Getting Started on Twitter

If you’ve decided to take the Twitter plunge, you may find the sign-up process a bit confusing in places. This post will walk you through it step-by-step so you can be up and tweeting in no time.

Set Up Your Twitter Account

Go to the Twitter home page.

Note: The background rotates among several photos that have been uploaded to Twitter, so your screen may look different than the above.

Fill out the information in the New to Twitter box.

Here are a few notes to consider before filling out the sign-up form:

  • Your Full Name is meant to help people find you, but you can choose anything you want for it. Maximum character length is 20 and it can include spaces and special characters. You cannot use the words “Twitter” or “Admin” in your name.
  • You can have multiple Twitter accounts, but each one must have a unique email address. Note: Your e-mail address will not appear on your profile.

Click the Sign Up for Twitter button.

This screen is where you pick your username, which will also be the Twitter URL for your profile. For example, the main T4L Twitter account’s username is TechForLuddites and the URL is www.twitter.com/TechForLuddites. The maximum length is 15 characters. You cannot use the words “Twitter” or “Admin” in your username.

Usernames aren’t case-sensitive; I just capitalize some letters to make it more readable. But no one else can take techforluddites now or tEChforLuDDiteS for that matter.

A few seconds after you’ve finished typing, it will tell you if the name is available. You can use numbers in your username, as well as underscores and hyphens. However, I wouldn’t recommend using the latter two if you can avoid it, because it’s going to be easy for people to accidentally go to another user’s page when looking for you. For example, if someone chose Tech_For_Luddites, it’s likely a lot of people would forget the underscore and end up on my page instead. (It’s also too long, but I’m just using it as an example.)

Having said all of the above, I wouldn’t stress too much about what username you choose right now because, unlike a lot of applications, you can actually change it later and your tweets will all dynamically change to show your new name.

Passwords must be at least 6 characters long, and they’ll let you know how strong it is after you’ve typed it. For hints on choosing a good password, check out my earlier post, Password Control in 3 Easy Steps.

Click the Sign Up button.

You’re taken to a confirmation screen.

Click the Let’s Go button.

You’ll now be walked through several screens to help you get started.

  • What are you interested in? Click in the checkbox beside any topics you want to see tweets about, then click Continue.

  • Suggestions just for you. You’ll be presented with 40 accounts based on what you checked off previously. Click the X beside any you’re not interested in. Once you’re finished, click the Follow & Continue button.

  • Customize your profile. You can add a profile picture here and then click Continue or skip it for now and add one later.

  • Find people you know. I recommend you skip this step for now. (The link is at the bottom right, very faint, which tells you that Twitter really wants you to do it because it’s good for THEM, not you.) Otherwise, click the button for any of the shown email clients you use and you’ll be prompted to log in. Then Twitter will try to match the email addresses in your contacts with their users so you can choose ones to follow.

Your account is now set up, but you’re not finished yet. By now you should have received an email to confirm your new account. (If you don’t see the email in your Inbox, check your spam folder.) You MUST click the Confirm Now button to complete the signup process.

Congratulations… You’re now a Tweep!

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What To Do Next

Click your profile pic at the top right and select Settings from the dropdown menu.

Before tweeting anything, I highly recommend you go through all the settings screens. A lot of stuff you won’t want to change right now but it’s good to know what options you have.

I DO recommend you change your email notifications settings, especially the sections at the bottom where Twitter sends you stuff not specifically related to your account. Otherwise, you will be inundated with messages from them.

Update your profile information.

When you first set up your account, you ended up on the Home page that shows you what people you follow are tweeting. To see your own profile page, which is what other people will see when they search for you, click on your profile pic or username at the top left.

Click the Edit Profile button to add some additional information like a header photo, mini-bio, your location, and your website address if you have one. Click Save Changes to go back to your public profile page.

Explore Twitter.

Go back to your Home page and read through other people’s tweets to get a sense of how much you can actually fit into 140 characters. Note that if you add a link or upload a photo, they will count as 22 and 23 characters respectively, even if you’re posting a link with fewer characters, because Twitter converts them to their t.co URL format on the back end.

Click the #Discover link at the top of the page. You’ll be taken to a page where you have links to find tweets, topics, and people you might be interested in.

Write your first tweet.

You can write anything you want, but your profile page has a couple of suggestions from Twitter you can use if you want a prompt.

Let other people know you’re on Twitter.

If you’re on Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, etc., you can let those people know you’re now on Twitter as well. Note that you’ll often see people post their address as @username. That’s fine, but it won’t be a clickable link. For that, you need to put the full URL, i.e. twitter.com/username.

Start connecting.

Look through the tweets on your home page stream and use the Discover page to find more people to follow. Note that in a lot of cases, as soon as you follow someone, they’ll immediately follow you back.

You’ll also start getting followed by people that you haven’t followed (they’ll see your name in other people’s tweets). You don’t have to follow someone just because they follow you.

Start retweeting, replying to, and favoriting tweets you find interesting.

Retweeting is like forwarding; it sends someone else’s tweet out to your followers. Replying is a way to send a message to the person who sent the tweet but note that it is completely public and can be seen by anyone on or off Twitter. To favorite a tweet, click the star below it.

Well, I think that’s enough to get you started so I’ll end this post here.

Happy tweeting!

Learn More

Tech for Luddites Links

The Twitter Hashtag: What Is It and How Do You Use It?

Two Twitter Tweaks

Twitter vs TweetDeck vs Hootsuite: Which Is the Best Twitter Client?

External Links

Getting Started with Twitter (Twitter Support)

Elizabeth Kricfalusi

View Comments

    • Hi Chris.

      If you want to change your username (what you sign in with), go to http://www.twitter.com/settings (when you're logged in) and you can change your username there.

      If you want to change your real name, go to your profile page (www.twitter.com/username) and click the Edit Profile button under your cover pic. Your real name in the left-hand column will become editable.

      Hope that helps!

      - Elizabeth

  • I started using Twitter back in November, since then I've begun to love it. What started out as a love hate relationship it's allowed me to network with people in my life alot easier. News and updates happen in real time which makes for a great user experience.

  • Hey Melanie.
    Thanks for the compliment.
    Twitter has just changed their interface in the last few days and one of the things they did was take off the Everyone link. I'm planning to write a post outlining some of the other changes but, in the meantime, if you want to see everyone's posts, you'll have to do a little workaround. In the search box on the right-hand side, type in "from:" (without the quotation marks) and it will bring up the public timeline. You should then be able to save the search by clicking the "Save this Search" link under your Update button. But it seems to be flaky. (Shocker!) It seems to add the saved search to the right-hand panel at the time but, when you go back to your home page, it's not there anymore.
    I saw a LOT of comments in the Help forums complaining about the Everyone link being gone, so maybe they'll bring it back. I wouldn't hold my breath, though.

  • I love your posts and they're so helpful. But I'm struggling with a few things -- I don't see the "everyone" link on Twitter to see everyone's posts; where is that?

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