If Emily Posted: On Twitter (Part 1)

(As usual, there is more to cover than fits a single post. Part 2 tomorrow.)

I regularly compare twitter to a cocktail party – it provides a source of great conversation, interesting people and often better info than a google search.

I started using twitter in April 2008. Back when people couldn’t figure out if you twittered or tweeted. Before sponsored tweets and twitter parties. Before it became a place where people used handles for marketing more often than they did to say hello.

I have my own unwritten rules about twitter. Maybe everyone does. I broke my own last week with this tweet:

I spent two days debating whether to do it. I’ve used hashtags and handles to show my support of a cause or recommend something. But this was different. This wasn’t how I used twitter.

A few things happened that made me feel better. The first was immediate – a tweet from Laura, whose online decorum I respect highly, who thought what I did was OK. Then Anile retweeted. (Thank you both for the support.) Soon after Behance posted this:

I had an email Friday to announce they’re removing the Pin It! button from artists’ portfolios without CC licenses. I’m thrilled that they listened to one user with a concern and took it to heart. Twitter didn’t make that magically happen, but via twitter I found out where things stood, and I really appreciate it.

Twitter is a great social media tool, but aside from 140 character limits, not much there in the way of how to behave and why. The rule that I broke was my own. And yet, I think twitter could use a few more.

Once words are spoken they’re hard to contain. These days they spread quickly.

We all say things we regret. Snarky comments, info shared in earnest that turns out to be wrong, opinions we realize were better kept to ourselves. Unlike a comment made amongst friends in person,  in print it’s harder to deny. We all say the wrong thing sometimes. The key is to learn from it. And to do it as little as possible.

RULE: Think before you tweet. This doesn’t mean not saying what you believe in, but be willing to stand by what you say. Be willing to admit you’ve made a mistake just as readily as you’d accept praise. Know the danger in a reckless tweet.


A few months ago, Jessica tweeted something to this effect: look at the last 10 tweets in your feed and see how many are actual conversations. My feed was pretty balanced. Then I checked the last 10 I had written to be sure I was having conversations rather than using it solely for self-promotion. Fortunately, it resembled a cocktail party far more than a convention center.

I’m not quite sure what the ratio should be between tweets that are conversation to self promotion, but I’m thinking Jessica’s question is a test we should regularly give ourselves. Rule to be determined.

Once upon a time, religion and politics were the topics to shy away from in polite conversation. I’m happy to see these are part of the larger twitter community and rarely cause discomfort. But there are some tweets that I’m not always so comfortable with. And after speaking with others IRL, via email and even on twitter, I know I’m not alone.

I cringe as I write this, knowing that I have committed the crime. Lately less so, and hopefully, soon not at all. But some do it all the time. Daily.

Deb Rox wrote a fabulous piece on the subject for Babble. Read, laugh and, yes, cringe.

RULE: Even a clever humble brag is awkward at best. This cyber village is ready to celebrate one another. In the words of Deb Rox, “Own the brag.”

I am all for using the handle of a company to promote a great experience or connect a friend, but I believe a twitter handle is really meant to be used to connect with people, not AT them.

Some people always mention @restaurant @store @company. Not just store, but @store. Every. Single. Time.

I get it. You use the handle and maybe you’ll get something out of it.

Last September-ish, I was tweeting about Spin Pins with Heather, as we’re both fans and I had just sent them to friends in Australia. A number of tweets went back and forth about hair accessories. I wondered why Goody wasn’t available in Australia. The next day, I had a tweet from Goody offering to send me a set. I thanked them and said I already had some but hoped they’d one day be available in the Southern Hemisphere. End of story.

To some, that makes me pretty unsavvy. To me, it means I understand the power of our voices on twitter.

I didn’t need free Spin Pins.

I did need an answer from Behance.

RULE: Use the power of the twitter handle with care if you want it to retain value. Use your voice on twitter with care so that people value what you have to say.

Up next, hashtags, business, DMs and why I think some twitter netiquette rules are made to be broken.

12 thoughts on “If Emily Posted: On Twitter (Part 1)

  1. Valerie Hamer

    I really enjoyed reading this. Love your writing style and your attitude.

    As an admin on a Facebook group (of people who work/live together) I am painfully aware of the way people write without thinking of the audience. (As well as forgetting the basic rule that words lose so much meaning without body language and tone to explain them.)

    1. alexandrawrote Post author

      I think that the internet’s inclusion of a comment box for all subject matter is the worst/best thing of all time. Some people give no thought to how they might be perceived or the repercussions of their behavior. WHat Emily Post said a century ago holds water online today. Wish more people would think that way.

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  3. Alexandra

    Interesting. Came over from the818.

    I, too, shy away from the in your face drama that should be played out via DM vs Public.

    Esp when it’s someone who feels I owe them some type of answer.

    That is DM stuff. Don’t understand the going public with exposing people.

    1. alexandrawrote Post author

      Thanks for coming by. Loved your VOTY at BlogHer last summer 🙂

      I think that many people do not realize just how ‘public’ public is. It’s a sense of mindfulness awareness people need to adopt.

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