Nomenclature and basic functions of Twitter (AKA Twitter 101 for SLPs and AUDs)

This post is brought to you by the word:

argot (ahr-goh) /ˈɑr goʊ / -noun

  1. a specialized idiomatic vocabulary peculiar to a particular class or group of people, especially that of an underworld group, devised for private communication and identification.
  2. the special vocabulary and idiom of a particular profession or social group: sociologists’ argot.


Want to know more about using social media like Twitter for professional information and collaboration? See the top right sidebar for links to the entire blog series —->

Using Twitter professionally is very rewarding. I’ve learned more from a short time on Twitter than at any number (and possibly ALL) of the conferences I’ve EVER attended. But Twitter can be a bit confusing at first.  The concept is extremely simple: say anything you want in 140 characters or less. And it is this simplicity that is appealing about Twitter; its brevity.  However, once you launch yourself into the Twitter community or Twitterverse, you may find that there are many little things that make Tweeting better.  

In my last post I explained how I, personally, use social media to build my own PLN (personal learning network). By the end of this post I hope that you will understand how to use Twitter on a fairly basic level. I will talk about more advanced features and functionality of Twitter as well as the social rules and general tips to remember in future posts.

Decide early if you want to use Twitter primarily for professional information to build yourself a PLN, for personal interest, or for both. This doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind later, but it will help you to enjoy your Twitter experience sooner.  I chose to join Twitter for professional purposes so I rarely post anything to all of my followers that isn’t related to my profession somehow.  I am always thinking “What does this tweet contribute?”. But I am a person and I’m connecting socially with others so the occasional tweets about something funny or interesting not related to my profession helps people see that I’m not a tweeting robot (note: twitter actually has such things, known as ‘bots’). Also, conversations between people don’t necessarily go out to all my followers (see below) and that is where I allow myself to stray, sometimes liberally, from this rule. Conversation with others in my PLN accounts for most of my tweets. You don’t always have to be serious – the #SLPeeps like to have fun too!

This is a good time to remind you that twitter is public.  Let me repeat that: TWITTER IS PUBLIC. This means that anything you tweet can be seen by anyone at any time in a multitude of ways (except for direct messages and protected tweets, although they can be subpoenaed by a court of law). If you are using Twitter professionally (and even if you’re not) please don’t forget its public nature.  I am reminded of this whenever I’m having a conversation with someone that “feels” private and a company “butts in” on the topic.  You can search any keyword and see tweets that use that keyword. Thus companies are, logically, using this feature to monitor any potential conversations about their product or client. I’ve had good and bad experiences with this, but usually good experiences.

What’s in a tweet?

Twitter traditionally asks you to answer one question: what are you doing? If you’re tweeting professionally, however, I would suggest that you answer the question: what interesting idea/information have you recently been exploring? If you think this way, you’re more likely to share meaningful information with your PLN. Don’t forget that once you’ve developed a community you can pose questions to the community and get great replies.

What do all these new terms mean?

In Twitter there is a new lexicon that users must learn to really understand what’s going on. Here is a fairly complete list you need in order to understand what people are talking about.

General Lingo

Timeline/Feed – all the tweets from people you follow are seen in what’s called your timeline or your Twitter feed.

Handles – this is the name you have on Twitter and how people find you and interact with you. They always start with the ‘@’ symbol. For instance, my personal handle is @SLPTanya. Notice how I have used a mix of capital and lowercases letters to make it easier to read. It is not case sensitive, however.  If someone writes @slptanya, I will still see that tweet in my mentions column (see below).

Following – You can see updates from people in your timeline if you ‘follow’ them, similar to being ‘friends’ with someone in Facebook (Tweetdeck even calls them ‘friends’), except that this can be unidirectional. Technically, you can see anyone’s tweets (unless they are protected) by going to their profile page. In order for their tweets to automatically show up in your timeline or twitter feed, you must “follow” them. You can follow someone without them having to follow you and vice versa. There is a fairly comprehensive list of SLPs in my Blogroll. You can use it to find people to follow quickly if you’re starting up (or even if you’ve been on for a long time). I wish I’d had this when I started up a year ago to save time searching for people!

Followers – This is a term that turns people off of Twitter because it “sounds like a cult”. But ‘followers’ simply means the people who want to see your tweets. Anyone who is following you will see your tweets in their timeline, so long as the tweets are not directed at anyone in particular (see below for mentions and direct messages). As you gain more followers, you have more people who will potentially respond to any questions you may pose to the Twitter community.

