I don’t call myself a Twitter power user but I have been around for some time and created many great relationships in my Twitter network and for some time I have been monitoring some behaviour and usage structures that I don’t really approve of.
In this article I want to talk about the 6 things that primarily grind my gears on Twitter. All about user culture not about technical aspects of Twitter itself though. So it is about me and you to fix things not about the Twitter developers to implement new features.
Some of the mentioned points are good practices of power users but nevertheless I wrote them down as personal opinion facing the issues at hand. If you feel I am too critical about anything in particular I would love to hear about your thoughts at the bottom of the page where the comments are.
So please find below what currently grinds my gears in the Twitterverse:
1. Automation of Correspondence
Whether your automation is very smart or very blunt I am genuinely disappointed as a user, when trying to interact with someone and taking the time to answer someone only to find out it was an automation triggered by a technical event of a sort. This also includes automated tweets on “who your most engaged followers were this week”. Your followers are not interested in that and are more likely to unfollow you with every strike.
I understand this practice makes things easier and I don’t argue over its efficiency in generating mentions and influencer currency such a Klout score but do you really want to emit the fact that you did not care enough about a person to actually interact with them yourself and let a machine do it for you? Outsourcing the social interaction out of social media? What’s left of “Social Media” then if bots talk to bots until we all have an epic Klout score?
If you are busy, nobody will be mad at you for a delayed reply to a message that you thought about and that adds value to other people. I respect everybody for the technical know-how to set up a sort of artificial intelligence within Twitter but it should be clear to everybody that the tweet or whole account was prepared by a machine and has little value to it. Your followers are following you for who you are and what you do and a personal tweet will go a lot further – always.
2. Spammy DMs
The utilisation of DMs (direct messages) in Twitter led directly to the whole information channel being branded as spammy and users stopped checking them. Maybe they will go for “mark all as read” from once in a while but the chance to reach someone and get a reply is very small. If you establish communication nevertheless the dialogue usually is someone asking for your email address so they can properly communicate with you. That’s red lamps for the DMs all the way.
I still have hope for the DMs though if just more users would stop the automated DMs triggered by technical events (very similar to #1 above).
However the ultimate DM no-go for me is a DM that tells me to verify myself as a human user in order to be able to follow someone. For the person who utilises that type of tools it will critically reduce the amount of people who follow them and the people who tried to follow are basically being doubted to be humans before you even said hello. I played that game for a while and went through this processing of verifying myself as a human but I stopped doing that. Hopefully this is also something that will disappear in given time.
And don’t forget the other person needs to follow you in order for you to be able to send the message. Unfortunately Twitter will allow you to compose a message but will then give you an error when you try to send the DM out. I often tried to reply to DMs and got a nasty error message back that this only works when they are following you as well. Somewhat frustrating.
3. Legacy RT Syntax
Once upon a time there was no RT (retweet) button on Twitter that completed the process of RT’ing someone as a function. Back then to share other people’s tweets they would add an “RT” or sometimes “MT” (for modified tweet, in the content needed shortening or similar) in front of the @Username of the person followed by the message they wanted to share to their own followers.
This had its purpose but nowadays its counter-productive mostly. Today you can just use the RT button in order to easily share someone’s message to your followers and properly crediting the user who originally prepared that content.
So what’s the trouble of still doing it the old way? You are stealing your follower’s control of their own timeline (sacrilegious!). When you often RT tweets of other people that you approve of or want to share, it could happen that someone does not share the interest for that other person’s content, which you shared. If that is the case they have the option of switching their follow setup for you to not show RTs anymore in your timeline. That’s their emergency escape in order to maintain a timeline they entirely care about with everybody in it. If you don’t allow them to do that, the next step for them would be to unfollow you or “mute” your account, which means they are still technically following but would no longer see anything you contribute to Twitter in their timeline. Often a dead-end for a relationship.
