Lebowskiwarming!There’s a lot of talk on Twitter as to how it should be used – Twitter rules and etiquette, if you like. Some of the talk stems from suggestions of how individuals use their accounts and how it might benefit you.

Other talk comes from people who say, “You should do this and you shouldn’t do that.”

But you know what? Unless anything you do falls within Twitter’s own Terms of Service, then there are no rules on using Twitter. So, here’s the thing:

  • If you want to promote your application to get more followers, do it. Just don’t be upset if people don’t agree with it (many will).
  • If you want to use it for nothing more than broadcasting blog posts, sales offers, etc, do it.
  • If you want to use it as a networking tool to meet potential new business partners, do it.
  • If you want to use it as a place for your cat to talk to the world, do it.

In fact, whatever you want to do with Twitter, do it. After all, it’s your account and no-one else’s. The way you use Twitter, people will either like it or they won’t – it’s an even 50/50 split to start with, so go for it.

If I don’t follow you, it’s for a reason – don’t get upset. I’m not that important and I probably wouldn’t have been a good match for you anyway, so you’re not missing out. If you don’t follow me, I understand. Hey, we’re all different people – it’d be boring if we were all the same.

So use Twitter the way you want to use it. There are millions of people that will either get you or not. Enjoy it. And maybe I’ll see you on there sometime.


Creative Commons License photo credit: vissago

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34 Comments on "The Twitter Rulebook"

4 years 2 months ago

I love this! I still feel like there’s so much I don’t “know” about twitter, this makes feel better! Thanks Danny!

5 years 1 month ago

Yeah!I agree with you. Usually i don’t get much visitors from the twitter on my blog. So what! I am still using Twitter. Because i love to post on twitter. And that is what twitter is.

5 years 6 months ago

You are dead on the mark Danny….be yourself understanding that we are not all the same. Make your own rules!

Sharon Dombroski
5 years 7 months ago

I couldn't agree more! I guess even Twitter has it's “control freaks” trying to keep the Twitter community in line. A few months ago I followed someone and they sent me a direct message with a link that took me to a list of their Twitter rules for following back…had to laugh at that one :)

5 years 11 months ago

Hi Danny,
This is about the best advise I’ve heard about using Twitter.

Elan Chalford
6 years 23 days ago

I like having the pressure relieved a bit. My aim is to write something of interest every time I Tweet. Even tho I notice some just put in a link that may be of interest.

Lots of personal rules for us to follow without pushing them.

6 years 1 month ago

Well said!

Twitter can be tricky because people use it for different things and you have to figure out what you want out of the people you follow.

Karen Swim
6 years 1 month ago

Danny, thank you for this post! In the year that I’ve used Twitter, I have watched it evolve from a cool little secret to megaceleb status. I was there when handbooks were written in real time and when the most interesting conversations involved food. I still love Twitter but am sometimes disturbed by “authorities” who dictate rules everyone should follow. While I don’t necessarily disagree with their annoyances, I am cognizant that it is a free, public service. People are thereby free to make their own rules and we are free to follow or unfollow them.

6 years 1 month ago

Right. If anyone has the *right* on saying how you should and shouldn’t use Twitter, it would be Evan Williams and the rest of the founding team. Yet they themselves say it’s the users that are finding the best ways to use it.

That doesn’t include telling people what to do, though.

Paula Dauncey
6 years 1 month ago

Danny, really liked this post. As a relatively new Twitterer, I was pretty nervous about what to do, scared of getting it wrong, unsure how to get it right and still am to a degree, but who cares? If people want to follow me that’s great and if they don’t, that’s fine too. I found Twitter a little snobbish to begin with, after reading all the dos and donts all over the place, so this was a refreshing read, social media is for everyone, not just the ‘experts’ who were here at the beginning.

6 years 1 month ago

The greatest thing about Twitter is that everyone’s voice is equal, Paula. Sure, you may have 5,000, 10,000 followers or more. But that doesn’t make you more *important* than someone with 5 or 10 followers. It simply amplifies your voice – but is it really being heard all the time as the numbers grow?

Hope you’re liking Twitter, never be shy to say “Hello”. :)

Joanna Young
6 years 1 month ago

Danny, I’m with you on this one, the whole point of twitter is that we get to follow who we want. If we don’t like what they’re tweeting then all we need to do is click away. And as Kim says that might include incessant tweeting of ‘shoulds’!

Kim Woodbridge
6 years 1 month ago

I’m glad you posted this Danny. Recently I’ve become a little annoyed with all of the shoulds and should nots about twitter going through my stream. I’m also not particularly interested in how people select their followers or organize their groups in tweetdeck. Well, maybe generally but not in great detail.

Frank Reed
6 years 1 month ago


Thanks for saying this. I see a lot of folks you seem to think they can lay down the laws about Twitterquette. It’s effectiveness is truly in the eye of the beholder as far as I can tell. While some of the power Twitterers will rail against certain behaviors in the end their voice is just that; their voice.

Many people have been given de facto ‘leader’ status on Twitter that is kind of bizarre. The beauty part is that it really doesn’t matter what someone else deems good or bad when they have the power to simply ignore you. That’s what makes the loudest statement.

6 years 1 month ago

The best of it is, some of the *power Twitters* often seem to use it in the ways that irk most people, i.e., broadcasting and shameless self-promotion. Not all, but a few. So are their ways right? It is to them, which makes it work for them – just not for others. That’s the point – use what works for you and people will either agree or not.

Andrew Weaver
6 years 1 month ago

Good stuff, sir.

I think we all can have a hard time if we see someone using Twitter in ways we don’t or wouldn’t use it. In the end, Twitter is one thing to me and quite possibly another thing to someone else.

