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6 Common Mistakes to Avoid on Twitter

Twitter 101


Twitter’s popularity has skyrocketed in recent months and the social network is now expected to have 500 million accounts by February. For those who have recently joined or are just thinking about it, there are a few common mistakes you should be careful to avoid to really make the most of the site.

Photo Credit: Twitter.com

The Right and Wrong Way to Use the @ Symbol


Twitter gave new meaning to the “@” symbol by turning it into a way to have a conversation with other users on the social network by “mentioning” them. By placing the symbol directly before a user’s name in a tweet, it creates a live link to that person’s account and also lets the user find out that he or she has been mentioned in someone’s tweet. However, many make a simple mistake with the symbol that effectively derails the intention of the tweet.

If the first character in your tweet is an “@” symbol, Twitter assumes you are trying to have a conversation with the user mentioned. As a result, only the user that is mentioned and the people who follow both of you will see the post in their feeds. That may be fine if you do indeed just want to reply to a specific user, but if your intention is to have everyone see your tweet, you’ll have to mention the user later in the tweet. One common workaround for this is to start the tweet with a period followed by the “@” symbol.

Photo Credit: Twitter.com

Know Who You Can Direct Message


Direct messages are meant to serve as a tool for users to tweet to one another privately, but even high-profile users have made mistakes while trying to use the feature. Anthony Weiner may be the most famous example of this. The former congressman intended to send an indecent picture of himself to one particular woman on Twitter, but instead of direct-messaging her, he simply posted a regular tweet that began with an “@” symbol and her user name (rather than the correct shortcut, “d” followed by a space and then the “@” username), which meant that others were able to see it. The fallout of that simple mistake eventually forced Weiner to resign.

Instead of typing a tweet in the usual box, direct messages are most safely sent by clicking on the direct-message tab at the top of the page (on older versions of Twitter), or in the same drop-down menu as the settings in the new version. From there you’ll be prompted to enter the name of the user you’d like to send a message to, but that message will only go through if the intended recipient follows you. If he or she doesn’t, your only option will be to use the “@” symbol and make it a public message.

Photo Credit: Twitter.com

Looking Like A Spammer


The one big downside of Twitter’s popularity is that more spam accounts are popping up to take advantage of the growing user base. Often these accounts push out malicious links that can hurt your computer or temporarily take over your account. Fortunately, spammers tend to be pretty easy to spot if you know what to look for.

More often than not, spammers tend to follow many accounts, but have few if any followers themselves. These accounts may leave their profile pictures and bio sections blank, or on the other hand will fill the space with overtly sexual content, details about making money quickly and grammatical errors. Moreover, if you click through to their profile page, you may notice they are constantly replying to other users with the same message over and over, which is of course the very definition of a spammer. If you notice any or all of this, think twice before clicking on any links from these users.

At the same time, it’s important to make sure your profile doesn’t share too much in common with a spammer’s or you may scare away potential followers. For starters, take the time to fill in your profile picture and biography and include a link to your personal website or another social network so that users can find out more about you.

Photo Credit: Twitter.com

Getting Too Personal


The point of any good social network is to share content, but sharing too much can backfire, as many have found out on both Facebook and Twitter. People have been fired for using Twitter to post controversial jokes, racist comments and stories about partying at work. As a general rule, if it’s something that you wouldn’t want your boss or your mother to read, think twice about posting it to Twitter.

Photo Credit: Twitter.com

Not Learning the Twitter Language


One of the great obstacles some feel in mastering Twitter is the feeling of having to learn a completely new language. It certainly seems silly at first to need to know when the difference between gibberish like “MT” and “RT,” yet those who don’t master these terms can come off badly in the online conversation. So here is a very quick summary of a few of the most commonly used abbreviations you should know:

RT: This stands for “retweet” and can be placed manually before the name of another user and a post of theirs that you have copied verbatim.

MT: This stands for “modified tweet” and is typically used instead of “RT” when reposting someone else’s tweet if you’ve changed their text in any way.  Many use this if they need to shorten another user’s tweet to meet the 140-character limit.

Via: Via usually appears at the end of a tweet as a way to credit the person who directed you to that information. Another option people use is “h/t” which stands for “hat tip.”

CC: As with emails, “CC” stands for “carbon copy” and can be used to highlight particular users who you think should read the tweet, since it will show up in a special section of their Twitter account page reserved for mentions.

FF: “FF” stands for “Friday Follow” and is used when you want to promote certain users you think others should follow, something that traditionally happens on Friday.

#: The hashtag symbol is used to tag pieces of content based on the subject matter or to tag something to a topic that is already trending.

For a more complete list, check out Twitter’s glossary of terms here.

Photo Credit: Twitter.com

Ignoring Lists and Saved Searches


Twitter can sometimes feel like an overwhelming stream of information, but there are two great tools to bring a little order to the chaos. First, users can organize the accounts they follow into lists, which effectively serve as feeds filtered by subject area. If you want to create separate feeds for the family members and news organizations you follow, you can create lists for each. Along the same lines, Twitter also lets users save specific search terms to quickly keep track of content as it’s posted on the social network. For example, if you want to use Twitter as a tool to find deals, you can save the search term “promotion” or “deal” and check that any time you want to see the latest offers. Alternatively, you can save your name or your company’s name as search terms and see what’s being said about both on Twitter.

Photo Credit: Twitter.com

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