7 Deadly Sins of Twitter

By Zoey Dowling. Follow her @zoeyspeak.

Twitter is a bright, shiny universe of new friends, new ideas, hilarious little snippets and occasionally even a spot of news. It’s a great way to promote your blog or your business. But if your primary purpose on twitter is promotion and not to connect with other people – abandon ship. Twitter is not for you. Ulterior motives don’t do well. They result in one action: UNFOLLOW. Mistakes are easy when you start out. After all, no-one is updating their status – they’re engaging with one another! And that’s confusing – is it private or can you join in? How do you make the most of it and have fun? Well for starters you could avoid the most irritating twitter behaviours. And before you start trawling through my twitter stream – yes I have committed most of them.

1. Gluttony (Over-Sharing)
Do not, I repeat do not over-share. Do you really want to know about someone else’s digestive problems? I didn’t think so. When you went into graphic detail about your gastric flu did you consider all the people reading your tweets while they were eating? Your followers should be wanting to know more about you, not less.

2. Pride (Over-Promotion)
People get pretty sick of you if all they here are continual, duplicated plugs for whatever it is that you’re promoting. The argument that some of your followers may have missed it because of the timing doesn’t hold water. It’s extremely irritating to see exactly the same tweet repeated. Get creative and find a way to send the same link in a different way. For example “my loyal follower has just commented at my blog, what do you think?” And yes over-promotion includes blathering about blog stats, follower numbers or fans.

3. Sloth (Automatic Anything)
Anything that is automated means that you don’t care enough to make it personal. This includes automated DM messages for new followers, an automatic tweet in response to keywords or an auto-follow in response to keywords. This puts you squarely into the spambot category. If you don’t want to spend the time on twitter to be personal, don’t bother at all.

4. Greed (Not Engaging)
Things get pretty boring pretty fast if all you do is update your status, post links, post pictures and promote your blog. In order for people to care about any of that, you need to engage with them. This involves replying when something sparks your interest, or you think you can be of help; re-tweeting where you can add value; and getting involved in the discussion.

5. Envy (Crashing the Party)
Work out the difference between joining the discussion and crashing someone’s private conversation. If a tweet starts with @user it generally means it’s not for public debate because if the author wanted everyone they follow to see it there would be another character in front of the @user to make it visible to everyone. But if you really want to participate in the discussion at the very least acknowledge that you’re crashing. It’s less douchey that way.

6. Wrath (Blasting)
I don’t care how passionate you are about your topic, there is no excuse for blasting. There is nothing wrong with how passionate you are and that passion will probably lead you to find many like-minded people on twitter. But (and it’s a big but), ramming your opinion down someone else’s throat when they don’t agree with you is no way to promote your cause or yourself – particularly if you haven’t taken the time to get to know the person at the end of your rant. I’m sorry activists but twitter isn’t really designed for you because you end up unleashing the bulk of your argument about a theory on one person. Not really fair is it?

7. Lust (Celebrity Stalking)
Everyone loves to follow a celebrity or two. Nothing wrong with that. Although fair warning if you follow @mrskutcher and @aplusk you will have to witness some pretty treacly interchanges. It’s not the celebrity part that is the problem it’s all of their followers. If you say anything at all that could be vaguely interpreted as negative, be prepared for all of their followers to be all over you like a rash. In part because celebrities are so idolised but mostly because deep down their followers are thinking that by attacking you, ‘the hater’, the celebrity will acknowledge them, and might actually follow them back. So avoid the lemmings, they’re not worth it.

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  • October 23, 2009

    Corruption over twitter is visible. Twitter Spamming is getting and renewing day-by-day. Growing envy of having too many numbers of followers is making cloud. Getting followers by paying some hefty money is round the corner…I don’t know future of Twitter? Making Twitter as promotional tool is largely accepted by its users…Why because it’s FREE!

    But, it’s true “sin never win”… serious People know whom to follow and whom not, how to use Twitter and how to not. And they will survive…

  • October 23, 2009

    Can’t beat an article that mentions gastric flu. Out of thousands of articles concerning Twitter manners and style, yours hits the bulls-eye. hypyklrz has an Old School philosophy, which basically means that we attempt to make a ‘real’ connection with folks on Twitter. Un-fortunately, we usually find ourselves drowning under the waterfall. Good advice – we’ll pass it along. Thanks.

