What is Twitter?

Last updated: 29 April 2016

What is Twitter?

If you’re a fan of social media, it’s probably hard to remember a time before Twitter - it feels like it’s been around forever. In fact, Twitter celebrated its 10th birthday on 21 March this year.

So are you part of the Twitterati? Have you signed up to follow your favourite celebs? Have you posted tweets?

Whether you’re an avid user or completely new, you may not be aware of all the different things you can do with it. So here’s a crash course on what Twitter is all about and how you can make the most of it on your iPhone.

Twitter: the basics.

The premise of Twitter is really simple: once you create a profile, you can then follow other Twitter users and gather followers of your own. You can tweet out messages of 140 characters, plus read and interact with other people’s tweets.

One of the biggest perks of Twitter is its simplicity and usability, and getting started really is a 5-minute job.

But, unlike some other social media sites, the power of Twitter stretches far beyond telling the world what you’ve had for dinner.

Twitter and the news.

Twitter has changed the news scene forever. Politicians and governments can now use Twitter to reveal campaign and current affairs updates as they happen, meaning that news can reach us fast.

Gone are the days when you’d have to wait for the latest news bulletin on the radio or the TV. Or even on a website.

From Barack Obama to David Beckham, Twitter has connected people like never before.

Twitter and celebs.

Of course, one of the best things about Twitter is that it gives celebrities a chance to reveal more about their thoughts and day-to-day lives.

So if you want to know more about your favourite movie star, footballer, comedian or singer, just add them to your newsfeed and you won’t miss a thing. And why not reply to a tweet or two? If you’re lucky and they’re in the mood, they might just fancy a chat!

Twitter and brands.

Businesses have learnt how to leverage Twitter to improve their bottom line. Also, clever companies build followers via engaging content (essentially so that they can sell more).

Meanwhile, they’ve also been able to use tweets as a method of customer communication.

So the next time you want to complain about something or ask for a refund, take it to Twitter. The chances are that the business in question will want the opportunity to showcase their customer-friendly policy in front of all their followers.

Joining in Twitter conversations.

Do you ever just want to have your say on a topical issue? Well, the hashtag is Twitter’s way of getting loads of people in on the same conversation.

You’ve probably seen a phrase with a hashtag on a billboard, in a mag or television programme. The hashtag basically categorises conversations by a keyword. This acts as a filter and allows them to show up easily in searches (no mean feat when around 200 billion tweets are sent every year).

Let’s say for example that you wanted to see what people were saying about the latest Star Wars film. Just open up the Twitter search feature and enter ‘Star Wars’. Everyone who has sent a tweet with #starwars will show up first.

Advanced ‘Twittering’.

Like all technology and software, Twitter has developed from its initial conception. 140-character messages are great, but now you can embed tweets into your profile, use videos, pictures and gifs.

You can quote parts of messages and schedule your tweets. Plus, it makes sense to link your Twitter account to other social media accounts (like Facebook and Instagram). This integration is a great time saver, since you can essentially post the same message in multiple places.

You might also benefit from some of Twitter’s other features, such as the ability to discover content you might have missed from your feed; or to follow people via categories (this allows you to find new users based on your personal interests).

Lists are great too. If you’re following loads of people, then maybe create your own lists to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Then you can just dive into what you want to read as and when.

Approximately 307 million users can’t be wrong.

It’s easy to see why Twitter is so popular. It’s extremely easy to set up an account and, once you’re done, just tap the app and you’re good to go.

It’s fair to say that Twitter does have its downside: while you can block anyone you want, you can’t guarantee every conversation you’ll enter into will be pleasant and factually correct.

But let’s face it, that’s the same with most social media platforms. And the upside is well worth it.

Whether you want to access news as it happens, get some inside showbiz gossip or enjoy a quick and easy way of contacting a business, Twitter is fast and effective and perfect for on-the-go updates, information and entertainment on your smartphone.