Correct, There are No Rules to Twitter. Except These, of Course

By: Hillel Fuld (@hilzfuld)

People really hate when you tell them how to tweet, and rightfully so. Twitter is an open platform (or it used to be, but that is a topic for another time.) that entails writing a message of 140 characters max, and there are no rule books, so who made you the authority on Twitter? All that is fine and true, but anyone who spends a lot of time on Twitter can attest to the fact that at least 90% of the points mentioned below annoy the heck out of them.

By the way, if you are new to Twitter or don’t get what all the hype is about, see the Web’s most comprehensive “Twitter guide” written by yours truly, at Everything You Need to Know about Twitter and Tweeting.

Anyway, back to our point. It seems Twitter bots and spammers will always exist, but if you want to avoid being labeled one of those things by everyone you follow, the following five “rules” are a good place to start:

First One on One, and Only Then One to Many!

The way Twitter was built and engineered enables one person to communicate with many (followers). Except, when you sign up for a Twitter account, it doesn’t come with 10,000 preinstalled followers, nor is there any magic trick to achieving those numbers. You want to talk to many people at once? Try talking to one at a time first.

If I had a dime for every company that asked me “How do I get more followers?” or “Can you or someone you know give my product a shoutout so we can go viral?”, I would personally have enough money to send all those people to an extensive course on marketing. That is not how it works!

There are no shortcuts and there are not supposed to be. Want a lot of followers? Find interesting people, follow them, and then comes the difficult part. You sitting down? Talk to them. Yes, engage in conversation. No, not conversation that involves shameless plugs, just regular conversation. You know, the kind of conversation you would participate in in real life when meeting someone for the first time and building up a relationship.

Do that and you will not only get that person to follow (assuming the conversation is somewhat interesting and relevant), but that person’s followers might see your conversation and find it interesting as well, and your conversation might also come up in search so others might find you and follow. The point is, don’t think numbers, think people.

Remember Who You’re Talking to, First and Foremost

In continuation of the previous point, once you get those followers you so eagerly wanted, remember that they are listening. Don’t start tweeting things you think will get you more followers and ignore the people who already jumped on board. You will lose them.

Yes, Twitter is public and anyone can see your tweets. That means if there is an event that many people are following, tweeting with that event hashtag might get you some new followers. If you think spamming your followers with ten hashtags per tweet will get you far, you are in for a very big surprise.

Yes, some people might find you via search, but you know what else will happen? The people who are already following and are now being bombarded with hashtags and spammy tweets will unfollow you. Aaaand we’re back to square one. By the way, this might be somewhat controversial since many people seem to like what is known as “Twitter chats”, but in my book, these fall under the same category and the name of that category is “Annoying things people do on Twitter to get more followers.”

 There is RSS and There is Twitter.

Whatever your opinion of RSS feeds/readers is, you need to understand that if your Twitter feed is a glorified RSS feed with link after link and no added value of your own, then you are in essence competing with Google Reader. Good luck with that.

Sharing interesting content is important and even crucial to succeed on Twitter (assuming your definition of success is building up an engaged audience/community. If not, you can close this post right now.) but if you are not adding your own touch, then what exactly are you offering people in exchange for clicking that Follow button?

Share content but add a comment to your tweet with your take on the matter. Or tag the author and give him/her your feedback. Do not just share link after link because, well, that is boring and unnecessary when there are countless apps that do the same thing.

Doing PR on Twitter? Chances Are You Are Being Super Obvious

If you are trying to promote something, Twitter is a very very effective tool. After all, things have known to go viral on Twitter, right? Well, contrary to popular belief, the difficulty of doing PR of any kind on Twitter is not finding the right people or doing the outreach.

Why not illustrate this point with an example? If your Twitter bio says the words “PR”, “Marketing”, “Evangelist”, or anything else that implies the need for press coverage or exposure, then when reaching out to journalists/influencers, they are reading you like an open book. They know that when you tweet them about the product, you are doing your job and they are therefore more hesitant to respond than if it was just some random person recommending the very same product.

Well, many PR folks get this so what do they do? Well, they start by making an assumption that the very same journalist/influencer is either blind or very very unintelligent. If you think that writing one tweet to a journalist NOT about your product and upon getting a response, pitching your product, solves your problem, you are very wrong. No one is falling for this.

When people say build a relationship, that does not mean send one non promotional tweet, then promote the heck out of yourself. It means the same thing it means offline. Build trust, a connection, a reason that person should take any interest in you and after that is done, there is nothing wrong with sharing what you’re working on. But the big challenge in doing PR on Twitter is not outreach, it is the time spent building the relationship needed to make that outreach effective.

I Shouldn’t Have to Tell you This…

No really, you (and when I say “you”, I mean every human being on the planet) should have figured this out on your own. Unfortunately, that is not the case for many people. Do not use Twitter to offend others. Furthermore, do not say things that will offend people, even if that was not your intention. I am not implying that you should censor your thoughts, but it is important that you remember just how public Twitter (and the web in general) is.

Is that advice too abstract for you? OK, I didn’t want to do this but you forced my hand. If you are looking to build a wide and general audience on Twitter, you might want to stay away from tweets that fall under the category of TMI. You might also want to avoid tweeting about politics, unless of course your audience is following you for your input on politics. Other topics to avoid? Religion (again, some people have an audience that follows them as an authority on religion, this is not aimed at those people.), um, private/intimate topics (that is what DMs are for. KIDDING!), and well, any other topic that is going to offend the people who gave you the stage that is Twitter. Be sensitive to those people. Again, I shouldn’t have to tell you this…

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, I will say that it is true, there are no real rules to Twitter. Having said that, there are things that annoy many people and there are things that help you achieve your goals faster. If I had to sum up all the above points in one sentence, I would say “Act online as you would offline and do not do online what you would not do offline”.

