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A Helpful Guide To Using Social Media

An inside look at how Twitter, Instagram, and other social media channels are being used today.

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What we're going to be discussing:


[To skip to a certain section, hit Command + F and type the section you'd like to read.]

This is what it looks like when you update your status on Facebook:

Logan Rhoades / BuzzFeed

A status is a personal post on Facebook, which gets shared to all of your Facebook friends. These are often written posts, but users can also upload a photo/video. The goal of Facebook is to share your life and thoughts with your friends through status updates, photos, and videos.

We (users) can like a status, a photo, and things we're interested in, such as websites and musical artists — which is literally giving it a thumbs-up (that's the icon).

Your Facebook News Feed includes status updates, photos, videos, links, and other activity from people, pages, and groups that you follow on Facebook.

Logan Rhoades / BuzzFeed

The News Feed is essentially the homepage of your very own version of Facebook, meaning every single person sees something different when they log on, since your friends and the things you like dictate what you see.


One big feature on Facebook is the ability to tag someone. If we want to tag a friend in our status, we add an @ symbol before their name.

Logan Rhoades / BuzzFeed

Tagging someone ensures that the person will get a notification about the update. It's sort of like saying, "Hey, I want you to see this!" or "Hey, this post is about you!"

That red flag means I have one notification.

Logan Rhoades / BuzzFeed

Notifications will provide the details behind what was posted, who posted it, and why it matters to you.

And when someone is tagged in a Facebook photo, their name can be seen when hovering over their image.

Logan Rhoades / BuzzFeed

Tagging someone provides more clickable information in your update. In other words, since "Sean Rhoades" is tagged in this photo, I can click on his name and go to his profile page.


This is a tweet:

Logan Rhoades / BuzzFeed

A tweet is simply a post on Twitter. It's sort of like a Facebook status, but every tweet must be 140 characters or fewer.

[You can see the character limit count down on the bottom right hand corner, just left of the "Tweet" button.]

All users on Twitter have a unique handle (username).

Logan Rhoades / BuzzFeed

Every Twitter handle starts with the @ symbol. Whenever our handle is mentioned in a tweet, we can see it.

[Facebook took this idea, which is why you use the @ when tagging someone on Facebook.]

There are two main categories on Twitter: Following and Followers.

@Oprah / Via Twitter: @Oprah

Following: You want to see the tweets from these people.

Followers: People who want to see your tweets.

[Not surprisingly, a lot more people are interested in what Oprah has to say on Twitter than the other way around.]

When the people you follow (the members in your "Following" group) tweet, those posts show up on your timeline. And your tweets show up on the timeline of your followers.

Logan Rhoades / BuzzFeed

The best way to think about a Twitter timeline is, again, like a personalized homepage. So when I go on Twitter, I see MY timeline (a stream of tweets from the accounts I have chosen to follow).


When you reply to someone, you're tweeting directly at them, usually as a response to their tweet.

Logan Rhoades / BuzzFeed / Via Twitter: @BuzzFeed

Reply tweets begin with the username you're responding to, and will connect what you wrote to the original tweet (so that person knows what you're replying to).

Your followers won't see these tweets on their timeline, unless they follow that account, as well.

A retweet is basically like someone saying, "I want all of my followers to see this too!"

Logan Rhoades / BuzzFeed

When you RT a tweet, it shows up on the timeline of your followers, regardless if they follow the account you retweeted or not.

[So if you follow me on Twitter, and I retweet something from @BuzzFeed, you'll see it, even if you don't follow @BuzzFeed.]

And just think of a favorite on Twitter as a like on Facebook.

Logan Rhoades / BuzzFeed

A favorited tweet does not show up on your followers' timeline; it's a virtual thumbs-up, mostly used because you enjoyed the tweet or even agree with what was said.


OK. Let's move on to hashtags. #GetReady

Logan Rhoades / BuzzFeed

A hashtag is a word or phrase that starts with the # symbol (#BuzzFeed). We use hashtags for all sorts of reasons: sometimes as a joke, or as a keyword in a topic, or even ironically. If enough people are using a certain hashtag or phrase, that becomes a "Trending Topic" on Twitter.

[Fun Fact: Facebook also took this idea and now has a "Trending" section, featuring the most popular stories from your Facebook friends.]

