Why Some People Think I’m Rude on Twitter (and I’m Sorry, to a Point)

There are some of you out there in the Twitter universe who likely think I’m a jerk. Or some kind of online bumpkin. Or just plain dumb.

As far as social-media etiquette goes, some of my Twitter behavior is definitely elbows-on-the-table territory. I’m not going to deny it, either – and, with apologies to the thousands of people I’m going to offend, I’ll explain why.

Blame it on three of the two-letter abbreviations you find throughout Twitter and anything written about it: RT, DM and FF. They stand for Re-Tweet, Direct Message and Follow Friday, and you can make someone on Twitter furious if you don’t follow the “rules” (and I’ll get to those quotation marks in short order).

Re-tweeting is pretty simple; you see something you like from someone else, and you resend it out to you own Twitter stream (or feed).  Someone else can RT your Twitter entry and you’ll get notice of that, since you’re likely following them.

The first couple of times I saw RTs of my Tweets, I sent a DM thanking those people. What I got back were answers in UPPER CASE and with plenty of exclamation points (!!!!) about the inappropriateness of “Automated DMs” and that they were cutting me out of their Twitter life permanently with an quick un-Follow.

What did I do wrong?

I found out, after scouring the ‘Net for a day or so, that some people view automated DMs as not much more than spam, as they might lead to something dirty, like a solicitation for business. I don’t blame anyone for wanting to clear spam out of any account, be it my personal email or my Twitter stream.

The problem is that I wasn’t sending an automated message – it usually noted a thanks for a specific item. But that didn’t mean anything to these people; they assumed (I could say, automatically) that a DM received like this is always some canned response to be shunned.

That’s where the “rules” for Twitter come in. The service itself is pretty loose about what’s allowed online, but a continuing development is the rise of independent users coming up with Twitter etiquette based mainly (as I see it) on their own personal likes/dislikes. These then get swept up in a wave of me-too/ditto/RT and gain traction.

I’ll offer two of these I found today here and here. It’s not to pick a fight; you can read ‘em and if you agree with their statements. go right ahead.

I found out in other places that the proper way to thank that RT, incidentally, was to send an open message on your own Twitter stream that included the re-tweeter’s Twitter name. (Personally, I find this as pretty extraneous and somewhat spam-like when I see it on other people’s streams, but again that’s my take.) A variant of this is to save all your RTs and group those names into catch-all Tweets on Friday.

This is different than Friday Follows, where a user gathers up the Twitter names of interesting streams seen that week and bunch them in separate Tweets. It’s the same as trading good advice or giving recommendations, which isn’t bad in theory.

Because of the short nature of Twitter messages, though, you rarely get a reason – even a three-word topic summary – on why the names on a FF are really worth following. Some FFs include a bunch of totally unrelated Twitter streams, which promotes eclecticism but doesn’t do much for people who really don’t have the time to click on name after name.

The real time-killer on Fridays are the Twitter users who’ll have 15 or 20 names to FF and another dozen or so to thank for RTs. The result is a string of four or five Tweets sent in a row, like a line of slow boxcars at the railroad crossing between the company parking lot and your home on a late Friday afternoon.

Frankly, if I find a Twitter stream worth a regular read, I tell the people following me immediately – no waiting for Fridays. I don’t waste their time doing an Alphonse/Gaston act in double-thanking on the stream, either. I can understand the concept of community-building and socially interactive “rules,” but I also value my folllowers’ time and patience.

So, please – for anyone that’s RT’d my stuff, or those doing it in the future, I offer a very large, collective and one-time Thank You. I really do appreciate it.

And sending me a direct message is fine … because, until proven otherwise, I’ll assume it’s you on the other end. It’s the polite thing to do.

Emerson Schwartzkopf

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