Why I love to hate Twitter etiquette
For me it comes down to WHY, why you are on _________ (← add social network there).
I joined Twitter a few years back just to check it out and I got amazed by the content. Then it hit me “wow, people actually live in here!”. I feel that this is one little detail we tend to forget, that behind the tweet there is a person. So it turns out that, apart from the structural 140 characters rules, Twitter interaction rules also exist, what you would call (freaking) “Twitter etiquette”.
This is the post I get to nag about Twitter’s unwritten rules and how we end up caring about numbers more that people.
1. Following back
There seems to be an invisible rule that says “you have to follow everyone back”. I was unaware of that rule (or just willingly ignoring it) and mostly sticking to the “why”. Content that is. So every time I am faced with a Twitter profile who just followed me I check their tweets. I mean that should be my main objective right? Interesting content. No, it’s not going to be that easy…
Problem — Get distracted by numbers
User has a huge following. Who am I not to follow back someone like Guy Kawasaki? (Now, Mr Kawasaki is just an example of a huge Twitter personality. -P.S. Mr Kawasaki, I would follow back, I promise! Oh wait, I follow you already!) Guy followed tiny me and I find absolutely no reason (in content terms) to follow back. What happens in these cases is a “guilty follow back”. Or if I am feeling very brave a “no follow back”. I mean, if I am not interested in what you tweet, why should I follow you?
Disclaimer: I ♥ Guy Kawasaki
2. Thanking everyone
Another great invisible rule. You have to thank everyone who favorites, retweets or follows you. I have seen Twitter profiles full of “thank you”s. Makes me wonder “what is this person thanking everyone for, I can’t see any content, what are all those people retweeting?” Aha! That could be invisible content! Brilliant!
Now, I truly believe in showing gratitude and sharing the love. But when it becomes a rule, it looses its value.
3. Direct message fail
Be honest now, when you get a DM notification right after you followed someone, don’t you just know it’s going to be promotional? Another Twitter trend that gets more and more annoying.
My friend, we ‘ve just met, don’t try to sell me stuff!
Recently I had a fine example of such kind. I followed back someone and then I got your typical promotional DM. When those DMs are subtle I usually answer something like “thanks for the info I ‘ll look into that”. Well, that DM was NOT subtle so I didn’t answer. What happened next? I got a tweet with that exact promotional message… And when you think there is no escape it hits you, there’s “unfollow”! And so I did.
— Promotional fail —
I have to say though, there is a way to pull this off successfully. Rebel Mouse made me believe it. Once I followed them, I got a DM saying the typical “nice to meet you” and (better take a seat) “I love your cows”! I know it doesn’t make sence but I used to paint cows and had a timeline picture of them. Of course I appreciated Rebel Mouse, they made my day, it felt like I was actually talking to human being. We got to chat a bit and they suggested I took a look at their blog. And you know what, I clicked that link, cause it was personal, cause I know I was actually talking to someone, that link felt like a clean suggestion that I would find interesting, I may as well check it.
What makes Twitter tough in this weird way is the fact that we forget that there are people behind those handles. We act like bots since we judge by numbers (followers, retweets). But if we put numbers aside, Twitter’s value is priceless, a pool of interesting people eager to exchange ideas, tips and resources.
All it takes is caring. Take time to read a few tweets, time to visit people’s profiles, explore and get the conversations started. Be open to new ideas and open to share knowledge and tips, in a genuine way. When people feel that you actually refer to them as individuals, they will respond. And then the possibilities are infinite, 646 Millions* to be more precise!
♠ What is your relationship with Twitter? ♠