Twitter for beginners

A friend of mine once said "I have no idea how to use Twitter, I just sign up because everybody did". You know what? I was once like that too! I thought why would anyone wants to know what I had for lunch in 140 words?
Now Twitter is much more than that. Other than Facebook, Twitter is one of the most popular social networking tool there is out there. Here I am going to guide you how to use and get the most out of Twitter.
First things first, sign up for your free Twitter account! Sign up is easy and it will take not more than a few minutes. Yes you can choose to use your real name or a nick name like Donald Duck or Spongebob, it's up to you. But for goodness sake use your real name! More than often, people tend to ignore Donald Duck or Spongebob and they won't take you seriously. Your Twitter name and user name is going to be your online profile, your personal credential on the world wide web. And if you are late coming to the Twitter party, your chosen user name might be taken already. Chose one that closely resembles your real name. You can always use underscore or dash.
Next you'll have to find some people to follow. Twitter is only half useful unless you start to follow somebody. Here is also where Twitter gets interesting. You can chose to follow just about anybody with a Twitter account. Be it a singer, actor, politicians, companies or even some random guy from Addis Ababa whose tweets you find to be really interesting. For example let' say you're a big fan of Afdlin Shauki. Just search for his name in the search box. Sometimes you will find several profiles using that name.
A famous person or celebrity will usually have their Twitter account officially verified by Twitter and has a tick sign after their name. Else the one with the highest number of followers is usually the real deal. Click the follow button to start following that person.
From now on you will be receiving all the latest posts or updates or 'tweets' as they say from that person you follow on your Twitter home page. You will be the first to know where thy are doing today, what they will be next, what are their thoughts at the moment, in another word, everything he or she posts will be available to you on your Twitter home page.
And the beauty of Twitter is, you can interact directly with that person you follow. To send a public reply to that person just type in for example @afdlinshauki followed by your message and click Tweet. Your tweet will soon appear on your Twitter home page. And if that person or celebrity really cares about his fans or follower, more often than not he or she will actually reply to your tweet and answers your questions or post! No need to have his/her contact number, just tweet!.
Now if you'd like to send a direct message to that person, just type in "d" followed by their username and then your message like the example above. This message not appear on the public timeline and only the receiver will get to read the message. Of course the intended person can always block your message or even stop you from following them if you say, started to harass or spam their Twitter account. You can only send a direct message after you follow that person first.
Twitter is also a great tool for finding the latest news or update from anybody, anywhere in the world. Twitter is not the only website to share information or news. There are numerous other microblogging sites such as Plurk, Friendfeed and Google Buzz to name a few. What makes Twitter special is because everybody is using it! Twitter is used by millions of users world wide from including countless famous people and celebrities. Just name any artist or famous person and chances are he or she will already has a Twitter account. And since Twitter has so many users from everywhere in the world, it becomes a good place to get the latest news update.
For example if you want to know the latest English Premier League match results just type in English Premier League results or EPL results in the search box and you will find news, results and updates from people all around the world regarding EPL, match stats, latest score, opinions and a lot more.

Let's say you'd like to know what people thinks about a certain movie for example Inception, just type that in the search box and read what people are saying about that movie. Apart from sports or movies, you can find out and search on just about any topic you had in mind. The possibilities are endless.
To see what's the current hot topic people are talking about on Twitter, click the Trending Worldwide link. Here you will see what's the most talked about topics or news or person worldwide.

By now you should know the two most important use for Twitter, interaction or social networking and for finding the latest updates. Below are several more tips on how to use Twitter.

Typing @username will send a public reply to that person. You can use it at the beginning of your message or anywhere in the message too.
A hashtag is similar to other web tags, it helps add tweets to a category. Hashtags have the 'hash' or 'pound' symbol (#) preceding the tag, like so: #traffic, #followfriday. Hashtags can occur anywhere in the tweet. For example if you would like to categorize your tweet to traffic report just add #traffic or #traffickl to your message.
Sometimes you will find a very interesting tweet and you would like to tweet or share that message in your Twitter timeline. You can do so by using the re-tweet feature on Twitter.
To manually re-tweet a message, just type RT followed by the message like the example above.

You can use Twitter from the official Twitter website, from your smartphone or from any regular handphone via SMS. The iPhone for example has dozens of Twitter apps such as Twitter, Echofon and Osfoora. You can also send and receive tweets from SMS. Learn how to use SMS to tweet from here. For me, I use Gladlycast to send tweets via SMS because t uses a local (012) number. That said, a single text message to the official Twitter SMS only costs 20 cent anyway.

All Twitter messages, replies and direct messages are limited to 140 characters or less only. However if you use certain Twitter apps like Twitter or this Firefox extension.

You can also attach links, pictures or videos to your tweets using services such as, TwitPic, YFrog and Tweetphoto.

Most web links and addresses (URLs) are simply too long to include in your Twitter message. This is where URL shorteners such as and Tiny URL comes in handy. They will automatically create a shorter, Twitter friendly URL in place of the long original address for you. You can even tweet directly from those sites.

Tweet directly from your Firefox or Chrome web browser using extensions such as Echofon or TwitterBar.
Many websites or blogs nowadays allows you to comment on their site by logging in with your Twitter account. Certain PC, mobile and online games also integrate Twitter to publish scores, rankings and user profiles.

A few years the Iranian people flooded the streets to protest against their government on their allegedly rigged election campaign. The government started to black out news coverage of protest and rallies to in an attempt to contain them. So the people used Twitter instead to coordinate rallies, share information, and locate compatriots which was later known as Iran's Twitter revolution.

Here in Malaysia also, Twitter has started to revolutionize how people interact and get the latest news. In the recent by-elections, news of election results is available in real time from journalists, political party members and also regular folks on location who diligently updates everything that's happening from start to finish. While the traditional media such as radio and TV is struggling to report the (biased/delayed) updates, people had already got the latest results and happenings, how the EC is trying to delay the vote counting in Sibu for example just by using Twitter.

Twitter, Facebook and blogs is the future of news and social networking. Using Twitter for example, people can bypass all the hurdles of traditional medium such as government-controlled, one-sided television, radio and newspapers and get the latest news, opinions and updates all uncensored and in real time.

So you see, Twitter is not just about telling the world what you had for lunch, it's a really powerful tool for communicating with the world and getting the latest news/updates right now. Now I can find out what Katy Perry had for lunch, what are Obama's plans for world domination and which movie Aston Kutcher is starring in next. So what are you waiting for? Jump on now on the Twitter bandwagon. After all, all the cool kids are using it!