3000th Tweet: Twitter Do’s and Don’ts
The plan was to write in depth about the finer points of twitter usage and etiquette. But then I remembered, life’s too short. So instead, here’s my personal Twitter do’s and don’t's, with lots of examples, but not too much explanatory fluff.
- You can follow updates from your friends, but more intriguingly from celebs, musicians, sports teams, news organisations, writers, businesses, and lots of other interest groups.
- It’s specific to your interests. You spend a little time initially choosing the users you would like to follow, and their updates are the only ones you will see. You can remove them again or add others whenever you like.
- You only use it when you want to. If you treat it as an information feed about the things you are most interested in, and not as a way of communicating with friends etc, then you can happily ignore it until it suits you to have a look at the latest updates. 10% of the users on twitter create 90% of the content.
- It’s mobile. There are apps out there to allow most mobile phone users to access twitter on the move. A perfect distraction while you are in transit.
- It’s not onerous. When you connect with other users, they don’t have any information about you, except the info you update them with (if any). And just because you are reading their updates, you don’t have to allow them access to yours.
- It has other uses. If and when your friends do join twitter, its easy to message them directly, or reply to updates they have made. There’s also apps out there that allow you to post pics on twitter, or to post to twitter and facebook and other sites simultaneously. There are an estimated 50,000 apps available currently.
You probably noticed that I don’t actually have 10 reasons why you should use twitter. Well tough, I bet you didn’t need 10 reasons to get on facebook and look at you now. Keep on reading for how to get going and some suggested users to follow.
- The main similarity between facebook (FB) and twitter is the status updates. On twitter they are called tweets, so when you submit an update you are tweeting. Your updates appear on your homepage and also in the timeline of anyone who is following you (explained shortly).
- The first difference from FB is how you network with other users. When you sign up, you choose a username that represents you or what you will be tweeting about. So unlike FB, your identity is hidden unless you decide to tell people who you are. Similarly, you may know (of) the people you choose to Follow (like friends or celebrities), or not (somebody tweeting the latest footy scores). There is a small Bio box which you can use to put some info in, but that’s all really. No big FB style profile.
- You begin by finding and ‘Follow’ing other users that you are interested in. To find friends you can search manually or using your email account etc. To find celebs or interest groups or anything else you can search manually, look through suggested users, or find a twitter link on their homepage after googling them.
- Now you are Following some other users, you can view your Friends Timeline. This loads up all the latest tweets from people you Follow. There’s an art to choosing who to Follow. Some users never tweet, or only tweet at times you are unlikely to see them (esp. if they live in different time zones). Other users tweet all the time, or 8 times in a row, with nothing of any interest and will quickly annoy you! If this happens, you can choose to Leave them and you won’t see their tweets anymore. A lot of users tweet links, to photo’s, articles, videos and allsorts, which are elsewhere on the web.
- Some users automatically Follow anyone who is Following them. I think this is down to politeness if it isn’t someone you know personally. After all, you may want to Follow Stephen Fry (@stephenfry), Jimmy Carr (@jimmycarr) or Russell Brand (@rustyrockets) but I doubt they care less what you have to say. You can set your privacy settings to ‘protect my tweets’ and instead of people freely being able to Follow you, you get to Allow/Decline their request, which is nice.
- Now you are set up, time to make your first tweet. Tell the world of twitter something! ‘I have spilt cornflakes and milk on my laptop’. Yaaaay. Your tweet appears in the timeline of all your Followers and in the Public Timeline. If you have protected your tweets they won’t appear in the Public Timeline, and as twitter has hundreds of thousands of users, it’s mostly gibberish anyway!
- You can work the rest out yourself, bar a last few useful tips:
a. @username is the way users are referred to in twitter
b. Hash (#) followed by a phrase promotes the rise of that phrase to the top of ‘trend’ lists and from the twitter homepage you can click on these phrases to see the latest tweets on the topic e.g. #haiti
c. Some users trawl the Followers of others and Follow you hoping that you will then Follow them in return. They usually have nothing useful to tweet. You can Block them if they don’t take the Decline hint.
