Etiquette Exists Everywhere (and Twitter’s no exception)

This post brought to you by the word:

punctilio [puhngk-til-ee-oh] /pʌŋkˈtɪliˌoʊ/


1. a fine point, particular, or detail, as of conduct, ceremony, or procedure.

2. strictness or exactness in the observance of formalities or amenities.

Want to know more about using social media like Twitter for professional information and collaboration? See the top right sidebar for links to the entire blog series —->

Cartoon by Oliver Widder, 2009

In my series on developing a Personal/Professional Learning Network (PLN) with social media, I’ve discussed Twitter at length because I think it’s the most intricate and misunderstood portion of a PLN. I have described why I love Twitter, how Twitter works, and given you suggestions on how to develop your Twitter network.

Today I want to give you some suggestions on etiquette for Twitter. Basically anything that is rude in the real world is probably rude on Twitter. However, I have summarized several things that are more specific to Twitter and may be less obvious. Some of this list has more to do with being rude to yourself than just to others. Also, not all tips are absolutes, only guiding principles so that you’re tweeting with thought and care.

Have a real picture and a brief profile outlining who you are or what you do

Reality Check: Meeting someone at a party and not introducing yourself or smiling

It is rude to have no profile picture or description for several reasons:

  • It says you don’t care enough to find a pic of something that helps your network get a sense of you and spend a minute uploading it.
  • It causes everyone in your network to be super vigilant whenever they see an egg in case it might be you (if they care enough to bother – they’ll probably just miss a lot of tweets if they follow you at all).
  • It may cause someone in your network to accidentally click a spam link in a moment of weakness because they thought it was from you.
  • It forces people to do extra research into who you might be before choosing to accept you to follow their tweets or deciding to follow you. That’s if they are bothered doing the research at all – most will just not follow you back.

Always credit other people’s ideas

Reality Check: Telling a coworker you found a great resource or had a great idea that was actually your other coworker’s resource/idea.

When you RT someone, it’s OK to truncate their tweet a bit to make it fit the 140 character rule, but be sure you give credit where it’s due. You can either RT them directly or rewrite the info and add ‘via@tweetname’ at the end of your tweet.  It’s also best to credit an online source even if you didn’t get it from Twitter, especially if that source has a twitter account (e.g. newsmedia, bloggers, etc). At the very least, include the link to the info you’re tweeting about when appropriate/possible.

Thank ppl for RTing you

Reality Check: not thanking someone for a compliment or recommendation

I think the reason is obvious but the follow through can get tricky, as it’s not always clearcut and easy to find all the RTs of your tweets that exist. If someone is using a Twitter client instead of the web, especially mobile phone clients, they don’t always let Twitter know and Twitter can’t let you know in turn. The quickest place to find RTs is to go to the web and click ‘your tweets retweeted’ or If you are using TweetDeck or a similar client, be sure in your settings that ‘don’t show duplicated tweets’ clicked or you often won’t see past the first person to RT you.  Finally, I sometimes find RTs I missed by searching for “RT @SLPTanya” in the search field on Twitter Web. Your Tweets Retweeted is still the best way to see them, unfortunately. Just make every effort.

Also thank people for giving you a shout out or a Follow Friday recommendation.

Respond to ppl who tweet you

Reality Check: Ignoring someone speaking directly to you

This falls under the ‘engage in your network’ advice from my tips on building your network.  If someone sends you a directed tweet (e.g. they started their tweet with your @Name) or a Direct Message, you should make every effort to respond to them in some way. You should do this even once you have a lot of followers. One of the most fantastic things about Twitter is that it makes other people more accessible, be they celebrities, companies, or regular folks.  Really amazing Twitter gurus who have thousands of followers are defined by responding to as many directed messages and tweets as humanly possible.  Will you miss people? Sometimes, but it’s the effort that counts. A simple 🙂 will often suffice (if a specific answer was not required).

