I offered a list of Twitter etiquette tips for journalists — or anyone — a while back, and it got quite a buzz around the Twitterverse. Here’s round two: My updated list of what not to do on Twitter.
1. Don’t send an automated welcome direct message. I am not a fan of automated anything on Twitter because it’s a medium dependent on conversation, and automated conversations just aren’t fun. But the automated welcome direct message has really come to annoy me.
In the face-to-face world, we never walk up to someone we have just met and play them an oral automated message or hold a sign that says: “You’re going to love what I have to say.” So don’t do it virtually. It comes across as really spammy. And if it’s meant as a joke, it usually comes off as stupid, not funny. And if it includes a bid to “read your blog” with a link, it really is just junk mail. If it was in print form, I’d chuck it right in the recycling bin. If you want to welcome me to your community of followers, fine. It’s OK to send a real direct message that’s unique to me.
Talk to me — not at me.
2. Don’t protect your tweets. I’m not sure what the value of Twitter is if people can’t read your tweets. Really, why are you using a public medium for something so personal that it needs to be protected. I have a pretty iron-clad rule that I won’t follow people who protect their tweets. I break this rule only for people I know in the “real” world. I guess it’s OK if you use Twitter to whisper sweet nothings to a few people, but I’m not sure Twitter is the right place for that.
3. Don’t leave your bio blank. Let’s face it: It takes about 30 second to fill out a Twitter bio for your profile page. Do it. It is one of the main ways people decide whether to follow you. I’m to the point where I pretty much won’t follow someone with a blank bio because I figure: If the person isn’t dedicated enough to fill out a bio, what could they have to say that I’d want to hear.
Now I realize some people get stopped because they want to make their bio clever or funny. They try a few things but feel the result is too bland, so they drop it. My advice: Don’t. I’d be more likely to follow someone who has a straightforward bio than someone with no bio at all. What I’m really looking for is whether the person tweets about topics that interest me: the media, social media, technology, mommyhood.
And while you’re at it, add a picture, please.
4. Don’t end a tweet with “please retweet.” It comes across, at least to me, as sort of icky. If your tweet is retweet-worthy, it will get retweeted, trust me. And if you want insurance, chat offline with your real, honest-to-God friends who happen to be on Twitter and ask them to retweet it for you. But don’t ask the whole Twitterverse.
To me it’s a bit like the rule on gifts for a wedding. If the bride and groom prefer money to blenders and toasters, that’s perfectly reasonable, especially if they’re planning a destination wedding in Hawaii, and they don’t want to haul lots of boxes back to the mainland. But it’s rude to put on the invitation: “Money preferred.” The way to handle that is through back channels. The mother of the bride tells her sisters, who tell their sisters, and soon everyone kind of knows to bring cash, not towels.
I realize retweeting and gifting a wedded couple aren’t exactly the same thing. But I think the commonality is this: In almost every situation, it’s rude to tell people what to do. “Please retweet” kind of steps over that line, at least for me.
5. Don’t tweet your own blog post more than three times a day. I regularly tweet my own blog posts, and I believe there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, as long as one also tweets other things. I’ve also found value in tweeting at different points of the day, to catch people in different times zones or who aren’t on Twitter all day. But enough is enough.
Again, the conversation metaphor is apt. Talk about yourself all the time when you meet new people at a party and you’re bound to be alone soon. I call it the 3-year-old syndrome. If you’ve had a 3-year-old (or ever been around one), you know what I mean. Three-year-olds are completely self-absorbed. I say that without malice. My kids were adorable at 3, and very young children are supposed to be self-absorbed. It’s how they survive. They need to get adults to do things for them. (Thank God, they are also incredibly cute.)
But the thing is most of us grow out of that, at least we should. For some reason, some people slip back into the terrible 3s on Twitter. (I know it’s usually called the Terrible 2s, but in my experience, 3-year-olds have it worse than 2-year-olds.) Resist the urge. Don’t regress. Grown-ups don’t do that.
Coming soon: My FourSquare etiquette rules.
What’s your Twitter pet peeve? What do you think of mine? Post a comment.