The twittersphere is full of words and phrases that may sound intimidating or overly-technical to any new user (such as…twittersphere?!). Not to worry—these terms are much easier than they seem! Here’s a breakdown to help you out. You’ll be fluent in Twitter-speak in no time.

Direct Message (DM)

Want to share a secret? Best to use a direct message rather than a standard tweet. A direct message, or DM, is a private tweet. Only the author and recipient can view these tweets. You can only send a DM to users who are following you. To write a DM, click on the ‘Direct Message’ link in the right column of your Twitter home page.


Follow / Follower 

Though generally frowned upon in the real world, it’s OK to be a follower in the twittersphere! In fact, that’s kind of the whole point. When you ‘follow’ someone, you are choosing to receive their tweets. Following is quick and easy: Click on a username and then check the ‘follow’ box in the top left of their Twitter page. Everything they tweet will now appear in your Twitter feed.


Vice versa, a follower is someone who chooses to follow all of the witty and brilliant things you are saying.

When someone follows you, it’s a good idea to return the favor and follow them back. Check out their profile first—if they are following a large number of people and no one is following them back, there’s a good chance this user is a spammer.


Want to hear what people are saying about your favorite TV show? Search by using a hashtag! A hashtag is a way for people to search for tweets containing a common topic. They help users create communities around a topic and learn what other people are saying about it.

Say, for example, I tweet:

Anyone know who won #topchef last night?

If other users clicked on or searched for the hashtag #topchef my tweet would appear, along with any other tweet containing the hashtag #topchef.

To include a hashtag in your tweet, simply type the ‘#’ key in front of a word or phrase: #redskins, #whitehouse, #funnyjokes. Any user can create a hashtag, but you should do a quick Twitter search to make sure it’s not already being used to reference something unrelated to your intended topic.

The hashtag can appear in your tweet or at the end:

I can’t believe he won! I was hoping for Kevin. #topchef


I can’t believe he won #topchef! I was hoping for Kevin.

We recommend only using hashtags on tweets relevant to the topic, and not over-tagging a single tweet (one to three per tweet, tops).


Say you are following 300 people but only really care about what 10 of them are saying. You can create a list and populate it with just those 10 people. This will create a feed showing only the tweets of those 10 people. You can also create lists to group the people you follow by topic. For example, you could create a list of the people you follow that tweet about cooking.

To create a list, click ‘new list’ in the right column of your twitter page.



Did someone’s tweet make you LOL (laugh out loud)? Spread the joy—retweet it!

If you see an ‘RT’ before a tweet that indicates it is a retweet. To retweet, simply hover over the tweet and click the ‘retweet’ button. That will send it out to all your followers.

You can also retweet manually by copy and pasting the tweet and writing RT before it. Remember: Twitter etiquette is to always credit the person that you are retweeting.

For example, if I tweet:

RT @SmallAct Check out our new marketing job posting!

That means I have retweeted @SmallAct’s tweet about the job listing to all of my followers.

Trending topic  

So, what’s going on in the twittersphere today? Trending topics, listed on the bottom right column of your twitter page, will show you the hottest, most relevant topics being tweeted about that day. Trending topics could include anything from breaking news, to new movies, to music. They can contain both keywords and hashtags. Clicking on any of these topics will bring you to the search results for that topic and show you what people are tweeting about.

For example, a few Trending Topics listed on Twitter today were:


If you aren’t sure why a topic is on the trending list, look for a description after you click it. Twitter often writes a brief explanation as to why the topic is popular at the top of the search results page.


Anything you post to twitter is called a tweet and is limited to 140 characters. If you’d like to include a link in your tweet, using a URL shortener (such as http://bit.ly/) is a good way to save characters.


No, a twestival is not some underground club party that requires a secret password. It is simply an event, or series of events, organized via Twitter which brings people offline for a great cause. Twestivals are run on either a local or global scale, and are coordinated through the website http://twestival.com/.

Twestival is based on the idea that if cities can collaborate on an international scale, but work from a local level, it can result in a spectacular impact. While Twestival Global puts the spotlight around one cause, Twestival Local encourages cities around the world to host events in support of a local cause.

If you are interested in planning or participating in one, check out the http://twestival.com/ website for more info.


Sounds like a happy, euphoric place, doesn’t it? This term refers to happenings in the Twitter universe.

What’s happening in the twittersphere today (what are people tweeting about)?

How big is your twittersphere (or how many people are you following and how many are following you)?

How well do you use your twittersphere (are you maximizing your twitter potential)?

You get the general idea.


This is the format in which any twitter username appears. In order to properly reference a user in a tweet, be sure to write the ‘@’ symbol before their username. That way, Twitter will automatically create a link to their profile and allow them to search for any tweets mentioning them.

Now, go forth to the twittersphere and TWEET!