How To Use Twitter and Not Be a Douchebag

Twitter douchebag

People of Twitter, there are douchebags among us.

Gone are the days when Twitter’s own description of the service was accurate:

Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?

Now everybody is flocking to Twitter in hopes of answering the questions “How can I sell my product to you?”, “How can I get you to follow me?”, and “OMG Plz RT?”. Yes, we’ve gone from Twitter being a virtual unknown outside the geek circles to hearing Billy Bush, Ashton Kutcher, and (this one opened the floodgates) Oprah gush about our beloved microblogging service.

Once all these newbies flock to Twitter, they immediately have a few questions. Specifically, they want to know (a) how they are supposed to make all this money on Twitter, (b) how they, too, can have 1 million followers, and—this one probably bugs me the most—(c) hey, why can’t the up the character limit? 140 is too small! If not helped, these folks will turn into social media douchebags (or worse, social media sleestacks!).

My goal here is to provide some tips you can point these misguided folks to. Help them avoid becoming douchebags.

  1. It’s not all about you. If you’re going to get anything out of Twitter at all, you need to immediately check your ego at the door, listen to people, and build relationships. Talking about the things your or your company are doing will only get you anywhere once you’ve already joined the conversation.
  2. Don’t tweet about your number of followers. It’s technically impossible to do that without sounding like a douchebag.
  3. Don’t ask for x many more followers so you can reach a “milestone”. Double douchey. You’re better off saying something interesting (so people will retweet it) than asking THE PEOPLE ALREADY FOLLOWING YOU if you can get a few more followers.
  4. Don’t retweet Oprah*. Just don’t. She has eleven bajillion followers. We’re all aware she has a Twitter account. If we want to see her tweets, we’ll follow her. By retweeting Oprah, you’re exposing Oprah’s tweets to the millions of people who purposely have avoided them at all costs. (* This also applies for Ashton Kutcher, Mashable, TechCrunch, Robert Scoble, Guy Kawasaki, etc.)
  5. Don’t ask for retweets. If something is interesting, it will be retweeted. People already retweet WAY too much anyway. Please don’t encourage them.
  6. Don’t break the system. I get it. You’re annoyed that Twitter changed the way @replies work. But don’t go putting extra characters in front of your replies, forcing EVERYONE to see your @replies to EVERYONE. I know some people really liked that feature. But for a lot of us, if we had that feature turned on, Twitter would have been unusable. Don’t ruin Twitter for the rest of us.
  7. This ain’t no RSS feed. My stance used to be that you shouldn’t tweet about every single blog post you write. My reasoning was that if people wanted to see every blog post, they’d subcribe to the feed. Well, for many Twitter is replacing the RSS reader. So, my new stance is that it’s fine to tweet about each blog post—as long as that’s not the only thing you’re using Twitter for. Mix them in with actual conversations. While you’re at it, don’t just tweet “[title] [link]“. Give us a teenie bit of context, or at least just make them sound friendlier. I know I’m more apt to click on something if the tweet gives me a little incentive as opposed to just looking like an auto-published tweet.
  8. Learn how to @reply. By default (and as of this writing, the only setting) is that people will only see @replies from people they follow ONLY when they’re directed to other people they also follow. I love this default setting. So, here are some ways to use it right:
    • @adarowski wrote this awesome post about CSS. http://tinyurl.com/6x9add

      The problem with this tweet is that it would only be seen by people who follow both you and @adarowski. People who follow @adarowski likely saw him tweet it already. I’m guessing you want this to go to your whole network. @adarowski would appreciate that, too.

    • Check out this awesome post about CSS by @adarowski. http://tinyurl.com/6x9add

      Now this would go to your entire network. Win for you. Win for @adarowski.

    • @mattgillooly Heading to Providence Geeks? I’ll be there in about 30 mins.

      At first glance, you might think this should be a direct message. But for an event like Providence Geeks, the folks that follow both you and @mattgillooly probably would be happy to know you’re arriving soon (unless, of course, you’re a douchebag). What I like about this is that it doesn’t go to your entire network—just the folks that know both of you (and therefore actually care).

