Twitter Ground Rules and Etiquette


Wallpaper by actiondatsun on Flickr

I don’t write a lot of web- or tech-related posts.

But I feel compelled to speak. At *cough* *ahem* 7,500 updates personally (with my first tweet occurring sometime pre-November, 2007) it’s been eye-opening seeing Twitter really – and I mean, really – blowing up. This is because it was a pseudo-blog concept that blew up with people I actually knew in the physical-before-online sense. What’s even more surreal is actually explaining “what Twitter is” to my coffee shop friends because they see me on it in my browser or they’ll see my Twitterific docked and have heard about it – and so they ask me to fill them in. It signifies a new era, truly. “Viral” has taken on new meaning.

Los Angeles is wicked viral, dudes.

In another time and place, you could do an “Oh it’s a geek thing” -type brush off of the explanation. But now people actually wanna know what the hype is all about and it’s not another “personal page phenomenon” (e.g. Facebook, MySpace – though they all try to be like Twitter now). Here’s a tip-off: I don’t even work in web. But people want to know “What is the point? How does it work?” Because contrary to Twitter themselves, the point is NOT “What are you doing right now?” And for the first time in my young memory, it is mostly ageless and not trending towards a particular age group (contrary to what Details Magazine thinks). This time, it’s social media that’s inherently harder to bluff. Not only does each profile take time to establish – but Twitter is built on interactive history and relationships – and patterns are there to be judged for themselves. You put time into it or you fail to exist. One thing exists for sure: The mob. Who else would we brag to about our unexceptional lives?

Of course, you add onto the hype that several celebrities have latched on, immediately giving the service its due credibility or even fame – such as on the morning show circuits. Or even notoriety – for single-handedly “breaking up” actress-musician relationships.

But I think – as with everything – there are a few ground rules that people should generally know in order to create a happier Twitter experience for both themselves and their followers. These may seem a little obvious to some (don’t expect to gain enlightenment if you are already a well-versed Twitterer *ahem* developers), but I’ve been surprised as to how some don’t know the few features that do exist. There aren’t many so it’s necessary to be en pointe with all of them. Your feed is quite easy to optimize more and annoy less when you keep in mind a few things. Yes – annoy less. Some of these are a reflection of some Twitter peeves I’ve developed! So this is for the more common folk out there who are reaching for their inner geek via Twitter.

  • This one should be obvious: Cut out all the noise and set your notifications to “Show only @replies to the people [you’re] following.” What do you care what your friends are saying to people you don’t know, anyway? This is also the first rule to getting only the info you want in your feed by the people you half-care about and none of the chatter you don’t.
  • Please avoid using “@” immediately before anything that isn’t an intended Twitter handle – because it will link. If the handle doesn’t exist then surprise – dead link. Or, if you actually mean “at,” just space it out after the “@”. Accordingly, @kneath has phrased this concisely in a Tumblr post.

If they are on twitter, you use an @ sign pointing to their account — like @kneath. If they are not on twitter, you use their name — like Kyle Neath.

  • Again, a basic one. Do know where to get all your @replies. El-p (of Company Flow) – on Twitter as @therealelp – has had problems so if, like him, you haven’t known where to get all tweets where you are directly addressed, you select “@replies” on the right-hand column. Or if mobile, select the option “Get replies” in Twitterberry or the corresponding mobile app. Also, expect your @reply tweets to apply only if you start it with “@username” – not if your @username was merely in the body. This function also grabs everyone that has directly called your attention – not just those you are following. (The downside is it also makes it a potential hazard for spam. Wonder how Twitter will address this in the future.) If you want to see where you’re mentioned at all, use Search.
  • Conversely, if you want to grab someone’s attention, the only thing that makes a tweet an @reply is when you mention @username first. The Twitterer/Twit/Tw*t will be able to recall it most easily when you structure your tweet like that.
  • Diversify your tweets. If you have too many “I’m listening to’s,” or Blips – or only Twitpics, or only Brightkite updates – your followers tend to get bored. Annoyed. I’ve done it myself with Brightkite, which I actually never use anymore. Personally – the fewer plain Brightkite updates the better. I tend to like to quip something about where I’ve arrived or where I’m at rather than being meta: “Look at me; this is where I am! The mere mention should make you jealous!!” Or, “I’m listening to this song and you should just know it’s really cool.” Utilize the space allowed for an actual tweet attached to the hyperlink. What has made you think about the track right now? Picture-taking and track-playing services after the jump.
  • DM = dm = Direct Message. Take it elsewhere. Like maybe even your cell phone or email. Then again, it’s your feed.

Personally, those are the main tips I would bring up to a new Twitterer. Once you’ve gotten a handle on those, you can link up and get creative.


I use all of the following if only because I can’t find all the tracks I want to tweet on just one site…

  • – Fronting itself as an outlet for your inner DJ, allows you to accumulate listeners, “blips” and collect and give out props. Interesting incentive to keep your tweet-plays to one channel. In its heyday, it allowed track uploads but now you can only link from another source or “blip” from the current database.
  • – Integrated with Imeem, which means if it’s there then you can “” it.
  • – Partnered with Grooveshark instead of Imeem. Yet another library and tweet-crawler.
  • LastfmLove – Allows you to tweet directly from your profile by the tracks you favorite.


  • – Email or SMS your picture tweet in by creating your own Twitter account-linked address. Or send it to your Twitterberry (or corresponding app). Be patient because some lag occurs and it’s worse at some times than others.
  • – Keep everyone updated as to where you are and even append photos to those locations. In doing so, you essentially add to the database Brightkite has of the establishment/street corner/overall vicinity of where you’ve “checked in” at.

Of course, you can’t forget your URL shorteners like Tinyurl or the shorter and And if you’re feelin’ the cheezburgers, you can also try the (long but cute) Icanhaz.

That should make the Twitter post for the ages, or on this blog anyway. For now. I can’t believe I just kind of went all “social media expert” on you guys. Sorry.

My head hurts.

Hold me. Follow me.

Thanks for listening.

UPDATE: Twitter @replies are now mentions! See the update on the Twitter blog here. 🙂