Ten Rude Twitter Habits to Break Today

Many freelancers enjoy connecting on Twitter. It’s a simple application that’s easy to learn, yet it has a huge number of apps that can be added to expand its functionality.

Plus, most freelancing specialties have a large Twitter community. From personal experience, I know that there’s a large writing community on Twitter. I know that there is also a large design community there as well as communities for several other professions.

Clearly, freelancers can benefit from using Twitter, but along with the good is the bad. I’m talking about bad habits. Many freelancers develop bad habits using Twitter simply because they haven’t taken the time to think about how they use this tool.

In this post, I share ten bad Twitter habits that may even be considered rude. If you’ve developed some of these habits, you may be annoying your Twitter community and leaving a bad impression.

Bad Twitter Habits You Shouldn’t Ignore

Here are ten bad Twitter habits you should stop doing:

  1. Leaving Twitter in the middle of a conversation without telling anyone. You wouldn’t walk away from someone in the middle of a conversation without saying something to let the other person know that you’re leaving. You shouldn’t suddenly abandon a conversation on Twitter either.
  2. Retweeting retweets of your original tweets just to get attention. I actually conducted a small, informal survey about this practice. Most respondents agreed that retweeting someone’s retweet of your original tweet was annoying and only acceptable if it added clarity to a conversation.
  3. Begging for work through Twitter. Again, this is another behavior you probably wouldn’t do in person. You wouldn’t normally constantly beg acquaintances for work, although you might let them know from time to time that you are looking for work.
  4. Autoresponse, autofollowing–really auto-anything. No one can be on Twitter 24/7, so some scheduling of tweets is necessary. However, if your Twitter involvement is too automated you may be creating the impression that you aren’t really interested in connecting with others.
  5. Tweeting personal relationship info. (Twitter break-ups, etc.). Is there anything more tacky than breaking up with your partner over Twitter? Whether you’re a celebrity or just an ordinary person, some things really are better when handled in person.
  6. Cussing and other foul language. It’s always important to think of other’s sensitivities. While you may be comfortable swearing in front of your close buddies, you probably really don’t know your Twitter community that well. Many find this practice offensive.
  7. Using a hash tag that doesn’t really fit your tweet. Using the wrong hash tag isn’t a clever way to get a bigger audience for your tweets. Rather it does one of two things–highlights you as a newbie use or worse, as a conversation crashing cad.
  8. Ignoring @mentions and direct messages. If someone has taken the time to address you directly with either an @mention or a direct message the polite thing to do is to reply. Imagine yourself at a social gathering with someone trying to talk to you.
  9. Making it all about you. Twitter is a conversation and successful conversations are typically give and take interactions. Too many Twitter users are just there to promote their own interests only, but that really defeats the social purpose of social media.
  10. Spam. It should go without saying Twitter spam is always a no-no. I can always tell a spammer from the following two characteristics: their tweet has nothing to do with anything I’ve been discussing, and they are following no one and have no followers.

A Quick Rule of Thumb

I’ve listed some specific problems that I’ve seen on Twitter. Naturally, many of these mistakes are made unintentionally, but that does not make them any less annoying.

When using Twitter (or any other social media tool, for that matter–even the new Google+ tool) a quick rule of thumb is to think about how your interaction would come across if you were face to face with your followers/fans/friends. If it would come across as being rude, negative, or boastful–don’t do it. More often than not, this rule will keep your from making a bad impression on Twitter (or any other online site).

Your Turn

Have you noticed any bad Twitter practices that I’ve missed?

Share your own Twitter pet peeves in the comments here.


  1. says

    Some great things to avoid there Laura, one thing I would add is kind of the reverse of #2, I agree that automating too many things is bad, but I find it annoying when people don’t use a scheduler of sorts to tweet and end up tweeting like 40 links in a 5 minute span, it takes up the whole feed, I end up having to remove them from the list I put them in.

  2. says

    Oh, I have some to add! :)

    1. Following me without taking the time to fill out your bio.
    2. Following me without uploading a profile/logo image.
    3. Following me when you haven’t even taken the time to tweet anything. Not even once.
    4. True Tweet validation or whatever that spam DM stuff is. Really? You want me to validate that I’m real when YOU’RE SENDING AUTO DMs?
    5. Sending me a mention/reply with nothing but a URL in it.

    I feel better now. These could also go on a related post titled “How to Spot a Twitter Spammer.”

  3. says

    Great list! I’d like to add RTing a Follow Friday list just to say thanks. Or RTing something someone said to you, just to say thanks. Some self-promotion is over-the-top. It’s like, “Look at meeeeeeee. Someone said something nice about meeeeeeeeeeeeee.” #shaddup Just thank the person who included you – it’s enough. No, really, it is.

    While I’m on the subject, how about long lists of names for FF with no reason to follow them. I’m ready to filter them all out. If you have someone you’d like me to follow, please tell me why I should. Otherwise, I’ll ignore your tweet.

