Twitter Politics & Etiquette

Every new social network that surfaces and gains popularity eventually invents its own etiquette rule book. Myspace had general “niceties”- like NOT designing your page obnoxiously or forcing people to listen to your favorite screaming heavy metal band. Facebook even has built-in etiquette bots that make sure you are not assaulting people with constant plugs or messages. Twitter has gained enough popularity, it’s jargon has been propelled onto prime time TV and viewers GET what it means, even if they don’t HAVE a twitter account. Twitter is here to stay, however it evolves.

So, now that you have your account and your shiny avatar set up, you are ready to start micro-blogging.. about… your sandwich. Ah, yes, the age-old twitter joke. NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR &%$# SANDWICH! But we have all done it. Tweeted about something that, in the grand scheme of things, is pretty lame. But sometimes those lame tweets end up starting a conversation that, in the end, has NOTHING to do with your original mundane mutterings. And, you gain a few followers because of it. So, it’s not so much about the random “I friggin LOVE Spaghetti-O’s and I am not afraid to say it.” tweets, it’s about the community and the interaction. A give and take, just like any other relationship. If you keep that in mind, twitter can really become a useful tool, and not just a bulletin board for your mundane musings that are generally ignored.

In fact, twitter helped WRITE this article. When I need help, I reach out to my fellow “tweeps” as I call them. Usually I get answers… probably because I am there to help others as well from time to time. So, with my direction, and my helpful followers, here is the Twitter 10 Commandments:

1. Thou shalst learn the value of a RT (re-tweet).

A retweet is a quick easy way to share the work of your followers, and generally, the more you do it, the more appreciated you are for it… and the more you get in return. But a valuable RT– one that includes a REASON to click the link or check out someone’s comic– are the kindest and most sincere. Mix those in when you have the time.

…. and that leads us to…..

2. Thou shalst be grateful and courteous.

Ah, yes, remember manners? Those things our parents taught us? Thanking people for retweets, tedious sure, but always appreciated. So is saying please when you ask for opinions or a favor. Replying when someone sends you a message or DM’s you, these things go a long way in keeping your community of followers happy and you on their “good tweeter list”.

3. Follow thy followers, and Thou shalst be rewarded (with more followers).

This kind of goes without saying. Unless you are a celebrity, if you follow very few people, you cannot expect people to follow you. I know, it does get hard when you start getting in the 100-range of active follows.. but that’s what twitter lists are for! Check out tweetdeck, also a big help. You can narrow down your twitter feed into a small close group for those times when you need less distractions.

4. Be sparing with thy self-promotion.

Most of us webcomic-ers had a main goal when signing up for twitter: a way to promote our comic. This is still the goal for many of us. But this does not mean our feed should be a constant barrage of “HEY! Lookit my comic!” Eventually, it just gets annoying, and your followers will learn to ignore you. This goes for the auto-tweet services too, they can be helpful for us busy entrepreneurs, or those of us who have twitter blocked at work, but overdoing it will only hurt you. Mix them in with other interesting tidbits, articles, funny videos, pictures, musings and of course, helping our your followers by promoting THEIR work!

5. Thou shalst leave thy personal stuff for thy therapist.

Emo’s, get off of twitter. Just like everything else, there needs to be a balance. Not that you have to refrain form anything but sunshine and rainbows, but every other tweet does not have to sound like a weepy country song. People lose empathy quick. ALSO, do realize you are tweeting to the world here, and it will be recorded in your feed for anyone to see: bosses, past coworkers, over-sensitive friends, your MOTHER. Think before you mention all those naughty things you did in college or how much you hate your job.

6. DM when appropriate.

There are times when going off the record is good for all involved. Use #5 to determine this time.

7. Hashtag at thy own risk

Twitter hashtags are a handy way to label or file a tweet away for others to find. We cartoonists probably use #comics, #art, #webcomics, or #illustration a lot. This is fine. Also, being as creative and witty as we are, we tend to come up with funny hastags that are just there for… say… #comicrelief. But there is, yet again, a balance… know when to say when. #Not #everything #needs #a #hashtag. #enoughisenough

8. Tweet unto others as you would have them Tweet unto you.

Golden rule. Still works. If you give, people will give back. If you yammer on selfishly about yourself and not help relationships grow, you will be ignored. As with any social media, things can get messy. Opinions will fly and twitter trolls will take over and want to stir the pot. A good tweeter will find the high road, and know when to let the debate go.

