Twitter Basics artificial-intelligence

Twitter Basics

If you have just started on twitter, then you may be overwhelmed with the huge amount of jargon that floats around the site. What’s a retweet? What about a DM? And why do people keep slapping the number sign in front of words? Don’t fear, I’ll walk you through all of the most important elements of twitter so that you can navigate your first steps into the medium with poise and grace.


You probably know this one already, but tweets are the messages you send on twitter. They are short, public, and can contain images and videos. They are currently limited to 140 characters in length, but this will be increased soon. Read this article for some great examples of tweets.

Your Timeline

Whenever you log into twitter, the first thing you will see is your timeline. It is a real-time feed that shows the tweets of users that you follow. Since Twitter’s inception, this timeline has simply shown every tweet by every user you follow in reverse-chronological order, with the newest tweets appearing at the top and older tweets extending downward.

screenshot of a timeline and tweets

However, twitter is moving towards an algorithmic approach to the timelinewhich will attempt to reorder tweets into a prioritized view. While some users feel that this goes against the essence of twitter, it appears that this change is here to stay. Whether twitter will offer the option to turn off this algorithmic feed in favor of the original version is not yet clear.


When you post to twitter, your tweets will be visible to anyone who follows you (on their feed) or anyone who views your profile page. Most of your tweets should be designed to appeal to your audience as a whole. However, occasionally you’ll want to direct a tweet at a specific account in particular. This could be for any number of reasons, either to express gratitude for attention they’ve paid to you, call their attention to something you’d like them to know, or any other multitude of reasons.

You do this by starting your tweet with their @username. Doing this will ensure that the tweet shows up in that users feed. Other users will not see your tweet, unless they view the conversion later on. In other words, the tweet is public, but it is not shown by default to all. If you place the @username later in the tweet, then all your followers will see it by default. There is a standard trick on twitter to place a ‘.’ period before the username to both send the tweet to someone and allow everyone to see it.

e.g.   [email protected]

screenshot of a twitter dot mention

To send a @mention, simply open up the box to compose a tweet and type the ‘@’ symbol followed by the first few letters of the recipient’s username. Twitter will automatically pull up a list of suggestions from which you can choose the correct person. Then you can compose the remainder of your tweet and send it off. A @mention tag can be located anywhere within a tweet, so you can incorporate the recipient’s name into the tweet itself. You can also @mention an unlimited amount of users within your tweet (though the 140 character limit still applies.)


A conversation on twitter also uses @mention tags, but with a slight distinction. These conversations result from direct responses to tweets from users and their replies back and forth. For example, let’s say you’ve just read a tweet you enjoy from a user you follow. From beneath their tweet you can click on the swooping arrow symbol, which will open a dialogue box for you to send a reply. They can then reply to your tweet and so on, and this entire conversation will appear in a chain whenever someone clicks on the original tweet. As with mentions, these conversations will be visible to any user if they choose to view it.


A ‘like’ is twitter’s standard form of showing appreciation for a tweet. It used to be called a ‘favorite’, but they adopted the more standard terminology recently. At the bottom of every tweet is a heart symbol which you can click to register a ‘like’ on that tweet, basically expressing that you appreciate whatever is being said or shared. The amount of likes a post has received will appear along the bottom of the tweet, which serve to act as a sort of status symbol about the success of an individual post.

screenshot of a twitter like


Retweeting someone’s tweet is the act of sharing their post to your own followers. It’s an excellent way to show appreciation for a user and their content and is often a great way to build positive relationships. Twitter offers two built-in mechanisms for retweeting. The first is a straightforward retweet, which will result in the entire original post being passed on to your followers, including the original users profile picture and username.

screenshot of a retweet

If you’d like to share the tweet to your followers but also add your own thoughts, you can quote the tweet. This will make the original appear in a small box beneath whatever comments you choose to add.

screenshot of a quoted retweet

This is a great way to both bring exposure to the original account and add your own unique spin. The retweet button can be found at the bottom of each tweet (two arrows making a circular motion). As with ‘likes’, the amount of retweets a tweet has received will be visible beneath the tweet itself.

Direct Messages (DM)

A direct message, or DM for short, is a message sent to an account that’s visible only to you and the recipient. Think of it as twitter’s built-in instant messaging app. DMs don’t have the same 140 character limit as tweets, and they will be private to the participants.

