I always love it when people come up and tell me the right way to be using a tool or set of tools on the Internet. I resisted it when Atherton Bartelby listed on Mashable 10 reasons why he will refuse to follow me on Twitter, and I’m likewise irritated today by meish.org’s list of seven things that will earn me an unfollow.
One of the things that makes Twitter, well, Twitter instead of something puzzlingly popular like MySpace or Facebook is the fact that it’s so versatile and used in an endless myriad of ways. People use it to update the world about their cats. People use it as a tool for journalistic reporting or discovery. People use it as an opt-in chat room. People use it as a link blog. People use it as a mobile group messaging tool.
Bottom line? It’s versatile. And you have no business telling me the right way to use it.
Here is her list, abbreviated:
- Endless re-tweeting.
- Posting primarily links.
- Greeting followers with time-based salutations (i.e. “Good Morning”).
- Liveblogging an event.
- Organizing an event via Twitter (i.e. “I’m here, let’s meet”).
- Creating words that start with “Tw.”
Almost all of these edicts irritate the heck out of me, and very few of the actions mentioned bother me at all. Sure, it’s a bit annoying when you see an update come through Twhirl, and it’s all from one person. I always hated all the Java related trendy language in the 90s, so the Twitter related portmanteaus are no picnic either.
Everything else on this list? Completely legitimate uses for Twitter.
Re-tweeting is one of the most time-honored uses for Twitter, and social media usage in general. It’s called link curation. Look into it (ever heard of Yahoo?).
If you’re looking to quickly grow your Twitter followers, start posting useful links. Twitter started as a status microblogging services. People look at it as their own personal Boing-Boing.
Greeting your followers with a “good morning” or “good afternoon” might be a bit bland for those who don’t say something else substantive with it, but in principle, those that use Twitter as a conversational tool would do well to include these sorts of things in their stream. It’s a signal to those who also use it for conversation that “hey! I’m here in the big chatroom in the cloud, you can talk to me.”
Liveblogging an event on Twitter is a great way to get attention to something you’re interested in covering. At any given moment, there are at least a few dozen news organizations trying to aggregate information about the event you’re covering live right now. If you simply do as Meg suggests, and post a link to your liveblog, you’re going to get lost in the mix. If you syndicate your liveblog to Twitter, you’re discoverable. Sometimes, it’s not always just about who’s following you, but who’s following the topic.
As for an aversion to using Twitter to organize real life events, I’m curious as to whether, if asked, Meg could tell me the origin of Twitter (hint: it was SxSW 2006, and folks used it to communicate the locations of hotspot parties – real life parties, not virtual ones).
…And I know a little bit about arrogant.
Giving me a list of pet peeves that’ll get me unfollowed or not followed in the first place is the height of arrogance. If you’re giving me information that statistically leads to people unfollowing others, that’s useful. When you offer up a list as gospel, as if you’re Al Gore or something, well that’s just irritating.
It’s a good way for me to never want to follow you on Twitter (“Wow, did he just go there? I think he did.”).
Which leads me to the one and only rule I use as to whether I’m going to follow someone (or not) on Twitter:
“Am I interested in what they’re saying? If I am, they get followed. When they cease to be interesting, I don’t want to follow them any longer.”