How Not To Suck At Twitter

Lily Is Doing It All Wrong!

There are a million websites out there that teach you how to gain users on Twitter or how to be “engaging” and nonsense like that, but very few of them teach you how not to be a fucking idiot. I guess they take for granted that you are not a moron even though they are giving you advice like “interact with people” and “provide thoughtful content”. I am gonna teach you a few things that will keep you from looking like a complete asshole on Twitter despite your ridiculous avatar.

I am not a social media expert or “guru”. No one has ever asked me to be on a pannel at SXSW or asked me to give a talk at TED. My personal Twitter, @drivenbyboredom has over 7,000 followers but that is more of a result of me posting naked photos than any social networking skill. In fact, I would probably have a lot more followers if I didn’t constantly post insane Tweets 20 times a day.

I do run several Twitter accounts, the most popular of which is @TinyFurniture, the Lena Dunham film that predated her HBO show Girls. I also work for numerous clients in my professional photography life and constantly deal with people who run social media accounts for major brands. I have been on Twitter since 2008 and have seen Twitter rise and change and seen the way people interact with Twitter change. But in all that time there are a few mistakes people make over and over again that blow my mind. So I decided I would address them and create a simple article that I can send people when they are doing Twitter wrong. If you run a brand and hire an intern or even a social media “expert” send them here first.

  • Do Not Begin A Tweet With An @

This is #1 problem on Twitter and I have no idea how so many people with hugely popular Twitter accounts still do this wrong. I wrote an entire blog post on just this one point and you should read it. The basic idea is that only start at Tweet with an @ if you are replying to someone. Otherwise most people will never see the Tweet. Not only is this not effective but it tells everyone that you have no idea what you are doing. If I did marketing for a brand and I saw my social media person do this I would fire them immediately, they clearly lied about something to get their job.

  • Only Use 140 Characters

This seems very simple but you would be surprised how often people are confused by this. When running a Twitter account for a client they will be constantly sending you emails with what to Tweet. For some reason these carefully crafted Tweets are almost always over 140 characters and come filled with useless filler that the 140 limit is designed to purge. There are Tweet lengthener programs that you can use if you need to post a longer Tweet but unless you are a journalist don’t use them. The longer Tweet programs are great if you have a lot of information to get out quickly but most of the time people use them because they don’t want to take the time to craft a quality Tweet. No one wants to have to click to an external site to read a few extra words about how awesome your lunch was that could have easily fit into one, or at worst broken into two Tweets.

  • Learn How To ReTweet And Reply

Hey internet “celebrities”! We get it! People like you! Stop ReTweeting compliments! It makes you look like a self obsessed asshole. RTs should be used to share something interesting/funny/newsworthy with your followers. They should not be used to brag about shit and the certainly shouldn’t be used to acknowledge that you saw the reply. If you Tweet something and someone replies to you “I agree!” and you RT that I will unfollow you so fucking fast. If someone asks you a question, and you think the answer would be beneficial to the rest of your followers, please answer it in a RT, but if not, just reply back to them. I follow a lot of sports writers and they do a great job of RTing a question and answering Tweets so that everyone gets the benefit of that information but if someone tells you how much they love your new mix tape and you RT them with a  “Thanks!” before the RT I will break your fingers with your own Serrato box. Also, if you really want to be a nerd about it, if you have to change someone’s Tweet to fit your response in 140 characters change the RT to MT for “modified Tweet”.

  • #Don’tAbuseHashtags

Hashtags on Twitter exist so that people can track a newsworthy story or so they can follow something specific like a sports team or festival or conference. Most people who abuse hashtags do it because a) they think they will somehow gain more followers b) they think they will get something “trending” or c) they just have no idea what a hashtag is and think it’s just part of the language of Twitter.

The reality is no one is searching for random words on Twitter. There is no reason to Tweet something like “I am at the #beach right now! #spring” unless you want me to murder you in your sleep. You DO want to use a hashtag if you are at a music festival because people are checking #SXSW or #Coachella because they want to see what’s going on at this moment even if that involves eating from a gross food truck or celeb spotting the third tamboreene player from the Polyphinic Spree . Another reason is if you are talking about a newsworthy story like Hurricane Sandy. Using a hashtag like #sandy or #sandyrelief helped people follow the storm and learn how they could help.

If you are a brand and you want to use a hashtag, do it very carefully. Unless you are doing  a MASSIVE campaign the chances are you aren’t going to get anything trending. If someone clicks your hashtag and only a few things come up it’s going to be embarrassing and damaging to the brand. On the other hand, if you are running a contest via Twitter and you want to track how many people have entered using a hashtag is a great idea. Hashtag branding can work very well but you need to be very carful about it and do it in a way that makes sense.

Because of poor use of hashtags they actually have become part of the language of social media, so once in a while using a hashtag as a joke can be funny or add to a Tweet by summarizing something in the shortest amount of characters possible. But if you run social media for a brand it’s probably better to avoid it because 9 times out of 10 it just looks stupid. #fact

  • Follow Friday Is Fucking Stupid

Follow Friday or #FF is the idea that on Friday people share their favorite Tweeters with their followers, but the truth is no one ever reads them. I get added to #FF Tweets all the time and no one ever follows me because of it. Do you know why? Because people just use FF as a way to suck up to people as a way of guilting people into #FFing them or just begging for a RT. The only thing more useless than a #FF Tweet is someone RTing a #FF Tweet. That’s like saying “You are right! I am awesome! I should let people who already follow me know that they should be following me!” Another brilliant Twitter move is to put the #FF at the end of the Tweet instead of the beginning so that no one can see the #FF in the first place (See the first point in this list). If you want to share with your followers a great Twitter, tell them that. Explain WHY they should follow someone. For example “Follow @drivenbyboredom because he is fucking brilliant and posts photos of boobs at least 10 times a week.”

  • Be Careful When Bringing Other Social Networks Into Twitter

Twitter is the perfect tool to bring all your social networks into one place. I use Instagram, Tumblr, Vine and of course have my own website. I send all these things to Twitter so that if you follow my Twitter you get all of my content. I recommend you do the same but you need to be careful about it. Nothing is more annoying on Twitter than sending the same shit there over and over again. For example, if you take a photo of your breakfast using Instagram and you send to Tumblr and Twitter you better not have your Tumblr set up to auto post to your  Twitter too because what happens is that you send the same boring photo to your Twitter twice with one link going to Instagram and one going to Tumblr. That is so fucking annoying.  If people ask you questions on Tumblr please don’t send them all to Twitter. Nothing is more annoying than my Twitter feed getting completely filled up with your dumb answers to dumber questions. And if you use Foursquare  please, please do not send it to Twitter. No one except your stalker cares that you just checked into a coffee house.

  • Stop Live Tweeting Award Shows

Please? Just for me? If I cared about the Kids Choice Awards or whatever nonsense you are live blogging I would have watched them in the first place. You aren’t funny, shut the fuck up and go outside. Thanks.

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Comments (1)


  1. ELR
    April 19th, 2013 | 8:52 pm

    Jesus eff, thank you for mentioning the Follow Friday shit.

    I remember in the ye olde days of twitter, back when there were a LOT more pictures of food (and also poop), when people would do Follow Friday by saying, “#FF my friend @_____ because…..” and then give reasons why you should follow someone. I have no idea why it degenerated into just long worthless lists of names with no qualifiers, and stayed that way for so long. I was about to eulogize that practice because I thought it was dying down, but then a lot more cropped up today.



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