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5 Ways to be a Better Twitter Citizen

There are no set “rules” on Twitter. However, there are certainly some unspoken truths that the majority of us try to abide by. This post is a reminder to some and a plea to others…Don’t be a Twitter Whale Fail!

When I’m not tweeting from the Food Bloggers of Canada account (FoodBloggersCA), you’ll probably find me tweeting from my personal account of EthanAdeland. I am by no means a Twitter expert, but I do have 27,217 tweets (and counting) to my name. If you’re shaking your head in awe of me hitting “submit” that many times to send out a tweet, I’m right with you and I’m shaking my own head at myself! However, not only do I tweet, I listen, read, observe and interact with people online. Twitter isn’t about shouting and self-promotion, it’s about sharing and conversing. Sadly, I don’t think everyone gets that distinction.

I certainly have some work of my own to do with Twitter as each day something new is arises. I’d be the first to admit there is a difference between tweeting from a personal account (my own) and a company account (FBC). And yet, there are still some fundamental basics that should be observed. With that said, I feel confident that I have a pretty solid grasp on what is wrong, what is very wrong and what is “unfollow” worthy behaviour.

1 – Easy does it on the RT

You’ve tweeted some very clever or your latest blog post and multiple followers of yours have retweeted it. You’re ecstatic, you want to thank each and every one of them, so you retweet their retweet with a “Thank you” again and again.

Whoa! Do you know what you’ve done? Let’s have a look. You’ve essentially spammed everyone who follows you since there is now a huge stream of you retweeting your blog post again and again.

This tells me one of two things. You have no problem with shameless self-promotion and/or you have no regard for your followers and their Twitter stream since you’ve totally clogged it up. Quite honestly, I’m not even sure which one is worse.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done this myself on occasion, especially early on in my Twitter “career.” Maybe someone you admire retweeted it and you’re all giddy about it, that’s totally acceptable and understandable. We were all raised to thank people, so I get it, but there are other ways to go about it without shoving people’s face into it. Putting together a tweet of all the people who retweeted it with a “thank you” is certainly one route and you’re still accomplishing the goal of thanking them.

2 – If used properly, #FollowFriday has great value

#FollowFriday (or #FF) is a chance to acknowledge people on Twitter who you deem worthy of a “follow.” The idea is share that with your followers and give a tip of the cap to that particular person so that others could follow that person. Somewhere along the line, #FF turned into jamming as many people as possible into 140 characters and it lost all its value.

When these pop up in my Twitter stream, I mostly shake my head. I simply have no idea what potential value these #FF people offer me because no explanation has been given. I am certainly not going to automatically follow 7-8 people just because. I’m sure the thought was there, but if no reasoning has been given as to why I should follow that person, why am I bothering?

When I first joined Twitter, I had no idea what #FF was to begin with. When I eventually figured it out, I too did just this. I threw a bunch of names in a tweet and added an #FF and called it a day. But eventually I learned that there is so much more value and the potential to build connections and friendships when you send out specific #FF tweets to specific people. I use every Friday to give a shout-out to someone that I may have chatted with during the week or made me laugh. Actually, this past Friday, I used it simply to say “hello” to some Twitter friends I hadn’t spoken with in a while. I showed them a little Twitter love, they responded with a “hi” back and we all went about our daily lives with a smile on our collective faces.

3 – Be mindful of who and how you #FF

Ok, so let’s be honest, we’re not changing the world in a day. So people will continue to cram a bunch of names into a #FF tweet and click “send.” Again, I get it, someone has put your name in a tweet and you’re all giddy about it. The immediate reaction is to retweet it out with a “thank you!” which includes everyone from the original tweet.

Whoa again! Let’s rewind and go through what you’re actually doing. These people you’ve been crammed in a tweet with, you may or may not know them and you may or may not follow them. So should you really be throwing a tweet out there like that? Right or wrong, when I see that, I think to myself it’s a tweeter that doesn’t care about what they put out there.

About a year ago, I had been included in one of those big #FF tweets and in that mix was a celebrity chef who follows about 100 people. Next thing I knew, he (still not saying who) retweeted it with a “thank you” to the person who initiated it and included everyone in it. I won’t deny it, I got all excited and checked for new followers and of course, he wasn’t one of them.

Long story short, be mindful of how you retweet and who you retweet.

4 – Auto DM’s should be punishable by public hanging

Well, I think the title of this one is pretty self-explanatory, but let’s have a closer look. An automatic DM (direct message) is something that you could potentially receive upon following someone. The person who has set it up says something along the lines of “Hi, thanks for following” or “Check out my site blah blah blah.” Thankfully, most people know it’s irritating and don’t have it set up. However, every now and then, I receive one and ironically it’s usually someone who is a self-proclaimed “social media expert.” Total fail.