9. Consider Thy audience.

Okay, okay.. some things are just annoying. Hashtagging everything. Following people to gain more followers, and then unfollowing them. Writing in some form of text-slang that is so hard to read you find you no longer care what this person has to say. Writing in all-caps. Ignoring that there’s a 140-character limit for a reason. REALIZE you have an audience. Your followers gave you a slot in their twitter feed to be amusing in some form, don’t wreck it. If you want to write for yourself, go get a blog.

10. Thou Shalst Be Thyself!

Look, folks. The entire PURPOSE of twitter is to give people a little glimpse into your life. Who you are, your humor, your thoughts, what you are up to. From there it evolves into a social network… similar-minded people who GET you, and share in those qualities. For those of us with webcomics, it’s a chance for our readers to connect with us, as creators. If you have not noticed, that is what truly makes the webcomics community so great, and gives it an edge over traditional print– actual immediate contact with the creative minds behind a comic that readers love to keep up with. If you wanted to chat with Charles Schultz, you had to snail-mail him a letter and chances are, you’d get a form letter in return. So, above all, be yourself, let your readers and potential readers connect with you, and you’ll not only enjoy twitter, but get something out of it.

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15 Comments

  1. It’s really easy to get lost in the shuffle with virtually millions of tweets out there per day.

    I think Twitter is on of the best way to establish relationships with fellow artists, writers and generally interesting people. The thing is, some people think that they can approach anyone and think they can strike up a conversation and expect to be best buddies.

    Tread lightly when approaching people on Twitter – being careful is better than being brash.

    I have just started communicating with Dawn via Twitter, and oddly enough it was from Tweets over sports, not webcomics. It just happened that we have similar interests. It takes time to develop a rapport with people on Twitter, just like it does in real life.

    • I agree about needing to build up a rapport… it helps. But I have to say if anyone sends me a message (DM or @ reply), I always try to respond, and follow them. Unless it’s obviously spam. I use twitter for webcomics but also for sports, as you know Drezz. Being a transplanted fan from Cleveland is hard, so I often converse with fellow CLE fans during a game via twitter. For those who pay attention to sports, when LeBron’s “The Decision” aired, I refused to watch it.. but I hung out with twitter friends. I heard their first-hand (sorta) reaction, and they heard mine in response. For such a simple concept, it can yield a pretty powerful social connection.

      It is always safe to tread lightly when connecting with someone new. (ie: don’t bombard them with your religious or political views, sheesh!)

      Amazingly Drezz, there are a good handful of webcomics people out there who are also sports fanatics! And we all thought that combination was a myth! Maybe those Marvel-NBA covers I saw for each NBA team weren’t such a bizarre idea…

      no, no.. they really were a bad idea. ;0)

  2. Awesome guidelines! I need to work on my Twitter etiquette. I tend to get busy and just push out tweets promoting my comic. It helps to slow down and take off your marketing hat from time to time and just be friends with folks.

    • Yup, there has to be a balance… over promoting will become annoying, but so do the “I’m eating this for lunch” and “My day SUCKS!” tweets.

      The friendly tweets will secure followers and lead to friendships, and THOSE people will be the ones to click your promotion links, most of the time.

  3. What a nice article, especially from those people offering advice:)

    God knows I’ve posted many stupid things on Twitter (as it so happens, I have hot dogs cooking right now), but I can’t believe how many people it has allowed me to “discover”, especially with comics. It’s how the web should be, with amateur and pro having equal footing.

    • Thanks Stephen! We’re all guilty of the “OMG, good sammich!” posts. The key is balance… if you keep that in mind and offer a variety of informative links, fun stuff, personal glimpses, retweets with some comments attached, and promotional tweets, you will have a very happy and giving twitter family ;0)

  4. I don’t quite get following people who follow you. I follow people who provide something interesting or useful to me, if I followed everyone who followed me (once I have lots of followers I mean) Wouldn’t I get inundated with “Getting kids ready for Soccer practice” and “Just ate some yummy tacos” If the noise to signal ratio gets too out of control then Twitter becomes soooo much less useful to me. How do you handle the noise? Just politely follow everyone who follows you then throw them in a Squelch list that you eternally ignore? That seems a little ruder in a way.

