20 things you shouldn’t do on Twitter

I do like Twitter. I use it every day to learn, to broadcast, to share and to enjoy.

But Christ it can be annoying. To an extent this is the same with any new platform – familiarity breeds contempt after all – and in these times of decreasing attention spans and tolerances it’s easy to get hacked off by simple, and essentially inoffensive, things.

I think there are a number of things that apply across the board on Twitter that are annoying or inappropriate in most cases – particularly if you blur your social life with your professional life on Twitter, which I’d guess a majority do.


I’ve personally met about ten per cent of the people who follow me, and unless you’ve met someone in person I think you need to reflect on whether your Twitter followers want to hear about your personal life, sex life or toilet habits.

The banalities of your exercise regimen, diet, daily routines, coffee preferences and fluctuating mood are hardly of interest to anyone either – do it on Facebook if you must do it, at least those people know you personally.

Different, but just as inappropriate, is ignoring netiquette – that series of fluid and informal rules that just make the web a nicer place to be. They apply to Twitter too, just in subtly different ways.

None of this is a catch-all; not all of it will apply to everyone; and I probably indulge in a few myself. Nor am I setting myself up as some kind of expert, or arbiter of how to behave on Twitter.

I’m just someone who uses Twitter a lot and gets irritated easily, so I reckon the following list of what not to do on Twitter will serve most people well.

It won’t help you get 10,000 followers, but it might stop you looking like a bit of a dick.

20 things you shouldn’t do on Twitter

• Don’t DM unless you have a good reason – or you know someone personally

• Don’t set up an automated DM to new followers – sheer, pointless irritation

• Don’t announce you’re about to unfollow a load of people before you do – it’s pretty offensive to those about to be unfollowed

• Don’t unfollow genuine friends, no matter how annoying – it’ll bite you on the arse

• Don’t furiously live blog events you’re watching – keep it to a reasonable frequency

• Don’t set up a feed to churn out more than one link at a time – modify your application to spread them out

• Don’t automate more than a handful of tweets a day – you’ll get unfollowed

• Don’t tweet about your sex life or personal life – or apply a little common sense

• Don’t tweet random banal headlines – other people know how to use the internet for themselves

• Don’t ignore your followers – you’ve got to follow at least some people

• Don’t simply tweet your inventory if you’re selling something – it’s pointless

• Don’t slag off people you know – this isn’t Bebo

• Don’t slag of organisations you may work for or with – that tweet could come back to haunt you

• Don’t post orphaned links – no-one knows where they may go. That’s annoying

• Don’t post NSFW links, unless properly highlighted – even then, don’t (probably)

• Don’t use caps – it’s ANNOYING

• Don’t ask for followers or RTs – by and large

• Don’t cross-post between social networks – it’s a wild goose chase for everyone involved

• Don’t overdo services like Ping.fm that send out the same message to a number of platforms. What’s right for Facebook may not be right for Twitter

• Don’t be a dick – what’s true for the real world is true for the virtual

Feel free to let me know if I missed any obvious ones out below

You should follow me on Twitter at RobinBrown78

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12 thoughts on “20 things you shouldn’t do on Twitter

  1. Don’t take it too seriously, it is after all, not that. Taking things seriously always leads to disappointment.

    Don’t pass judgement on how others behave, those who think they know how to behave are usually narrow minded with a rigid viewpoint and tend to be useless people.

    Netiquette is a nice idea but the pioneers of the Internet are a small minority who have had their dream turned into a nightmare. The Internet, including Twitter, reflect life as it is.

    Most people grow by making mistakes, allow people to make their mistakes. You will never be a full person if you rely on others to tell you what to do.

    Hmmmm…. I guess that will do for now.

  2. “Don’t ask for followers or RTs – by and large”

    5 sentences later…

    “You should follow me on Twitter at RobinBrown78”

  3. Guys – you’ve both missed some fairly important elements of the article

    Brian – I went out of the way to explain that this was not proscriptive. Thanks for the vivid description of a netiquette dream turned into a nightmare though.

    Johnathan – Yeah, don’t ask for followers – on Twitter. This is my blog, where I assume visitors have at least a modicum of interest in me or what I’m saying as they’ve bothered to turn up here in the first place.

