Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5

The ABCs of Twitter, Part I

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In his book Ultimate Guide to Twitter for Business, online marketing expert Ted Prodromou offers an easy-to-understand guide to using Twitter that will help small-business owners generate leads and connect with customers. This edited excerpt is the first of a two-part series, the author explains the most common Twitter terms so users can get up to speed right away. Look tomorrow for a continuation in Part 2.


Like most technology, Twitter has its own language. Let’s look at the most common Twitter terms. 


The @ sign is used to call out usernames in Tweets. You can say something like: “Hey @tedprodromou!” The @ works differently in Twitter than it does in an email address. When a username is preceded by the @ sign, it becomes a link to a Twitter profile. When you click on that link, you'll be able to view the person’s profile to learn more about them.


If you want to send a public message to somebody, you start your Tweet with the @ followed by their Twitter name. For example, if you want to send a message to me, you start your Tweet with @tedprodromou followed by the message you want to send me in the Tweet.


All Twitter messages are public by default. That means everyone can see all of your Tweets. If you want to send a message directly to someone who’s following you on Twitter, you can send them a direct message (DM). This is like sending your friend a text on their phone, where only they receive it. Only you and your friend know what's contained in that message.

Related: 5 Marketing Lessons From the Super Bowl's Most Popular Commercials


The Discover tab on your Twitter page is where you find Stories, Who to Follow, Activity, Find Friends, and Browse Categories.


To Favorite a Tweet means to mark it as one of your favorites. You Favorite a Tweet by clicking on the star next to the message. Do it when you want to show your appreciation to someone for creating a catchy or thought-provoking Tweet.


To follow someone on Twitter is to subscribe to their Tweets or updates by clicking on the Follow button in their profile. The more people you follow, the more Tweets you will see in your Tweet stream, giving you more opportunity to engage others in conversation.


A follower is another Twitter user who has followed you. The more followers you have, the more popular you are on Twitter.


A user’s “Twitter handle” is the username they have selected and the accompanying URL. Your Twitter handle is also referred to as your Twitter name. My Twitter handle is officially


The # symbol is called a hash mark, and when used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet, it is called a hashtag. Its use began organically as Twitter users sought a way to categorize messages. Today, most Tweets contain a # and a keyword so people can easily follow a Twitter conversation involving sometimes thousands of people.


Your Twitter Interactions is the timeline in your @ Connect tab that displays all the ways other users have interacted with your account, like adding you to a list, sending you a reply, Favoriting one of your Tweets, or ReTweeting one of your Tweets. Viewing your @ Connect tab is a quick way to see who’s engaging with you.


When someone adds you to a Twitter list, you are considered "listed." The number of times you're listed appears in the statistics section of your profile.

Related: How Oreo, Other Brands Dominated Twitter During the Super Bowl Power Outage


Lists are curated groups of other Twitter users. Twitter Lists are like distribution lists in email where you group people together so you can easily communicate with everyone at once. You can group people you are following by topics so you can quickly see the latest trends or conversations. Twitter Lists are sort of like Groups on Facebook or LinkedIn where you can join in targeted conversations based on specific topics.


Mentioning another user in your Tweet by including the @ sign followed directly by their username is called a “mention.” Another way to Mention someone is to add their username in a Tweet. If someone Tweeted, “Hey @tedprodromou I loved your blog post about Twitter,” it would be considered a Mention.


A name can be different from your username and is used to locate you on Twitter. Your name must be 20 characters or less. For example, my name on Twitter is Ted Prodromou, but my username is tedprodromou.


The Twitter page that displays information about a Twitter user, as well as all the Tweets they've posted from their account, is the profile page. Your profile also includes your bio, which is a 160-character description of you.

Promoted Tweets

These are Tweets that are paid promotions or ads at the top of search results on Twitter. Promoted Tweets are targeted by keywords so they only appear at appropriate times.

Protected/Private Accounts

All Twitter accounts are public by default. You can choose to protect your account so your Tweets will only be seen by approved followers and will not appear in Twitter Search. This is a great way for remote business teams to share information and keep in touch with each other when working together on projects.

Related: Getting Started on Twitter and Facebook As a Business Owner (Video)

Entrepreneur Editors' Picks