Twitter Etiquette – Is Twitter just for twits?

That’s the question I’m asking myself after doing my best to use this apparently essential social media tool.  Firstly to declare my interest as they say on political shows, I’m not much one for Social Media.  I just see most of it as a waste of time and resources with the resources being my time and energy.   I guess I just have never found a real use for it or see a valid reason for it.  Like smartphones, daylight saving time, speed bumps on roads and coffee shops.  I mean really, who is going to spend £3-£4 for a hot drink that could be had at home for about 99% less of the price and probably with much less sugar and floating marshmallows.  By the time you’ve decided whether you’re going to play along with their pretentious French or Italian names for big, medium or small, you can be at home with a nice drink made for a few pennies.

I can kind of see the point with Facebook.  I got in touch with lots of friends I hadn’t seen for a long time and got to become friends with some bloggers, writers and people who have come on my tours.  Sometimes these nice people even lead you on to be friends with similarly pleasant individuals.  As for Twitter?   Purrrrleeeeasseeee.

I’ve been on Twitter for 3 and a half years and quite frankly I struggle to find a use for it.  I know the theory of course but in practice it reminds of that journalist in Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop who having spent some time travelling and living with Patagonian Indians concluded that the whole venture had been mostly a waste of time.

I only follow about 280 people on Twitter.  Apart from a very small handful of famous or important people and institutions that I follow, there are an equally number select group of friends or bloggers and writers who have become friends and then there are 260 people who I barely know who they are or how they ended up on my iPad.

I have 260 followers too but except for a handful of them, I have never interacted with any of them.  Few of them feel such a close allegiance to me to actually reply to me or retweet or ‘love’ my tweets.  That may well be because I am even more boring than I think I am.  It’s even more likely however that is because they just don’t get to see what I tweet.

I’ve found that so many people have tens or even hundreds of thousands of followers and that these people are in turn following equally massive numbers of people in return. If I can’t keep up with my 280 people, how can anyone cope with 100,000?  I could tweet that I’ll give everyone £10 to each person who replies within an hour, and the chances are the only people who would reply are those who I’d happily give £10 to in any case.

If following the Twitter feeds of thousands of people isn’t hard enough then the task is made harder by people trying to sell me stuff.  I’m not sure if it works for them generally, but it sure doesn’t work on myself personally.  Nothing is quicker or more guaranteed to make me take umbrage and most likely remove someone from my feed straight away than people who tweet excessively.  Authors and book related people seem particularly bad this, so many times I look at Twitter, and I see 3 or 4 posts by the same two or three people doing nothing but advertising themselves or their book.  As the Prime Minister once famously said, too many tweets make a tw@t.

I don’t want to just know about the books of an author or a gig of a musician or a special offer from a supermarket.  I want to know how the author is feeling today, what inspired the musician.   I can’t honestly see why having 100,000 people in your feed either in a related, or unrelated profession is of any use whatsoever.  How useful are 100,000 fellow authors to me? Probably not as good as a handful of human beings who write and I can interact with such as the lovely Malla Duncan who so often does very good deeds for me.   Of course I try to do the same for others but it can be very difficult when it is hard to see their tweets, even with the use of Lists.

Partly this is all down to the early Twitter etiquette of having to follow someone who follows you.  It is simply rude, is it not, to not follow someone who follows you?   So a few clicks here and there and you soon end up with a growing list.  Things can get really out of hand when it seems that some people just add you in the hope you will add them back, maybe they are in some sort of competition to get the most Twitter followers.  I long ago stopped following people because they follow me and sometimes your very keen new follower with 90,000 fans will unfollow you when they see that you’re not wanting to add to their hoard of followers.

Really, though, if I follow the world’s best archeologist then why on earth would I think they have any interest in what I do.  I, after all, am following them.  It isn’t Facebook, we aren’t equal in this relationship, and he owes me nothing.