To send a DM, click on the direct message button on the recipient’s profile. This icon can be identified by a speech bubble with a small ‘+’ sign in the top left-hand corner. Note, it may not be available if the recipient has disabled DM’s, or if they do not follow you.

screenshot of the DM twitter button


The pound sign ‘#’ is known as a hashtag. They are twitter’s mechanism for threading tweets together by topic. They are used by many social networks so you are probably familiar with them by now. They are also used to track trends, resulting in the Trending Topics you’ll see along the side of your feed.

screenshot of twitter trends

To add a hashtag to your tweet, simply type a ‘#’ sign followed (with no spaces) by a word or phrase. When users read your tweet, the hashtag will show up as a link which they can click to see what other users are tweeting about that same topic. As a consumer, you can search for any given hashtag to see what is being said about the topics that interest you. Sometimes overly-specific and in-depth hashtags will be used for comic effect.


Sometimes you’ll find that a user updates their twitter simply too much and too often, or maybe their tweets don’t interest you, or they may even offend you. If you’d like to stop seeing tweets from a certain account without the insult that comes from unfollowing them, you can simply mute their account. By clicking on the settings icon (identifiable as a gear) and then clicking ‘Mute’ from the menu that appears, you can discretely mute the tweets of a specific user in their feed without them being aware that they’ve been muted.

screenshot of twitter mute & block


Blocking a user means that you will no longer see any posts from that user and they will be unable to see or interact with any content that you share. Users block other users for a variety of reasons, whether they find their posts offensive, insulting, or simply uninteresting or annoying. To block a user, click on the settings symbol (identified by a gear icon) on their profile, then select ‘Block’ from the list of actions. A user can be unblocked at any time by following the same process.

Try not to be lame by sending the person a message telling them you’ve blocked them. That accomplishes nothing, and is little more than a petty dig at the other person. Just block them and move on – you’ll also save yourself 30 seconds by not typing the tweet.

Follow Limits

In order to discourage what are known as bots (automated accounts not belonging to a real person) and spammers, twitter has instituted general follow limits that restrict the amount of users each account can follow.

For the standard user this limit is set at 5,000. However, as an account gains more followers the limit will grow. So if you have 100,000 followers, you will be able to follow around 110,000 users in turn.

Daily Limits

Another tool twitter uses to fight spam are daily action limits. They are as follows:

  • Tweets: 2,400 per day
  • Direct Messages: 1,000 per day
  • Account Email Changes: 4 per day
  • Follows: 1,000 per day

Users who exceed these limits will not only find their ability to continue restricted but might even earn themselves probationary limitations that are even more restrictive.

Videos and Images

Sharing videos and photos through twitter has become a more integrated process as twitter has strived to become a centralized location for content-sharing. To add an image or video to a tweet, you can either select the camera icon or copy and paste a direct link to the online location of the image, video or Vine you want to share. When scrolling through your feed, images and videos will appear embedded in tweets.

Images may be hidden or cropped, so click on them to see them fully. By default, videos will autoplay as they scroll into view but their audio will be muted. Click on the video to expand it and activate the audio in your browser.

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Twitter Training Same Country & Language Followers

Same Country & Language Followers

For those looking to grow a more focused following then targeting a country or language may be a logical place to start. There are ways to achieve this, but before you embark on this path there are a few things to keep in mind.

For the purpose of this guide I will refer to country and language targeting interchangeably as the same thing, or as targeting by geography. This is because they are both very broad in nature, and are achieved using similar methods of promotion.

Twitter is inherently open

Twitter was not built with country and language in mind. It is inherently open to allow anybody to follow anyone else. There is an option to make your account private, but to be honest that is counter-productive when you are trying to grow an audience. If you are looking to build a closed network of friends or acquaintances then Facebook and LinkedIn are probably better suited to the job. If you put your name up on a billboard then you will attract attention, potentially from people all over the world.

It may be unnecessary admin

Although you can focus your effort on certain geographies, it’s very hard to actually stop people from following you if they fall outside of them. You can block them if you want, but you may spend unnecessary hours doing this for very little gain. At the end of the day, unless you follow someone back they will not have any impact on your twitter profile or timeline.

Secondary benefits from ‘other’ followers

If you pick up some followers outside of your target geography then they may still provide some secondary benefits to you. They will increase your follower count, providing some small boost to your social proof, and they may retweet or like your tweets (an increase in engagement may improve the ranking of your tweets as twitter evolves it’s timeline algorithms). If they are connected to people in your target geography then they may end up passing your message on to them.

