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Twitter Etiquette: In A Little More Than 140 Characters

Twitter Etiquette: In A Little More Than 140 Characters

December 19, 2011

Hello. My Name Is Jamie And I Am A Twitter Addict.

I want to be upfront with you: I’ll admit it, I’m a bit of a Twitter snob. I don’t mean to be. It’s just that I use the service so often and can’t help but see what’s wrong with it, or how people are misusing it. Sure, one will use the service as one sees fit; there isn’t just one way to Twitter. My problem is with the increasing number of new Twitter users who know not what they do, or even veterans who still don’t completely understand the ins and outs of Twitterland. There are a lot of new users every day, especially since Twitter is trying to make itself even easier to use. I’ll try my best to educate you and not bash you over the head with my snobbery, though. Bear with me, folks, and allow me to bestow some Twitter wisdom upon you, some “Twitter etiquette” if you will. These are just some tips and social graces from which we all could benefit.

Retweeting 101: Mind Your R’s And T’s

What is a retweet and how does it work? A retweet is a way to share a tweet by someone else that you find informative, humorous, or simply worthy of a share. Retweeting someone is your way of saying, “I want to share this tweet (or this person) with you, my followers.” There are two types of retweets — three if you count quoting a tweet as a retweet, but I don’t suggest doing that. The initial way to retweet, or share a tweet from another with your own followers, is to just copy and paste someone’s tweet, and add the letters “RT” in front of the person’s name, prefacing the tweet (see example below). Then, Twitter implemented the “new retweet.” This was the best idea they ever had. Pure genius. Simply tap the retweet button (the arrows forming a square: see image below) and, like magic, you will be able to share this tweet (or “toot” — thanks, Merlin Mann) with your followers. Luckily, the new way of retweeting is fully implemented into most Twitter clients (Twitter for Mac), even mobile ones (e.g., Tweetbot, Twitter for iPhone). This makes it extremely easy for you to retweet the right way and share these tweets and people with your followers. What’s the difference? Why does it matter which way I do it? Both ways have the person’s name, so they get credit. If you retweet the “old way,” not only will you clog up the person’s mentions (old RTs show up in their @replies), but guess what? Although it will mention the person’s name, in your timeline (and others’ timelines) it will show your name and your avatar, not the original author’s, creating the façade that it’s your tweet. Plus, there is always Favstar to consider. The author doesn’t get credit on Favstar for old retweets, only “favorites” and new retweets. Vain? Yes. I always refer to Twitter as the most narcissistic of all social networks. If you utilize the new retweet system, it will show the original author’s avatar in your timeline, but have an nonintrusive retweet icon and “by [your username]” underneath it. See? This way, the person who said the tweet is being shared properly, not buried and lost beneath multiple RTs and quotes and vias, like this guy did (though I definitely deserved this one — thanks, Jeff): In the above tweet, I quoted a tweet that was retweeted the old way. Because it was funny, he actually used the old retweet properly. He needed the context. However, I used the quotes improperly as I had nothing at all to add. This may bring up the backwards logic of retweeting: “Read the last part of the tweet before the first part.” Confusing, huh? Well, that’s the way it works in the Twitterverse.

The Rule Of Three

But what if you have something to say about the tweet, and you want your followers to see, not only the tweet, but your response? That’s fine. There are situations where the old retweet style makes perfect sense. The easy way to figure out whether or not it’s appropriate to use the old retweet is to ask yourself three questions: 1) “Do I have a relevant comment to add to this tweet?” If yes, then: 2) “Do I need the context of the other person’s tweet so my followers know what I’m referring to?” If you think so, then: 3) “Does everyone else need to read my comment, or should I just retweet and @reply the person with my comment?” If you have a legitimate comment, it’s perfectly proper to use an old style retweet to get your point across. But be careful with what you think is legitimate. For example, I see a lot of old retweets like this: Don’t use an old style retweet just to add “This” or “Lol this is funny!” to the tweet. If you truly think it’s funny, or if you value the information, use a new retweet. The new retweet will show the author you appreciate the information they posted, or thought their tweet was hilarious. And, trust me, the author of the tweet will thank you for using proper Twitter etiquette. Retweets can even act in place of #FollowFriday. The #FollowFriday or #FF hashtags on Twitter were implemented as a tool to help your followers find new people to follow … on Fridays. But, instead of explaining how to properly #FF, I’ll leave that to the expert. It’s not just about sharing ideas, links, and LOLCATS; it’s about sharing people. That’s what Twitter does best and we should try to keep this in mind as we navigate the Twitterverse. And about navigating Twitter, please be sure to introduce yourself when following someone — that is, if you want them to get to know you and, in turn, follow you back. Tell them why you decided to follow, but most of all just say hello.

Nobody Likes An Over-Sharer

It can be pretty tempting to link services like Foursquare, GetGlue, and Nike+ GPS to your Twitter account. However, most people should think before using these automated services and having them update their social networks for them. Just as I touched on with retweeting, you should ask yourself the golden question: “Does everyone else really need to read this?” Sure, it’s okay to share with your followers where you are and what you’re doing, but there comes a point when sharing becomes over-sharing. And nobody likes an over-sharer. If a person looks at another’s Twitter account, and it is just a stream of these updates — Foursquare, GetGlue,, and any other such automated vomit — they probably won’t want to follow that person. I don’t know about you, but I am a part of Twitter to engage with interesting people who have thoughts of their own; I don’t want to follow a bunch of robots. The spambots do enough botting for everyone.

A Toast To Twitter Manners

To end this long post, I leave you with my dinner party analogy from this episode of The Dock Podcast from which this post was partially inspired: Twitter is like a dinner party. Sure, you can show up wearing whatever you want, but it would be nice to look your best and introduce yourself. Yeah, you could slurp your soup and eat with your hands, but hey! Guess what? You look like a slob and no one will invite you to the next party. Thank you for allowing me to get on my soapbox about Twitter for a little while. I just wanted to share my thoughts and tips with you. So, thank you for listening; I hope you learned something. Now, tell me: What are your Twitter pet peeves? What social media etiquette do you practice?

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