    • @adarowski See you soon!

      Something like this is probably best as a direct message. There’s no event context and it’s clearly just for one person to see.

  9. Do not—under any circumstances—send an automatic direct message to new followers. Sending an automatic direct message says one of two things:
    • You don’t know me yet, but I feel comfortable enough to send you some spam.
    • I do know you, but I’m the type of douchebag who sends auto-DMs to EVERYONE, so you get the same generic response as everyone else. Feel special?

    Don’t be a douchebag. If you want to DM them, send them a real DM, typed with your own fingers.

  10. Fill out your profile. A laundry list of ways to NOT get followed on Twitter:
    • By not using your real name. I’m talking to you, socmed14413 and flygrrl182.
    • By not using an actual photo of you (like your logo or something). Or worse, by not adding a photo at all.
    • By not providing a link. We’re not convinced. We want to find out a bit more about you before following. If you don’t have another link to provide, write a blog or join LinkedIn and come back later.
    • By not providing a “one line bio”. Think of this as your answer to the question “why am I interesting?”. Leaving it blank gives people no reason to follow you back.
    • By calling yourself a “social media expert”. Even if you are one. Everybody on Twitter calls themselves a social media export. After all, they do have a Twitter account.

Let’s help these folks out. What else you got?

59 Comments

  1. On May 26th, 2009 at 9:18 am leanne said:

    Awesome list. Except for the posting a link in your profile, because a) I don’t have a link to post and b) I gave up blogging a few years ago, so I don’t want to start another one, and c) for various reasons, I don’t want to post my LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. links, so I disagree with you. But the rest is spot on.

  2. On May 26th, 2009 at 9:55 am Scott said:

    Outstanding. I love how douchebag is becoming the standard term for this. Even the Tweetsum team calculates the DBI or douche bag index of your followers.

    I do have something to add:

    Do not play the mass follow then unfollow game in an attempt to artificially inflate your numbers. The only people who care how many people follow you are the other douchebags.

    If you are going to follow me just long enough for me to follow you back, please let me know so I can take advantage of the time I have to DM you to tell you to screw off.

    SB

  3. On May 26th, 2009 at 10:55 am miles said:

    http://twitter.com/iamdiddy

    shouldnt be allowed to rap.. should definately not be allowed to tweet.

    no serious person would disagree

  4. On May 26th, 2009 at 11:20 am Phil Nelson said:

    I publish links / summary of my blog posts using a separate twitter account. Seems to be what a lot of people do, now, and nicely side-steps your issue. See: http://twitter.com/daringfireball

  5. On May 26th, 2009 at 11:59 am Randy Gage said:

    Absolutely love this and RT’d it. Also appreciate SB’s comments about the people that do the mass follow crap just to see how many will follow them back. I wrote a blog post on this myself, kind of the 7 Deadly Sins of Twitter. Anyone interested can find it at: http://is.gd/FdBN

    -RG

  6. On May 26th, 2009 at 12:04 pm Gina Chen said:

    Great list. I especially like your advisory about not sending automated welcome DMs. (I hate those!!)

    Also agree it’s lame to request a retweet, but must quibble with this line: “People already retweet WAY too much anyway. Please don’t encourage them.”

    I supposed if all you do is retweet, you’d be pretty boring. But I like reading retweets because I get exposed to new voices, and I like to retweet. Want my followers to get the value of a good tweet.

  7. On May 26th, 2009 at 12:14 pm Cassie Wallender said:

    Excellent, excellent points.

    I can’t say how strongly I agree with the rule about not talking about your follower count. Every time someone does that, I am seriously tempted to unfollow them, and often will unless they are people I personally know.

    @firewallender

  8. On May 26th, 2009 at 12:15 pm Nick Peters said:

    Haha, thanks for this post Adam; perfect way to start the day. I had a few people douche bags on twitter that I just ended up deleting. My experience has been better as a result.

  9. On May 26th, 2009 at 12:17 pm Period said:

    Twitter sucks. Period.