Promote people in your network, not just yourself

Reality Check: Only talking about yourself or your interests and telling everyone how awesome you are

It’s fine to use Twitter to promote your blog,  company, and so on, but if you spend all your time promoting yourself, you can get very boring and come off as a ‘bot’.  If you spend time promoting others in your network with RTs, shout outs, Follow Friday (#FF) recommendations and so on, you more actively engage in your PLN and come off as an interested and interesting person to connect with.

Don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t follow you back

Reality Check: Are you genuinely interested in everything everyone else is Tweeting?

Everyone has different ways of following people, and not everyone monitors who’s following them at any given moment (I certainly don’t). If someone doesn’t follow you back, it’s not personal. Give them reasons to notice you and follow you back by RTing them and engaging them with comments on their tweets.  Similarly, don’t take it personally if someone stops following you. In fact, sometimes Twitter has accidentally caused my account to unfollow people I’ve been following happily for a long time.  And sometimes people stop following someone else for a short time (e.g. if you’re at a conference or tweeting about a topic they are no longer interested in).

Along the same lines, I don’t suggest you blindly follow back anyone who follows you.  You should develop your PLN tailored to your specific interests and needs. Don’t feel you have to follow everyone and don’t feel that everyone should be interested in your interests.

Don’t tweet excessively or with too many tweets in a row.

Reality Check: hogging the conversation

If you regularly post multiple tweets in a row in order to tell a story to all of your followers, consider a blog; it’s a much better format for sharing stories and complex ideas.  Likewise, space out information tweets because the same peril may befall you for tweeting many different links in a short time period. People will often skip over your tweets if you do this too often, and then they may miss it when you have something really important or interesting to share or a question they may have been able to answer.   I know many people get unfollowed for tweeting excessively because you clog up their twitter feed.

NOTE: I’m adding this post hoc due to some confusion – I don’t mean getting online and responding to multiple people suddenly, I mean posting to ALL your followers EXCESSIVELY in a short period of time (or all day long, as some tweeters do outside of the SLPeeps).

Don’t RT a link you haven’t checked out yourself

Reality Check: recommending a book you’ve never read or an idea you don’t know anything about

It may be broken or otherwise in error.  Also, it may not represent your views and then you are, in essence, endorsing it to others. Don’t rely on the caption with the link in someone else’s tweet because it may lead you to think it’s about something it’s not.

Remember that Twitter is Public

Reality Check: acting inappropriately in public

Don’t tweet anything that can get you fired,  get you arrested, upset your mother, or otherwise paint you in a negative light to future/current people in your life. Also, swearing on Twitter is a bit like yelling profanities in a  public place. Along with the previous tip, I would posit that it’s rude to yourself to potentially damage your reputation because you fell prey to the ‘anonymity of the internet’. This is obvious if you are tweeting professionally but also make a careful decision about what you say even if using Twitter personally. You never know who will see your tweets (even if they are ‘protected’)!

Keep within the 140 character limit

Reality Check: talking for a long time at already long meetings

The best thing about Twitter is its 140 character limit. It does pose a problem occasionally, but if everyone began posting longer tweets, it would be impossible to keep up with the information flow.  Also, it’s rude to force your followers to constantly click ‘read more’ to finish your tweets.

If someone poses a question or comment directly to you and you are responding, it’s more acceptable to go over the 140 limit because it can be assumed that that person is motivated to click ‘read more’. It may even be more polite to any followers who follow you both than to respond in 5 or 6 tweets that clog up their timeline.

Use “reply” to keep a string of convo

Reality Check: blurting out commentary to a friend without cluing them into the topic

If you comment on someone else’s tweet, always click the ‘reply’ button. Not only does it save you time by filling in their name automatically, it saves them time and energy trying to figure out what specific tweet you are commenting on. At the very least, include info about referring comment (e.g. re: Frazier protocol convo).

Describe info in links you tweet

Reality Check: lending someone a book with no cover or title page

If you post a link, always include some description of that link so people know if they want to read more, save it to favorites to read later, or just move on. If you tweet ONLY the link, it’s impossible for them to make that decision (and they’ll probably choose not to bother).

Use punctuation for clarity

Reality Check: stringing along all your words in one giant monotone sentence for listeners to parse

I think the reality check says it all. Please use some punctuation (even if we short form words to death) to ensure clarity whenever possible. You know who you are.

