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The Twidiot’s Guide to Twitter Etiquette: Twelve Essential Do’s and Dont’s for Twitter Beginners

September 26, 2009

I have been using Twitter for five months now, which, as you probably know already, makes me a seasoned expert. It doesn’t take much these days in the social media circles to be considered a specialist. Really, you just have to actually use those social media gadgets and then take a know-it-all attitude in advising others on how they should use them, too. I can definitely do that. 

Now let’s talk about you, dear Twitterer novice. So. You are quite adept at Google searches, and you have even mastered Facebook, but you are looking at this Twitter thing, this over-hyped, apparently useless communication technology, thinking, “Why the hell would anyone want to do that?” And then you read about it every freakin’ week in the New York Times and People magazine, and you hear all your favorite celebrities dropping sound bytes about their Tweets like loose change falling into a beggar’s tin cup, and then you think, “Who do all these people think they are? I am certainly an Important Person, too. Now, get out of my way. How does this thing work?” You sign up your very own account and cautiously begin typing your first 140 characters.  “Hey everyone in Twitterland! I am th..”

Hold on, there, Skippy! Take your hands off the keyboard for a second and heed some critical Tweeting advice. 

You might not think so, but it’s easy to make mistakes and annoy others on Twitter. As a beginner, those few mistakes could ruin your entire online reputation that you have spent days and weeks building up. And then where would you be? Nowhere! At least in the fake virtual online world, which is really kind of nowhere to begin with. Alas, I digress to a philosophical question much better handled by academics and theologians.

In the meantime, I will share my critically urgent expert advice learned from my very keen sense of observation in the realm of social media regarding the proper conduct within the fickle Twitter environment. Unfortunately many of those lessons were gleaned via an embarrassing Twitter faux pas, or else from watching others fall helplessly into the Twit pit of shame. But lucky for you, my novice Twitterer friend, I will spare you the same inevitable embarrassment and get right to the harsh truth of Twitter etiquette. You can thank me later, because you won’t find this anywhere else in the entire internet universe, except right here at STC.

Now straighten up your back, and listen!

Do Try to be Clever and Witty. It becomes apparent very quickly what kind of intelligence, imagination and creative inner spirit people have based on their clever and witty Tweets. If you don’t possess any clev or wit, then maybe tweeting is not for you. A lame entry such as, “Today I am making pumpkin soup” will not win you many followers, other than soup manufacturers and pumpkin farmers. Try to spice things up with the provocative or profound, to show your wisdom and intellect. But no pressure, really.

Don’t think that you are a celebrity after you’ve hit thirty followers. We don’t need to hear about the minutia details of your private life. We don’t care. Not yet. When you’ve reached 30,000 followers? Maybe then I care about what kind of floral pattern you ordered for the redesign of the bathroom wallpaper.

Do Be Liberal With Tweeting Quotes. “But, Brad,” you say, “I don’t generally use quotes in my every day conversations with people. Why would I use quotes on Twitter?” Because, dope-head, this isn’t your every-day real life! Why not use this opportunity to make yourself seem incredibly well-read in history, theology and literature? You can buy a book of quotes, or rip them off from internet sites, and then send them out constantly. It will look as if you have had them memorized at the tip of your tongue for use at any given social event. On Twitter, you can fake everyone out, while motivating them at the same time! And you never know when one of those inspirational quotes will reach a fellow Tweeter just in the nick of time and save the poor soul from jumping off a bridge. Remember, these quotes are inspiring your followers!

Don’t Make fun of other people who send out quotes all day long, like they have never had an original thought in their lives. Even if it seems that might be true. The quotes are a necessary fall-back when we run out of things to think of on our own, and we all need to support each other here.

Do Promote your own blog, especially when you have an exciting new post to share with the world. This is what Twitter is primarily designed for – promoting you and your Blog. And your Blog, of course, is designed to promote your personal brand. Which is designed to promote your book, or your consulting services, or your pathetic little business or whatever else you are hankering for that you believe will fill that gaping hole in your soul and bring you the cha-ching and acknowledgement that will make you very famous and happy. But make sure to visit other people’s blogs too.

Don’t Overdo the self-promotion. We in the social media industry call this “Tweeting too Hard.” Really, it’s just obnoxious. While it’s okay to direct people to your site once in a while to view your shiny new and informative post, for God’s sake, don’t keep honking about it all day long! It makes you look as if you have a pitifully low self-esteem and are desperate for attention and web traffic and approval of every tiny word that spews forth from your keyboard. And it makes you look like a pig, even if you try to get cute by saying “Ha ha, it’s me again, with my shameless self-promotion!” It’s not funny after the third time in one day.

Do Retweet others often. This is why they call it Social Media? The social part usually means being polite and courteous and generous and helpful to others. Retweeting (known as the RT) is the “Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself” type of thing, so it’s even biblical! When you retweet, it’s like saying, “Hey, everyone! So-And-So is extremely smart and clever, and they just made my day with these enchanting 140 characters!” Retweeting is quite validating to your newfound Twitter friends.

Don’t forget to thank those who Retweet your Tweets.  Mmmm. Yes, I’m afraid that I unwittingly fell into this situation for the first couple of months of twittering. I had no idea what the whole RT thing meant, or the polite etiquette associated with it. I’m sure I came across as an ungrateful Twitterer to those who were retweeting me, as I never responded with a thank-you. No wonder they stopped visiting my Blog.

