Because it’s just a messaging platform, Twitter is far less complex than Facebook. Nevertheless, misuse and abuse seem at least as common on the former as on the latter. Some of our favorite Twitter etiquette rules follow.
Live-tweeting sporting events or conference speeches may seem like a public service, but who’s listening? If you normally use Twitter to post once-a-week status updates but then abruptly let fly with 80 tweets in a day, you’ll aggravate followers who aren’t expecting their account to be inundated by your sudden outpouring. Consider composing a blog post instead, or offer a single succinct observation each hour.
Understand @ replies
Twitter’s biggest failing is its inability to organize conversations; and in this regard, overuse of @ replies can be extremely confusing to your followers. The proper time for an @ reply is when you’re adding to a conversation publicly, preferably with a tweet that can stand (more or less) on its own. “@bob – Yeah I know” is a waste of everyone’s time. For simple responses, use a D message (direct message) instead.
Go easy on the acronyms
Twitter was designed for cell phones, but your iPhone has a full QWERTY keyboard, so there’s no need for the abbrevo-speak unless you are severely crunched for space or really are a kid. (It is true that fitting tweets into a single message is a polite and admirable practice.) Also, no matter how many people fail to take it seriously, spelling still counts on Twitter.
Think about the venue
As one reporter learned, it’s not okay to Twitter a funeral. Twittering during a solemn ceremony (wedding, briss, court proceeding) is generally a no-no. If you’re unsure whether a tweet or two is permissible, check with the event’s host. Be prepared to receive a funny look in response, though.
Expect up-to-the-minute spoilers
Since Twitter concentrates on the current moment, it is unreasonable to expect tweeters to suppress or censor their comments for fear of spoiling a surprise. Users should simply avoid the medium if they don’t want to know the outcome of a sporting event or the ending to a movie.
Don’t worry about following followers
In Twitter’s early days, it was commonplace for all users to follow anyone who followed them, regardless of whether they had anything interesting or relevant to say. But Twitter has gotten too large for this, and Twitter long ago disabled the account option that let tweeters automatically reciprocate when someone chose to follow them. Today reciprocating a Twitter follow is strictly voluntary, and there is no discourtesy in choosing not to; still, it’s a good idea to look at the follower’s profile before you decide.
When you want to rebroadcast (or retweet) someone’s post, the proper thing to do is add “RT @username” as a prefix to the message. Occasionally, though, you’ll find you exceed Twitter’s 140 character limit when you do. The recommended course is to meet the character limit by truncating the end of the message. It is also acceptable to edit the tweet as needed to fit, while retaining as much of the language of the original as possible.
Mind the plugs
If your feed consists of nothing but plugs for yourself and your work, most of your followers will unsubscribe. Exceptions exist for automated news-feed services (like @cnnbrk), which function more as the voice of a site than as a means for a person to share thoughts.
Don’t forget: Unlike a Facebook update, a Twitter post can be read by anyone. If you don’t like the implications of this situation, either don’t use the service or set your updates as protected (though some might argue this largely defeats the purpose of Twitter).