Don’t just take my word for it, here are some other references:

14 ways to use Twitter politely

Informal Twitter Etiquette Guide


11 comments on “Etiquette Exists Everywhere (and Twitter’s no exception)

  1. ndnspeechmom says:


    I wish I had read this blog post when I began tweeting.

    • slptanya says:

      LOL – OK, hashtags are a good and fun exemption. Hahaha. Although I’d like to point out that you more or less DID use good punctuation for effect to make that easier to read. #unlikewhenIdothissometimes

      Thanks. I wish I’d read stuff like this too. That’s why I’m blogging it for some of us oldies, but mostly for the people starting or thinking about starting up. Hope it helps folks.

  2. JG says:

    great post! now off to delete some tweets, LOL!!

  3. […] basic level. I will talk about more advanced features and functionality of Twitter as well as the social rules and general tipsto remember in future […]

  4. Barb says:

    I find this to be so true! It has been hard for me to engage online as I do have expectations that others would be more responsive including family. When I saw a cousin at a family function, she told me without my bringing up the subject that she received my emails but never had a chance to reply. To me, it seems so simple to hit reply and at least say thanks or something. But when I look at my shortcomings and do not want to be judged, I try to give others slack. In addition, she was nice enough to let me know and it has made me realize that not every has the same operating pattern.

    By the way, I don’t have any images of myself on facebook, on the population-we blog(my sister has her picture) or twitter. I have asked family to scan or download a decent image of me but so far they have not. So I decided to use the pop-we logo on twitter as I promote blog posts there a lot. My sister works in PR at a local University and it was designed by someone who used to work with her.

    I do appreciate your hospitality online. I’m still working on my post on hospitality but like what I have fond out so far. That it is about making people feel like they belong. 🙂

  5. kcurroslp says:

    Good post, but I don’t necessarily agree with the thanking people for RTs or follows. I’m only intermittently on Twitter and I know I’ve missed RTs, mentions, etc. I see it like following someone on twitter: thank you if you do, but don’t be offended if I don’t reciprocate.

    • slptanya says:

      Thanks for the comment, Kris. I mostly agree – it’s as in anything in life. For instance, some people write thank you notes and some don’t. Some people are offended if you don’t and some don’t care. Some people even don’t care if you’re offended, and others would lose sleep over it if they offended someone. Everyone is different.

      You make a very good point about use too – it can depend on how/how much you use Twitter. Also, I wholeheartedly agree about the thanking for following – I’ve begun doing it, but more to connect with people and see who reciprocates. I don’t expect everyone to thank people for following. I’m not too jazzed about thanking people for favoriting either – only some twitter clients let you see this information and it feels weird somehow but I can’t put my finger on why. And is it possibly more important to thank for RTs if you’re more invested in Twitter and its use/interactions than the casual user? Maybe?

      I still think there’s a hierarchy in place as an unwritten rule – sort of akin to you definitely write a thank you note for a wedding gift, but not necessarily for a birthday gift. Similarly, I think you should make EVERY effort to thank people for a #FF or for saying something nice about you publicly – possibly less important to thank for RTs? And I’ve certainly missed RTs lots of times too (and possibly the odd #FF).

      At the end of the day, it all comes down to personal preference and comfort level, which if fine 🙂

  6. Barb says:

    There are studies that say that people who are engaged on a social network sight are more likely to also be involved in the community in at least one activity if I understood the study correctly. That is not to say that some don’t isolate themselves, but I often think those people would isolate themselves regardless and that this actually connects them. Of course, there are exceptions. I do find links to important research on various topics on twitter and facebook. I also have reconnected with people I haven’t heard from in years and also met new people. It’s all good if used for good.

  7. […] Post: Tanya Coyle’s blog posts about twitter are awesome. In particular, I think the post about the etiquette for social media (twitter specifically) is wonderful. It is easy to lose sight of manners when […]

  8. […] others’ ideas. As I am crediting the Lexical Linguist for her thoughts on crediting others, the same rule applies on […]

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