Favorites – If you see a tweet you really like, click ‘favorite’ to keep it forever. As far as I can tell, favorites never go away and are available to you whenever you want them. You can link your site to Twitter so that any links in your favorited tweets will automatically be saved to your Diigo account.

Twitter Clients – a ‘client’ is anything you are using to access Twitter whether on the web at or in a desktop or iPhone version like TweetDeck or Hootsuite. I will blog more about these in the future but I prefer TweetDeck* and Hootsuite and find it much easier to manage flow of information with the use of these (free) Twitter clients, primarily because of the columns to view different types of tweets.

*UPDATE March 2014 – TweetDeck was bought out by and they completely ruined the platform. I preferred the OLD version of Tweetdeck and was using bootleg copies to run it but those won’t work anymore. Fortunately, Tweetdeck updated the platform again and while it’s not as good as the old one, it’s pretty close – but no app version (?!) so you can only use it on desktop. My second favourite is now Hootsuite and I use that on iPad/iPhone and on desktop.

Learning to play with friends

Mentions – if someone uses your handle in a tweet, you can see that under ‘mentions’.  There are a few ways to use this feature to different effects:

Directing tweets and replying: if you begin a tweet with someone’s handle, that tweet will show up in their mentions page/column and is not necessarily seen by all of your followers. If someone is following both you and the person to whom you are directing your tweet, they will see your message/conversation. However, if someone is following only you OR the other person, they will not see your conversation in their timeline. If you click ‘reply’ to comment on someone’s tweet, it will automatically put that person’s handle at the beginning of the tweet (and create a trackback to the tweet to which you are replying, making it easier for them to know to what you are referring if they don’t see it for a while). When you do this, the characters in their handle are counted in your 140 characters. Choose YOUR handle wisely for this reason. The shorter, the better.

For example, let’s pretend I follow @SLP1 and @SLP2 but not @slp1Mom.

@SLP1 sends a tweet directed to @SLP 2

@SLP2 what tests do you use to assess language skills?

Then @SLP2 replies to @SLP1

@SLP1 I use the CELF-4, the TACL-3 and the TOPS.  You?

I will see this conversation in my timeline and could ‘butt in’ if I had anything meaningful to contribute. I can reply to both users if I include both of their handles in the tweet.

@SLP1 @SLP2 butting in, but I just got the WABC and it’s great for assessing concepts

Now pretend that @SLP1 sends a tweet directed to @slp1Mom

@slp1Mom we’re going to grandma’s tomorrow, are you able to come too?

I will not see that tweet (or any of @slp1Mom’s replies to @SLP1) in my timeline, because I do not follow @slp1Mom and Twitter assumes (usually correctly) that I’m not interested in those conversations.   

Mentioning: you can include someone’s handle ANYWHERE in a tweet and it will show up in their mentions feed. If you begin your tweet with anything other than a person’s handle, it will go out to all of your followers. Mentioning is a good way to ensure a particular user sees your tweet or to give that user credit for information you learned from them. Including someone’s handle at the end of a tweet is a way to include them, but let them know that you are not directing your comment at them specifically.

Direct Messages (DM): you can send a private tweet to someone by starting the tweet with ‘D’, a space, and then their twitter handle (e.g. D SLPTanya). Only the person who receives the DM will see that tweet.  You cannot (yet) send DMs to more than one person in a single tweet. NOTE: The person has to be following you for you to DM them. If you want to send a message to someone who does not follow you, the only way is to direct the tweet to them (i.e. start your tweet with their twitter handle). However, they can reply to you in a DM if you are following them.  The characters in their handle DO NOT count towards your 140 characters in a DM.

Playing nice (Don’t be an idea thief)

Retweet (RT): A retweet is a way to broadcast someone’s tweet to all of your own followers, while giving them credit for the original idea/information. Retweeting is extremely important in Twitter; it’s how information circulates quickly (e.g. during a major event) but, more importantly, it allows ideas to spread – which is why many professionals are using Twitter.