When I first began on Twitter, I was so shocked that people were following me that I sent personalized welcome direct messages to them. Obviously, time is a serious commitment with something like that and it could only last for so long. But if you want to make a great first impression, take the time to go through someone’s Twitter stream, blog, etc and say hi with meaning. It’ll go a long way.

5 – Please spare us every detail of your weekend

I’m guilty of this one, but I try to limit it as much as I can. Twitter isn’t meant to replace texting, instant messaging or shouting over the backyard fence. That’s why those things still exist. Personal conversation, even if they aren’t racy and juicy should be personal. A Twitter stream should not include…

Hi, how was your weekend?
OMG, it was so good, how was yours?
Oh, we went to the cottage, little Bobby caught a salmon!
They grow up so fast, don’t they?

Direct message, e-mail, text, tin can and a string, a letter or a phone call are all better alternatives than sharing this with the world.

I said it at the top and I’ll say it again, I am no Twitter expert. Aside from auto DM-ing, I’m guilty of committing all these unwritten rules in my 2+ years being on Twitter, so I write this post as much as a reminder to myself as to others. As for those who haven’t given these points much thought to date, please do.

I leave you with this final thought. I’ve heard of a rumor that every time an auto DM is sent, a unicorn dies.

This article was written by Ethan Adeland, co-founder of FBC and author of Feeding Ethan.  He is a writer, iPhone picture-snapper, traveler and experimenter in the kitchen.  He currently resides in Vancouver, BC.  Twitter: @EthanAdeland

FBC Editors Note – No unicorns are ever harmed in any of the FBC social media activities.

14 Responses to 5 Ways to be a Better Twitter Citizen

  1. Marie Porter March 21, 2012 at 9:02 am #

    Agreed on all accounts. Also on my list:

    - Foursquare. OMG I do NOT need my stream flooded with “check in to X gas station”!

    - People who only broadcast. Twitter’s supposed to be about conversation.

    - Text speak. It is NOT that difficult to say something coherent in the character length provided!

    - Paper.li tweets. I can’t even explain why, but “The ____ Daily is out!” annoys the piss out of me.

  2. Móna Wise March 21, 2012 at 9:13 am #

    It took me ages to figure out the FF on Twitter too and I still do not like it for all the reasons you listed. Great piece here – I am off to find and follow you!

  3. Ayngelina March 21, 2012 at 10:13 am #

    Ooh Foursquare and Paper.li are good additions.

    I hate people who RT the #FF and also in my case #TT (travel Tuesdays), it has gotten so bad I don’t participate in either anymore.

  4. Paula March 21, 2012 at 11:00 am #

    This is a great post Ethan. A good refresher course for sure.

  5. Cassie March 21, 2012 at 11:03 am #

    Great article! I still have lots of learning to do but I agree with your points, and with Marie’s above. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Tara March 21, 2012 at 11:05 am #

    Thanks for this post! I read all I can on using Twitter effectively. Trying to not just use it to say “come look at our blog! Like right now!!!”

    On the subject of RT to say thanks for RT do you mean reply? – is that the same or different? I will reply and say thanks but not RT. And only once. There are people doing it a bunch of times?? Why? ;)

  7. Ashley March 21, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

    Another thing that really gets me is poorly timed, scheduled tweets and over using the auto-tweet feature. Clinique did this recently when they auto-tweeted approx. 80 tweets in a row! UNFOLLOW!

  8. Redawna March 21, 2012 at 6:16 pm #

    I have also done some of the above but have since reigned myself in and try and give thought to most things I put out on Twitter.

    The habitual RT’ers are what get me the most.

    Great post Ethan!

  9. Dan @ Dan's Good Side March 22, 2012 at 12:57 am #

    These are all of the things that I think, but was afraid to say out loud! Ha, ha, ha. Especially the play-by-play weekend tweets. Unless you’re the coolest person in the world (i.e. Lindsay Lohan), I don’t want to hear about it.

  10. Liliana March 22, 2012 at 11:05 am #

    Great post Ethan! I learned a few things about Twitter. I did retweet a thank you once because I actually didn’t know what I really was doing. Now I do. Thanks.

  11. Marian (Sweetopia) March 23, 2012 at 3:36 pm #

    Ethan, this was fabulous! Thank you so much for the twitter education – goodness knows I need it, as I’m guilty of almost every one on there (except for 4).

  12. Kim Bee March 26, 2012 at 8:09 pm #

    You’ve opened my eyes and let’s be honest I don’t want any more unicorns to die so I shall rethink my twitter habits. Thanks Ethan.

  13. Heather Rhymes March 28, 2012 at 9:45 pm #

    I am still debating whether or not to Tweet, but I keep reading Twitter Citizen as Twitizen. I thought it was funny, and may start up on Twitter if I can indeed call myself a Twitizen. Thanks for the interesting read!

  14. Mushrooms Canada September 18, 2012 at 9:37 am #

    A great guide through the frustrations of Twitter! Thanks for sharing Ethan and keeping us all mindful of bad habits ;)

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