    On a positive note, I love Twitter and all the great relationships I’ve built there. :)

  4. says

    Laura, your list here made a lot of sense. I’ve made a fun video last year on how odd it sounds if you take your usual spammy tweet in the offline world. There’s this top influencer I’ve spoken with a few months back who said that it’s not really hard to get their attention.. if you just learn how to say hello first. I think, most people are treating Twitter like their own personal billboard for the whole world to see… and auto DM’s are the biggest turn off for me; it simply shows how lazy you can get. I’d like to call those as something like a broken record label that kept on playing. My final say: If used correctly, Twitter is a goldmine, if you learn how to engage your tweeple for real.

  5. says

    Agree with Leslie about the #FF lists – especially if someone posts 4 or 5 tweets of #FF lists in quick succession.

    My other pet hate is people who post the same thing day in day out. Even if it’s worded differently it’s still the same thing!

  6. says

    Hi Jamie–I just did 12 tweets in 20 minutes. Is that okay? :) Actually, if you’re talking about what I think you are (tweets coming out just seconds apart), I always thought that was automated since no one could really type or find places to tweet that fast.

    Emily Suess, Very good additions to the list (and some of my own pet peeves, too). I find that those who tweet by just sending a link are nearly always spammers.

    Leslie-Good comment. I do thank someone who recognizes me with a FollowFriday (or similar meme), but I never retweet the whole list when I do so.

    Aaron Eden, Real engagement–I agree 100% That should be the goal. I bet your video was funny. :)

    Alison Wren, I’ve always wondered how effective retweeting the same thing was. On the same day, I might retweet a post at several different times. But the next day I’m usually on to something new.

  7. says

    lol it depends on the types of tweets, the ones that bother me is when people are posting like a bunch of links to outside content, it’s normal to have a lot of tweets if you’re covering an event or having multiple conversation ;)

  8. says

    Hi Jamie–What do you consider outside content–links to posts and such? I personally prefer that to someone who is trying to live-tweet an event since the live tweets usually mean nothing to someone who isn’t part of the event. However, I respect the live-tweeting trend and have even done it myself a few times.

    Hi Gold! LOL. I suppose you could write that post.

  9. says

    I absolutely agree with you on this post. One rule I’d add is: Business accounts should not talk about their personal life.

    It’s a pet peeve of mine when professionals trying to represent their business talk about their personal life more than their business. You could potentially harm your business or offend somebody by what you say, so is it worth the risk?

  10. Maigen says

    What about the people who send DM’s thanking you, but when you TRY to interact by writing back via DM – you discover “you cannot send messages to users who are not following you”.

    Somehow, that feels incredibly rude. You took the time to thank me for — OOOH. That was an auto-DM wasn’t it?

  11. says

    Glad to have come across this, Laura, your observations are very applicable, and perhaps your best advice is to treat twitter like the conversation that it is, as though you were actually in a room with the other tweeters, and observing all the good practices of social interaction. All of the followup comments are good, as well, causing me to think that mostly, with twitter, people are learning by doing, they’re trying things out, then figuring out (in a sadly public way) what’s appropriate behavior, and what’s not. Just like toddlers do. Except we’re all adults who are toddling into twitter.

  12. says

    Sending a mention with nothing but a URL attached to it really irks me. Not too long ago, I didn’t know what this meant. I clicked on a link when one of my young kids was in the office and a HUGE porn pic filled my computer screen (mind you, I have the larges monitor offered by Apple sitting in my office). I’ve never clicked on another one. I always block those people too. It was awful.

    Another thing that isn’t truly “rude”, but will certainly get me to decide not to follow back is those who have blatant misspellings in their twitter bios! Seriously? If you’re a ‘guru’ than you should know how to spell “weekly” — here’s a hint: it’s not spelled “weekely” ya’ll.

  13. says

    @Laura basically like people that will tweet 40 random links (like their own content, other peoples content, affiliate links, whatever) in a couple minutes, that stuff should be spread out. In my opinion the only time a person should tweet a lot in a short period of time is the live events because it has to do with an event that is happening, or because they are all @replies to conversations they are having.

  14. says

    What an awesome discussion! Thanks everyone. :)

    Nicole Foster–>That is a good addition, although there’s a fine line between sharing too much personal information and not sharing enough to build a relationship. Definitely, if someone’s on Twitter for business they should behave professionally.

    Hi Maigen, That happens to me too and I do find it irritating. It’s like broadcasting that you’ve automated your DMs.

    Thanks Stephen Snyder Jamie Northrup. It seems there’s a consensus about overtweeting.

    Jann Alexander. You bring up a good point. I do think a lot of people who make mistakes on Twitter (or any social media) don’t realize that they’re annoying others. They may have seen someone else do it, or just be experimenting to find out what works.

