How Twitter works

Twitter allows businesses and individuals to create messages (called tweets) of up to 40 characters. These messages are received by people who have subscribed to receive updates from your account (followers).

Messages appear on your follower's 'timeline' (or message feed) on their computer screen or on their mobile phone when they are logged in to Twitter. If you mention a follower by name they receive a notification letting them know they've been mentioned.

Twitter profiles

When you register as a Twitter user, you create a profile — a summary description of your business along with an image and a link to your website. Your profile shows how many people follow you and how many you are following, as well as the number of tweets you have generated.

All the messages (tweets) you create are displayed on your Twitter profile. These can be viewed by people searching for information about a particular topic, as well as by your followers.


A tweet can include:

  • a hashtag — a word beginning with the # sign. If a user clicks on these words they will go to a list of search results for the term. Conversely, someone searching for that term may see your tweet on the list of results
  • a 'mention' — the Twitter username of a business or individual. If a user clicks on a mention it takes them to the mentioned business or person's Twitter profile
  • links to web sources — Twitter automatically shortens links so they can fit in the character limit for a tweet
  • a photo or video — attach a photo or link to an online video to increase sharing.

Your Twitter followers can reply to any tweet you send. They can also 'retweet' — pass your tweet along to their followers.

You can also send a direct message to one of your followers by prefacing the message with DM.

Twitter advertising

Twitter offers a range of advertising services to help businesses promote themselves, including:

  • promoted tweets — advertising with targeting options to reach people who fit your target market
  • promoted accounts — designed to increase your base of followers.

Other micro-blogging services

Other examples of micro-blogging services include:

  • Instagram — a photo-based service that allows people to share their photos
  • Tumblr — a micro-blogging service that allows for different types of updates
  • Yammer — a corporate micro-blogging service that is restricted to users within a company or organisation.

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