Five Things You May Not Know About Twitter

Twitter has been around since 2006 (yes, I know, terrifying), but it still holds small mysteries.  Little quirks that some folk miss out on or misunderstand.  You might very well know them all, but if just one blows your skirts up then my work here is done.

If you start a tweet with a username, then only people who follow you both will see it.  I still see relatively seasoned Twitter users do this.

For instance, if I tweet the following...

@johnhiggs' book on The KLF is mind-blowing - read it now!

... then only people who follow both me and @johnhiggs will see it.  Which is a waste.

In case this confuses you, think of it in terms of tweeting directly at @johnhiggs, rather than tweeting about him.  In the former case, it's generally well known that only people who follow you both can see the tweet.  But when you're tweeting about someone, it seems like a whole other situation.  To Twitter, it isn't.  That tends to be why you often see tweets starting with a full-stop, followed by a username - it starts the tweet with a buffer before the username, so Twitter doesn't misunderstand and shows all your followers the tweet, just like you want it to, you attention-hungry, power-crazed MONSTER.

Incidentally, that full-stop isn't some kind of specific code - it's just the most-used buffer symbol.  You could start with a '&' or a '$', but it might well look more obtrusive.

There's no need to search for someone's username to check up on whether it should be written as @PumpkinFace666, @Pumpkinface666 or even @pumpkinface666.  Twitter doesn't care - it recognises them all as the same person.  Otherwise @StephenFry would be plagued by copycats with the name @StEpHeNfRy and the like.  Many Twitter clients correct your version to however the user normally presents it themselves anyway.

Same goes for hashtags.  #SetFireToYourHeadDay equals #Setfiretoyourheadday, equals #setfiretoyourheadday.

Twitter lists have fallen by the wayside over the years.  A while back, I gathered together various lists of various types of Twitter users and occasionally maintain them now, but mostly forget to tell people about them.  Here they are, if you're interested.

These days, I have one main use for lists - to help me filter my feed.  I have a private Priority list of people whose tweets I really don't want to miss.  This is installed in my Tweetdeck, but most apps (I use the mighty Tweetbot) should let you manage lists too.  And no, I'm not telling you who's on the list.  And yes, I do of course still read the main feed - the Priority list is just a handy tool.

Or at least, don't fret over them when it comes to putting them at the very end of usernames in tweets.  Usernames can only ever consist of letters, numbers or underscores, so apostrophes won't upset the apple-cart if you add one right at the end.

So you can tweet...

I am loving @SarahLotz1's The Three!


I can't wait to get my hands on @LaurenBeukes' new novel Broken Monsters!


.@JasonArnopp's tweets drive me insane with boredom, and yet lust, which confuses me!

...there's no need for a funny-lookin' space in between the username and the apostrophe, which is good to know if you're tight on space.

One symbol which does upset the apple cart, by the way, is a slash.  Put a '/' straight after a username and Twitter thinks you're referencing a list.  Remember Twitter lists?  Yeah.


If you align your Twitter account with a statistical analysis app which regularly tweets this kind of thing to followers on your behalf...

New followers this week: 256,021
RTs this week: 2,768,098
My tweets favourited this week: 10,000,001

... most people will think you're a buffoon and probably unfollow you.

You're welcome.  And so are your followers.

But I know you wouldn't do that.  You are, after all, smart enough to read this post.  You're special and I adore the very bones out of you.

Good day to you.


(Got a handy Twitter tip of your own that you'd like to share?  Do so in Comments below...)

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1 comment:

Tom Albrighton said...

Great post.

I would add that if you want to link two tweets together (even long after the first one was posted), reply to yourself and delete your username from the start of the reply. The two tweets will then be linked together as a 'conversation'. This helps people follow the thread if you're chuntering on across more than one tweet.

Of course, it's not really a conversation because you're talking to yourself - in full view of all your followers too. But really, who cares about looking mentally stable?