11 Ways You Can Stop Ticking Me Off On Twitter

We're all human, and we all make mistakes. (Except for me, because I'm not and I don't, but that's next week's blog post.) I know you didn't mean to tick me off on Twitter. I'm sure that ticking me off was the LAST thing on your mind.

Nevertheless, you did.

I'm a patient and tolerant guy. I let a lot of things slide without getting upset by them. It's only when people habitually make the same gaffs, faux pas, breaches of etiquette, etc. that I want to shake them like somebody else's 2-year-old and get them to knock it off.

So, as a public service, for your benefit and for the sake of my own blood pressure, here are 11 Ways You Can Stop Ticking Me Off On Twitter (which you can also regard as some simple rules for building your follower list or establishing a brand or whatever the hell else you want them to be, so long as you implement them):

11. Shut The Heck Up About Your Cats I followed you because I thought you'd have some interesting, informative or amusing things to say. Instead it's a constant stream of "Oooh, Mr. Fluffykins' litter box stinks!" or "Meow Tse Tung just walked on my keyboard LOL" or "Sparky is sitting in front of me." Shut up about them already!
What you can do instead Show some restraint! It's fine to make an occasional banal observation about your cats, your kids, your spouse or any other living being in whom you have an emotional investment. That tells me you're human. If you do more than one of them a day, though, what does that tell me? THAT YOU ARE BORING.

10. Learn How Twitter Works There are a bajillion blog posts out there devoted to how to use Twitter. GO READ SOME. Unless you're a newbie, you shouldn't be making annoying newbie gaffs, like RTing one of my tweets, but doing it as an @ reply. That means that the only people who will see your RT are me and you. I appreciate the RT, but it would be nicer if you hadn't messed it up.
What you can do instead You can pay attention. You can learn. You can invest 20 minutes in getting better.

9. Change Your Background Picture Are you kidding? You have 12,000 tweets, but still have the default green-bamboo-on-brown-background on your Twitter page? Even one of those tacky "www.TwitterBackgrounds.com" pictures would be better than that! What does this tell me? It tells me that you don't think much about your appearance. You probably have soup stains on your shirt, too.
What you can do instead This would be a PERFECT place for pictures of those stupid cats. Or of the sunset that convinced you that it was possible for you to be a writer. Or of anything you like or find interesting or inspiring. This is YOUR page... personalize it!

8. Act Like A Human Being A lot of big names are on Twitter because their publicists told them it would be a good idea. They don't need to interact because people will follow them anyway (I'm looking at you, @BarackObama). Their tweets are a one-way street. Send them a reply or a DM, you know what you get? Nothing.
What you can do instead Interact! Engage! Answer replies, get involved in discussions, be present. Look at how @SusanOrlean does it, and do that. Hell, I get more interaction from @StephenFry and @KarlRove than I do from some agents I follow.

7. Save The Knives For DM Guess what? If you are having a spat with someone on Twitter, it's like arguing on a street corner. I. Don't. Care.
What you can do instead If this is between you two, keep it between you two. Your argument shouldn't be an occasion for public spectacle. Unless you both LIKE the attention you get from arguing in public, in which case you are a couple of sad puppies who wouldn't listen to advice from me anyway.

6. "Americans Are Stupid" Oh brother, don't get me started on this one. You know what? Yes, we are, on occasion, stupid. And so are you, for an imperfectly overlapping suite of similar reasons. We are also, on occasion, a noble and gifted people whose ideals of liberty and ethos of personal freedom coupled with personal responsibility are an example to the rest of the world. I can't generalize about you or what kind of sterling qualities of goodness might be resident within your soul, but at least I know you like your cats a lot.
What you can do instead Be polite. Go look that word up if you have to.

5. Be Committed To Your Own Strangeness I find it weird when an author sets up a Twitter account so they can tweet as the main character in their novel, or as a time-traveler bouncing around from one historical period to the next. Weird, but not necessarily bad. Where this falls apart is when you break character to make an appeal for Haiti, or for prayers for your neighbor's mother, or whatever.
What you can do instead If you're going to play a role, is it too much to ask that you stay in character? This was your idea, after all.