The best use of a RT is as a sort of informational democracy; like a vote for that idea or resource.  Retweeting someone tells them that you like their idea and want it to spread. Of course, it doesn’t mean that if someone does not RT you that your information is not something they liked.  In a community like the #SLPeeps, there is a tendency not to necessarily RT something people like very much.  This happens because many people are all following each other, and thus they assume that everyone else saw the tweet. This is not the best approach – although I have also fallen prey to that manner of thinking – because someone may have missed the tweet and are not catching up on what they missed.  More importantly, however, if a RT is thought of as a sort of ‘vote’ for the information it contains, than you should RT it to indirectly say so, regardless of the fact that everyone may have already seen that tweet. Besides, repetition is a virtue. I have frequently glanced over a tweet and thought “sure, that’s interesting” but when I see that someone else has retweeted it, I may take more notice of the information or idea and explore it further. The fact that I saw the same tweet more than once gave it more weight. And remember, repetition is a virtue. (Also remember that TWITTER IS PUBLIC).

A good rule of thumb is to leave enough characters in your tweet to accommodate a RT and make it more likely to be retweeted.  For example, I must leave 14 characters in a tweet to make it easier to RT (this is exactly 14 characters ->RT_@SLPTanya:_).

Old Style RT: This is the old way that Twitter allowed tweets to be RTed – you could modify the information in the tweet before sending it out. This is nice if you want to make a comment of your own about the tweet. You cannot do this from Twitter web currently (unless you cut and paste the tweet and add the RT information yourself). Twitter clients such as Tweetdeck allow you to choose this as an option and I suggest enabling it.

New Style RT: You cannot change the tweet at all when you RT it. The one advantage of this is that you can RT someone who has not left enough character spaces. The disadvantage is that it will not allow you to add your own comments. This is the way it is currently in the web based version at

Modified Tweets (MT): if you change the wording of someone’s tweet in order to make it flow better or to get around the character limit, you can use MT to signify that you are sort of paraphrasing. Similarly, you can add “(via @handle)” to a tweet instead of MT to show the source of your information/link and not be rude.

Shorties (not the girlfriends)

Because you are only allowed 140 characters at a time, people tend to use many short forms and acronyms. Here is a list of some of the more common ones for the #SLPeeps community, but you can always ask or Google them to find out others as you come across them. Please feel free to add others that may have confused you in the comments section

  • ppl = people
  • IRL = in real life
  • tx = therapy/intervention
  • ax = assessment
  • dx = diagnosis
  • ped/pead = pediatric/peadiatric
  • FF = Follow Friday – Fridays are designated days for people to give shout outs and recommend people to follow.
  • pt/pts: patient/s
  • CA = chronological age (but use context to know if it may mean California, obviously)
  • biz = business
  • plz = please
  • smh = shaking my head
  • imo = in my opinion
  • imho – in my humble opinion

In addition to short forms, you should shorten all links with or a similar platform. Tweetdeck and other Twitter clients will automatically shorten links for you when you add them to your tweet. Shortened links work exactly as longer ones do but take up less space.

Tagging (without spray paint)

You can include a ‘hashtag’ or’ tag’ to a tweet to mark its topic and make it more searchable. Hashtags always start with the # sign and cannot include any spaces or dashes. Common ones used by speech pathologists include #slpeeps, #slpchat, and #FF but there are many others. For instance, if you are tweeting about autism you may want to include #autism in your tweet. Efficient tweeters include hashtags as part of the tweet (e.g. Hey #SLPeeps, check out this new #autism awareness site) but more often they are tacked on the end of a tweet (e.g. I found this great site for autism awareness #autism #SLPeeps). Like handles, hashtags are not case sensitive, but sometimes easier to read if you use capitalization for effect. People also use hahstags to make jokes (e.g. #SLGeek) or offhanded, witty remarks. Sometimes you’ll see entire sentences as a hashtag to varying degrees of comedic effect.

More on hashtag use here.

You can search for a given hashtag and ‘follow’ that tag.  For instance, I follow #SLPeeps and #slpchat so that I see tweets that include those tags. I’ll also follow a conference hashtag leading up to and during any given conference (e.g. #CASLPA2011 #ASHA13). You can search for any keyword, however, regardless of a hashtag. I’ve had companies tweet me in response to a tweet I made about their product on several occasions such as Super Duper Inc, Pearson Assessment, and even Dyson. This is a good time to use the virtue of repetition: Twitter is PUBLIC. I’ve even seen my tweets or those of friends on websites related to the topic of our tweet or in Google searches.

To protect or not to protect…

If you want to, you can choose to make your tweets private. People who do this are considered “Protected” in Twitter.  You must request to follow protected users and they must approve your request in order for you to see any of their tweets. There are obvious pros and cons to this option.