If you want some other ideas of what annoys people on Twitter, take a look at my tweet below and the responses it got by clicking the date and time I tweeted it.



Finally Joined Twitter? Please PLEASE Don’t Make These Mistakes

By: Hillel Fuld

This post is long overdue, firstly because I have neglected this site for way too long due to most of my content going hereherehere, and here. More importantly though, this post is overdue because as social media becomes more and more mainstream every day, with some help from Google, more people take the leap and join services like Twitter and Google+.

Every time another friend joins Twitter, I notice they all make the same basic mistakes and I end up spending extended periods of time explaining to them what they did wrong when they ask me why they are not getting millions of followers. I figured, why not get it in writing and send people the link from now on.

Well, if you are new to Twitter, I highly recommend you read this complete Twitter guide I have written on how to get started. It includes tips on what to do, what not to do, who to follow, as well as a comprehensive list of terms you need to know. Now back to our topic…

To be honest, I am well aware that I am going to get yelled at that there is no right way to tweet and that is fine. Everyone is more than welcome to use the platform as they see fit, I am just giving my opinion on how to succeed on Twitter and how to fail miserably. Take it or leave it.

I’m Begging you Not to Beg

I have been building up my Twitter network for close to four years now with close to 100,000 tweets, 21,786 followers, and have been placed on over 1,700 lists. That took me four years of blogging, tweeting, retweeting, and most importantly, replying. Let’s assume for a second that me following you is going to advance your goal of getting a lot of followers for a second, which it won’t, why is that something I should do?

You just joined Twitter, you have no content, and you offer no value to the people I have built a trusting relationship with for four years. Why should I tell them to follow you? Better yet, why should I follow you myself? How about you invest the time that others have invested, interact, engage, and contribute, which will help you build your network organically? Yes, it takes longer, but not only is it the right way of going about this, it will also benefit you in the end because those followers will be people who are truly interested in what you have to say and not people who just clicked the Follow button because someone asked them to.

Spamming Will Get you Nowhere

If you decided to join Twitter, chances are you heard that your favorite celebrity is tweeting day and night and you figured you could get them to interact with you. If that is the case and your Twitter strategy, close this post, then go disable your Twitter account. If you are still reading, chances are you realize why that is a ridiculous and childish way to approach this. You know what else is ridiculous? Using spammy tools to increase followers, sending Auto DMs thanking people for following you and directing them to your Facebook page, and sending the same pitch in 100 consecutive tweets to influencers who you think will drive traffic to your business.

Twitter takes time if you want to see real results. Repeat that sentence to yourself f?i?v?e? ten times. You are going to have to forget everything you heard about Ashton Kutcher and his 700 bazillion followers and do the leg work. That means follow relevant people, create a complete and interesting bio with a profile picture, and start tweeting interesting content. Then reply to people and once you’re done with that, reply some more.

Based on Twtrland, a service I would recommend using regularly, close to 80% of all my tweets are replies. If you follow me on Twitter, you know that for me not to respond to you, you have to say something extremely unintelligent or annoying. I respond to everyone, whether they have 10 followers or 500,000 followers. Is that scalable? Yes, I have been doing it for years and I get over 300 replies a day. You can handle it too.

Trolls Trump Spammers

Honestly, the only thing worse than spammers are trolls. In case you are a normal person and have no idea what an internet troll is, first of all, I am jealous of you, and second of all, let me explain. I cannot explain the psychology behind trolls because every atom in my body tells me never to behave that way, but unfortunately, I have seen way too much trolling lately, I just had to include it.

So what is a troll? A person who has the mistaken impression that if they comment on a blog post and call you a derogatory name or use profanity to express their utter disagreement with your content, that you will engage them and help them get exposure. I must admit, I have to learn from the big guys how not to let trolls get to me. I have yet to succeed. Of course, these trolls do not stick to blogs, they send you nasty comments on Twitter, hoping you will respond in an extreme manner, which will then generate curiosity among your followers, thereby increasing their audience.

Not only does this not work due to technical reasons, it will not in any way help you reach your ultimate goal of building a loyal and captured audience. At best, you will get a few followers that will unfollow you in a matter of days when they notice your pattern of trolling people across the Web. So to summarize in four words… Don’t be a troll!

Final Thoughts

For the sake of keeping this post short (oh, that’s another thing, keep things short and to the point on Twitter), I am going to stop here, but don’t think for a second that there are not other things you need to learn along the way, there are. Many. Try to bring value, offer your own unique content or at least your own take on other’s content. Don’t tweet the same format every single time “New Blog post:<Title>” for example.

But if you take away one thing from this post, remember this. Social media, and Twitter included, is nothing more than a platform to help you communicate. Communicate, not broadcast. What you would do in a real life conversation, you should do on Twitter and more importantly, what you would never do in a real life conversation, please, for the sake of your followers, the platform as a whole, and for yourself, don’t do on Twitter.


Twitter and Social Media Mistakes that Drive Everyone Nuts

After all this time, some things never change when it comes to the Web and social media. While it has penetrated the corporate world on levels we would never have imagined five years ago, social media is still a buzz word companies and people throw around without really understandING what it is about. The errors are on both side of the spectrum and some do not appreciate the power of the social Web while others overplay it. Here are some examples…