So I definitely suggest to use these “new” features implemented by Twitter to avoid any kind of trouble that could arise. If you just want to reply to the person with your opinion about it, you may do so via reply function. If you followers follow both you and the other person you are replying to, they will see your dialogue in their timeline. They stay in control of what they want to see and what not.
4. Expecting Someone to Follow Back
One of the interesting aspects of Twitter are that a relationship does not have to be “mutual”. Anybody can follow anyone if they want to and the remote party does not have to accept a request prior to communication happening.
You should follow someone if you care about what they are tweeting, not for the chance of them following you back. Also some people are frequently followed by a lot of spammy bots and eggs so they don’t have an overview of new followers. Therefore a genuine follower can be easily overlooked and even if you tweet good things, that would lead to not getting followed only because there was no information about you. If you follow someone new you can try to send them a quick tweet to introduce yourself or just say hello. Interaction is not bound to users following each other either. I interact with many people and frequently check the feed of users on Twitter who I do not follow. That’s not a crime either.
5. Missing Information on Your Profile
I can’t really blame and new users for not knowing their way around but just to reflect my complete list of gear-grinders here I wanted to include users who don’t add relevant information to their account on Twitter. Have a photo of your face as user image, share a little bit about what you do and who you are in your biography, add a location and a web page. If nobody can see who you are and what you do, there are a lot less likely to consider following you. Some mechanics even rate your account down for being an “egg” (using the default Twitter egg profile image).
I would suggest to use logos only to organisations with more than one employee. If you want to personalise your user image with something else like your pet or a photo of the beach from your last vacation nobody stops you from doing so but you can have a better personal branding if you use a photo of yourself with your face clearly visible. Feel free to use the profile header image space for any personalization needs you might have. It is a somewhat new feature but it’s a lovely way to express yourself. For example I have personally used a photo I shot myself during a stay in Tokyo on my own profile. My tweet’s background image is a photo I shot in Singapore. So there’s space for your own individualization options beyond the little profile image.
Finally I’d like to point out
6. Using Lists Instead of Your Timeline
If you follow any amount of Twitter users north of 5,000 your timeline will be a never resting beast and you are unlikely to keep up with the tweets shared with you. Power-users often then create lists of users they want to actually hear about but the cold side of this method is that a follow of such a person is not worth much as long it does not come with a notification that you were also added to a list by them.
So just for keeping you thinking about it: How likely is it going to be that someone who follows many thousand Twitter users, is going to see your tweet when it’s not even there in their timeline for a minute until it gets pushed down by newer tweets? Maybe it’s not the user who follows 100,000 people that is going to see and interact with your tweet but maybe it’s more likely to be the person who follows only 100 people.
I was quoted about this a few times before but whether it’s good or bad, for me my timeline is holy. Therefore in order to be able to read all the tweets coming in, I am only following a relatively small amount of people with around 300 while more than 100,000 follow me.
For me it is therefore very hard not to follow back everybody, even though their content might be interesting for me. I solve that by catching up on hashtag searches and checking directly the profile of the people I know to share good tweets.
In my personal opinion you are doing something wrong when you need to use a third party app or web solution in order to consume the tweets you care about and the native Twitter environment does not let you.
Okay – I’m done with the preaching now and rant-mode is switched off. Maybe I added a tiny bit of value to how you use Twitter. If none of these apply to you or you don’t share the approach then it’s absolutely fine as well – I only want everybody to get the most out of the platform and have a good time, while learning new things and making friends.
Rules and good practices are always dynamic and never written in stone because the technical framework around these rules also change sometimes and so does the user culture. You could call it a trend as well. So what used to be right might not be good anymore and what I just told you today might not be valid anymore next year but for now this should do just fine.
Like always I am eager to hear your opinion about my article in the comments below. Many thanks for reading and of course I would be happy to see you on Twitter.
Photo credit: Nick Olejniczak / Ben Husmann / Will Lion / Aram Bartholl / Steven Depolo / Scott Beale / Sunova Surfboards