It makes sense if money is being spent

If you are using paid promotion such as twitter ads or twiends featured display, then it might make sense to use country targeting if your brand has this requirement. If you only sell your product or service into a certain market then you may want to make your promotion dollars go further by focusing on your target market.

The ‘spill over’ may be small

If you use the right type of promotion to target a geography then you should only collect a small number of ‘outside’ followers along the way – what I like to call ‘spill over’. My advice would be not to fret too much about this, unless the spill over becomes very large or time-consuming from an admin perspective.

How to target countries

Whether you are doing broad or targeted promotion, there are ways to focus on a country. The first two methods are probably the most effective due to the fact that they create a firm technical filter for that country. The other techniques will also work, but may have a slightly higher ‘spill over’ into non-desired countries.

  • Twitter ads allow you to choose countries when creating your ads, so regardless of any detailed targeting you select, your ads will only be shown to users in those countries.

    screenshot of twitter ads country targeting

  • Twiends allows you to choose up to 50 countries when you list yourself. Whether you use paid featured display or participate freely, your profile will only be shown to users in those countries.

    screenshot of twiends coutnry targeting

  • Contests can be focused by giving away prizes that can only be used in a certain country, and by announcing that only entrants from the target countries will be eligible.

    screenshot of Nissan India contest tweet

  • Outreach can be done using the location field that users provide, or the geo-location of their tweets. When searching for people to connect with use your target keyword and the ‘near:location’ operator. It’s not exact, but it will give you some quick easy wins, and you can move onto other 3rd party tools afterwards.

    screenshot of twitter location search

  • Material can be focused in-country. If you are creating content to attract followers you can craft it so that it only has local appeal.
  • Guest blogging can be focused towards publications that have a local audience.
  • Following back those that have followed you can be restricted to those that fall within your required area.

A note on accuracy

Platforms like twiends and twitter ads use IP geolocation data to place users. Although this is very accurate it is not without error occasionally. IP ranges are traded between internet service providers which can cause some users to be miss-classified periodically. But these cases are rare.

The location field used by users is also notoriously inaccurate and not standardized. Some people may say NYC, others New York City, and others Big Apple. You may need to use 3rd party tools when searching using this field. If you use the ‘near:location’ and ‘within:..mi’ search operators then these may only return results for user who are geo-tagging their tweets.

screenshot of NYC location in twitter profiles

How to target languages

Unfortunately this is where it gets tricky. Language detection is a much harder mechanism for platforms to implement and they do have a higher margin of error. Systems may be able to detect a language accurately, but not be able to tell if it is someone’s first or second language. You can absolutely achieve good results here, but there will be some spill over to other language followers for some of these methods.

Outreach: Search filtering

When using outreach as a growth method you can use the twitter language operator to filter your searches for potential targets. As an example, if you were looking for french speaking people who used the word ‘blogging’ you would search for ‘blogging lang:fr’. Again, this is not a perfect system, but it will give you some good initial results. Move onto 3rd party tools when you need to do this at a larger scale.

screenshot of twitter search language filter

Twitter Ads

Twitter ads allow you to choose languages when targeting ad campaigns.

screenshot of twitter ads language filter

Country as proxy

A long established trick is to use country filtering as a proxy for language filtering. By carefully selecting a list of countries you can be reasonably certain that the majority of people will speak a certain language as either their first or second language.

For instance, if you wanted to target english you could choose the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, NZ, South Africa, etc. You could even extend that to parts of Europe and Africa, and be fairly confident that your new followers speak english. The same is easily done with spanish, german, french, arabic, etc. It’s all a matter of how much ‘spill over’ is acceptable to you.

map of country languages around the world

Language filtering usually only becomes an issue when you are doing broad promotion, such as on twiends. This is where you may be exposed to large numbers of new potential users in a short space of time. In this instance country filtering can be an effective solution.

When relying on other forms of promotion, such as contests, content and outreach, you will find that your efforts naturally attract same language followers, because the content you create will not be understood or of interest to foreign language speakers.

Putting it all together

If your brand or business is only relevant to certain countries and languages then by all means focus your efforts. Use the country and language filters available to you when using twiends and twitter ads, and focus your content and creatives on your target area.

Don’t lose too much sleep about spill over. If someone sends you a message in a foreign language then they have probably not looked at your profile and seen that you speak another language. That means they are probably relying on automation or may be spamming. Just block them and move on. For all the rest, they won’t do your account any harm…