  • October 23, 2009

    I considered following someone today until I l0oked at their Twittter stream and saw that they sent the same tweet about one of their blog posts about 8 times. I think sometimes people are worried that new followers might have missed the original tweet. In that case you can start the tweet “For My New Followers” or something that indicates that older followers can ignore the tweet.

    There is another internet marketer that I had retweeted several times and never got any thanks or acknowledgement from. I felt like he was only having a one-way conversation so I stopped following him – so “engagement” is important also.

    Thanks for the post, and I’m following (not stalking) you now.

  • October 23, 2009
    Brad Isaac

    I especially like #4.

    I don’t know how many times I’ve tried to help or answer a question from someone. But it really turns out to be an open question on their blog – without a link. Many these people never read their Twitter replies because they’ll repost the same question over and over – even though they are getting answers from people.

    I think if you are going to link to your posts on Twitter, (I do it too sometimes) but be prepared for Twitter comments. And, more importantly, be prepared to interact with Twitterers. Don’t just treat it as a free for all linking service.

  • October 23, 2009

    Over promoting is always the problem I see. Instead people just need to talk with others while slipping in some promotion. If you’re constantly promoting then people are going to want to turn away from you.

  • October 23, 2009

    “But if your primary purpose on twitter is promotion and not to connect with other people – abandon ship. Twitter is not for you.”

    Really? Why can’t one do both? Having a healthy mix of connection & solid content with a little bit of promotion mixed in seems ideal to me. There are plenty of people doing just that and having success at it.

    I agree with all but one on your 7 deadly sins. #3

    Again with the absolutes.

    “Anything that is automated means that you don’t care enough to make it personal.”

    That is quite a statement. A little automation doesn’t hurt, especially if the content is solid.

  • October 23, 2009

    Ooh, I’m guilty of a few of these, but I totally agree with you (and disagree with Andrew above) automation sucks.

    If I wanted to talk to a robot I would follow @robot.

  • October 23, 2009

    Man I love your application! What a catchy way to draw in a familiar and ancient teaching and apply it to something we work with every day. You’ve made some good points. I think I’ve decided not to stress too much over it either way. Take these good principles and live by them, but don’t beat yourself up over not obeying all of these rules all of the time.

  • October 23, 2009

    Initially, I would say that I don’t agree with your comments on over-promotion of your brand or product on twitter. Correct me if I am wrong, but the vast majority of users currently using twitter now are there primarily for business and not for social reasonsl. Granted it is a social networking tool; however the current application is heavily in favor of business application.

    So, with that, just when is promotion, too much?

  • October 23, 2009

    Yes, it’s true alot of people use Twitter to promote their blogs or sites. But you have alot people who just live on Twitter, too. I mean, they tell you everything that they are doing. So, your “7 Deadly Sins of Twitter” will always be done.

  • October 23, 2009

    I like how you took the deadly sins and translated them into bad Twitter behavior. Very clever. PS. I am not without sin.

  • October 23, 2009

    perfect. for once, i have nothing to add, this is perfect. :)

  • October 23, 2009
    Jan de Ridder

    I basically agree with all points. I would like to engage and communicate with fellow tweeters on a “normal” basis but how do I find people to communicate with that share my wish to “just communicate” ?

  • October 23, 2009

    I think you once again highlight points that show people are using Twitter strangely.

    For example (crashing the party) if people want private chats then they should use DM or here’s a crazy thought – email! The whole point of Twitter is that it is public!

    Id also say that (over-sharing) personal detail is all about targeting your tweets to your follower list. If you have a personal account then actually people will want to know what you are up to, on the other hand your business account should not go into your bowl problems. Keep them separate and it becomes easy to target your messages to the right people.

    But agreed, automated tweets are annoying. Again this shows that people still don’t get the difference between twitter and email. I read 100% of my emails (at least the subject lines) but not 100% of my tweets – despite keeping my follow counts as low as I can. If you want my attention – which is the best way to get in touch…

  • October 24, 2009
    Bernie Russell

    I take your point re automation – though I don’t mind it from someone clearly busy/popular. It depends on tone and style, as with messages on answering machines. If it’s meant to be helpful, I don’t really object. If it’s smug and boastful, I do.