@stephenfry – The big funny fairy. Tweets about filming and funny observations.
@JohnCleese – doesn’t say much, a funny tweet once in a blue moon.
@eddieizzard – regular tweeter, inc updates when he ran ~20 marathons in a row!
@funnyordie – Will Ferrell and friends, with links to shits and giggles, literally.
@rustyrockets – occasional random outbursts of amusing drivel.
@jimmycarr – a few tweets a week of a general banter nature.
News and finance:
@financialtimes – tweeting links to their articles daily.
@The Economist – occasional tweet links to articles.
@nytimes – links to the NY Times articles daily.
@brandonbeckett – lots of tweets daily if you’re interested in business & finance.
@bbcworld – links to the latest world news headlines on the beeb website.
@BBCClick – The BBC tech blog, a few tweets a week to reviews and articles.
@guardiantech – The Guardian tech blog with the latest reviews and events.
@DownloadSquad – the latest software news and reviews. Random:
@jodrellbank – (the telescope) regular tweets when cosmic events are afoot!
@nabc_boxing – absolutely all the latest MMA and boxing news
@ev – mildly interesting tweets from one of twitters founders.
@Schwarzenegger – the governor of California, for shits and giggles.
Me: *my old account* – feel free to make friends, but I don’t bother tweeting myself anymore. I will follow you if we know each other.
[That's a barrell of laughs! I spend more time online now than the average web server. :/ ]
Now stand back. I’m going to prod the Tiger.
Do: Feel free to follow people so they follow you back.
One school of thought on twitter says you should only follow a few people you want to hear from, and if you work on creating a stream full of quality tweets then people will follow you of their own accord. It might be how the Twitter developers intended it to be used. But not everyone using twitter is there to represent themselves as an expert or a curator. Many twitter users want to promote a business or service (or blog) and connect with others. Just following someone doesn’t give the follower any benefit in their case.
Following new accounts or being followed by them first is a great way to discover other users that have similar interests to you. I regularly find new websites to read, bloggers to connect with and other interesting links, by paying attention to who I follow and follow-back. If you recognise that millions of other users out there joined Twitter with the same goals as you, and don’t think you are special, why ignore them when they try to connect?
Don’t: Automatically follow other users because they followed you.
Some twitter management apps (usually paid ones) automatically follow back anyone who follows your account. There’s a lot of spammers on twitter, and you don’t want them following you. They clog your tweet stream with dodgy links, there is nobody behind them paying attention to your tweet, and by following them back you make it possible for them to spam you with Direct Messages like these common beauties;
The best way to spot the spammers? Have a look at their tweets. Are they having real interactions with others? Does their account just retweet other users? Is it just an automated ‘inspirational quotes’ feed? Real people won’t have a an egg instead of a profile picture.
Do: Tell people they are spamming.
If you get a spam DM or tweet – let the user know! People often have no idea they are doing it, and mostly it’s because they authorised a dodgy application. All they have to do to rid themselves of Spamatitis B is unauthorise any apps it could have been, and change their password too just for best practice. It doesn’t always make a difference, like in the example pictured above (he’s lookin and he don’t see sh*t). If it is obviously a spam account and not an unwary user, then report it as spam.
Don’t: Use TrueTwit validation service.
A huge number of tweeters have signed up for the TrueTwat invalidation mis-service. What this means is that when someone follows them, it sends a message to that user linking to a validation page. Before the service auto-follows an account back, users have to either choose to validate every time they follow a TrueTwatter, or they can sign up themselves. This means you are auto-validated but also that everyone who then follows you will a) get an annoying DM, and b) has to either validate each new TrueTwit account they follow, or join the service too. It’s just a giant pyramid scheme with a massive flaw. If a spammer really wanted to, they can validate their accounts by hand with TrueTwerp too, and then guess what? You automatically follow them back. #Fail. It’s Twitter’s job to run their social network, and that includes limiting spam. They are working on it constantly and you really don’t need the help of TrueTwaddle. Especially when any user on twitter can DM you a link that looks like it’s from TrueTwit, but actually takes you to a harmful site. Duh.