  • You don’t have to worry as much about the fact the Twitter is public. Your profile and tweets will only be visible to people you’ve approved.
  • If colleagues or your boss are on twitter and you think it may cause a conflict, they would not see your tweets.
  • You don’t tend to get any spam tweets (but you are not completely immune).
  • You have the opportunity to “pick” your followers so if you don’t want businesses (or the individuals with only 5 tweets who is following 10,000 people) following you, you can decline their request to follow you.
  • You know your messages are being seen by the target audience, not every person with a twitter account.


  • Your ideas/tweets are limited in who sees them.
  • It is more difficult and takes more effort to build your PLN because Some potential followers may not follow you as quickly if they have to request permission.
  • You CANNOT direct a tweet to someone who doesn’t follow you, even if you include their handle in the tweet. So, you cannot effectively comment on a non-follower’s tweet or ask them any questions (e.g. you can’t ask them to follow you, even!)
  • You have to research and approve EVERYONE who follows you.
  • You cannot properly participate in chats such as #slpchat unless you go to your settings and unprotect your tweets temporarily.

You can turn protection on and off whenever you want but each option affects all tweets (e.g. either all protected or all unprotected). NOTE: Twitter recently changed this so that tweets while protected remain protected once you are unprotected. Tweets that were unprotected are not viewable by non followers when protected again.

I strongly discourage you from protecting your tweets if you are trying to develop a PLN. The entire point of Twitter is to interact and protecting your tweets limits your ability to interact with everyone. However, you may have a good reason to protect. It’s a personal choice. Also remember that you can protect your tweets, but you can’t stop your followers from retweeting your tweets, which effectively makes them public. Just because your tweets are “protected”, it doesn’t mean they are private.

In my next post I will talk about the social rules of twitter and how to tweet effectively in a PLN.

Other sources for this information:

And now for something slightly different

Today’s post is brought to you by the word:

Transmute (trans-myoot, tranz-) /trænsˈmyut, trænz-/ -verb

  1. To change from one nature, substance, form, or condition into another; transform.

So far I have been using words as titles to my blog posts. I like it. It’s (geeky) fun; it’s me. Now that I’m starting my series on using Twitter to develop a PLN, I’ve realized that this isn’t a good way to title blog posts if I want people to be able to find the ones they want to read in the future. So I’m going to begin using a more traditional, descriptive title for each of my blog posts.  I am NOT abandoning my word/definition feature, however, as you may have noticed in this post. Instead, interesting words will be “sponsoring” my posts from now on, à la Sesame Street.

Change is good, and I think this change will make my blog stronger and more user friendly.

plexus (AKA Introducing Social Media for professional learning)

1. a network, as of nerves or blood vessels.
2. any complex structure containing an intricate network of parts: the plexus of international relations.

Want to know more about using social media like Twitter for professional information and collaboration? See the top right sidebar for links to the entire blog series —->

Many people have spoken in their blogs about why they love using Twitter and various other social media to share information professionally. Others have posted in their blogs about the specifics of how to use Twitter and so on. However, none of them have posted this information with respect to speech-language pathology. This post will begin a series on using social media to create a professional (personal) learning network (PLN). I wanted to start by introducing the various kinds of social media that I use to network with other SLPs and related professions as well as the context in which I use them. I will follow up with how-tos for the various resources and hopefully use a speech and language lens.


twitter logo

I’m starting with Twitter, since this is where I ended up starting with social media (not including Facebook, which I only use for personal and barely at that). Twitter is a good example of Web 2.0, which is how the internet has evolved to be more interactive for users. I was first introduced to Twitter as a source of professional information last winter. I was skeptical at first, but then saw how teachers are using Twitter to interact with each other (and sometimes students) professionally. I began to see how Twitter could be used for learning purposes, rather than for inane information sharing about oneself. This intrigued me, but there weren’t very many speech pathologists to interact with online at the time and learning the Twitter system took some practice and figuring out. Once I found some SLPs worth ‘following’ and got the hang of Twitter, I was hooked on learning and sharing.

I use Twitter to find out about and share useful links, materials, and ideas with other professionals, as well as to ask questions in my day to day practice. For example, if a student provides a response on standardized assessment and I’m not sure if I should mark it correct or not, I might throw it out to the Twitter community to see what others would do and why. Or if I am looking for new materials or ideas to tackle a certain problem I will ask my colleagues on Twitter, who are usually more immediately accessible to me than my colleagues in real life.