4. You're Always So Annoyingly Upbeat "Hey, Tony", you might be saying, "what's wrong with being a happy person?" And I say, nothing. I'm glad you're so happy and cheerful. But you know what? Normal people have good days and bad days. If you're a uniformly happy person ALL THE TIME, I'm going to conclude that, in addition to being annoying as heck, you must be heavily medicated.
What you can do instead First off, send me a case of whatever you're on, or the name of a trustworthy supplier in the Philadelphia area. Failing that, just relax and be yourself. Let us see the clouds as well as the sunshine. We'll love you all the more for it.

3. You're Always So Annoyingly Depressed Look, if you can't see for yourself what's wrong with this, then it's going to take a lot more to help you than a list of 11 Things.
What you can do instead Cancel your Twitter account and go get some therapy. And try to get in touch with Mr. Happy up at #4 and see if he can hook you up.

2. You Make It Hard For Me To Promote You I am a sweet, generous, supportive guy who likes to promote and foster the success of others. I love you. You, yes, YOU! I followed you because I wanted to hear what you have to say. If you tweet something brilliant, funny, informative, insightful, etc., I want to pass that on so others can learn from you the way I have. So why you gotta make it so hard for me to RT you, huh? You've got a Twitter name that's 35 characters long! Even if I don't want to preface the RT with a mini-comment like "This!" or "Interesting" or "o.O", by the time I set aside 3 characters for "RT ", I don't have the space for your tweet.
What you can do instead If you write a tweet that you think (or hope) others might want to RT, make it easy for them. Here's a formula for you to use: GoodTweetLength = 140 - (chars in your username) - 3

1. Stop Pretending To Be On Twitter When You Aren't Really On Twitter I'm not a moron, OK? When I see that every single one of your tweets is an "informative link" posted via SocialOomph, you know what conclusion I draw? That back in February, you spent a day or two loading up your new SocialOomph account with tweets and links, then programmed it to spew out at a rate of 10 per day. You've turned yourself into a goddamn bot!
What you can do instead Have some self respect! I use SocialOomph myself occasionally, it's a great tool, but it's not intended as the Alpha and Omega of tweeting, you know? Do you really want to be such a cold, calculating drone that you turn your back on the opportunity to use this amazing social network to actually be social? Log on once in a while, interact, engage. You've got lots of followers, but don't you want any friends?

And that's it. Do these 11 things and you will not only stop ticking me off on Twitter, you will be a kinder, wiser, better person. Remember, all of this is not about me... it's about you. If you know anyone who could benefit from reading these, feel free to tweet the link.

Two final notes:

1) Sure, I could just un-follow you if I find you annoying. Believe me, I do un-follow people. But you? I like you and I want you to be a better person.

2) The other method of RT'ing, although it preserves the original tweet in toto, does not allow for any editorial commenting or prefacing as I described above. If you want to use it, fine. Don't bug me about it.

3) This version of "11 Ways..." is suitable for forwarding to your boss, posting on the company intranet, reproducing in the church bulletin or sending to your Mom. To read the original, profanity-laced version, please follow this link. Warning: the original uses profane and blasphemous language that may be too offensive for professional settings, family gatherings and the state of Alabama.

4) I'm kidding about Alabama.

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.
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  1. Still as sharp as it was before, Tony... although it's lacking the punch of the original! Maybe a mini-burst of the traffic you got last time, though?

  2. Twitter doesn’t come with a hand book, there are no set rules and guidelines about how to use the service. It is simply a method of communication. So rather than follow any single person’s rules on using Twitter, I would strongly advise users to blaze their own trail. At @BubbleCow (who blatantly break rule 1) we send out a stream of high quality links to resources we feel writers would find useful. It takes about 45 minutes each day to find and schedule these links, we actually use Hootsuite since it allows a number of twitter feeds and Facebook pages to be run from a single screen.
    Because this is the best way we can add value to our followers. We have 6000+ followers and even if we wanted to, it would be impossible to interact on a personal level with each of these people. This leaves us with the problem of finding a way to make following BubbleCow worthwhile for writers. As it happens we still monitor the @bubbleocw twitter feed and respond to all relevant @replies. We also retweet and even interact! Yet, the reality is the @bubblecow is a business feed. I have my own personal twitter account (as do other bubblecow editors) where I have a couple of hundred followers. My reaction on this feed is very different. I rarely send out links and focus in building relationships and adding value to other communities.
    So my parting shot is this…The only rules with Twitter is that there are no rules. When using Twitter the key to success is to add value to your followers. I would urge all users to find the best way to do just this and stick to it.


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