  10. On May 26th, 2009 at 12:45 pm King Rat said:

    Two things to add to the list:

    1. Not quite as douchebaggy, but up there, are tweets about milestone tweets. “Should I waste tweet 1000 on a pop culture fad or an insult to my friend?” “I can’t believe I’ve already reach tweet 50!”

    2. Really douchebaggy are the companies that sponsor tweet contests and their followers/contestants. “Everyone who tweets our URL is entered to win a Kindle! A tweet a day gets you an extra entry!” I understand why companies do this, and I expect them to have no thought for users. My seething displeasure is directed mostly at the idiots who wholeheartedly enter and tweet tons of crappy no-content entries. I unfollow all of them.

  11. On May 26th, 2009 at 1:40 pm Valerie Rigsbee said:

    I am with you 100%. Some other items on my no-no list:

    A couple of the folks I follow tend to get really into some of the trending tags like #tvbandname, #RockinReads, etc., tweeting 10 or 15 versions each. When this happens my entire deck is filled with tweets on that #. Let other people talk too! My personal rule is no more that 2 or 3 tweets in an hour (and I usually only hit that many in a day). I was following a number of news sources who were tweeting every 10 minutes, but no longer do – if I want to read every article you publish, I’ll visit your site…

    This is also true of those who go back and forth with @replies – after 3 or 4 @replies you should really take it to DMs or another service entirely. I don’t need to be the awkward outsider listening in on your conversation…I’m that person enough in the real world…

    I only follow those I know personally or those who post things of substance. And as the Boston police tweeting showed – people like to know there’s a real person behind your brand. I follow @mashable cause he has slightly more personal tweets thrown in every once and a while. I follow @AnnieScott because she mixes the links to her articles with personal anecdotes. Like any other medium, people buy into the brand, not the advertising – make me like you on a personal level and I’ll click on your links every once and a while too…

    @vrigsbee

  12. On May 26th, 2009 at 1:52 pm John said:

    I just retweeted a retweet of this article (not from Oprah, Ashton Kutcher or Guy Kawasaki), am I a douchebag?

    Great article!

  13. On May 26th, 2009 at 2:04 pm Brian said:

    This article title is a paradox. The only way to use Twitter and not be a D-bag is to not use it.

  14. On May 26th, 2009 at 2:38 pm Francisco said:

    Something I don’t understand…

    What entitles you to decide what can or can´t be done in Twitter?

    Have you by chance understood the evolution of the internent phenomenon? Have you heard about web 2.0…

    People can have the right to mold the environment…people against everything always have the right to leave…
    hippies left society because they thought they were better than the rest…but soon theu realised that would starve…and came back.

    All I see here is you promoting YOUR pseudo-company and YOUR expertise… glass roofs?

  15. On May 26th, 2009 at 2:45 pm James said:

    Brian wins. Adam views Twitter history through rose-tinted glasses imagining some completely fictional pre-douchebag twitter that never was.

  16. On May 26th, 2009 at 2:53 pm Adam Darowski said:

    @leanne: See, you don’t need to provide a link, because people will only need to take a look at your last few Tweets and see that you’re awesome. :)

    @Scott, King Rat, & Valerie: Thanks for your great additions!

    @Gina: I have no problem with link sharing, but just a straight RT is a bit boring. I like when someone adds their own take (though this can admittedly be tough in 140 characters).

    @Francisco: Glad you… liked it? :)

  17. On May 26th, 2009 at 4:40 pm Paul said:

    Great post – interesting if ‘douchebag’ becomes a new corporate buzzword … I laughed out loud several times but in the end, I was left empty and disapointed. To make myself feel better (isn’t that what web 2.0 is REALLY about?) – I wanted to offer a rewrite of your response to Francisco.

    “@Fancisco: … Douchebag.”

    Naturally, that rewrite is meant in the most constructive and positive way imaginable.

    Thanks – I feel better now.

  18. On May 26th, 2009 at 5:38 pm Adam Cohen said:

    I’m going to send an auto-DM and @ reply to every new spam follower with a link to this post ;) Well done Adam, I think have captured a lot of great thoughts on using Twitter in this ‘new era’ of spammers and celebs. Without following your advice I could see why others would think Twitter is less than stellar.

