What is Twitter?

Founded in 2006, Twitter was originally used by early adopters as a simple and informal way of answering the question: “What are you doing?” Today, Twitter is a sophisticated social tool boasting over 100 million users worldwide.

There are many things you can do with Twitter other than write 140-character posts. For example, Twitter is a great listening tool, enabling you to pay attention to topics and people of interest in this social channel. And sometimes you’ll see a tweet that you just have to share. Twitter’s retweet feature helps you quickly share that tweet with all your followers.

10 Twitter Stats

  • Twitter has over 500 million registered users, but just 140 million active users.

  • 15% of online adults use Twitter.

  • The 18-29 demographic is most represented on Twitter, at 29% of user base, ahead of those aged 30-49 (14%) and 50-64 (9%).

  • 14% of online men use Twitter vs 15% of online women.

  • The average Twitter user has 27 followers.

  • 25% of Twitter accounts have no followers.

  • 40% of Twitter accounts have never sent a single tweet.

  • Only 18% of Twitter users tweet once or more a day.

  • More than half of active Twitter users follow companies, brands or products on social networks.

  • 57% of all companies that use social media for business use Twitter.

The vocabulary of Twitter

Although many terms are used on Twitter, “Tweet,” “@” and “DM” are the three most common. Use this concise guide of some common Twitter expressions and definitions to help you understand what to use and when.

Twitter - The name of the service, as in “I’m logging in to my Twitter account.”

Tweet - A short text message of up to 140 characters that you type and post. It may just be text, but it can also contain links to content outside of Twitter (e.g., photos, blog posts) as well as links to other tweets and users.

Tweeter - An individual who uses Twitter and posts tweets.

Twitter handle - An informal term for a user’s Twitter account. For example, @ITHorizon1

Tweet chat - An online conversation in which a group of people all tweet about a topic using a specific hashtag. By following the hashtag, you can follow and participate in (or just listen to) the conversation.

@ - The universal “at” symbol has different meanings on Twitter:

  • Used to identify the name of a Twitter account (e.g., @ITHorizon1)

  • Used when you wish to publicly reply to a specific tweeter When @ is used in a reply, the reply will always begin with “@username” (insert the username of the person you are replying to). Anyone’s tweet that is a reply to you will show up in your @Mentions tab on your homepage (@Replies are considered @Mentions).

# - People use the hashtag symbol (#) before relevant keywords in their tweets to categorize those tweets in a Twitter Search. Some hashtags may be promoted through paid media and will appear with the text “Promoted” under them. Clicking on a hashtag in any message shows you all other tweets in that category and displays them all in a single view. For instance, searching for the hashtag #twittertips will show all tweets that include that hashtag (See also “tweet chat”).

RT - Short for “retweet,” this is how you share a tweet with your community:

  • Click the Retweet icon on any tweet on the Twitter website and the tweet is immediately retweeted.

  • If you use an external program such as TweetDeck to interact with Twitter, you can edit the retweet before it’s posted. The tweet is preceded by “RT,” and you can add any additional comment if the character count total permits.

DM - Short for “direct message,” a DM is a tweet that goes privately to the tweeter named in your message. Instead of the “@” preface, though, you must start your message with the letters “DM” (without the quotes). You must be following a user to DM them.