    But, yes, you’re right – it’s much better to send personal responses.

    I’d suggest an 8th deadly sin: beginning every other word with tw …
    As in: twibbon, tweeple, twaffic …
    Makes me want to twow up.

    [I'll allow Twitip. :-) ]

  • October 24, 2009

    Does no one get the point of some automation?

    Kelly – what is wrong with updating a Twitter account with quality content that my followers may be interested in? It seems like you read Twitip posts. Through Twitterfeed I update my twitter account with new posts from Twitip. Does that mean you would be annoyed by content, that you actually read, just because I didn’t tweet it myself?
    Robot? Why take my comments to such extremes?

    Once again this is about balance & moderation.

  • October 24, 2009

    @BetterBodiesSFV: I don’t know about absolute subscriber numbers, but a quick glance at @public_timeline convinces me that the vast majority of tweets are personal, not promotional. Also, that one or two of these rules are pretty well unknown there.

    But I think the twitterverse (sorry, @nonkey1) is, like Gaul, divided into three parts: the long tail of tried-it-and-dropped-it, the large crowd of personal tweets, and a solid head of the sort of traffic you’re thinking of: call it “social business.” In this arena, it’s a major art-form deciding how much promotion is “over” promoting. FWIW, I just took a look at your timeline, and it looks like a pretty good balance to me, possibly even better balanced than @zoeyspeak’s (not to start a war!). So maybe you’re not disagreeing as much as it seems.

  • October 24, 2009

    @jrep thanks for the analysis and comment. Being a novice and newbie at Twitter, I am still unaware of certain tools and functions; could you explain to what my timeline is and how you were able to see that? Also, what criteria are you using to make the assessment that it looks like I have a pretty good balance? Thxs….

  • October 24, 2009

    So many guilty souls in Twitter right now after reading what you have shared here. I would say at least 50% of Twitters I guess.

  • October 25, 2009

    1. Includes interminable “Just joined —Twibe, we follow tweets and the ever popular #ff everyone in the universe. Quick routes to un/no follow.
    4. I like it when someone will reply, comment, want more info, want to make a connection. Depends on the content and expectations whether update only is acceptable.
    6. Personal attack wrathers are on a fast track to Twitter hell. Exception: entertaining, creative cranks can be fun to watch if only for the crash and burn.
    7. Celebrities worth following lump into 4 and 6. You can’t expect interaction. When they do it’s a kick. Just so they are entertaining and not spammy as in 1.

  • October 27, 2009

    Funnily enough at least one of the commenters on this article has had their Twitter account suspended.

    I don’t know about anything automated being a no-no – what about Twitterfeed? As long as there’s a good ratio of real tweets to bot tweets I don’t think it’s a problem. Some people use Twitter feeds in a similar way to RSS.

  • October 27, 2009

    I’m going to say amen on all of this except… #5. If it’s meant to be private, it should be held in DM. I don’t write anything on Twitter that I don’t expect my followers to read and potentially respond to, and I’ve never known anyone I follow to take offense to being “crashed” in such a way. It is the most public conversation medium we have, and it comes with that expectation.

  • October 27, 2009

    Freaking love the less douchy comment in number five, absolutely hilarious! I think you did a great job . The post both reminds seasoned folks what rules keeps the integrity of twitter alive, as well as etiquette guidelines for people new to twitter.
    Thanks for summing it up so nicely !

  • October 27, 2009

    Thanks for the comments everyone!

    @ileane – love the (not stalking) refernece. Am seriously considering changing my twitter feed on my blog to ‘Stalk Me!’

    A few people seem to disagree with #5 with @replies and although I agree you should never have the expectation that they are private (as they are obviously in the public domain), I still think you should respect the writers intention and if they wanted to make sure everyone saw it, it wouldn’t be an @reply.

    So @jrep may have compared my timeline with @BetterBodiesSFV for the sin of Pride (over-promotion) and I came up short? I must be doing well if somebody is already accusing me of hypocrisy.

    Glad this gave a few people a giggle.

  • October 28, 2009

    You got some great tips here. I think this info will be good for new twits and old twits alike. I will retweet this and try to help spread the word. Keep posting great articles please.