  19. On May 26th, 2009 at 6:13 pm Just Dont said:

    RULE NO.1 FOR NOT BEING A DOUCHEBAG ON TWITTER:

    Dont use twitter

  20. On May 26th, 2009 at 7:20 pm Kathie Martin said:

    Auto DM = douchebag? I warmly welcomed a fellow Rotarian and was greeted with “Thanks for the auto-follow and auto-DM” when it WAS me with my very own fingers. Guess I need to sound more spontaneous, but I thought that was rather douche-y of him. @RotaryKat

  21. On May 26th, 2009 at 8:00 pm Andrew Hyde said:

    Great post.

    Can I add:

    Don’t participate in spammy or namedropping memes. Just because it is in Trending Topics doesn’t mean you need to use in in a post.

  22. On May 26th, 2009 at 8:12 pm Value of social media, Twitter to journalists | Save the Media said:

    [...] advice for journalists or anyone on Twitter. Best takeaway from blogger Adam Darowski:  ”It’s not all about you.If you’re going to get anything out of Twitter at all, you need to immediately check your ego at [...]

  23. On May 26th, 2009 at 8:28 pm Suzanne de Cornelia said:

    Thanks for the helpful advice, Adam. Nice that your bio includes “Daddy of 3″ :) sweet.

    All best,

    Suzanne

  24. On May 26th, 2009 at 11:05 pm David Lytle said:

    So right on. Would add one more- no more than 3 no context quotes from dead people per day please!

  25. On May 27th, 2009 at 12:12 am Twitter Corral … you can rest easy now — Shooting at Bubbles said:

    [...] How To Use Twitter and Not Be a Douchebag via Adam Darowski – some friendly rules for those lesser than intelligent people trying out Twitter for the first time (I never said marketers or PR folks so leave me alone). Extra points for using Douchebag in the headline. [...]

  26. On May 27th, 2009 at 1:49 am Ted said:

    I get the feeling the real douchebags are the ones who complain about douchebags. It’s only twitter and you’re not that clever. Don’t talking about trending topics? Get real, why did twitter include it then? You may want the world to grovel at your twitter-greatness, but its obvious twitter’s founders and investors want it to serve as simple platform for douchebags to give each other a daily cleansing. Here’s another clue: twitter can be anything you want it to be, ask the damn cat.

  27. On May 27th, 2009 at 4:54 am Twitter spam, aan de schandpaal | Spam | Recruitment Matters - Alles over online recruitment said:

    [...] wie nog niet helemaal bekend is met de Twittiquette; lees deze erg onderhoudende posting van Adam Darowski eens. Dan weet je voortaan de do’s en don’ts. Hoewel dat ongetwijfeld nog zal [...]

  28. On May 27th, 2009 at 5:52 am Bronwyn said:

    hmmm, forget the douchebags they are harmless, it’s the Twitter Snobs that are on the rampage and I reckon that’s who will be doing the most damage in twitter, what’s with all this elitism. Seriously if you don’t like the way someone is using twitter DON’T FOLLOW THEM, it’s not rocket science people. Lighten up, it’s just twitter, get a grip.

    Also, while I’m joining you on the soap box, I do believe, that by the end of this blog your ego got the better of you with that laundry list of don’ts:

    “By not providing a link. We’re not convinced. We want to find out a bit more about you before following. If you don’t have another link to provide, write a blog or join LinkedIn and come back later.”

    I’m thinking you may just have missed the point of twitter…

  29. On May 27th, 2009 at 11:12 am Adam Darowski said:

    @Suzanne: Thanks! What bio would be complete without that? Everything else comes second.

    @Ted & @Bronwyn: I’m very aware that Twitter can be whatever you want it to be. I’ve just made some observations of what works and what doesn’t seem to. Really the only points on the list contested so far are that you should provide a link (I just like to know a bit more about the person before making the commitment to follow) and about retweets (I didn’t say I don’t like retweets, I just think folks do it a bit too much… I’d rather people write their own take on with with a “via” at the end). Of course you can use it however you want. This is really just meant to help out the folks who think they’ll make a quick buck on Twitter just because it’s the next big thing. We all know it just doesn’t work that way. Thanks for reading!

