If Emily Posted: On Twitter (Part 2)

Yesterday I wrote about how important it is to think before you tweet. I’ll say it again. And I don’t mean people being honest and witty and funny and candid. I’m talking about people saying things that potentially hurt others or themselves. Because if twitter is like a cocktail party, one look at your feed and you’ll see that some people can’t hold their liquor.

On several occasions I’ve found myself “joining” twitter conversations that were out of hand in an attempt to diffuse them. It began selfishly, I didn’t want to watch it in my feed. But then I realized people can forget how very public twitter is. And so I got involved. For better or worse, that’s the way I am.

I’ve decided I will not do that again. Next time, I’m unfollowing.

RULE: Twitter is for conversation, not confrontation. This is a community. If you have a personal problem with someone, take it somewhere private. Name calling and fighting is not for an audience.

Direct messages are your friend. They can’t be overused. In fact, from some of the stuff I see in my twitter stream, I don’t think they’re utilized enough.

RULE: If your hypothetical public tweet includes any information that you don’t think the ENTIRE planet should be privy to, opt for a DM instead. When in doubt DM. You can’t go wrong with a DM. If they don’t follow you, tweet that you need to talk to them privately.

This is important. I’ve had to contact people and tell them not to tweet things like my address or business issues. Some people do not grasp that a tweet is literally shared with the universe (and the Library of Congress).

I will not do business with people that use public twitter streams to bash clients or to discuss specific business dealings. I see it and make a mental note not to do business with those people.

RULE: Don’t discuss the problems you’re having with a client or project on twitter. If you must use twitter to communicate with clients, do so by direct communication only. No one else needs be privy to your conversation.

To retweet something can be valid and valuable. Or a train wreck. Just as we talk about the ratio of interaction to self promotion in tweets, let’s apply a similar logic to retweeting.

RULE: To retweet is to rebroadcast information. Before you RT, consider WHY you’re retweeting. Does it need a second spin around the web?

There really are no absolutes as to what you should or shouldn’t RT, but I’ll use myself as an example.

When someone is nice enough to include me in an #FF, I no longer retweet the list of people mentioned with my reply. Even if it seemed de rigeur.

To RT an #FF is giving myself a pat on the back for getting a pat on the back. (Careful, Alex, your ego is showing.)

Instead, I’ve begun simply replying and saying thank you. (I won’t call that a rule. Just an idea to consider.)

As for humble brags so often disguised as retweets, NEWSFLASH: you’re not incognito.  Let’s all take Deb Rox words to heart and OWN THE BRAG. Own the brag. Own it.

I once read (in a tweet) that people have to remember that one person’s best news is being tweeted at the same time as another person’s worst. If this is a community, then I think that (within your own comfort zone) you should be able to tweet both honestly without hiding behind a humble brag or passive aggressive/vague comment.

Because we all have our own unwritten rules for this place without rules, I asked the good people of twitter: “If twitter had “rules” what would be your #1?”

Don’t auto-anything. Don’t curse. Don’t send SPAM. Don’t take things personally. Don’t tweet asking for followers. Don’t RT the answers to the questions at your twitter party. Be part of the conversation. Be respectful. Be an original.

(None of these rules seem unreasonable. None of them difficult to follow. Maybe we need to make the unwritten written?)

Rules: Don’t auto-anything. Don’t curse. Don’t send SPAM. Don’t take things personally. Don’t tweet asking for followers. Don’t RT the answers to the questions at your twitter party. Be part of the conversation. Be respectful. Be an original.

Lastly, there are are some twitter “rules” I don’t adhere to:

I don’t believe that twitter shouldn’t be used for conversation, as some “twitter basics” advise. There are fabulous conversations to be had on twitter.

I don’t care if people overuse hashtags. In fact, I appreciate when someone uses them at all. Like, during a twitter party or maybe joining in commentary about a political debate or Awards Show – it makes it easier to filter those people out. And by people I mean me. If you see me tweeting #Oscars #BlogHer, feel free to filter me from your feed for three hours or so. (The option to filter out feeds by hashtag isn’t available on all twitter platforms but Tweetdeck makes it very easy.)

I’m not so worried about overuse of hashtags. I’m also not so worried that sending several tweets in a row is bad form. (Some ppl pref 2 spl out what they say.)

This is what I want people to worry about: every tweet you write is being archived for all time (or Dec 21, 2012, whichever comes first), as a really cool tool for historians. The Library of Congress project is a spectacular one. History books have always been written by the ruling classes, the people in charge, the minority ruling over the masses. With twitter, they’re collecting a global history like never before. They can document how the world reacts as history unfolds before us.

Your home phone number doesn’t belong there. Neither does mine.


5 thoughts on “If Emily Posted: On Twitter (Part 2)

  1. mamawritesdailyMichelle

    I am so enjoying your twittetiquette posts. Agree entirely about DM. And not asking ppl to follow you (tacky and desperate). And I adore the conversational aspect of twitter. I am sure I have broken some of your unwritten rules but we are all learning as we go. I had no idea about the Library of Congress project. Noted!

    1. alexandrawrote Post author

      I believe rules are made to be broken – I probably am in direct opposition with many by saying that people should write more than 140 characters. And I know plenty of people who swear w abandon. I don’t really care if they do, but I think it’s reasonable that people think about how they use their words. I think we all make these platforms work the way that suit our lives. Always feel free to share what makes it a better experience for you, too!

  2. Traci Bunkers

    Part 1 & 2 of this are both great! I hope lots of people read them. Someone I follow has taken to frequently tweeting positive comments from customers–like one right after another. To me, it seems like public masturbation and I’m thinking of unfollowing because it it. It’s one thing to be excited about something: “I just signed another book contract!,” or “Just hit my 1,000 etsy sale.” But to me it’s seems different to say “customer just said they’ve never received such a great product” for example. If that’s so, then the customer should tweet it.

    Although, I have retweeted positive comments from my customers. I see that as being different than writing the tweet myself. Plus, I don’t do it very often.

    A twitter pet peeve of mine is the auto-tweets for someone “liking” a youtube video, or “checking in” somewhere. Occasionally is no big deal, but frequently is annoying. I think some people don’t realize they have it set up that way to auto-tweet when they “like” something.

    And I’m with you–I don’t like to use twitter to “call out” a company. But there have been times I felt I had no other option since they weren’t returning phone calls or e-mails. As an example, sending a few tweets like that finally got my city & electric company to come deal with the trees that were overgrown and dangerous in my alley. They had said they were going to do it 6 months before my “twitter campaign” but never got to it and gave me and my neighbors the runaround. Shortly after sending a few tweets to them, they called to say they were on the way!

  3. Denis Wright (@deniswright)

    Yes, a good posting with some timely advice, and the responses so far show there are reasonable differences of opinion on certain things. I also don’t mind if others swear [in fact, some do it creatively – but others simply look silly!] but I don’t swear. My choice.

    My pet peeve is someone asking for more followers to make it up to some round number. In my view followers are to be earned, not begged for.

    As far as convos are concerned, I ask myself when conversing if this conversation could interest others. If I think no, then it’s off to DM.

    1. alexandrawrote Post author

      My mantra is that we need rules in order to break them. Honestly, there are some things in life that can only be expressed in four letter words. The key is knowing how to use them well 🙂


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