Twitter Etiquette: Should One Message Span Multiple Tweets?

November 10, 2008 •

Last week on Twitter, I irritated Jill Whalen (@jillwhalen). And I was mortified. This is the person who set me on the path to becoming an SEO copywriter! Her ebook was the first SEO-related ebook I ever bought. She’s a genuine celebrity in the SEO world, and someone I really do look up to. And, from what I can tell, quite a nice lady, to boot. She’s certainly not someone I’d ever WANT to irritate.

But, after thinking about it all weekend, I’ve decided I wouldn’t change what I did.

So what did I do? I used four Tweets to convey one message:

Tweet 1: ” ‘Squidoo raises big money for charity… by donating money from the ads and links you see on every page.’ Google told me this is a no-no???”

Tweet 2: “ ‘If you’d like to donate a portion of your earnings to charity, you are welcome to do so, as long as you refrain from advertising this fact’ “

Tweet 3: “That was from the The Google AdSense Team, in an email sent Fri 29/06/2007 8:48 AM.”

Tweet 4: “Has Google changed its policy on advertising sharing of ad revenue?”

Then, about a minute later, Jill Tweeted this:

“I think tweets that span across more than one tweet should be banned…can’t say in 140 characters then don’t say it!”

Now I may be flattering myself; perhaps Jill was referring to someone else’s Tweet. But she does follow me, and the timing was just right. (In any case, if she was referring to someone else, her sentiment applies equally to me.)

In any case, after thinking about it all weekend, and mulling it over on two runs, I decided that I just don’t agree with her. IMHO some things simply can’t be said in 140 words. Especially when you’re quoting someone else’s words. I reckon Twitter’s bigger than its 140 word limit. It’s about community, dialogue, sharing and learning. If my message requires more words, I’ll use more words.

And that got me thinking about the whole question of etiquette. Of other people’s expectations versus my own. Of followers versus communities.

If Jill chooses to unfollow me because I didn’t meet her expectations, so be it. I’d be very disappointed to see her go, because I like to think that she might be interested in what I have to say (and I feel honoured that she’s following me in the first place). But if I reckon Twitter’s a place where you should be true to yourself. People will follow you if they like what you have to say (and how you say it), or they won’t. If I spend my time worrying about how my followers expect me to express myself, I’ll be constraining my expression. And that goes against one of the core rules of social media: be authentic.

I use Twitter to genuinely engage with people. (I work alone, so that’s very important to me.) Yes, I value my followers, but if I change how I express myself to please them, then they won’t be following the real me at all. Eventually I’d only disappoint them – by slipping up and doing something they don’t like, by seeming fake, or just by being boring.

Nope. If you follow me, you get me. Warts ‘n all.

So what’s my point? I suppose I’m saying that if you spend all your time worrying whether your followers are going to like what you say – or how you say it – it’s possible that you’ll develop a big following, but it won’t be a true community. You’ll only ever build a community if you true to yourself. (Exactly as Jill was being by criticizing me!)

In fact, that’s really what people in social media communities really want. People. They’re there to engage with you as a person, not a figure-head, not a PR practitioner, not a spin-doctor. If that weren’t the case, why on earth does Jeremy Schoemaker (aka @shoemoney) have 7000+ followers? (If you follow him, you’ll know what I mean!)

I’d love to hear your comments…

Feel free to comment...
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John Lacey wrote on November 9th, 2008

He speaks the truth... oh, the warts! =P

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Chris Allison wrote on November 10th, 2008

Google's stance makes sense. (I'm not sure what your thoughts were on it since they're not expressed in this post, but I thought I'd go ahead and give my two cents.) From an advertiser's perspective clicks motivated by charitable kindness may not be genuine and could inflate ctr. On the other hand, I appreciate Squidoo's transparency.

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Glenn (Owner) wrote on November 10th, 2008

Thanks for your comments, guys. (Chuckle: Chris, actually, I was a little confused by your comment. In my distress over irritating Jill, I completely forgot the subject of the tweets! I agree with you, Google's stance does make sense. That's why I was interested to see Squidoo's open admission of ad revenue sharing...)

