Mistakes on Twitter can prove costly. After posting a link to a compromising photo on his Twitter account, Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., found himself in the center of a political and personal storm, now dubbed Weinergate.
In a news conference, Weiner said he Tweeted a photograph of himself that he intended to send as a direct message. Big difference, big mistake.
For those new to Twitter or still unfamiliar with its use, here's a quick primer:
Tweets: When you post an answer in the "What's happening?" box and press "Tweet," whatever you have posted will appear on your Twitter home timeline as well as on the home timelines of all Twitter account holders who follow you.
Retweets: Hover your mouse over a Tweet in your timeline and the option to "retweet" will appear. Think of it as an endorsement. The retweet will then appear in the timelines of all who follow you.
Replies: "Reply" gives you the opportunity to send a comment to the person who posted a Tweet that appears in your timeline. When you hit the reply button, type in your comment and then click "Tweet," your reply will be posted on that person's timeline.
Weinergate Lesson No. 1: Twitter users are quicker than you think. The congressman quickly realized his mistake and deleted the Tweet. However, in the meantime, the damaging Tweet had already been retweeted by another Twitter user. So don't Tweet anything you don't want the entire world ― including your boss, significant other and kids ― to know.
Message, Direct Message or DM: Now simply referred to as "message" on Twitter, this is a way to send a private message to a Twitter follower. Just like Tweets, messages are limited to 140 characters. Here's how to send them:
1. Click the "Messages" button on the top menu bar of your page.
2. You'll land on a page showing your private messages history. Click the "New Message" button.
3. In the pop-up box, type the name or user name of the person you wish to send to.
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4. Enter the message you wish to convey privately, and click "Send."
Your account: Yes, it may seem to defeat Twitter's purpose of discovering news from fresh sources, but Twitter users can make their accounts private.
Under your account name and photo in the upper right-hand corner of your page, simply select "Settings" and then check the box "Protect my Tweets."
With a protected account, you will be asked to grant specific approval to each Twitter user whom you wish to view your timeline. That means people will have to request to follow you; your profile and Tweets will be visible only to approved users; your Tweets will not appear in Twitter search results.
Weinergate Lesson No. 2: All the privacy settings in the world are worthless if the user is careless ― or if the recipient of what was intended to be private has a change of heart.
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