    • Good point DaveB.. honestly I do not follow EVERY SINGLE person who follows me. Some I can recognize as spam, “adult” accounts, or are just following me because of a keyword I just used. (For instance, yammering on about my upcoming wedding resulted in maybe 10 “wedding bot” followers, I don’t follow those back)

      If the follower is into webcomics, or has their own webcomic/is an artist as well, I usually follow them. And yes, I do use lists to narrow down my favorite NON-yummy-tacos-tweeters. But I find myself adding new favorite tweeters to my lists, because I took a chance on them in the beginning and now they are fun to chat with and often also regular readers of my comic as well.

      I’m not saying to follow everyone and deal with the “soccer practice” noise for the sake of being “nice”. It’s good to wean out the noise from time to time if someone you’ve been following is just annoying, not someone you have anything in common with, or doesn’t even USE twitter.

      Just remember, Tweet Deck and twitter lists sure are lifesavers!

    • I also have to agree about not feeling obligated to follow everyone who follows you. Different people use twitter differently, and I find that I chose to use it as a source of information, and humour. I should not have to feel guilty for not following someone who follows me. It should be my choice.

      That’s not to say that I won’t follow back, but for a while my twitter feed got absolutely ridiculous, and so I had to scale back. I could have used lists, but I know myself well enough to know that I will NEVER use lists.

      There are some people who I unfollowed on twitter, but am still friends with on Facebook. It’s not that I don’t support them, I do, but for the way I use twitter, some people are better off being facebook friends, or even buddies on gtalk (which is my ideal form of communication anyways.)

      • totally understandable. Keep in mind this article was written a while back when people would get up in arms about jerks who didn’t follow you back! I think most people are more understanding now… following everyone just adds too much noise to make proper use of twitter. And good lord there’s a lot of bots and spam-happy accounts out there.
        I still wear by my lists- I only have 2: comics, and sports. I only use twitter apps and add-ons that make using lists easy. I mainly stick to Hootsuite (app, website) and Yoono (browser plug-in).

  5. Hey Dawn, I’m not sure if these things technically fall into “etiquette” guidelines or not but here are some things I suggest to people and things I do myself:

    1) When setting up a Twitter account, mention your interests and use your real name – at least your first name. If someone follows me and they only have their company info or URL in their profile, I almost automatically treat them as Spam as well. BUT, if they mention that they are a geek, into comics, art, graphic design, web design or something like that, I know they are GENUINELY interested in me and I’ll follow them back as well.

    2) Ways to avoid the “Am I self-promoting too much” syndrome:
    For every self-promo item you tweet, also tweet an article, how-to tip or something else that might be useful to someone. Twitter is always a give and take so give as much as you take. 🙂

    3) For EVERYONE REAL person that follows me, as a huge thank you to them, I have created a high res illustration PDF of one of my cartoons. I have it FTP’ed up on my site in a special “Promotions” folder. When someone follows me, I send them a DM with a short thank you message and a link to that PDF.

    I actually got that idea from a Twitter Spam bot. I have often said I took SPAM and made it into HAM.

    I think the PDF alone is one of the reasons why I have so many Twitter followers. i really DO!

    -Chris

    • those are great points, Chris! I like that PDF idea, really shows your gratitude that someone would follow you. Twitter, like the webcomics community, is truly a get-what-you-give network.

      GROUP HUG!

      • Yup… and if you’re like me, you probably already have an older illustration on your hard drive somewhere so it’s really no effort at all to convert that to a PDF (just remember to put your name, logo and/or your URL on it so people don’t forget where and who it’s from).

        Then, once you send one DM thank you message out with that PDF link, you can just copy and paste it and change the name you’re sending it out to.

        for example, my thank you message goes like this:

        Hi [name goes here]. In appreciation for following me, here’s a PDF illustration I did: [URL to the PDF download].

        If someone has a long Twitter name, I’ll just change “In appreciation” to “As thanks”. 🙂

  6. Wow, Dawn. What an great article! It really gives a great overview of the Twitter experience. I’ve been putting off getting started with Twitter because I was a bit intimidated and because I didn’t think I’d have the time. I guess the best way to start is just to start. These are great guidelines for the uninitiated, and will help me as I get going. Thanks for putting this together.

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