There are lots of interesting people on Twitter but finding them is one problem, communicating with them and having them see you to communicate back is another issue.   Funnily enough, it is the more legitimately famous people who have either corresponded with me, or in turn, have answered one of my comments.  I’ve had more tweets from William Shatner (Captain Kirk in Star Trek) than I have from 99% of my followers or indeed of those who I follow that proclaim themselves to have countless fans and followers but not that much to show for it except for a twitter feed of book promos.

I’ve had debates with politicians, conversations with journalists.  Even one or two “stars” who have messaged me after seeing my tweets or hashtags.  No need to follow each other, we all know where each other are if we need each other or have something to say.

I realise with just 260 followers that it is kind of obvious my heart isn’t really into Twitter, at least not on a commercial basis.  I’m thinking of removing most people and starting afresh organically.  Perhaps only following my own followers after they have interacted two or three times as I’d rather have ten good followers than 260 quiet ones.  I might have far fewer than my all already meagre total, but at least, I know they are there for a reason. After all, for my favourite Twitter friends, that is how we all met.  We didn’t know each other and weren’t in a popularity contest; we just took an interest in each other.

I’m just not into the numbers game.  I’d already promote and support my friends or good causes and for everyone else, if they don’t engage with me in any way at all, what’s the point in having them at all? Why pretend they care about me at all or I, them? That doesn’t go for you, though, many of my best twitter crowd are those who read my blogs and vice-versa.

I’m not sure I ever sold a book or a tour from Twitter.  Certainly my WordPress stats show that I get only one or two people to my blog a week out of 2-3000 a week on average.

How do you find Twitter?  Useful, clutter or mostly a waste of time?







About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including several #1 sellers. I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. I run my private tours company with one tour stated by the leading travel website as being with the #1 authentic London Experience. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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17 Responses to Twitter Etiquette – Is Twitter just for twits?

  1. Great post Stephen. I really really don’t like twitter – I have managed to find new companies/blogs through twitter sometimes but it’s generally because I’ve taken the time to look at someone I’m following and who they are following and whittling down who I find interesting and might want to connect with. The majority of people with hundreds of thousands of followers don’t seem to follow back. I stopped following random individuals long ago – I only follow those who are in some way connected to either Greece, parenting, or some other aspect of my blog / work and who I could potentially collaborate with. But you are right you don’t actually have to follow someone to tweet at them – only for direct messaging. Twitter is seething with trolls as well. Give me my facebook feed any day over this.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Ekaterina. I think you have a good system of making the best of Twitter, for all the good that is!! If one day almost everyone is on Twitter then what real use is it at all if we all have a million followers and all follow a million people.

      I like to think of hashtags as a lounge or bar, where you can meet interesting strangers and then if you get to like them, take things back to Facebook where you can get to be much better friends.

      Glad to be on your Facebook feed, apologies for missing some of your tweets… I do my best 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. bklynboy59 says:

    I think like anything else it depends on how you use it. I knew nothing about twitter or facebook or blogging for that matter until an exgirlfriend suggested since I like sports and like writing to try ,y hand at blogging and then suggested to post my blog on twitter and facebook etc. Which is what I use it for. For years I never had a facebook acct until I started blogging then I realized half my family was on facebook and a few longtime friends.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am in a similar position to you. I am really only facebook and twitter for my blog and professional reasons but I just feel bad if I use them to sell myself or services very much and so probably get the worst of both worlds out of them.

      I do wonder what things would have been like if Facebook had been around in the 90’s or earlier, how much easier it would be to have kept touch with old friends. I’m amazed that I’ve managed to trace as many as I have done.

      Many thanks for commenting and best of look with your blogging and twitter!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Jack Scott says:

    When I lived in Turkey, Facebook really helped me to keep in touch with family and friends. As for Twitter, you make some great points. I tend to use it more as a PR tool than a way to converse. On the other hand, I did find my publisher on Twitter!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes I can really see the attraction of Facebook. I have lots of friends there, many of them from blogging, who are all around the world and we interact more than those who live near to home.