Do: Use targeted search to find accounts that are likely to be good quality.
There’s lots of ways to find quality tweeters. You can look at lists created by other users you trust, find people you know of by searching twitter, and you can use apps that search for you. My firm favourite is Pluggio. It has lots of twitter management functions like integrated RSS feeds, the ability to track brand campaigns, use of bit.ly for your personal link shortening, scheduling and drip-feeding tweets, and of course a customisable search function that finds users fitting your criteria. I can specify accounts with minimum and maximum followers, within a certain distance of a location, who have tweeted in the last x days, and who have used keywords of my choice. Best of all, it produces a list of the people who don’t follow you back after y days, so you can choose to unfollow or keep following them.
Founded and developed by Justin, himself a frustrated tweeter, it’s pretty damn useful and the site also guides you on ways to build a relevant and engaged twitter following. I’ve tried other apps like TweetAdder and SocialOomph in the past, but they don’t give you as much functionality for free, so they fell by the wayside even though they are similar. I use the free version of Pluggio, but there are super-powered paid options for multiple account management and whatnot. It’s not perfect in every respect, but it’s a lot better than most twitter management apps and gets updated regularly.
Don’t: Use hashtags like #teamfollowback, #500aday or worse
Supposedly using these hashtags will get you a lot of followers, but it will almost entirely be spam accounts. 10,000 spam accounts following you might sound impressive, but you will get no return from them. Only real accounts will interact with you, retweet what they like and drive traffic in your direction. If I see an account with hashtags like #followme, #pharopromo and things like that in a tweet or in their bio, they get ignored and sometimes blocked. If you find you are getting a lot of spam accounts following you all at once, start blocking them and that will stem the flow. You probably ended up on some spammers automated list because you followed one of their many accounts. Avoid, avoid, avoid.
Do: Use hashtags for your interest areas
The argument against using hashtags (since twitter made all tweeting searchable) is that they are redundant unless you are following a campaign or event. I have to disagree! There are millions of users who use hashtags to highlight the subject topic they are talking about. If you are a fan of design, and want to connect to like-minded accounts, try searching for #design. You’ll find users who are actively engaged in daily discussion about all elements of design. From knowledgeable individuals, design companies or a tweeter that found a portfolio with a difference, to accounts reporting the latest design news and tutorials. You can of course be more specific with what you search for if you like.
If you just search the word ‘design’ then its a lot harder to find people tweeting with a purpose amongst all the chatter. You get results for anyone using the word design, any tweets at a person with ‘design’ in their twitter handle, and also more unrelated tweets from those same people with the word ‘design’ in their handle. Interestingly, when you do search twitter.com, the results it shows you first are the ‘Top’ tweets – and these are similar whether you use the hashtag or not. Viewing ‘All’ tweets shows more difference, but regardless, I still prefer to connect with people who use #hashtags to try and promote what they are talking about (and there’s plenty of them).
Don’t: DM or tweet to say thanks for following
A pet peeve of many people is getting a ‘pointless’ Direct Message. “Hi, thanks for following, I’m on facebook!”. Great, an automated response. These messages get annoying and of the 500 odd I’ve received, I’d say only 2 led me to further action. It is definitely a downside to the follow/followback school of thought. Thank you tweets are also the same. Don’t bother with them. If you are hoping to get to 100,000 followers for instance, do you really want to say thank you 100,000 times? Stop wasting your time and mine. We’ve had our initial connection by looking at each others account, make the next connection a meaningful one please. Sending a DM and simultaneously apologising for it is even more annoying.
Do: Be careful with your password and the apps you use
There are so many twitter management apps out there, and they all need you to authorise them with your account so they can do things on your behalf. There are also spam applications out there that will abuse your account, using it to send dodgy links in tweets and DM’s. Before you authorise an application to use your twitter account, make sure it’s reputable. Search the net for reviews about it, and also look to see if the permissions it is asking for are over the top. Most apps shouldn’t need the ability to send messages for you, unless it is something you are going to manage your communications through, like HootSuite, TweetDeck, Pluggio etc.