  30. On May 27th, 2009 at 12:37 pm Ken-Tore (AboKevin) said:

    A really great and interesting read. I wholeheartedly agree with all your points, although I have broken the auto-dm to new followers rule. I felt it was polite to at least say thx. See your point tho and have quit that bad habit.

    I am now on your follower list.

    thx

  31. On May 27th, 2009 at 3:25 pm fasel said:

    i disagree with 10. otherwise the article is a good read.

    i just like to stay anonymous and keep my real personal data on the web on a miniumum
    So no real name and no photo

  32. On May 27th, 2009 at 4:13 pm Ted said:

    This should be Twitter’s End-User License Agreement.

  33. On May 27th, 2009 at 5:48 pm Adam Darowski said:

    @Ken-Tore: If writing this article made one person stop auto-DMing, it was worth it. Thank you sir, it was now worth it!

    @fasel: Do you disagree with the concept of #10 though? Don’t you think you would actually have more followers if you did have personal information there (so folks know more about you)? I totally respect that followers probably arne’t what you’re going for… just the creative outlet. But I think you may agree with the premise of #10, just understandably don’t adhere to it. Thanks for reading!

    @Ted: Hey thanks! Not a bad idea. ;)

  34. On May 28th, 2009 at 7:39 am New York Times social media editor off to a sociable start « Transforming the Gaz said:

    [...] also offered (not directed at Preston, but valuable to her anyway) some helpful advice on “How To Use Twitter and not Be a Douchebag.” I tweeted a link to his piece and then was retweeted 11 times, which is a lot for [...]

  35. On May 28th, 2009 at 1:58 pm Joshua Murphy said:

    Could not agree with you more, just read another interesting article on this topic of Twitter changing from our beloved geek only service to an overblown douchebag fest with all kinds of stupid features and additions..

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/2009/05/twitter-future-jack-dorsey.html

  36. On May 28th, 2009 at 2:40 pm Mike said:

    I would suggest you are the douchebag for telling people how they should and should not use Twitter. You need to realize that not everybody is like you, and they may find value and/or entertainment doing something in a different way. Yes, we are aware of the popular users on Twitter. What if, for example, Oprah tweets something interesting that you would have otherwise missed because you are not interested in the majority of her other tweets? It’s not like Twitter is going to run out of space unless people stop copying Oprah. Quit being a douche.

  37. On May 28th, 2009 at 3:02 pm Robert Dowding said:

    Can I go back a remove the douchbagery that I have done in the past now that I have been enlightened. No auto DM’s for me but I can say that I said last week that I was really close to 200. Oh well life goes on.

  38. On May 28th, 2009 at 3:25 pm AJ said:

    Great article.

    I would add that if all you tweet are quotes by other people, no matter how inspirational, pithy, or catty each one is, you might be increasing your Twitter DBI. I don’t mind a Ben Franklin or an Eleanor Roosevelt thrown in here and there but I’m starting to see people post tweet after tweet of other people’s words. I know where to find the online quote databases but I follow individuals to get the inspirational, pithy, and catty quotes that I won’t find on the databases.

    I also tend to follow the 10 Commandments of Twitter: http://twitter.com/tencommandments as I think that the list is a good starting point.

    #9) I was asked to follow a new tweeter to help her get acclimated to Twitter. I did and took a minute to write a welcoming tweet and to explain how I came to follow her. Then I got an auto-DM. I’m so glad that she has so many followers that she has to do an auto-DM to welcome them all. Clearly, she doesn’t need me. Moving on.

    Scott) Excellent addition. I think I avoid the add-drop game by simply not getting around to adding new followers for a couple of days (okay, a couple of weeks — sometimes). I like to follow people who follow me and I was feeling guilty about not being more responsive but now I think it might be a good plan to just wait.