    • Your welcome,

      I was one of those early pioneers of the Internet. I was the R&D Mgr and the Business Dev Mgr for Britains first ISP, CIX. (or maybe second). I say this not to blow my own trumpet but because I have worked with this technology since 1983. Most of the issues and thoughts about what the impact of the Internet is or what it is etc. etc. is old hat to me. I wrote to PRS in the early 90’s about their business model, legal issues etc. etc. I am still waiting for their reply.

      I don’t take Twitter too seriously (I helped design such a system in the 80’s), I have observed all of these forms of communication that have evolved over the last 26 years. It is not reliable enough to be taken seriouly but it can be intersting and good fun.
      And I know people who have met and married folks, made best friends etc. and so it simply expands peoples opportunities to meet and communicate with others.

      Everyone searchs for a new way to package the ability to communicate and be informed. It is still a bit of a frontier and creativity often wins out. I expect to see other methods that will catch on. Most, if not all, of the methods that I defined in the companies business plan in the 80’s have come about.

      There are still some areas in user interface design that are yet to be delivered. Browser technology was seriously backward, there were other solutions that couldn’t compete with Mosaic etc. because of the critical mass it and HTTP achieved and achieved in a short period of time. Ted Nelson was the man who defined for me, I know others at that time, but we used his book “Dream Machines” as a road map for development. Berners lee had a real problem of managing diverse data and came up with a way to resolve it. Both HTTP and browsers have held the Internet back, along with access to hi-speed connectivity. Its gets better but much of the framework should have been in place from the beginning but to be fair the speed of growth overwhelmed it.

      At CIX we had an annual BBQ and *all* of the customers were invited. They got free food and a free pint. We had over 15,0000 customers, that was the spirit of the on-line community in those days and I think still exists today to some degree.

      Any way I’ve gone on enough, I don’t normally bother commenting any more, I’ve heard most of it all before and can’t imagine that what I have to say is has any more value than that of others.

      There really isn’t anything new, you have to do old things in a new way.



  4. Good points Robin, I agree there is so much annoying behaviour on Twitter.

    You could have added: don’t tweet about coffee, a widespread affliction, as in: “gee I really like coffee…” or excercise, as in “can’t believe I just ran 25 miles before 7am, can’t wait to start the day.”

    But the trouble with the ‘don’t be a dick’ part is that people do fall out. I’ve certainly had my run-ins with people, most of which were misunderstandings that were resolved afterwards.

  5. I’d have to agree with most of what you say above Robin.

    Although I’ve been using twitter for a number of months it still feels relativly new to me and most of the things I tweet tend to be a little personal – its as annoying to me as it is to my followers I’m sure – but then as far as I can see, thats kind of the point.

    The thing I loath the most is the follow/follow trend. As a result of it its very difficult to know who is following you because they like what you say or who is just aiming to beef up the followers list/ego.

  6. Andy – don’t think there’s any problem with ‘personal’ tweets, per se. I just think some people forget that they’re essentially broadcasting their thoughts to the entire world sometimes, including people they’ve largely never met.

    • We do that all the time though, don’t we. And I don’t know about you, but I seriously doubt many or indeed any of the people who follow me on twitter actually ‘read’ my tweets. I certainly let my eyes slide over most of the updates from people I follow apart from the people I know or ‘know’ most of the time. I often miss tweets from those people too since I don’t backtrack and check old tweets form when I’m offline.

      I probably read properly the tweets from at most 20 people (and I follow over 300). But I don’t actually mind people I don’t know knowing I like the gym, or Losty. Or that whole metal nose fantasy thing. If I did mind I wouldn’t post on GB or facebook either. I really don’t think hardly anyone is interested though.

  7. Heh, nice little list.

    One moan which caught my eye today I ahve to agree with, although I can’t it was a moan about people who write agreed. So you get the banal:

    Cheerios are great!

    and then moments later…

    RT: Cheerios are great // Agreed!!

    Banality kills all these things. Please, if you have nothing interesting to say go find a padded cell to say it in. There’s enough noise out there already.

    And yes, my tongue is ever so slightly near my cheek.

  8. There should definitely be a law against tweeting about wine. “Just about to uncork a cheeky little Chardonnay” has to be the most annoying thing one can possibly write. And don’t retweet Jonathan Ross or Stephen Fry. If I gave a toss about their thoughts I’d already be following them. Possibly I’m getting a little specific.

  9. Pingback: Ways to waste time #2 – Twitter wants you! « Pick and Mix

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