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Nov 22 2011

Portland web design | WordPress web design | A little guide to Twitter shorthand

They say social networking is becoming more and more important when it comes to sharing your brand, but it’s not always obvious how you’d actually, y’know, go about doing that. Not to mention, it can be tough to say what you want to say in 140 characters or less. Fortunately, the shared Internet brain has come up with a mostly-standardized shorthand for doing just that.

#, a.k.a. The Hashtag

If you hear anyone talking about what’s “trending” on Twitter, those trending topics started with hashtags. When you use a hashtag in front of a topic, people can more easily search for and find your Twitter content on a post.

When to use it: If you’re talking about a topic that you want to be known for, and have a few characters to spare, add a hashtag and a relevant word or term into your tweet. I like to throw “#ShopLocal” for tweets about local shops I like, or use “#photography” or “#design” when I talk about those topics.

@ and .@: Talking with other users

This one seems straightforward at first: @ comes before any Twitter user’s name, if you’re talking about or to them. But, if you use an “@” at the beginning of your Tweet, then only you and that user–and anyone who’s following both of you–will see the Tweet, cutting out a potentially huge part of your audience.

When to use it: using @ someone’s username in your tweets is a nice way to let that person know you’re talking about them, because they’ll be notified that you mentioned them. If you want to start a tweet with their username, just use .@ instead of @, and everyone will be able to see the tweet.

RT: Re-Tweet

You don’t see this one as often, now that Twitter has a ReTweet function built-in, but for people who tweet old-school, you’ll see RT before another user’s tweet that they’re re-sharing.

When to use it: there’s not a lot of reason to use RT right now, but retweeting with RT instead of the ReTweet function will let your re-shared tweet show up in your followers’ Lists. (tweets reshared with the ReTweet function often don’t)

MT: Modified Tweet

Sometimes, tweets are re-shared, but the full text won’t fit in the allowed space. When that happens, you have to modify the text of the tweet to shorten it–hence, the term Modified Tweet.

When to use it: As a really generic example, I could say something like, “I loved this article! MT @fakeusername …” and then a shortened version of their original tweet. MT makes it easier to comment on the tweets I re-share, and you’ll sometimes encourage more responses and discussion from your followers.

h/t: Hat-tip

Hat-tip (h/t) is a nice way to let another user know that you liked a link they shared, and to give them credit for sharing it with you. People like to know that you dig their content, and it’ll encourage them to show you the same appreciation when you share something they like.

When to use it: Using h/t is pretty similar to MT, except that you write your own comment about the link, instead of using the text of the other user’s original tweet in your post. So, another example: “Apparently, bacon fat has healing powers. I think I’m going to cook everything in it, after reading this: (h/t @someguy)”

A couple of other handy notes

There are a few other terms and tools you might want to make use of, as you get more comfy with your Twitter doin’s:

  • DM: Direct Message – This means to send a direct message through Twitter, rather than Replying to their Tweet. Sometimes, another Twitter user might want to communicate with you and you only, rather than sharing the conversation with the entire internet.
  • #FF: Follow Friday – One of the most widespread trends on Twitter is Follow Friday, when folks recommend other users whose Twitter feeds you should follow on, well, Friday. It’s a nice way to point your friends towards cool content, or show appreciation for one of your clients or friends by telling everyone in your network about them.
  • URL shorteners – Shortening your links is good for two reasons: it gives you more room to write your own thoughts, and it makes it easier for your audience to retweet your links. Some of them will even track how many people click through your link. A few nice ones include,, and a favorite of Internet OGs everywhere:
  • Social media managers – This totally merits its own blog post, but you can use things like Hootsuite or Roost to manage multiple Twitter and Facebook accounts, track statistics, and schedule your tweets in advance. Your Twitter feed doesn’t have to go silent because you’re too busy to Tweet on a Tuesday.

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