10 useful Twitter features you're (probably) not already using

Become a master tweeter with our expert tips

Twitter spends much of its time in Facebook's shadow, but it excels in a lot of areas, like real-time sport events and breaking news. Whether you're a veteran or a newbie when it comes to Twitter, there's always more to explore.

To help improve your Twitter experience we've put together a collection of 10 native features that you might not yet be making the most of - from Twitter searches to account security, here are some tips you should know about.

1. Find nearby tweets

Nearby tweets

Twitter's search tool looks fairly sparse at first glance but there are some useful options hidden below the surface if you know where to look. Firstly you can narrow down your searches by finding tweets tagged in locations near you - after you've run a search, open up the More options drop-down menu on the right and then pick Near you. It's a handy way of checking out what's going on right now in your local neighbourhood.

2. Block certain words from Twitter searches

As with Google searches, you can put a minus sign in front of a word to exclude it from your search results: try "tv -sherlock", for example, to find tweets with the word "tv" but not the word "sherlock". Another tip when you're looking for whole phrases is to enclose them in quotation marks to get an exact match. If you want to know all of the different operators you can employ in your searches, visit the official Twitter search page.

3. View statistics for your tweets

Twitter analytics

Wondering what your chances are of going viral anytime soon? Twitter lets you view retweets and replies for every update you post - click on the avatar icon at the top of the Twitter interface on the web, then select Analytics from the drop-down menu. You can see the most popular tweets you've sent out each month, as well as check running statistics for followers, mentions, profile visits and so on.

4. Accept Direct Messages from anyone

This isn't something everyone should switch on, but Twitter recently added the option to accept Direct Messages from anyone - previously you had to be following someone before they could send you a private message. If you want to be open and available to everyone (you use Twitter for your business, perhaps) then you can enable Direct Messages from anyone via the Security and privacy page in Settings.

5. Turn off image previews

Twitter image previews

If you want to reduce the clutter in your Twitter feed, you can stop the app from showing pictures by default: the option is available in the settings for both the Android and iOS apps, and you can disable auto-playing videos too. You can't hide image previews on the web, at least not using the tools Twitter itself provides, but it is possible to disable auto-playing videos from the Account page in Settings.

6. Curate your timeline with lists

Lists don't get a lot of attention but they're one of Twitter's most useful features. Lists can be public and accessible from your profile (so people know they're on them) or private and completely hidden (so people don't). They let you see the latest tweets from a certain subsection of people, like your colleagues or your family, or collect particular types of accounts together around a topic.

7. Download your archive

Twitter archive

Did you know Twitter lets you download a copy of all the tweets you've ever tweeted? You can search through them, see trends over time, and check out just exactly what you were thinking about three years last Tuesday. From the Settings screen, click Account and then the Request your archive button - before too long you should get an email from Twitter with a link to a zip file you can download.

8. Personalise your profile

Don't settle for the default look for your Twitter profile page - remember everyone from relatives to prospective employees will be looking at it, so give it some personality. If you open up the Settings page on the web, you can select the Design entry on the left to change page colours and images - you can choose from one of the background pictures Twitter provides or load in one of your own.

9. Pin a tweet to your profile

Pinned tweet

Speaking of profile changes, you can pin a tweet to the very top of your timeline to make sure it's the first post anyone sees when they visit your Twitter page (very handy if you want to show off your best work or highlight your upcoming sponsored fun run). Use the menu button next to any of your tweets (the three horizontal dots) to find the pin option, though you can only use it on your own posts.

10. Set up login verification

If you want to add an extra layer of security to your account, set up login verification (through the Security and privacy page in Settings on the web). It means that even if someone gains access to your username and password, they can't log in on a new computer without a verification code sent via text message to your phone. There's also a backup code you can use if you lose access to your phone.

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Image Credit: Header image copyright Marisa Allegra Williams (@marisa) for Twitter