Navigating and using Twitter

Now that you have your account set up and have tweeted a few messages it’s time to learn about the available features and tools you can use to navigate Twitter and make your messages more visible.

I recommend opening your Twitter account in another browser window so you can try out the tools below as you are reading about them.

Basic tour:

twitter tour

Screenshot of Twitter profile page.

Once you have logged into your Twitter account you will see a header bar along the top of the screen; this bar contains a number of tools that will be visible from anywhere within the Twitter site.

Navigation Bar Buttons:

Click home to view your news feed. This is a constantly updating list of tweets from anyone you follow. Depending on how active the users are, the time of day, and many other factors, this feed can move very fast. Scroll up and down the page to read content.

home screen

You can also see trending topics on the side of the screen. These hashtags are current and and can be used to jump in on relevant and timely discussions. Click on a # symbol to view a sorted list of tweets using that hashtag.

Moments will open a view of stories that users have created from multiple selected tweets. Browse specific moments by clicking on any image in the center of the screen to expand that story.

You can create your own moments by clicking the button Create new Moment at the top of the screen and following the prompts to select a series of related tweets to share as a composed story.

If people have mentioned you in their tweet or liked/retweeted one of your tweets you will be able to tell by looking at the Notifications button; a number will appear next to the button if there are any new alerts.

This can be a great way to find other users who are interested in a topic you are writing about. You can click on an individual user’s picture icon to open their profile page and read some of their tweets, follow them, and interact.


This list shows any recent notifications.

Occasionally users will send a direct message. These messages are not publicly viewable tweets. You can view and respond to any messages by clicking the envelope icon.

Twitter bird:
Clicking the bird in the center of the header bar will refresh the page.

Search box:
Search for users by typing names, either using the Twitter handle (@username) or free text (Smithsonian American Art Museum). Search for topics, with or without using a hashtag (#) symbol to get a list of related options. Note that searching a topic will yield suggestions of both tweets and relevant users, as seen in the image below:


Science search, with people highlighted.

In this search for the word Science, Twitter suggests a selection of users who often tweet on this topic. You can see these users by clicking People near the top of the page. You can follow anyone of interest by clicking the Follow button near their name. To see tweets related to science, click Latest to see a chronological listing or Top to see a list of the most popular tweets on this topic. There are also options for viewing only related photos or videos.

Photo icon:
Click your profile picture to open up a dropdown menu. You can choose View profile to return to your page. You can also view your lists, moments, the help center, and log out of Twitter from this menu.

Click this button to begin composing a new tweet.

Tweeting: Tips and tools

Every tweet has three buttons underneath that allow you to interact with content.


Like button

Like button: Click the heart to show support for a tweet.



Retweet button

Retweet button:
Click the square arrows icon to share the content to your own profile. Once you click the button you can choose to add your own commentary above the original tweet (as seen in the image above), or to repost the tweet without adding any additional commentary.



Reply button

Reply button: This button will begin a tweet by inserting the username of the tweet author. Replying will begin a thread where tweets and responses appear nested so that other Twitter users can easily follow a conversation.


Expanded view showing original tweet at top, followed by a chronological list of replies from other Twitter users. Clicking on any tweet will reveal this view, along with replies, if any.

Note: If you are clicking reply, place a period before the @ symbol (as seen above where the message begins .@lawrence). If you omit the period the tweet will not show up in the news feeds of your followers unless they follow both you and the author of the original tweet, thus reducing visibility. Regardless, your reply will be visible to anyone who takes the time to click on a tweet to expand it.

Curate your content:

Your news feed (visible when you click the Home button) will be a chronological compilation of all the latest tweets from anyone you follow; this can at times be a lengthy, disjointed, and fast-moving list. However, you can use a few different tools to help you organize and curate the content.

Search box:

Use the search box at the top of the screen to search for any topics, hashtags, or people simply by typing into the box. In the example above the hashtag is on #climate, so the results will be slightly different than a search for #ClimateChange as a term without spaces. Just remember, when it comes to hashtags, spaces matter!

Whenever you see a hashtag you can click on it to bring up a list of all the tweets that have used it, regardless of who wrote them. Twitter will automatically show the view of what it considers top tweets and users related to the hashtag, but you can switch to a chronological view by clicking the Latest button located under the hashtag name.


You can find hashtags in the Trends box at the side of the screen and in tweets written by other users. Use relevant ones in your own tweets to have them appear in the context of bigger discussions happening around particular events and issues. If you attend any conventions, marches, or large social events see if there is an official hashtag for the event and use it in your tweets.

Create Lists:
You can manage your content around selected users or themes by creating lists, which can be a useful tool to filter the content you are viewing at a given time. You can create lists of users who often tweet about science or politics, users who are all librarians or all museum accounts, users who belong to your book club, or any other criteria that helps you to manage your Twitter content.

From your profile page, click the Lists button underneath your header image. At the side of the screen, select Create new list and type a name and description in the box that appears. From here you can search for users to add or select add from your followers to choose users.

To view or edit an existing list you just click on the list name in the center of the screen. Clicking the list name will show a chronologically organized page of tweets from only those users you have added to that list. If you curate your lists carefully they can become a powerful tool for reading, retweeting, and connecting with people around current political issues.

Multipart tweets:
Have a little more to say than 140 characters will allow? You can handle this by replying to your own tweet to expand on your original thoughts. Just hit reply to your tweet, erase the twitter username that automatically appears in the box, and type your text.


Just remember that Twitter is supposed to be a microblog so don’t overuse the reply feature to make too many long-form posts.

Let’s get going!
Now that you have a few tools at your disposal you are ready to get tweeting. Start out slow and build your following. Regardless of the scope of interaction (measured by the number of likes, mentions, or retweets that you get) the goal of political outreach on social media is to make your messages visible, especially to your representatives and vested groups, so keep that in mind. Remember, your messages are adding to the power of the collective voice, even if it sometimes feels like speaking into a void.

Some of the these WikiHow articles might also help as you learn to use Twitter:
How to get more followers:

How to delete a retweet:

How to use Twitter:


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