Twitter Terminology: The Basics

As I look to improve my own social identity, it has been helpful to pause to really invest in understanding the terms of industry. It also occurred to me that others would benefit from a definition of terms across the key social channels. Below is an overview of terms for Twitter to assist along your social journey.

  • Twitter: According to Wikipedia, Twitter is, “an online social networking service that enables users to send and read short 140-character messages called "tweets". Registered users can read and post tweets, but unregistered users can only read them.”

  • Username: Everyone who uses Twitter has a unique username that they create for themselves. In order to talk to someone on Twitter, you have to address them by their username, preceded by an @ symbol. @RachelMezz is my username.

  • Tweet: A tweet is a public message posted on Twitter. A message can be just text or it can include pictures, videos, or links. Tweet can also be used as a verb, i.e.; you tweet a message. Each tweet must be 140 characters or less or it won’t be published.

  • Retweet: A retweet is a message that is reposted from someone else. Sometimes these messages are forwarded by “RT”, although sometimes they’ll be preceded by MT, or "modified tweet." A modified tweet isn't an exact duplicate of the original; it has been edited, usually for length so the person who is retweeting can add their own comment or link.

  • @Mention: When you want to “tag” someone in a tweet or direct message on Twitter, you can do so by using his or herTwitter username. When you do this, they will get a notification that you’ve done so in the “Mentions” tab. People who follow you and the person you are talking to will see this message.

  • Reply: A reply is a response to another user's Tweet that begins with the @username of the person you're replying to. Reply by clicking the "reply" button next to the Tweet you'd like to respond to.

  • Period before @mention: As explained above, an @mention is used to tag someone in a tweet or a direct message and only the people who follow both you and the person you are tweeting to will see it in their streams. However, if you add a period (.) before @username, all of your followers will see your tweet in their streams.

  • Direct Message: A direct message (also known as a “DM”) is a private message sent to another Twitter user who follows you. Although DM’s are not public, they are still limited to 140 characters.

  • Hashtag: On a phone, # is a pound sign, but on Twitter, it is known as a hashtag. Hashtags are used in front of other words in a tweet to provide context or to make it easy for others to search for specific topics on Twitter.

  • Follow: You follow people on Twitter to see their updates on your home page. It is similar to friending someone on Facebook, but on Twitter you do not need their permission unless their account is private. Connections on Twitter are not always symmetrical - even if you follow someone they may not follow you back.

  • Engagement: On Twitter, engagement is the practice of responding to and making conversation with other Twitter users.

  • Feed: A feed is any list of tweets or updates that is constantly updated. Every page on Twitter includes a stream; your home page is a feed of tweets from people you follow, your profile page is a feed of your tweets, and Twitter’s search results are feeds of tweets containing the searched-for terms.

  • Trends: The most popularly used hashtags at the moment are considered to be "trending" on Twitter. 

  • Block: If someone is bothering you on Twitter, you can block them so they can no longer follow you or send you messages.

  • Lists: Lists of Twitter users. You can create your own lists or view lists created by others.

  • URL Shorteners: Because Twitter only allows 140 characters per Tweet, when you send links (also known as URLs) on Twitter, the service will automatically use a URL shortener to abbreviate the link. Typically, URL shorteners create very short addresses that automatically transfer anyone who clicks on them to the longer address of the page you want to share. i.e. URLs that start with bit.l.y, tinyurl or

  • Favorite: Favoriting a Tweet indicates that you liked a specific Tweet. It is similar to liking something on Facebook.

In my next post, I will be providing insights into best practices and profile improvements to optimize your Twitter account.