Getting Started on Twitter: A Cheat Sheet

Apr 26, 2011 Beth Monaghan

We’ve been busy this week conducting social media training sessions, which reminded me that Twitter is still an evolving channel.

The first question we often hear is: How can I get followers? Dan Zarrella (@danzarrella) at HubSpot (@HubSpot) created a great infographic this week about this very topic. His advice is the same I’d give to someone preparing for his or her first networking event. Let people know who you are, but don’t talk about yourself too much; respond when people talk to you; identify your areas of expertise so people know that your point of view carries weight; and stay positive.

The second question we get is: What do the abbreviations mean? Here’s a cheat sheet to get you started:

  • RT = Retweet. Put an RT in front of a message to rebroadcast someone else’s tweet to your followers. This generally means that you liked what someone else said and are passing it along.
  • MT = Modified tweet. Similar to a retweet, this means that you are passing along a tweet from someone else, but have modified it from its original form (this frequently happens when a tweet is too long and you need to use some shortcuts to reduce it to 140 characters)
  • PRT = Partial retweet. This is a cousin to the MT, and means that you have truncated someone else's tweet.
  • @ mention. An @ mention happens when someone else mentions you in a tweet. If the @ mention is at the beginning of the tweet (e.g. @bamonaghan Thanks for the RT today), only that person, and the people following you and that person can see the message. It’s NOT private though. If you want everyone to see an @ mention, simply embed it in the middle of a tweet (e.g. Great seeing @moleary today) or place a period before it in the tweet (e.g. .@moleary and I had a great meeting today).
  • D = Direct message. These are private messages that only you and the sender can see. The person you are DMing must be following you though for this to work.
  • HT = Hat tip. This is the Twitter version of acknowledging someone else’s information – you are tipping your hat to them.
  • CC = Carbon-copy. Works the same way as email.
  • OH = Over heard. This is just that, something you overheard that you want to tweet.

Then you’re ready to tweet, which brings me to the third question we hear: What is a good tweet? The only rule is that a traditional tweet is less than 140 characters ( has made it possible to send longer tweets if you are using TweetDeck). We suggest aiming for 120 characters so it’s easy for your followers to retweet. Think of your tweets as short headlines. They can be links to articles you like, comments on your day, messages to your followers, and just about anything you else. It’s OK to abbreviate, not OK to misspell, but always OK to join in the conversation. Happy tweeting!

Topics: Public Relations, Twitter, PR, Social Media
Beth Monaghan

Beth is the CEO of Inkhouse, which she co-founded in 2007 and has grown into one of the top ranked agencies in the country. Beth’s been recognized as one of the Top Women in PR by PR News, the Top 25 Innovators by The Holmes Report and as an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalist. Beth believes that shared values, and the freedom to create are the foundations of all meaningful work. She brings this philosophy to building a culture of creative progress at Inkhouse.

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