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Rick Horowitz wrote on November 10th, 2008

I agree. Be true to yourself on Twitter (and other social networking sites). I also agree there are some things that just can't be done in 140 characters, though it's been a great exercise in editing my thoughts to try! Thanks for the article. I still think this should be called "twittiquette." ;)

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Jill wrote on November 10th, 2008

Hi Glenn, It wasn't your tweets, per se, just a random thought after noticing lots of people using multiple tweets to get one thought across. I was more throwing it out there to see what others thought, but surprisingly didn't get much (if any) reaction from other twitters. I had never seen anyone else comment on whether this was good twettiquette(!?) or not. But my thinking is that if you have one particular thought that does need to spam multiple tweets, perhaps that means it's time for a blog post instead. Then simply tweet your blog post and drive traffic to the longer thought. Just my opinion, and I don't believe I unfollowed anyone so far who does use multiple tweets to convey one thought. I do think it's an interesting question though, so thanks for starting the discussion. Oh, and you are right on the money as far as attempting to please others in the way you tweet. As long as you're basically not pissing off everyone, you should tweet however you think is best. Jill

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BarbaraKB wrote on November 10th, 2008

Those who begin to worry about how tweets effect those who follow, to me, is the first sign that you no longer value Twitter. Twitter is for interaction and if you use it as a feed to your blog(s) or site(s), you have lost its value. That being said, I do use DM to follow up w/someone who likes an initial tweet, thus I *know* who's interested in further discussion on Twitter. And if we're really chatty, we move to e-mail or GTalk. So many ways to use Twitter: find your own value and forget about that follow/follower ratio! ;)

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Carolyn wrote on November 10th, 2008

I guess the odd multi-tweet doesn't do any harm, but there is a sense of satisfaction in effectively expressing your thought into 140 characters. And like Jill says, if it doesn't fit, it's probably better suited to a blog. I don't have the attention span to connect 4 tweets that are separated by all the ones the squeezed in between anyway. My vote here would be for single-thought tweets.

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Ike wrote on November 10th, 2008

Don't sweat it. I have a blog, and I have a Twitterstream. The audiences have some crossover, but I don't assume they are complete. You're talking with a group on your blog, and you need to engage them quickly with short messages. You do so where they are, even if the rapid-fire messages don't quite fit the infrastructure, and those following on feeds get them later than you'd like. You're talking with a group on Twitter, and you need to express something a little longer than you can possibly do in 140. Sure, you *could* write something on the blog, then post a link from Twitter. And then the purists blast you for link-spamming, and trying to use Twitter to drive traffic. Sometimes in life, you're in the wrong vehicle and you make do. That's why you cram a third kid in the backseat for a short trip through just the neighborhood. Sometimes in life, you buy overpriced milk in the convenience store, because that's where you are and it's more expensive to drive elsewhere. Don't sweat it.

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Allan wrote on November 10th, 2008

Personally I don't mind, as long as it is very limited. once every hundred or so tweets, there might be a companion thought or quote that screams to be added. If you are not afraid of being dropped by those that don't agree; the value of your comments is higher to those that continue to follow you, even if they disagree.

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Gina Kay Landis wrote on November 10th, 2008

I see nothing wrong with spanning a message over multiple tweets. Those who follow you will understand and the substance of the tweets will be retained. It's easier to be one-to-many via Twitter versus email blasts (many of us are sick to death of email). What better way to convey than Twitter, these days?

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Glenn (Owner) wrote on November 10th, 2008

Wow! Thanks guys. Great comments. I really appreciate the thought you've put into them and the time you've taken to submit them here! Jill, thanks especially for your comment. For all that my mind tells me to tweet naturally, my heart doesn't like irritating people, especially you! For what it's worth, I, too, aim to say it in 140 or less, wherever I can. Partly 'cos that's the Twitter format, and partly 'cos it's difficult for followers to string the tweets together otherwise. It's a tricky balance, isn't it? Sometimes I'll write a blog post and link to it in a tweet, and sometimes I'll just tweet. On this particular occasion, I didn't even think about a blog post. I saw the quote on Squidoo and just blurted it out on Twitter. I was actually hoping for some immediate feedback. Anyway, thanks again! Cheers everyone!