Using a hashtag allows us to follow an event, trends, or even certain news with better accuracy, since you can click on a hashtag and see what everyone else is saying about it. Below is a timeline of several accounts using the hashtag: #TheOscars2014

Logan Rhoades / BuzzFeed

And since people all over the world use Twitter, it's typically the forefront for breaking news. It's also a good way to see what type of conversations people are having about important events or big stories, like a presidential election...or the Oscars.

Hashtags are also popular on...Instagram. So let's talk about that.

Instagram / Via

In order to post to Instagram, you need to download the mobile app. So even though there is a website (, almost everything associated with Instagram is done on your phone.


There are three steps to posting content on Instagram: 1) Take the photo/video...

Logan Rhoades / BuzzFeed

This is what it looks like on your phone. That thin yellow box on the screen allows you to adjust the focus. The icon in the middle of the bottom bar is for camera mode and the icon in the lower right is for video mode.

2) Apply any filters or edits to the photo.

Logan Rhoades / BuzzFeed

Instagram comes with an array of filters to choose from (Amaro, Mayfair, Rise, etc.), allowing us to customize how our photos look with several different automatic effects. Some of these filters add a frame or drastically change the color of the image, while others are barely noticeable.

And 3) Add a caption and tag people. There's also an option to share the photo on another social media channel, like Facebook.

Logan Rhoades / BuzzFeed

The caption part is when people use hashtags. You've probably heard of #selfie before, right? This is where that phrase came from (taking a picture of yourself and adding the hashtag #selfie, so people know it's you).

Unlike Twitter, hashtags on Instagram are mainly used as themes to encourage photo sharing. For instance, #tbt stands for "Throwback Thursday" — the day of the week when you post an old photo (typically from your childhood or high school/college years).

Logan Rhoades / BuzzFeed

Other popular hashtags on Instagram are #mcm, which stands for "Man Crush Monday," and #wcw, which stands for "Woman Crush Wednesday" — the days when you post photos of a crush or your significant other.


It's sort of like Instagram, except that the content you send goes away shortly after the person opens it. This is what it looks like when you open Snapchat (it automatically goes into camera mode):

Logan Rhoades / BuzzFeed

The pink box in the lower left-hand corner means I have six Snapchat messages waiting for me to open from the people I follow. And the purple box in the lower right-hand corner shows that three people I follow have sent me videos.


And this is what it looks like when you take a picture on Snapchat:

Logan Rhoades / BuzzFeed

The X in the upper left-hand corner lets you delete the photo and start over. The pencil tool in the upper right-hand corner allows you to add text ("BuzzFeed NY headquarters"), which you can slide up and down the photo for placement.

The sender specifies who the Snapchat is sent to and how long the message stays open (though it cannot be more than a few seconds). The time is set in the bottom left-hand corner. In this case, my followers only have six seconds to look at this photo before it goes away for good.

When you click on the pink box, it takes you to a screen like this:

• The pink closed boxes are Snapchat photos I have not looked at yet.

• If the box is purple, that means it's a video.

• An open box means I've looked at it.

• And the arrow represents the people to whom I've sent a Snapchat.

Tumblr is a site with a community of bloggers who can customize nearly all aspects of their blog. Below is a preview of what it looks like to change the Theme of your blog:

Tumblr / Logan Rhoades / BuzzFeed

We can customize everything, from colors to coding.


Much like a Facebook News Feed or Twitter timeline, Tumblr has a dashboard, showcasing posted content from the people you follow.

Logan Rhoades / BuzzFeed

Tumblr is like the more creative version of Twitter, but the two social media sites basically work the same way: You have a timeline/dashboard displaying content posted from the people you follow and a group of followers who see the stuff you post.

And liking something on Tumblr is equivalent to favoriting something on Twitter: a virtual thumbs-up, or in this case, a heart.

Logan Rhoades / BuzzFeed

As with Twitter, this action will not be posted on your followers dashboard.


As you can tell, most of these channels work in the same way.

Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr: A personalized homepage based on who you have chosen to connect with. That connection is only mutual on Facebook, often meaning the people following you on Twitter and Tumblr are people you don't know IRL (in real life).

Instagram/Snapchat: Photo/video sharing from your mobile device. On Instagram, that content gets posted on your page (and to your followers timeline), whereas on Snapchat, the content is sent directly to the person.

And that's it! Although it can often be overwhelming, all of this gets much easier to understand when you're actively participating in it. And believe it or not, but most of us do all of these things before we even get out of bed in the morning.