Wednesday, July 21

Shak's Rules of Twitter

I love Twitter. I like the immediacy, the API and content orientation, the fact that it forces me and those I follow not to waffle. In fact I'd say one of the major reasons I'm no longer outputting stuff here like I used to is because most of that content has moved to Twitter.

However, as with most things the popularity of Twitter seems to have come around and bitten it in the behind. That's right, I'm talking about those people who don't quite realise the point of the technology, those who see it as merely typing into a box or simply clicking a retweet button without thinking of the meaning and power behind those actions.

The main thing people forget is that their content on Twitter should be always be follower-centric rather than anything else. Your content should be about your audience as a whole, and not just one person in particular or even yourself. In this way, it's very much like a blog and very different to email or IM. If you still don't get it, allow me to just list some fundamental rules that, if you choose to follow, will automatically bring you into harmony with Twitter and what it actually stands for.

  1. Don't extend tweets. If you're finding that 160 characters are too few for you to get your message across, then write a blog post.
  2. Similarly, do not follow up or reply to your own tweets. Write a blog instead.
  3. Don't converse. It's extremely unlikely that anyone cares what you and another tweeter is talking about past the first witty @reply to an original tweet. And unlike with FB and gBuzz, everyone becomes part of your conversation whether they like it or not (why hasn't anyone released a Twitter-conversation application yet?). My rule of thumb? Never @reply to an @reply. If you really must, consider using DM, email, IM or even the phone instead. Crazy, I know.
  4. Don't make up hashtags to convey sarcasm. The power of hashtags is in how everyone uses the same ones - unique and disposable hashtags are useless. Try to actually, you know, say what you mean instead of implying it.
  5. Don't abuse retweet. RT stuff you think your followers will find interesting, not what you alone do because of a particular context. Definitely do NOT RT the requests of other people - this is pretty tantamount to spamming your followers.
  6. Don't announce small talk in order to absolve yourself of responsibility. Twitter is NOT for wishing people a good morning, each and every morning. Set up an automated scheduled email if you want to do that. Better still, wish whom you want to a good morning personally. Yes that would take time... but then they're worth the effort, aren't they?
  7. Don't use Twitter as a glorified distribution list. If you want to tell five people that a meeting is about to start, try emailing them instead.
  8. Don't use Twitter to create plausible deniability. You obviously want a single person to know it's them (and only them) you're talking about with your generic messages, so stop being a pussy, save the rest of us some embarrassment and just tell them directly
  9. Don't fish for random conversation. If you're bored, go post on 4chan.
  10. Don't announce new blog posts, photos, music trends, running times, gamerscores etc, and don't let third parties do it for you either. These things should have been made publicly available in their own right, and interested parties will already know about them via rss or some other delivery mechanism. Tweets regarding how to initially find stuff are okay, but not each and every time.
  11. Don't me-too. You wouldn't go out of your way in real life to publicly congratulate, thank or best wish someone, and you look equally naff when you do it online.
  12. Don't use Twitter to disseminate common knowledge. We already know what day it is, and can figure out how many weeks it is till Christmas; we don't need you to remind us.
There's probably more, so I'll be updating this as time goes on.

As always feel free to ignore me or accuse me of being uptight and a spoilsport. You see, the other great thing about Twitter is that you can easily unfollow people with a click of a button; but when Twitter eventually implements karma you'll all see how right I am anyway.


  1. also if you have an account for some official reason then don't post your personal crap on it, get a separate personal account

    I follow one guy that runs a cisco networking website and he's always tweeting crap about his south american girlfriend.

  2. It's strange, I've never been interested in following anyone in an official capacity. I mean take your Cisco guy - what could he possibly tweet about that you wouldn't already know, assuming you've already subscribed to the relevant news feed?

  3. > Your content should be about your audience as a whole, and not just one person in particular or even yourself.

    I dont even follow that on my blog :O

    Good morning Shak.

  4. Blogs are different, in that they're less invasive. Plus you have more space to make a post about you interesting.