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thehungryengineer wrote on November 11th, 2008

I try very hard to avoid the multi-tweet microposts, but I don't see the harm in occasionally having to span your thoughts across multiple tweets. And while I find it distressing when folks un-follow me, I agree that it's important to be true to yourself when engaging people. (Mind you, I'm a more politically correct version of myself when broadcasting twitter messages than when I'm communicating one-on-one with someone I know.)

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Ross Hill wrote on November 23rd, 2008

I think multimessage tweets are mostly spammy - if you have a long message I would post it on a medium that is more fitting (like a blog) and then link to the blog from twitter.

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Ike wrote on November 25th, 2008

That's great in theory, Ross. Many people engage in Twitter on mobile devices where there is no access to "a more fitting medium". What about those users who don't even have a regular blog? You're creating an artificial boundary on the medium. Twitter isn't a "site," it is a stream of conversations. Sometimes, at a dinner party, it is quite alright to chain two or three sentences together when the conversation warrants. Someone who dominates every table and every issue will get uninvited to the party, and Twitter has a mechanism for that.

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Twill wrote on January 7th, 2009

Just looking at your four messages, I can see why she decided you were wasting her time. Do you actually think (1) that the subject was valuable or important to her (2) that that was the most succinct you could state your point or question? "Squidoo ads allow you to state that you donate % to charity, Google does not." 79 characters. What else you want to add? " Is this good policy?" 21 more, total 100. Be courteous of other people's time and attention. Or lose them, deservedly.

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Glenn Murray wrote on January 7th, 2009

Thanks Twill. Unfortunately, the meaning in your abbreviated version is incorrect and unclear: 1) Squidoo uses Google ads. Your first sentence implies that Squidoo ads and Google ads are independent. 2) Squidoo doesn't "allow you to state that you donate % to charity". It actually donates a % of money from its Google ad revenue, and IT states that it does so. 3) "Google does not" would have been fine, but for points 1 & 2 above, and assuming that readers would believe that it's true, just 'cos I say it is. I thought it better to actually quote Google. Admittedly, for meaning's sake, this could have been omitted, but would it have been as effective? I don't think so. 4) I wasn't asking if Squidoo's policy is good. I was asking if Google had changed its policy. Implicit in this was the question, "or is Squidoo breaking the rules?" So as you can see, your 100 words, while significantly shorter, did not convey a clear meaning, nor a correct one. I agree that it's important to be courteous of other people's time and attention, but that also means phrasing questions such that they can be clearly understood, and don't need clarification. On Twitter, if people don't understand your meaning the first time, they usually won't ask for clarification. I would rather use a few more words and have people understand what I say (at the risk of losing a few followers), than use a few less and get no response at all 'cos people have no idea what I mean (and probably lose followers anyway!).

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EpicBear wrote on January 8th, 2009

Thanks for writting about this little twittequette! I was just about to post a multiple tweets on one topic, and then it seemed ineloquent, and then i pondered on the etiquette of doing so. So first things first, i am going to post multiple tweets on one topic. So why don't i just use a regular blog? The answer is, why do i have to have a blog? I'm using twitter to micro-blog and i simply don't wish to have a traditional blog. I also don't like the idea of having a traditional blog and then using twitterfeed or some other method to drive traffic to my traditional blog. That's what RSS is for! Twitter allows one to have a dynamic relationship with the information source. You can't twitter back at a RSS feed, but you sure can twitter back at someone's micro-blog on Twitter. So I choose to convey my thoughts in multiple tweets in a twitter micro-blog so I can perhaps build a stronger sense of community and idea sharing that I don't necessarily get with a traditional blog with an RSS feed. ok, that's my thought on this little twittequette! follow me! i'm EpicBear. yum.

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Tim Richards wrote on March 2nd, 2009

IMO, multiple tweets should instead be posted to a blog. They just clutter up your Twitter feed, and I find I'm much less likely to read any of them at all. The same goes for a long list of 20 tweets sent one after another at roughly the same time by the same person, even if they aren't on the same topic. People, less = more. Twitter is a minimalist medium, so don't try to paint big pictures on it.

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nefasto | contra-corrente » A Internet, o twitter e assim… wrote on August 2nd, 2009

[...] de uma citação directa de uma popular utilizadora do Twitter, a propósito disto. [...]

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Pamela Valemont wrote on October 24th, 2016

I use Twitlonger to send out my lengthy tweets, it works a tweet!

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