I am tired of hearing Twitter “thought leaders” whine about the “proper” way to behave on Twitter. These self-appointed experts seem to have a lot of uninvited assumptions about how you and I should use Twitter.
Newsflash to Twitter Gurus: Twitter is not your personal garden party where you get to set the norms. It’s a rapidly growing worldwide community where anyone can act however they want.
Like a garden party, of course it would be nice if everyone was polite, friendly, concise, and clever all the time. But, unfortunately for these utopians, Twitter has grown from an early adopter tool to an increasingly mainstream communications medium.
So here are my Top Twitter “guru rules” that desperately need updating:
1. Myth: Twitter is a Community.
Fact: Twitter is not your private club any more. Twitter has grown too large to see it as one community any longer. Twitter is a tool that lets you create your own customized community by attracting followers interested in hearing what you have to say. It’s also up to you to choose wisely whom you follow.
Maybe you’ve been on the service since the beginning and used to know everyone. But today, if you only want to hear from certain people, or only receive certain types of messages, then you need to be more picky about whom you choose to follow (or UN-follow).
Twitter is an opt-in medium – you’re welcome to opt-out anytime from following anyone.
2. Myth: You Need to Do X, Y, or Z to Succeed on Twitter.
Fact: What’s right for you may be wrong for her. Because every Twitter user “rolls her own” community of followers, that means the expectations are different every time.
So “guru” advice about what "everyone" should do is no more appropriate than advice about what every blogger should do, what every web site owner should do, or what every parent should do.
3. Myth: You must follow back everyone who follows you.
Fact: This is silly. A lot of Twitterati seems to think it’s an obligation to follow back everyone who follows you. I don’t buy it.
Even dumber is auto-following everyone back.
To me following thousands of people publicly demonstrates that you don’t much value the tweets you receive. (Managing the tweet-stream with tools like Tweetdeck can help, but there’s still no way to pay attention to everyone.)
I prefer quality in my relationships, not quantity. Don’t you?
4. Myth: Auto-Direct Messages are Evil.
No way. Like the rest of the Twitter system, DMs are just a tool. As in any other medium, spam is not appreciated. (Especially if it’s in the form of text messages that cost recipients for every text received.)
But what is spam to you may be an interesting offer to someone at a different stage of the buying or education cycle. Un-follow if you don’t like it or if the person you’re following abuses direct messaging. Just because Twitter is new doesn’t mean the rules of Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing have changed that much.
Be smart and treat your followers with respect, whether they are friends, family, customers or a mix of all those folks – just like you would at that real world garden party (or Tweetup) that you want to host this spring.
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What do you think? What did I miss or where am I off base? What are your most and least favorite etiquette “rules” for Twitter success?
[If you would like more info about Twitter, check out my recent fr-ee online marketing podcasts, too: Joel Comm on “Twitter Power” and Rich Brooks on Twitter marketing strategies. And you're welcome to follow me at twitter.com/scott_fox - but don't expect a follow back until we get acquainted!]
Twitter bird icons courtesy of Gopal.