A Brief and Informal Twitter Etiquette Guide

twitter spammers I love Twitter. I think the service is a wonderful tool that permits a whole new way of communicating. The thing is, it’s also a place where newcomers might often make some mistakes in their choices that will likely be taken in a negative manner, and will likely result in an unfollow or a block from other Twitter users. The idea to write a brief and informal twitter etiquette guide came from my new friend Zaven, who asked whether, in some cases, people might just be behaving in a social structure that makes sense to their culture, but not mine. He might be right. With that as a motivator, here are some guidelines for Twitter to consider. NOTE: these come with the You’re Doing It Wrong seal of “don’t take anyone’s word for law, least of all Chris Brogan’s.”

Maybe, as this is fleshed out, you’ll have some ideas to add or subtract to the guide, and we can update it accordingly. Fair?

A (less) Brief and Informal Twitter Etiquette Guide

  • A complete bio and avatar pic (I like people’s faces, but do what you will) is always a good idea. We want to know who you are. (inspired by Kendra).
  • It’s helpful to be transparent about your work/employer in your profile, if your use of Twitter has any implications for your day job. (from Eden Spodek)
  • Face to face you get a sense of how your idea is being received. No such thing on Twitter. So play nice. (from Carolyn Stephens)
  • Be yourself. It is ok and welcome to be different on twitter. (from Sudha Jamthe)


  • It’s okay to follow people you don’t know on Twitter. They can choose whether or not to follow you back.
  • It’s okay to unfollow people on Twitter. Unfollowing doesn’t automatically mean “I don’t like you.” There are many other reasons.
  • It’s okay to @reply someone a question or comment vs direct message, especially if it’s an idea where others might weigh in or add a perspective.
  • It’s better to direct message someone if you’re making 1:1 plans or having a very focused, personal conversation.
  • It’s not polite to direct message people you don’t know well with your automated quiz results or similar. It’s great that YOU like those quizzed, but others see it as spam.
  • Most folks don’t like seeing those “I just used whateveryoucallit.com to gain 300 new followers right now!” services. – (from Steve Woodruff).
  • Some people are not a fan of auto reply messages that are sent in direct messages when someone follows you on Twitter. They (and by “they,” I also mean “I”) consider these robot behavior.
  • Promoting others and talking with others is a great way to show your participation to the community.
  • Only blurting out your information and links doesn’t usually come off as friendly or community-minded.
  • Tim O’Reilly suggests that @replies have lots of detail in them, so that others picking up the conversation can understand the response (example: turn “yes” into “Yes, I really love the new G.I. Joe movie.”)


  • You don’t have to read every tweet.
  • You don’t have to respond to every @mention.
  • You aren’t obligated to reply to every direct message.
  • If someone direct messages you and you find that you cant message them back because he or she isn’t following you, a simple @reply stating, “I went to send you a direct message back but you’re not currently following me” is good manners. – (inspired by Kendra). *NOTE: Twitter sometimes loses follower relationships during clean ups. It doesn’t always mean that someone actively unfollowed you.
  • However, the more you can respond, the more people tend to stay with you and build relationships.
  • When retweeting other people’s works, it’s okay to truncate a bit to be able to retweet. Please preserve the link and also the original person’s Twitter name. (ex: RT @mackcollier “Twitter lives and dies on retweeting.”)
  • When retweeting someone else’s retweet, it’s sometimes okay to drop the secondary source and just retweet the original poster of the information. (example showing a change to a retweet): “RT @chrisbrogan RT @mackcollier Twitter lives and dies on retweeting” turns into “RT @mackcollier Twitter lives and dies on retweeting.” (make sense? agree?)
  • Want to avoid the above problem? Make your retweets more retweetable.
  • It’s Ok to have multiple twitter identities (from Jack Bresler)
  • It’s OK to disregard robots. (from Jack Bresler)
  • If you’re running a customer service Twitter account, it’s polite to follow back the people following you. (from Ted Coine).
  • Unless you have the author’s consent, it also may be unwise to pull from another feed stream, like mybloglog, and place the information into the twitter stream (from WWAHHMpreneur)
  • Swearing/cursing might well be bad etiquette, and feels like swearing loudly in a public place. (from BizyBiz) . *Note: I sometimes swear. Sorry. :(
  • Pitching your blog might not be the next best move directly after a follow. (inspired by cherylandonian)
  • Don’t get hung up on the numbers, that’s not what matters. Its a case of who you know not how many you know. (from Justin Parks)
  • People might unfollow you if you tweet excessively (falls into Chris’s “You’re Doing it Wrong” category). – (from Chloe Wilkinson)
  • It’s OK (heck, it’s recommended) to actively BLOCK followers you don’t want following you. – (from Bonnie Lowe)
  • Check your links before you tweet them! (from Sure)


  • If you can, cite the source of the link you’re posting. – (from Carlos R Hernandez)
  • and what else?

What else would you want to tell people who are new to Twitter? Do you agree or disagree with my ideas? What else will we do to help new people get acquainted?

Your thoughts are important.


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