Getting started with Twitter – part 2

Hopefully, you will have had time to read my previous blog post about getting started with Twitter. If you haven’t, please take five minutes to do so now as this post builds on the basic tips and tricks outlined in the last one. It will make much more sense if you’ve read part one of this two-part series.

So following on from my last post, you should now at least have a Twitter account setup that’s got a suitable username, bio and profile picture. You should have also sent your first tweet and started following some other Twitter accounts that are relevant to you and your business.

Now it’s time to take your tweeting to the next level…

That all-important character limit

Ever since it began, Twitter has imposed a limit of 140 characters per tweet. It’s part of the social network’s charm and encourages people to be brief and to the point in their updates.

For people who simply couldn’t say everything they wanted in 140 characters, it became the norm to write out their tweets in a text editor, like MS Word or Notepad, and then take a screenshot to upload on Twitter. This technique allows them to be more verbose with their updates, while still having the ability to tag people and use hashtags in the actual tweet.

UPDATE [13/11/2017] Twitter has officially rolled out the 280 character limit across the board, so there’s a lot to be learned and tested in regards to the optimal tweet length. You can learn more about the 280 character update in my recent blog post > Twitter’s new 280-character limit: how will it change your tweet game?

But now Twitter is testing a larger character limit for tweets. As outlined in this piece by TechCrunch, a 280-character limit is being tested at present with certain users. Whether this new larger limit will be rolled out across the board going forward remains to be seen.

What about @mentions, pictures and links?

It’s worth knowing that mentions (when you tag someone in a tweet) are included in the 140-character limit, but reply mentions aren’t. So, for example, if you start a conversation by tagging someone in a tweet, mentioning them will use up some of your available characters. However, if someone tags you in a tweet and you reply to them (mentioning them in the process) the tag won’t use up any of your character limit.

A neat trick if you’re short on characters and want to tag people is to include an image with your tweet. This allows you to tag up to 10 people without using up any of your character limit (photos and videos don’t affect the number of characters you have available). So you get 140 characters for text, plus image, plus 10 people.

While links always use up 23 characters regardless of whether they are long or short, shortened URLs look better and allow more scope for tracking (great for website analytics). You can either use one of the many URL shortening tools out there or let Twitter shorten your URL for you.


Hashtags are an important part of social media. How many to use or whether to include any at all depends on each tweet.

The good news is that Twitter loves hashtags! They not only help categorise tweets, but each hashtag included in a tweet is also a clickable link that allows Twitter users to find other tweets related to the hashtag.

For example, my recent tweet about winning an award at the 3rd Cambridgeshire Digital Awards included the hashtag #CDA17.

Anyone can click the #CDA17 hashtag to be shown a list of associated tweets. It’s such a simple way to find more stuff that might be relevant to you. That’s why I recommend you always use a couple of hashtags (max. 2-3) in each tweet. It will help grow your following organically.

If you want more information on hashtags, including how you should be using them on other social networks, check out this blog post I wrote a couple of months ago – Hashtags on social media: do you know how to use them?

Twitter lists

You’ll notice that your feed will soon start filling up with tweets as you follow more people. At the start, it’s not too difficult to keep track of everything. As you follow more and more people it can quickly become out of control. That’s where Twitter lists come in.

Twitter lists are a simple way to organise the Twitter accounts you follow into meaningful categories. So, for example, you might have a list called ‘digital marketing’. This list would include the accounts of individuals and businesses related to the digital marketing industry.

Or what about lists that contain your customers and prospects!? This allows you to have the people who really matter to your business in one place! It’s also helping with keeping engagement seamless and reducing the chances of you missing one of their important posts. Likewise, you might create a list of influencers in your industry so you can easily keep track of their posts and join in important industry-related conversations. P.S. Keep these lists private, so people don’t see you’re ‘spying’ on them.

A great resource for learning more about Twitter lists, including how to create them, is this one on Twitter’s own Help Center.

Advanced Twitter searches

Twitter’s advanced search function enables you to conduct more advanced searches on the platform (surprise, surprise). It’s great for finding specific tweets when you know a little bit about them e.g. the rough date they were published, any hashtags they included and/or the account that tweeted them.

You can access the advanced search function in Twitter here or by conducting a normal search using the search bar on and then clicking on the ‘advanced search’ link to the left of the results your get.

More info on Twitter’s advanced search function, including the parameters you can use, can be found in this Twitter Help Center article.

Final tip – never automate engagement

We’re all busy and that makes it tempting to utilise third-party apps to automate engagement. My simple advice is don’t – especially if these apps can’t hide the fact they’re engaging on your behalf!

Your followers are following you for a reason. When they send you a direct message (DM) or mention you in a tweet, they want you to be the one who replies or acknowledges them. Not some app that doesn’t know you from all the other millions of people who use it.

Always find time to engage with your audiences keeps the connections personal. As soon as you lose the personal touch, your followers will know and they could respond by unfollowing you.