Anyone could be people from your friends in school, online buddies or celebrities! Be wary. There are impersonators. Also take note that certain people will have lots of followers and are likely to not follow you back, so don't worry if that happens.
Equally, as you can search for people and can follow them, people can search for you. If someone follows you, your tweets will appear on their homepage. This will only happen if your tweets are unprotected. Users can also search for things that people are tweeting about through Twitter Search and could reply to you through that. Don't worry, you could meet new people on there, broadening your network. Essentially it's up to you who you search for and the criteria used to search for them.
You can have as many followers as you wish, but there are limits to how many people you can follow based on how many followers you have. I'm not entirely sure, but as an example, you might not be able to follow 1000 people if you only have 5 people following you. You can find more about this and other information about Twitter on any Twitter webpage. You'll find this at the bottom of the page.
If you find someone following you who you really do not want to follow you, for whatever reason, you can choose to block them.
These are private messages which you can send to people. They will appear in your direct messages folder and you will receive an email with the message on. Unfortunately you cannot send direct messages to people who are not following you, but should you reply to someones tweet, they could reply to you with a direct message. To send a direct message, just click the direct message button on the right hand side underneath the icons of those you're following. Again, these can only contain 140 characters.
If you've got the hang of tweeting from the web now, and you've been wondering why some of the people you're following can do it from other things, this will be of help. There are hundreds of applications which have been invented to tweet from. Most of these can be used from computers, with variants for different operating systems so you can choose which application will work on your computer and which you like the look of. There are also applications you can use on mobile phones, or you can always connect a mobile phone with your Twitter account and then text your updates to Twitter. All phone companies vary so it's worth checking with your provider how much it's going to cost you to do this or to use WAP/mobile internet. Unfortunately I can't find Twitter's information on updating by text, at the moment, but if you have a search around on Twitter you'll probably be able to find it somewhere!
Twitter Support on the Help link
Various Applications There are more about, it just requires some searching.
As I said, there are hundreds of good applications you can use for Twitter. I currently have a couple of different ones that I use in different places. For example, I have a flash widget on my journal, but I normally update from Twhirl.
I can't say that Twhirl is really any better than any other application, but I liked the name so I tried it. I rather like Twhirl, and find it quite handy with its extra colour coordinated things.
As you can see, the background changes colour depending on the tweet. Your usual tweets have a gradiated grey background while other peoples normal tweets will have a white background. When there are @replies, these appear with a green background. Direct messages appear with an orange background. What I also like about Twhirl, which is also on some other applications, is that you get bubble popups in the corner of your screen telling you of new tweets. This saves you from pressing F5 all the time on the web! Having said that, it's always handy to have access to the web from time to time. I find I use the web version of Twitter when I'm searching for people mostly, but it's good to be able to swap if needed.
That concludes my guide to Twitter. I hope I've covered everything that I said I would, and that it makes sense. Thank you for sticking with it through all that lot, I know it's long!
Feel free to link others to this, but please comment if you find this helpful or if you have any queries about it all.