Do Tweet interesting links that you think will be useful and helpful to others. Ideally, those links should have something to do with your thang, whatever that compelling niche is that you think you are creating. For instance, don’t send a link out about Citibank’s brawl with Lehman Brothers over credit-default swap agreements when you are really trying to position your brand niche as “Angry Christian Mommy.”

Don’t Sign up to Follow People only to Unfollow them at a later point. I made this mistake one day when I decided that I should re-balance my portfolio of followers, so to speak. Big mistake. People have ways of finding out who unfollowed them, and you will regret it later when they track you down and spit on you. You might be blacklisted or, worse yet, receive the online Twitter wrath of a scorned follower.

Do try to be Omnipresent. Yes, folks, Twitter is all about visibility, self-branding and name recognition. Why else are you bothering with it? So, if you want to be effective, you have got to be on all the time. This is a 24/7 global online community folks, so get used to it, because the people in New Zealand are up at 3 am, full throttle, and they will be wondering where you are. If you are absent from Twitter, someone else will eat your lunch and land that once-in-a-lifetime deal that you’ve been waiting for! I have heard that you can hire people to do your Tweets while you are catching a few Z’s, or working your real job.  But that’s just a rumor.

Don’t get too obsessed about Twitter. At the end of the day, your Twitter presence is really not that important compared to your warm, fleshy friends and family. You are still you with or without your Twitter presence, and all those people out there in Twitter-land will get along just fine without you. Really, they will. Take a big Twitter breath, or even a sabbatical once in a while. It will do you good.

Now, get out there and Tweet! Your first assignment is to sign up to follow me, @shrinkingcamel, right away. I need to juice up my followership because it makes me feel significant and relevant, like people really care. And isn’t that all we really want?

See you on Twitter.  

14 Comments leave one →
  1. September 26, 2009 8:46 pm

    Oh, Brad! You are so wise! I concur. Well, except about the shameless self promotion part. I’m all up in that.

    Also, don’t use one of those auto-follow/unfollow services where some robot seeks out people to follow so they will follow you back and then dumps them if they don’t refollow you. We know who you are…

    That’s lame, people. L-A-M-E.

  2. September 26, 2009 9:17 pm

    i want a poetwit party!

  3. September 26, 2009 9:49 pm

    Thank you.

    So, Twitter has code just like the Masons.

    After a while, I think I might have figured out that RT thing/ I’m so glad you’ve saved me the trouble of trying to id RT.

    Really like rule #3. Works every time.

  4. September 26, 2009 10:39 pm

    This is priceless, sir. You should look to syndication.

  5. shrinkingthecamel permalink*
    September 27, 2009 7:12 am

    Glynn – Will you be my agent?

    Katdish – Most of these humiliating lessons were learned while you were watching. Remember?

    Nance – Poetry is becoming a more frequent Twitter outlet for me. Just watch!

    Maureen – Great comparison – Twitter and Masons. Both have a mysterious secret underground code, and people are found dead at their computer. Maybe we can write a new thriller based on that pitch. What dya think?

  6. Annie permalink
    September 27, 2009 12:20 pm

    Sounds like a lot of work! I think right now, I will continue with my decision to not join the masses in the Twittering game. But thanks for posting these tips. If I do change my mind, I will come back to refresh myself before posting!

  7. Tania permalink
    September 28, 2009 4:15 pm

    Thanks for the tips. I’ve been trying to get on twitter but not quite getting there.The thing I don’t get is should your user name be like a pseudonym and not really be clear who you are, or use some of your real name, or does it not matter because your real name shows behind it anyway? Spend too much time on dating sites where you’re trying to hide your identity! In this case we are trying to be clear aren’t we so don’t want a user name that’s too cutesy.

  8. donkimrey permalink
    September 28, 2009 8:37 pm

    If you really need wise quotes, I recommend A Robert Brault Reader. He verbalizes “what oft was thought but ne’er so well expressed.” He is as wise as I wish I were.

    I enjoy your writing and your readers, even when I don’t know or care what the heck you’re talking about. I’m not a tweeter, unashamedly. I’m still trying to adjust to the shift from “four in the floor” to automatic transmission, f’ goshsakes!
    When I dont have anything to say, I think I’ll say it. dk

  9. September 28, 2009 10:45 pm

    Thanks Brad, great post.

    I do have one question though…
    -How do you thank someone for RT’ing you?

    I never knew that I should do that! Now I feel ashamed that I have not thanked anyone that RT’ed me, (and it is probably why they didn’t RT me again!)

    You can follow me on @theprofitwizard ;o)


  10. September 29, 2009 10:23 am

    I’m with Glynn here. Get some mileage out of this, Brad. It’s helpful (well, personally I’m Twit-less but others will find it helpful) and very fun.

  11. September 29, 2009 2:32 pm

    i’ll be watching…

  12. September 29, 2009 3:06 pm

    so many hilarious things here (as well as good advice)… a favorite phrase: “the Twit pit of shame” 🙂

  13. September 30, 2009 11:31 am

    twit-less as well,
    bot Go! Twit! and be merry! LOL…

  14. October 4, 2009 1:53 pm

    Hi Brad –

    Just got gifted your blog link from my friend, Joanne. Great piece, I have to say, as a wordweaver myself. Thanks.

    Blessings & Belly Laughs!

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