Tweet, Tweet! What is Twitter and Why Use It?

Tweets are everywhere. Originally a small chirping sound that a bird makes to get attention or communicate with other birds of a feather, human tweets are now seemingly everywhere. Like them or not – you may want to understand more about them. What compels people to tweet – to make those small chirp-like comments and send them to anyone in the world? Want to join in? I’ll tell you how to get started and give you some fun Twitter trivia facts to amaze your friends, family and trivial pursuit team!

What exactly is a tweet? A tweet is a message or post sent from Twitter, a popular social network. Tweeting is also called “microblogging” because you can only send out a short message. Twitter only allows messages of up to 280 characters. See Four Fun Twitter Trivia Facts at the end of this blog post to find out the reason for the limit.

Who tweets and why? People send tweets for all sorts of seemingly mundane reasons: attention, self-promotion, or even boredom. However, many people use Twitter to discover and connect with interesting people, events, volunteer opportunities and organizations. You can follow Twitter content that is interesting and relevant to you.

  • What is Twitter is used for? Twitter’s mission is to help you follow your interests, hear what people are talking about, and join the conversation. Some specific ways Twitter can be used are:
  • Connecting to people who share your interests. Connecting with people who may be complete strangers can be done with the use of hashtags. Hashtags, which are denoted with the “#” prefix, are added to tweets so members of the community can share in the conversation. Examples: #HamiltonMusical, #ApplePie, #Homebaking, #BlackandWhitePhotography, #brainhealth.
  • Sharing Information real-time. In times of joy or tragedy, sharing experiences in real time can be very powerful. Examples: Letting people know you are safe, locating lost pets, sharing a special event.
  • Marketing for business and nonprofits. When I was doing public relations for a community theater, dollars for publicity were non-existent. Twitter was a great way to notify area actors and theatergoers about auditions and events. Businesses and nonprofits can reach a wide variety of people interested in their services for a low cost. Be the first to get the deals!  Examples: search and follow organizations such as Straz Center, Project Literacy, Great Books, and Tampa Bay Lightning.
  • Twitter can be used to facilitate authentic conversation with students, to connect students with real-world problems, and to expand the boundaries of lifelong learning. Tweets can include informational videos and links for more information on a topic. Examples: Follow NASA, search for topics with #LifeLongLearning.

How do I find people or topics? You can actually search in social media and search engines using hashtags. If it’s a twitter post, you will know based on the link. At, you can search for topics and interests in the Search box. Twitter also gives you suggestions on who to follow and popular trends. Example: Type #LifelongLearning Twitter in a search engine like Google. You will see results from Twitter and probably other popular social media and other links. Look for people and organizations who have something to say about lifelong learning.

Do I need to send tweets to use Twitter? You can open an account just to find and follow interesting people, topics or events. But who knows? You may eventually be inspired to send tweets yourself!

What does it take to get started? It’s super easy to get started!  (Already have an account? Skip to the next section for some tips.)

  1. Go to and click Sign Up.
  2. Enter a name and either a cell number or an email address. The name you enter will be your Username – like your twitter “handle.” If what you choose is already taken, it will ask you to try another one. Follow the prompts, choose and enter your password, and sign up. Follow the verification prompts and your account will be ready to use. Tip: You can change your username later under Profile–Settings and Privacy. Usernames are unique to you. You can add or change your display name which will show on your account. Display names are not unique.
  3. Set up your profile and review privacy settings. Go to Settings and Privacy (click the round Profile icon and select from menu options). Take some time to review the menu of account and privacy settings. You may want to turn off text notifications if you supplied a cell number. Also consider turning off the Tweeting with a location
  4. That’s it! You’re ready to send your first tweet. Take some time to use the Search box to see what topics interest you before you begin. See what other people are saying and how they compose their messages. Even if you don’t want to tweet, you can find interesting content in Twitter right from your account!
  5. Send your first tweet. Click on the oval Tweet. Compose your first tweet. Twitter will cut off your tweet at 280 characters, so be careful. Don’t forget to leave room for any hashtags you may want to use. Press Tweet to send.

Ideas if you already tweet

  1. Follow OLLI-USF. Go to the Search window and enter OLLI-USF.  Click Follow. You can always unfollow someone later. Try searching for other areas of interest or local businesses or venues to follow.
  2. Find friends who tweet. Under the profile icon drop- down, select Settings and Privacy. On the left, select Find friends and follow the instructions.
  3. Share tweets from social media and the web. Tweet this blog post to your Twitter account. At the end of this article, press the Twitter icon, enter your account information and send. Now you know how to share interesting ideas with your followers! #OLLIConnects
  4. Download the Twitter app. Tweet photos and impressions real-time from events, like the OLLI Open Houses or classes. Attach photos and share! #OLLIUSF, #LifelongLearning

Is tweeting beneficial?

Sure, there is a lot of mundane and meaningless information in social media. However, a growing number of Twitter users send out very useful information, news and knowledge content. The real value of Twitter comes from the stream of quick updates from friends, family, scholars, journalists and experts. It empowers people to participate in an astounding way and can help to alleviate the sense of social isolation. What do you think?

Try it out. Make those small chirp-like comments and send them to anyone in the world! What did you tweet?

Four Fun Twitter Trivia Facts – Source, Wikipedia

  1. When was the first tweet sent? On March 21, 2006, Jack Dorsey published the first Twitter message at 9:50 p.m. Pacific Standard Time (PST): “just setting up my twttr.”
  2. How did Twitter get its name? Jack Dorsey has explained the origin as “…we came across the word ‘twitter’, and it was just perfect. The definition was ‘a short burst of inconsequential information,’ and ‘chirps from birds’. And that’s exactly what the product was.”
  3. What was the original length of a tweet? 140 characters.
  4. How did the character cap get started? Because Twitter was based on SMS (Short Message Service) mobile messaging technology, tweets originally were restricted to 140 characters. On November 7, 2017, this limit was doubled for most languages. This size cap promotes the focused and clever use of language, which makes tweets very easy to scan. This size restriction really has made Twitter a popular social tool.

Helpful Resources

Twitter Language: Twitter Slang and Key Terms Explained

Sending Tweets: A Beginner’s Guide to Using Twitter

How to Use Twitter

Twitter Help Center

“Titmouse Chirping” photo used by permission of Karen Adams, Thistle and Thyme photography.

Diane White is an OLLI Instructor and OLLI Connects blog consultant. She joined OLLI-USF in 2008 and has taken OLLI courses in art, art appreciation, architecture, music, great books, science, nature, literature, and leadership. Diane is a member of OLLI’s Tech Squad. She teaches beginning and intermediate courses on Word, Android Phone Tips and Tricks for Intermediate Users in addition to Wanna Blog? which she will teach again in the 2019 Spring semester.


3 Replies to “Tweet, Tweet! What is Twitter and Why Use It?”

  1. Diane, great info. I just am not up to starting another social media avenue, as I really prefer just being with people I like. You’ve helped me understand however, why Tweeting is useful to so many.

  2. Thanks Bobbie. I understand about not wanting to travel down another social media avenue! One of my aims was to help people understand how it can be useful and spread understanding! I hope to have a fun class on how to use Twitter, possibly next term.

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