    I would also suggest to commenters that before you comment, you might want to read the title of the piece or even read the whole article. Crazy, I know. Yes, Twitter can be anything you want it to be. However, one way that Twitter may get to be what Adam and a lot of others want it to be is by writing guidelines. If you want Twitter to be something else, maybe you should spend less time complaining about the work that someone else has done and take the time and effort to go write your own article. Again, crazy talk. Adam, this was a fun article and even though I disagree with the personal picture thing, I will pass it along to all the people in my group who are joining Twitter. This is the Twitter that I would like to see and if the people who participate don’t speak up, it will never happen.

    Thank you for taking the time to write such a helpful and funny article.

  39. On May 28th, 2009 at 4:00 pm The Great Geek Manual » Link Round-Up: May 28, 2009 said:

    [...] How To Use Twitter and Not Be a Douchebag – Yes, I’m blogging but ignoring this post. Still, I’d greatly appreciate it if all the rest of you followed these rules. [...]

  40. On May 28th, 2009 at 8:20 pm Jen said:

    I agree with just about everything you said, Adam but I do agree with fasel on #10. You still have to use some common sense and not post everything about yourself. I, personally, think a good logo or something that symbolizes you is fine for a picture. Most people’s photos are not quality enough and it ends up looking cheap.

  41. On May 28th, 2009 at 9:00 pm Adam Darowski said:

    @Mike:

    What if, for example, Oprah tweets something interesting that you would have otherwise missed because you are not interested in the majority of her other tweets?

    I suppose I’m willing to take my chances on that one. :) Thanks for reading!

    @AJ: Thanks a lot for the support. I agree and would love to see the dissenting opinions turned into articles providing tips on how to best utilize Twitter. Sure you can just say “it can be anything you want”, but folks need a starting point. Thanks!

    @Jen: I can respect the choice not to post a photo, but I don’t think quality is a reason not to. It’s Twitter, not a photography competition. We just like putting a face to the name. Thanks for reading! :)

  42. On May 31st, 2009 at 12:59 pm BlogMouth » Twitter Tweet Links May 2009 said:

    [...] How To Use Twitter and Not Be a Douchebag [...]

  43. On June 1st, 2009 at 12:31 am Justin said:

    This list of Do’s and Don’ts is really good. I would like to say that I was guilty of a couple of the Don’ts on the list. However I don’t see anything wrong with asking someone to Re-tweet some status or message, because they may be reluctant do so exciting article or not…oh and also some people are forgetful about such things.

  44. On July 3rd, 2009 at 6:58 pm 12 Great Ways To Use Twitter To Your Advantage – Design The Planet said:

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  45. On July 27th, 2009 at 3:38 pm Twitter Douchebag said:

    Hey Adam, just found your article. Thank you, it helps as a newbie. I also found this site that shows people who didn’t follow your advices:

  46. On July 27th, 2009 at 3:43 pm Twitter Douchebags said:

    sorry people, link didn’t work… Twitter Douchebags

  47. On August 11th, 2009 at 3:54 pm Brian said:

    Great article and I love http://www.twouchebags.com – these people should definitely read your article.

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  50. On September 7th, 2009 at 4:45 am carol said:

    I completely, 100% agree with all these. I stopped following those guys who think these actions are normal in Twitter community. of course when I use Twitter, i snoop around to know what my friends are doing but marketing 100% of the time won’t work for me. it’s annoying! I would like to find a person there, not a product!

  51. On September 9th, 2009 at 10:58 am substitui said:

    Can You Buy A Twitter Account?

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  55. On January 7th, 2010 at 7:29 am peterzewet said:

    OMG, thank you so much … i learnt something that i was confused about on twitter for sometimes … the way replies work; adding characters when replying @someone make it visible to everyone on my list (that was an embarrassing twit episode for me). THANK YOU!

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  58. On February 17th, 2010 at 2:29 pm Bryan "Soupknife" Longoria said:

    Adam, I loved this post. I read it through Jamie Varon’s feed. Do you have any best practices starter guides?

  59. On February 19th, 2010 at 9:15 pm Adam Darowski said:

    Hey Bryan. Glad you enjoyed it. I don’t have any best practices starter guides… my advice is to just be yourself. Don’t take it too seriously. There are many starter guides out there, though. This is the best I’ve got. :)