What Is Twitter & How Does It Work?

Twitter is a blend of social media, blogging, and texting

Twitter is an online news and social networking site where people communicate in short messages called tweets. Tweeting is posting short messages for anyone who follows you on Twitter, with the hope that your words are useful and interesting to someone in your audience. Another description of Twitter and tweeting might be microblogging.

Some people use Twitter to discover interesting people and companies online, opting to follow their tweets.

Why Twitter Is So Popular

Twitter's big appeal is how scan-friendly it is. You can track hundreds of engaging Twitter users and read their content with a glance, which is ideal for our modern attention-deficit world.

Illustration of a Twitter page with information about the service in the feed
Emilie Dunphy / Lifewire 

Twitter employs a purposeful message size restriction to keep things scan-friendly: every microblog tweet entry is limited to 280 characters or less. This size cap promotes the focused and clever use of language, which makes tweets easy to scan, and challenging to write. This size restriction made Twitter a popular social tool.

How Twitter Works

Twitter is easy to use as either broadcaster or a receiver. You join with a free account and Twitter name. Then you send broadcasts (tweets) daily, hourly, or as frequently as you like. Go to the What's Happening box next to your profile image, type 280 or fewer characters, and click Tweet. People who follow you, and potentially others who don't, will see your tweet.

Twitter's Explore page.

Encourage people you know to follow you and receive your tweets in their Twitter feeds. Let your friends know you are on Twitter to build up a following slowly. When people follow you, Twitter etiquette calls for you to follow them back.

To receive Twitter feeds, find someone interesting (celebrities included) and press Follow to subscribe to their tweets. If their tweets aren't as interesting as you hoped, you can always unfollow them.

Go to your account at Twitter.com day or night to read your Twitter feed, which is continually changing as people post. Check out Trending topics to see what's going on in the world.

Twitter is that simple.

Why People Tweet

People send tweets for all sorts of reasons besides sharing their thoughts: vanity, attention, shameless self-promotion of their web pages, or pure boredom. The vast majority of tweeters microblog recreationally. It's a chance to shout out to the world and revel in how many people read their tweets.

However, a growing number of Twitter users send out useful content, and that's the real value of Twitter. It provides a stream of quick updates from friends, family, scholars, news journalists, and experts. It empowers people to become amateur journalists of life, describing and sharing something that they found interesting about their day.

Twitter has a lot of drivel, but at the same time, there is a base of useful news and knowledgeable content. You'll need to decide for yourself which content is worth following there.

Twitter as a Form of Amateur News Reporting

Among other things, Twitter is a way to learn about the world through another person's eyes.

Tweets may come from people in Thailand as their cities become flooded. Your soldier cousin in Afghanistan might describe his war experiences; your traveling sister in Europe shares her daily discoveries, or a rugby friend could tweet from the Rugby World Cup. These microbloggers are all mini-journalists in their own way, and Twitter gives them a platform to send a constant stream of updates right from their laptops and smartphones.

Twitter as a Marketing Tool

Thousands of people advertise their recruiting services, consulting businesses, and retail stores by using Twitter, and it works.

The modern internet-savvy user has grown tired of television advertisements. People prefer advertising that is fast, less intrusive, and can be turned on or off at will. Twitter is precisely that; when you learn how the nuances of tweeting work, you can get good advertising results by using Twitter.

Twitter as a Social Messaging Tool

Yes, Twitter is social media, but it's more than instant messaging. Twitter is about discovering interesting people around the world. It can also be about building a following of people who are interested in you and your work or hobbies and then providing those followers with some knowledge value every day.

Twitter works well with other social tools, including Instagram, Snapchat, and Messenger. For example, if you like a tweet and want to share it on your Instagram Story, tap the tweet, then tap the Share icon and choose Instagram Stories. The tweet will appear as part of your Instagram Story. (This feature is currently supported only on iOS).

Why Celebrities Like Twitter

Twitter has become one of the most used social media platforms because it is both personal and rapid. Celebrities use Twitter to build a personal connection with their fans.

Katy Perry, Ellen DeGeneres, and Dionne Warwick are some of the famous Twitter users. Their daily updates foster a sense of connectedness with their followers, which is powerful for advertising purposes and also compelling and motivating for the people who following the celebs.

Twitter Is Many Different Things

Twitter is a blend of instant messaging, blogging, and texting, but with concise content and a broad audience. If you fancy yourself a bit of a writer with something to say, then Twitter is a channel worth exploring. If you don't like to write but are curious about a celebrity, a particular hobby topic, or even a long-lost cousin, then Twitter is one way to connect with that person or subject.

  • How do I set up a Twitter account?

    To create a Twitter account, go to the Twitter website or download the Twitter app, then select Sign up or Create account. Enter the requested information, and then verify your account via text or email. Twitter will walk you through setting up your profile.

  • How do I delete my Twitter account?

    To deactivate a Twitter profile, go to More > Settings and Privacy > Your Account > Deactivate your account. You can reactivate Twitter within 30 days. After 30 days, your account is deleted.

  • How do I make my Twitter private?

    To hide your tweets from the general public, go to More > Settings and Privacy > Your Account > Account Information > Protected Tweets > Protect My Tweets. To prevent a specific person from viewing your tweets, you can block users on Twitter.

  • Can I change my Twitter handle?

    Yes. To change your user name on Twitter in a browser, select More > Settings and Privacy > Your Account > Account Information. Enter your password, then select Username > Change Username.

  • How do I download Twitter videos?

    In a web browser, copy the video's URL and go to DownloadTwitterVideo.com. To download Twitter videos on iOS or Android, use a third-party app like MyMedia (iOS) or +Download (Android).

  • Who owns Twitter?

    Twitter was a privately held company until it went public in 2013. In 2022 Elon Musk purchased the company and, once again, it became a privately held company.

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