One surprising relationship I developed was with my professional association, CASLPA ( @CASLPA). My relationship with CASLPA is a big deal, since I didn’t give them much thought before getting to know them better by following them and chatting online. ASHA (@ASHAWeb) and RCSLT  (@RCSLT) are also on Twitter. I’ve developed relationships with some of the businesses involved with speech pathologists too, like Pearson Assessment (@SpeechnLanguage). I’ve found the immediate accessibility to companies like Pearson very helpful in asking them questions or presenting concerns I may have with materials they sell. Pearson was even able to quickly sort out an order problem that I had few months ago!

I’ve also struck up collegial friendships with people I’ve met on Twitter, which has enabled us to work together to develop and share resources, create a discussion group, and even design an app. We frequently help problem solve each others’ difficulties in therapy and assessment and provide advice for various situations.

The only problem I developed with Twitter was getting so many resources from the professionals I followed that I couldn’t keep up with the information flow. I was being directed to too many webpages every day to remember and find them again. Then I learned about, a social bookmarking site that allows me to bookmark webpages from any computer and access them on any computer. I’m also able to ‘tag’ bookmarks with keywords and even create lists for others to see and use the bookmarks I’ve saved. As an added bonus, this allowed me to provide ONE website address for teachers or parents to find all the links I might recommend to them. These links may have games or information to help with home/classroom practice and carryover.

I use Google Docs to share resources (usually my own; always stay within copyright laws) and even to create meeting agendas at my place of work. Instead of everyone emailing one person who has to maintain a meeting agenda, people can add their own agenda items and check the agenda in their own time. I also used Google Docs to put together a proposal with a Twitter colleague of mine, Janelle Albrecht (@albrechtjn), with whom I’m presenting at a conference in April but whom I’ve never met in person (yet).

Several of us on Twitter began a Shared Resource Folder in Google Docs so that all SLPs on Twitter could share various resources with permission from the authors, if they are not themselves the author of the material. There are many great resources within it, some of it used with permission from important researchers in the field. In it there is also a Goal Bank (therapy goals that various people have contributed) and a Twitter Book of SLPs to find the SLPs who are using Twitter actively. You require permission to have access to this folder and the documents within it from one of 4-5 SLPs on Twitter such as @albrechtjn, @mtMarySLP, @speechreka, and me (@SLPTanya).


Recently, a new way for SLPs to interact on Twitter was introduced. SLPChat is an international discussion group that occurs roughly every six weeks. Regular ‘chats’ on Twitter is nothing new, but this is the first one directed specifically at SLPs. So far we have discussed using Cycles for phonology as well as intervention and assessment for Dysphagia/Feeding. You can find out more about SLPChat dates, topics and use on the SLPChat blog and you can follow them on Twitter.

This is a social networking site meant for professionals, but tends to be more formal and static than Twitter. It is set up in a bulletin board style of interaction. There is a lot of great information and interesting discussions for speech pathology happening there, however. I am currently signed up, and I get emails, but I don’t keep up with LinkedIn. That’s why I’ve invited a guest blogger to do an entry on how to use LinkedIn so stay tuned.


I’m guessing you already know about blogs, since you’re reading one presently. There are many SLP blogs – more than I can keep up with reading! I have a few on my blogroll to your right, but there are more listed in the Shared Docs folder under a file called “Shared Links”. Or, better yet, you could check out Sean Sweeney’s (@speechtechie) SLP Blog Bundle through Google Reader, a great way to keep up with multiple blogs.

I forgot to include Facebook when I first published this post. Oops. I think I forgot because it is so prolific in our culture, however I’d be remiss not to mention that you can use Facebook to access professional information. Many professional associations, groups and individuals have a Facebook page that you can ‘like’, which more or less subscribes you to the information they post in a similar way to Twitter. In fact, you can link your Twitter and Facebook accounts in order to post to both simultaneously. UPDATE: There is a new group on Facebook called SLPeeps. I don’t personally use Facebook very much, but many people do and love it. I’m not against Facebook, I’m just busy enough with the many other social media I’ve already listed. This is the same and only reason I don’t actively participate in LinkedIn at this time. The beauty of social media is that there’s bound to be something that will be a good fit for just about anyone.

In my next posts I will explain how to use Twitter; the lingo, functions, and social use ‘rules’. I will later explain how to use Google Docs if there is a demand for it and things like Diigo and Google Reader. Finally, I will have a guest blogger explain how to use LinkedIn and possibly Facebook.

Happy networking!