Don’t: Claim you have been hacked because you gave your password away
It’s widely accepted now that if someone was duped into giving their password away, they got hacked.
Various definitions on the net for hacking are;
- to use one’s skill in computer programming to gain illegal or unauthorized access to a file or network (here)
- a person who illegally gains access to and sometimes tampers with information in a computer system (here)
- gain unauthorized access to data in a system or computer (here)
Developer groups also regularly get together to ‘hack’ applications to see what new and useful functions they can give them, adding and removing code from programs. But when someone on twitter says ‘I got hacked’ – hmm. Disagree. How? By authorising a dodgy program or giving your password away? True hacking of anything takes skill, time and effort, none of which was used to ‘hack’ that twitter account. You just got fooled. How about this video from last year for an example of real hackers? Skillful, with purpose, and somewhat scary;
**Between starting this post and publishing it, my original no-longer-in-use twitter account was compromised and used to send a couple of spam tweets! It has a massive 4 followers because I was protecting my tweets and only connecting with friends from reality. I haven’t logged in for months, and the only authorised apps were: HootSuite, Pluggio, and Twitter for Android. So I think I got hacked! On a side note, well done Fate. Your timing never ceases to amaze me.
Do: Use Twitter lists.
You can create a list of users on twitter for your own purposes, and you can create as many lists as you like, which makes seeing tweets from the multitude of people you follow easier. You can also include people you don’t follow in lists, so it’s handy no matter how you use twitter. I’m guilty of not using this feature of twitter enough, but it’s on my To Do list. I didn’t find creating/managing them efficient in the past, so stopped. Here’s a couple of examples that need some attention, the first one even includes people I’ve met and am friends with;
- TeamNFB - ‘People I would follow if they followed back. But they don’t.’
- possiblementalproblems - ‘Tweets or bios that deserve medical investigation.’
Pluggio has an updated List management section which I’ll be checking out shortly. FormuLists had a good reputation for creating lists but have ceased providing the service! Helpfully, their homepage now links to several other twitter management apps that help with lists too.
Don’t: Have the worst Bio in the world, or follow automated feeds…
…or follow Redgage users or anyone who mentions the word Etsy or… et cetera. These twitter pariah’s are like a passive form of spam. They set their account up, plug it into some service that tweets regularly for them and don’t use twitter as a social network, just a promotion tool. As for the worst Bio in the world, that might include profiles consisting entirely of links, profiles with nothing written at all, or in the very worst cases – profiles that confess to over-enthusiastic worshipping. That could mean they love #GaGa, are a fully fledged god head, or the absolute most dire example available - they are a #Belieber. Oh dear. Save our souls…
Do: Make up your own strategy.
You know why you have a twitter account and what you want to get out of it, so have a good read and make your own mind up about what is going to get you the best results. When I first started using Twitter it was just for fun. I followed 75 accounts, and basically used it as a source of news and entertainment if I was extremely out of things to do. My tweets were only for my amusement, and after getting random spam followers (picture of girl, following 1000 people, no followers, no tweets, bio links to a porn site…) I found it easier to protect my account and ignore new followers unless I knew them personally. Now I use Twitter differently for a completely different purpose.
There are lots of different opinions about how to use social media, and we all know what opinions are like. I reserve the right to change mine whenever I fancy, as should you, especially as the networks themselves change how they operate regularly. As long as your results from social media justify the means, then crack on. Best practices be damned, there are always exceptions. Why you are using Twitter will ultimately dictate how you use it.
But before you go, just one last opinion, this time on Instagram;
Don’t: Post ‘Selfies’
Unless your self-photo is artistic, scenic, or interesting on some other photographic level, it’s probably not for instagram. Instagram is more like Twitter than facebook, because you can easily follow complete strangers to see content you are interested in, and vice versa. And it’s supposed to be about (mobile) photography isn’t it? The same can’t be said about all photos. A crap picture of yourself is not about photography, just like a post-it note telling me there’s chicken in the fridge is not about writing. Please stop.
If you’d like to ‘join the conversation’ then why not send me a tweet? Or if you’re old school, you can still leave a comment below. Well done for getting this far!