Twitter Lingo

Like any new communications technology, Twitter has its own shorthand. Some terms piggyback off of older technologies, some re-define pre-existing words. Here’s a quick guide to TwitterSpeak and etiquette.


Twitter Shorthand

  • Follow: < follow twitterID >. The key to making Twitter work for you. Social networks have no value when there’s no network! When you follow someone, their tweets (posts) will appear on your home page (or however you chose to read your tweets). You can also follow by clicking on the “follow me” link on their Twitter webpage (
  • Group Your Messages: < #hashtag >. Similar to tags on Flickr, hashtags are a means to “group” tweets around a topic. Hashtags were popularized during the 2007 San Diego fires. See for real-time tracking of Twitter hashtags.
  • Send Public Message (aka “at message”): < @TwitterID >. You can send an “@” message to anyone on Twitter. These appear on the public timeline.
  • Send Direct Message: <d TwitterID >. You can direct message people only if they are following you. Direct messages do not show up on the public timeline
  • Track A Subject/Person: < track word/phrase > Useful for those monitoring the twitterspace for organizational intelligence using your mobile device. Turn this off with < untrack word >


Twitter Dictionary

  • @username:
    Twitter-Home-RepliesA form of conversation on Twitter. @username  either directs a Tweet to someone or indicates a reply to a Tweet that person has sent. When the @username begins the Tweet, Twitter counts this as a “reply” and when the @username appears somewhere else, it is a “mention”. Both replies and mentions can be viewed in the “replies” tab of the Twitter website (when you are logged in and on your “home” page; only you can see this tab).
  • #topic:
    AKA “hashtag”, this is a way to group tweets by keyword. It is particularly useful for events and groups.
  • DM or DT:
    A private (direct) tweet. Syntax: D username (note the space). Direct tweets do not appear in the public timeline.
  • Favorite:
    A “bookmarked” tweet. Consider your “favorites” as a reflection of you (“brand me”). If you’re a business or a person, sprinkle some Twitter kudos in those favorites — with the operative word being sprinkle!
  • Follower:
    Someone who sees your tweets in their TweetStream. Following is, generally, not a reciprocal arrangement like it is with Facebook or LinkedIn. However, an account holder can chose to make tweets viewable only to followers (protected account); in this instance, the account holder approves the followers. In addition, it is possible to block someone from following. A blocked account cannot “follow” your tweets but can easily see your public tweets in a search (or through another Twitter account).
  • RT or Retweet:
    Analogous to forwarding an email; re-sending a tweet sent by someone else. Courtesy: include the @username of the person who authored the tweet. Remove multiple instances of “RT” (ie, edit!). Consider revising in your own words and then crediting the sender with via @username.
  • Tweet:
    A 140-character message sent to Twitter via phone, the web, or a third-party applications. Tweet are public and can be read on the public TwitterStream with two exceptions: (1) direct tweets and (2) protected tweets.
  • TweetUp:
    A real-world meeting of people who have connected via Twitter.
  • TwitterStream:
    A collection of tweets; usually refers to the stream of tweets sent by everyone that you follow but may refer to the public timeline of all tweets.
  • Twitterati:
    Celebrity and a-list Twits (or Tweeple or Tweeters)

Originally posted in 2009.

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