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Nine Rules for Using (Surviving) Twitter

I resisted Twitter for a long time. 140 characters about, uh, lunch? Still, I do enjoy clever, and I appreciate good information — and I certainly have opinions I can share. So after entering the water a toe at a time, I’ve been treating Twitter as a kind of game for smart business kids.

But my regular relationship rules still apply. So here’s how I manage Twitter (with definitions included for the not-yet-initiated):

  1. I don’t feel the need to converse with everyone. I don’t care if you’re popular. I care about what you think and what you stand for. If I think I’m going to like you over the long haul, I may get in touch with you — and if you’re following me, I hope you’ll check me out a little bit too so you know what you’re getting into. I’m happy to discuss content, provide info, and be helpful — the same as in real life. But get too friendly too fast, and I’ll be skeptical or creeped out.
  2. I’m less likely to be interested in people who have huge followings because, honestly, how will they have the time or bandwidth to notice and interact with me? On the other hand, I do follow some of these folks because their information is helpful, and it seems unkind to avoid or unfollow them just because they’re so popular.
  3. And if I’ve tried to be in touch, but you didn’t seem interested? My interest level will wane. I may not tune you out altogether, but I won’t be looking back to see what I missed (the way I try to do with people I find interesting).
  4. I actually do try to check everyone who follows me to eliminate anyone who looks like a spammer. If I don’t catch you, it’s because you really do a good job of faking it as a live person. And I don’t auto-follow or auto-unfollow anyone.
  5. I have very high personal privacy norms — plenty of candor, but also plenty of boundary lines. If we’ve corresponded or RT’d (ReTweeted) each other enough, and you post something about seeing a doctor or having a bad experience, I may DM (Direct Message) you or send you a regular email. But I’ll never conduct a personal correspondence like that on Twitter — private is private, and Twitter is public. Which leads to my next point…
  6. I don’t like most @ messages (which are directed to an individual, but allow others who follow you to see them) in the same way that I don’t like to see whispering in public or people talking in a foreign language with the express purpose of keeping secrets. If you’re in public, speak for public consumption — if you’re letting others see you talking, then let them understand what you’re saying. Or just keep it private! Otherwise, people who look at your stream feel excluded, not included — like there’s still an “in” group that they’re not in. So when I use an @ message, I try to make it understandable to anyone.
  7. If you tweet too close to the 140-character limit, then I’m not likely to RT. I like to add my comment, as everyone who knows me in real life knows, and if you haven’t left room for me to do that, I’ll move on.
  8. If I don’t like something you talk about, I won’t want to follow you. If I follow you and then I don’t like what you talk about or how you talk about it, I may actually ask you about it — but in a DM, not in public, the same way I would take you aside in person, and not hold an inquisition in front of everyone.
  9. I only RT items that are consistent with what I care about and talk about anyway, just as there are real-life conversations I excuse myself from, or may hang around for but won’t repeat.

The amazing thing is that I’ve actually met some people on Twitter I’m truly fond of, and am happy to see whenever they’re in the stream. Maybe that could include you, too…

Onward and upward,


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