      Maybe you’re correct, perhaps I have too high an expectation of Twitter and should use it as a PR Tool and accept that is how 99% of everyone else uses it too. If 1% of my tweets sell a book or a tour then just accept it as a nice bonus.

      Thanks for commenting Jack, always nice to catch up with you.


  4. Pola says:

    Hi Stephen, I never understood the appeal of Twitter either. I think that’s mainly because I would find both inconceivable and maddening. Inconceivable to me because I can’t, (with my character) really constrain myself to the character limit at all. Maddening because if you’re a professional, you need to KEEP doing it. Incessantly. It is a PR tool. A quite low-rent but popular sitcom once encapsulated it thus: ‘Facebook is for people who don’t do Twitter and Instagram is Twitter for people who can’t write.’ Nonetheless this would suggest an equal intellectual scarcity between the two: however it’s expressed. Personally I think Twittering would drive me mad. ~ P ~

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Pola, I entirely agree with both parts of your argument, it is inconceivable and maddening both at the same time. I just don’t see the point of it or see how it can really work. If a professional tweets 10 times a day or even 10 times a week, all his followers will all ready know what service he is talking about. After 9 tweets, he might write something interesting but people like me wouldn’t see it as we are bored with his promotions. People who aren’t bored with his promotions might not see it because of everyone tweeting their services!

      I used to think Instagram was the lowest of the low but I admit, more of the photos can be interesting than the average tweet.

      Thanks for commenting and I promise never to tweet to you or read any of your tweets!!! 🙂


      • Pola says:

        I don’t have an account! 🙂 People have been generous enough to Tweet my poetry unasked/solicited. I think as with most things, it is what you make it. If the platform serves or addresses your interests, you’ll be more inclined to use it: as long as you’re not harming anyone. Inconveniencing people seems to be par for the course though. Thanks for the consideration.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Pola says:

    *I would find IT both inconceivable and maddening. Bad proofing, ha!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Francis says:

    Never used Twitter. Don’t want to.I’m just a blogger and use face
    Book to link to them. I completely agree with what you’ve said.there is life to consider as well!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Allie Bakes says:

    Hi Stephen! I am a Twitter lover, but not an evangelist. It works very well for me and I derive a lot of pleasure out of it, but I do get that it’s not everyone’s $5 latte.

    If you want to see the tweets of only people you care about (updateable at anytime) put them on a List (There’s a wheel next to the follow button, select add or remove from lists). When you go to that list (from your profile or the drop down menu form you avatar) you will only see the tweets from those you most care about. It also updates in real time.

    Forget the etiquette! You don’t have to follow everyone who follows you. Twitter is full of spambots and profiles that are just for selling things. I always look through the timeline of any new follower and if there’s too much junk I don’t follow back.

    What do I get out of it? Several of my real life friends are on Twitter and there’s a time zone sweet spot in the early evening when I often get into real time chats w/ my UK friends. There’s a Shakespeare quote party #ShakespeareSunday that I like to play along with, and I mostly follow theaters and playwrights so while there’s a lot of ‘COME SEE OUR SHOW!’ that’s a kind of spam I don’t really mind. And I know that I generate unique blog eyeballs form Twitter so I think it’s worth it.

    I’d say give the Lists a try, but otherwise don’t stress. After all it’s just social media 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Allie, thanks for your great and very lengthy comments. Maybe I have to try harder with lists and be more thorough in categorising people. I will give it a go in the morning. It’s great that you have found a way to make Twitter work for you though.

      I know what you mean about a time zone sweet spot, when I get up at around 6am, I often get to chat to a few friends on the Pacific coast if the USA which is quite surreal.

      Thanks again – Stephen

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Rosemarie says:

    I never use it. I don’t “get” it.

    Liked by 1 person

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