The tagline on Twitter’s homepage reads, “The best way to discover what’s new in your world.” I believe that to be true; however, it’s also true that in order to ‘discover what’s new’ on Twitter you have to learn a new language just to understand what people are saying!
Well, maybe it’s not that dramatic, but I do get questions about ‘Twitter Language’ ALL THE TIME. In this post I hope to address the most common of these questions.
There are essentially three different pieces of jargon that came into being thanks to Twitter. All three of them were created on the basis of Twitter’s search capability: the ability to search tweets (or status updates). Twitter itself didn’t invent them. In fact they were all created by the users who were actively engaging with Twitter when it was first released. This fascinates me. Let’s get started!
1. Why do you keep putting ‘@’ before people’s name?
I don’t get this question as much anymore since Facebook has taken the idea and implemented their own version. This was originally referred to as an ‘at-mention’.
An ‘at-mention’ is performed by placing the ‘@’ symbol in front of a person’s username.This signifies that you are speaking to or quoting the person designated after the ‘@’ symbol.
When you do this, the user who is being named receives a notification that they have been ‘mentioned’. So if you are replying to them or quoting them, they are made aware of it. It is most commonly used in the ‘Reply‘ feature and also as part of the next thing I’ll be talking about which is the “RETWEET“…
2. Retweet, RT, Via @SOANDSO– What are you saying?!
“What does RT mean? What is a ‘RETWEET‘? What does it mean when you put ‘via @soandso‘?” This, my friends, is the ever-evolving realm of the retweet.
The RETWEET is a way of quoting another Twitter user and giving them credit for the original tweet. It’s the twitter version of citing your source.
The retweet has gone through many different formats throughout its history. It started before Twitter developed a native ‘Retweet Button‘ as a way of not only quoting someone, but allowing you to also add your two cents to what they said. It is done by adding the letters ‘RT‘ before an ‘at-mention‘, followed by copying and pasting what the user said. For instance:
— coconut flapjacks (@coconutflapjack) March 23, 2011
This user reposted something I said, but made sure people knew it was me who originally said it. Make sense? Good.
Another form of retweeting someone is by copying exactly what they said and adding the phrase ‘via @soandso‘ to the end. This was created (to my knowledge) by TweetDeck. I could be wrong though, if you know the originator of this format, please let me know!
— Dustin W. Stout (@DustinWStout) March 29, 2011
I managed to work in both the RT style AND the ‘via @‘ style in that one. Here’s what happened in that tweet in case you’re lost: I quoted (copied and pasted) what AdamTuckerhad tweeted (a link to one of my blogs) and he indicated that I was his source by adding “via @DustinWStout” at the end. Confused? It’s okay, keep reading, you’ll get it in about an hour when you’re not thinking about it.
Using the native Twitter ‘RETWEET‘ button requires no special Twitter lingo knowledge. Moving on to the next, MOST MISUNDERSTOOD Twitter communicative device– the ‘hashtag‘!
3. What is ‘#’ for, and what in the world is a ‘HASHTAG’?!
Like I said before, this is the most misunderstood AND misused communicative device in the Twitterverse (haha– another piece of Twitter terminology that I’ve subtly worked in).
The ‘#’ symbol is used to signify the beginning of a ‘hashtag’. A ‘hashtag‘ is like an ‘at-mention‘ but instead of indicating a person, it indicates a context for what the tweet is about.
— Catalyst (@CatalystLeader) April6, 2011
In the example above, the author (CatalystLeader) was quoting AndyStanley and they wanted to signify that it was a quote from the event #CatWest (which is short for Catalyst West). This is the most common practice for hashtags, though it’s not limited to events. A hashtag is simply a way of giving a CONTEXT to what is being said.
Hashtags are often seen amongst Twitter’s ‘Trending Topics’ (a list of the most tweeted words or phrases– just gave you another BONUS term! BAM!).
And there you have it! A crash course in this weird, enigmatic language from the Twitterverse! Congratulations, you made it through!
Was this helpful in any way, or was it just a bunch of mumbo-jumbo? What are some other questions you have that I haven’t answered? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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