  • October 31, 2009

    Ditto to what Lani said above. This should be provided as Twitter Rules 101 for any newbie.

  • December 3, 2009

    Hi Zoey, You made some very good points…but let’s be real.

    Every single point you made is from YOUR Twitter bible. Many, many others do not feel the same as you do.

    There are millions of Twitterers who are ONLY there for promotion of their product, blog or website.

    They allow others whom they follow to promote their business in peace. Perhaps you could learn something from that attitude.

    Most rational people know that it will be 100% impossible to bring about the idealized Twitter-world you are striving for, so why not just take the blinders off, relax and enjoy the show.

    I personally think it is quite funny or entertaining when I read tweets that have absolutely nothing to do with me or my life – but then I am not that stuck on myself.

    Also there are no such thing as private tweets. Whatever you say in the public timeline is just that – public. Twitter uses DMs for private matters.

    And another thing, I have friends, I am not spending my precious time on Twitter trying to tell someone who I am. That’s a bit of insanity, if you ask me because your friends don’t like you because of who you tell them you are – they like you because they have observed for themselves who you are.

    Twitter is strictly a commercial tool and anyone who tells you differently is lying to you. It is simply NOT possible to expect etiquette and good social graces where the opportunity to make a dollar exists. That’s not my rule – that is just the world we live in.

    Live and let live, young lady.

    You will live a much less stressful life if you do.

  • December 6, 2009

    Certain circles on twitter do seem to do nothing but post commercial and/or affiliate links. There are quite a few real companies and people that use it for proper purposes though.

  • December 20, 2009

    I personally have built my Twitter identity on sharing and I do share some very strange things. Sometimes, when I wonder, “should I share this?” it turns into an amazing conversation! So who knows. I think Twitter is a bit a kin to the real world in that there are people who are going to like me and there are people who won’t – I can’t please everyone – I can only be myself.

    On another note -AUTOMATION – I was having a conversation with a friend (poor soul) who went to a “make millions on Twitter” seminar and paid $17,000 HKD = $2500 USD for an automated system that was going to make him a millionaire. He was to set up 10 twitter accounts under false identities, with 10 gmail accounts where it then automates articles for people to click on. I almost cried for him. He just didn’t understand why I said no one was going to follow his automated article bots. It seems people are saying it will work…but I would report him as SPAM in less than 5 seconds flat.

  • December 20, 2009

    Btw – I totally agree with you @lynnegordon. I think conversation crashing is awesome. In Hong Kong we have a very active Twitter community and you will see a conversation build from one @reply to at least 4 or 5. That is what makes it fun!

    It is also one of the big 3 on Twitter – Approachability – if you can’t conversation crash, than it isn’t approachable!

    Thanks for the article Zoey :) Following you now! Awesome of you to put your thoughts out there & to start such a great dialogue!

  • December 29, 2009

    Yeah, #2 is a pain in the butt for sure and a great way to lose followers. If you just focus on the promotional aspect then you just become another noisey channel on the web. Nothing wrong with a little self promotion, but I personally think you will gain far more followers by mixing things up a bit and by showing people a more personal non business side of yourself.

  • January 16, 2010

    I really hate peopel who mix greed and sloth together by using allowing access to apps that tweet ads just to get a few dollars extra. Most of those sites are a waste/scams and I just unfollow anyone who is giving away their account to make a few dollars

  • January 29, 2010

    If you have a personal account then actually people will want to know what you are up to, on the other hand your business account should not go into your bowl problems. Keep them separate and it becomes easy to target your messages to the right people.

  • January 29, 2010

    actually, there’s many automatic post on twitter. that’s different aim between person to person.. actually, i think that’s good reason to kill our self account.

  • February 4, 2010

    Very interesting ettiquite rules… I never actually considered the possibility that you could actually crash a conversation… I will have to watch for that one…

  • April 23, 2010

    Wow! These are great. Pretty wild that being on twitter can make me a big time sinner! lol.

  • September 1, 2010

    These tips are on point and interesting to note. Happy i find these out. twitter rocks!!

  • September 3, 2010

    VERY good tips and all beginners need to take note. Just be cool…

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