How To Not Abuse Your Twitter Followers

Anytime someone expresses an opinion about how others ought to do something, they risk coming off as an insensitive, egotistical jerk. I hope I can diffuse that problem in this post while allowing us to discuss the issues at hand. Your patience is gold to me, friends. I hope this whole thing doesn’t come off as cranky. I’m shooting for helpful, mostly, and angry only where it really needs the teeth.

I’m pretty opinionated when it comes to Twitter. I use Twitter a lot. I’m coming up quickly on my 7000th tweet on my personal Twitter account, and I’m often annoyed by Twitter almost as much as I’m delighted by it. Because of that, I’ve built my own little list of personal rules over time, and I’d like to share those rules with you now.

My four rules: Favorite Freely, Don’t Retweet, Go Private Quickly, and Don’t Use Me.

  • Favorite Freely. When you see a tweet you like, take the time to thank the author by marking it as a favorite. You don’t have to be too reserved with what you mark. Think of a favorite like a laugh or a pat on the back. Freely given, but never forced. That will dictate how many you should give. Thanks to Twitter’s built-in individual favorites pages (here’s mine), and 3rd-party services like Tweeteorites, favorites are meaningful, first-class citizens of the Twitter world and not a silent afterthought.
  • Don’t Retweet. Controversy! I hold this rule for three reasons:
    1. I’m following you for your tweets, not the tweets of your friends. If I wanted to read theirs, I’d follow them. It’s not offensive, it’s how the system works. Please don’t break the system.
    2. If it’s a “social justice / I have to spread the word” kind of thing, you can always take what they say, put it in your own words, and post that to Twitter with “via” attribution. Easy, and much nicer. Doing less than that feels lazy and abusive of your followers’ attention.
    3. If I want to see the tweets you really like, I’ll just subscribe to your favorites. No need to force me to see them by broadcasting them.
  • Go Private Quickly. If you’re publicly conversing with someone, tweeting back and forth repeatedly, consider taking the conversation private if it adds little or no value to those who follow both of you. It gets spammy really quick if you’re exchanging details about something that isn’t likely to be helpful or interesting to other people. That’s lazy and inconsiderate. So, one reply? No problem. Five? Way too many.
  • Don’t Use Me. This is the Golden Rule of Twitter. Don’t consider me and your other followers to be part of a force that you can bend and manipulate to increase your respect, fame, and fortune. I follow you because I’m interested in what you have to say, not because I want to make you rich or fulfill some ego-centric dream you have. If you’re going to sell me something, it had better be a rarity and it had better be a sincere endorsement of something you personally and deeply love. The more you push your money-making, notoriety-making schemes on me, the closer you get to becoming a… well, I won’t use the word here. It’s distasteful, and this is a family show. In short: be a person. If you have something to sell, open another account for that. If people don’t follow that account, take a hint.

If you have additional rules that don’t seem to be addressed here, add them in the comments, or feel free to agree or disagree with me there.

Happy tweeting!