Twitter Etiquette: Should One Message Span Multiple Tweets?
November 10, 2008 • Glenn Murray
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…