Also (RE: Jeff), I don’t think your “5 Ways to Ruin a Perfectly Good Twitter Relationship” post contradicts anything in this post. You can have your own ideas (just as I do) on how to use Twitter. You can even tell or suggest to others how to use Twitter. Just remember that in the end, Twitter can be used in many different ways by many different people.

Jeff Brown
6 years 1 month ago

I think Jamie’s comments sum it up pretty well. If your goal is to be a jerk on Twitter, then that’s your call I guess.

Your post on “5 Ways to Ruin a Perfectly Good Twitter Relationship” seems to contradict this one. Either you care about how others use Twitter or you don’t.

6 years 1 month ago

I can see why that post would be viewed this way (5 Annoying Things…). However, I did just write that as my own personal peeves – perhaps the one that I’d change would be the point about personal discussions, but the rest are just my own peeves and not *rules* as such.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing :)

David Nichols
6 years 1 month ago

I guess I never saw it that way before. I always looked at people who didn’t conform to my views on how Twitter should be and think they should change their annoying ways. I still find them annoying, but I now realize, like you said, that it’s our uniquenesses that make us who we are, especially on Twitter. We shouldn’t be trying to conform others to our own personal views on Twitter.

If I find you annoying, I won’t follow you, nothing personal. If you don’t like me you can do the same thing. There’s more fish in the sea I guess. Just don’t get your feelings hurt, it’s nothing personal.

Thanks, keep ‘em coming.

6 years 1 month ago

Cheers David. That’s the thing – I may feel that I *behave* on Twitter but then maybe I’m being really annoying to others. We can never please everyone all of the time; nor should we try to. Be happy with how we conduct ourselves is the place to start.

Roch Parisien
6 years 1 month ago

Two recent situations that suggest some basic, common sense Twitter-quette “guidelines” may be in order?

6 years 1 month ago

With regards that second one, I think just common sense is the best guideline. Ask yourself, “Would I say this in person?”. If yes, then go for it. If that means you say the things that journalist did, then it makes you wonder what he’s like in person.

Susan Mazza
6 years 1 month ago

Totally agree. I’m not a fan of rules because they tends to limit what’s possible and can create a whole lotta righteousness. The only ones that seem to really matter are twitters terms of service and “the golden rule”. If someone doesn’t like how I “do twitter” they won’t follow and vice versa.

Seems to me your own personal “rules” for how you interact on twitter should be driven by whether or not you are meeting your goals in being there in the first place.

I find myself wondering what Malcom Gladwell (author of The Tipping Point & Blink) will have to say about all of this…

6 years 1 month ago

It’s like in life, Susan. Obviously there are the legal *rules* that need to be adhered to, but for the rest of the time, it’s what we do ourselves that attract people to us (or not). Writing our own rulebook and playing by it makes us who we are, individually and collectively. Isn’t that part of the fun of being individuals? :)

A Bisht
6 years 1 month ago

Brilliant. Not because the write-up talks about twitter, but because it manages to bring home the point simply and effectively. The write-up not only imparts the twitter wisdom, but also the wisdom of life.

Ari Herzog
6 years 1 month ago

To the person using the Bamboo Forest moniker: I routinely follow and unfollow and re-follow people at whim. I take a two-pronged approach:

1) is the person tweeting value for me?
2) is the person tweeting value for anyone following me?

For instance, the first may be a requisite for the second, but I also know that while I don’t read everything of Guy Kawasaki or Jason Calacanis, their tweets occasionally pop into my stream which may not be of value for me but may be to you, so I retweet.

The point being I make my own rules, and I keep changing them.

P.S. What happened to the “subscribe to comments” checkbox, Danny?

6 years 1 month ago

That was my error while looking at different threaded comments options, Ari, the subscribe option was left off. Rectified now, thanks for heads up.

6 years 1 month ago

finally, someone who makes no rules! live and let tweet. love it!

Bamboo Forest - PunIntended
6 years 1 month ago

Recently a blogger followed me and then dropped me later. Granted, I have no idea why – though I wouldn’t be surprised if it was because I did not reciprocate.

Honestly, I follow people for them. If they don’t reciprocate, I may be disappointed, but I can’t see myself dropping someone because they didn’t follow in kind. Seriously, that sounds like middle school.

It’s just not that important.

Holden Daowyang
6 years 1 month ago

Oh my God. How dare you? Don’t you know the only two people in the world who actually know the rules of Twitter are Jeremiah Owyang … (pause for a quick bow) and Shel Israel? I mean, you can’t expect people to believe someone named “Danny” do you? “Twitterville” isn’t even published yet. Blasphemer.

I bet you one thing … if Jeremiah ever sees you on the street, you’ll be intimidated and apologize immediately. NO ONE! and I mean no one establishes anything about Twitter without him first reporting it. YOU HEAR ME … DANNY?!

Void where prohibited.

6 years 1 month ago

-Holden. I didn’t think, good sir. I went ahead in folly and posted my own personal view – I now know that to have been incredibly naive. Please accept my sincerest apologies and put in a good word for me with Jeremy, if you’d be so kind?

Jamie Kim
6 years 1 month ago

I couldn’t help but to smile while reading your bulleted points. My interpretation:

“If you want to jump off the social media cliff by doing nothing but promote yourself and/or your organization, do it. Just know that no one will be following your (twitter) foot steps.”


6 years 1 month ago

Ha, is that how it came across Jamie? Certainly wasn’t the intention, I need to brush up on my communication skills!

Sonny Gill
6 years 1 month ago

Right on. There are different ways to utilize Twitter and some are greatly effective at marketing, communicating, community building, etc. There are many variations and even more results. We all preach transparency and conversation but who are we to force our ways onto others – we suggest what we see fit in using it but the best we can do is reach out to those who get it the way we do and build on those relationships.

Good POV, Danny.