    Samantha Gluck–How embarrassing for you! Those are the profiles that I block all the time. I wish no one sent out spam, but sadly that’s not the world we live in.

  15. says

    Although I practice most of your tips, I get tired of people telling everyone how to be on Twitter. I say there are only two rules to follow: 1. Follow who YOU want to follow. 2. Tweet what YOU want to tweet. Then the people who follow you and engage with you will be people who are actually interested in who YOU are and not in who our author here tells you to pretend to be.

  16. TheAL says

    I am occasionally guilty of #6 and sometimes being too casual. I am thinking of breaking up my Twitter into two accounts: business & personal. I know a lot of people on here, even a lot of successful ones, are very up-front about being a human being on Twitter. I’ve even seen some people say very brash things about sensitive topics like healthcare and gay rights. Some freelancers have a very firm “I’m a real person, I say real things, you just have to accept it” stance. I’m not that bold, but I’m not afraid to be a little silly or even brutally honest on Twitter. It could be a good thing sometimes, or it could be stunting my growth.

  17. says

    @Laura It was embarrassing. It seems like I’m getting more and more of them. I’m also getting a lot of gambling people following me. Of course I’m not following them back, but c’mon. Was it something I said?

    The people with the misspellings in their bios need to proof their work. I make spelling mistakes in commentary – grammar mistakes too – because I’m writing so fast and I want to get my thought on the page before it gets sucked out of my brain from a phone call or my (playtime) alarm going off, telling me it’s time to get back to work. But I proofread ALL my bios and public information associated directly with my business.

    I also beg anyone to feel free to alert me of any glaring grammar or spelling errors in my bios or digital resume, etc.

    Loved this post, Laura.

  18. says

    I’ve been so much annoyed with people using irrelevant hastags on Twitter. Thankfully, my stream doesn’t have such tweets coz I’m so picky about who I follow. I only follow genuine and sane people.

    However it turns out to be really annoying when I am searching for something and I get all these results just because of the irrelevant hashtags that are BS. People should really become sane when using social media!

  19. says

    Great list Laura! The one thing I can’t stand is Twitter spam, and I don’t get tired of reporting and blocking those who reply to my tweets with just a few irrelevant words and a link.

    Aside from spam, it’s not responding to mentions and DMs that gets to me. I’m pretty sure that with the new email notifications, anyone would receive a notice of a mention or direct message. But I try to be more patient, in case a glitch or some sort is causing the problem on Twitter itself.

  20. says

    Have to admit seeing some of my mistakes in this list. My BIG bug?

    Someone stating I have RT their tweet when I haven;t even had the opportunity to read it (See the link in my signature for explanation)

    Want me to RT your article ? At least @ it to me!

  21. intel_chris says

    The discussion about FF lists hits close to home. While I don’t start FF lists, I do RT them–after carefully removing my name from the list and adding the originators name to the list in my place. I also try to make it a point to go through the lists to make certain I am actually following the people on it. Over time, I have noticed that these FF lists tend to become little cliques of people who converse. They ofter start because of some conversation and eventually, they become lists of people with a common interest, even if the list only includes the names.

    I don’t generally do the same with waves, hugs, or thank yous, but if there is a “conversation” list, sometimes I’ll pipe in using the same technique. These all seem to be variations of the same thing.

    Moreover, I note that some of the twitter celebrities are the originators of some of these long-list-of-names-with-little-to-no-content tweets. Equally important, I note that if one “participates” in such lists (e.g. RTs them), one tends to get more of them. In addition, that participation and the subsequent additional tweets increase the number of times one is mentioned, improving ones stats of things like Klout and PeerIndex.

    This, of course, becomes the rub. One doesn’t want to be alienating people who find this kind of conversation annoying drivel. At the same time one doesn’t want to be rude and not reply to people who reach out to you, even if it is only the twitter equivalent of a wave on the street.

    I ended up having so much to say in response I did a blog posting myself at http://bit.ly/oOkNss.

  22. says

    Can we add making assumptions about people on twitter? I hate it when people make assumptions based on a few of my tweets and/or who I interact with on twitter. Do you always subscribe to everyone’s beliefs that you interact with on a face to face basis? No, then why would you assume that all the people on twitter that I interact with share my exact same beliefs.

  23. Eric Tischler says

    I recently ran into a twitter avalanche when I followed a blogger I found. He is a very good writer on self-improvement, and deserves the attention he is getting, but I was overwhelmed with the 150 tweets of the same five to ten post links over and over all day long. I wrote to him and complained in a polite, curious sort of way, and this is what I heard back:

    “I do appreciate your advice and there is some great advice there, but this formula is working and working very well. I have a very high engagement and sharing level. People are picking up on the older posts, too, and commenting on them, both on Twitter and on the blog itself.

    “Prior to May, for the entirety of the previous six months, I had less than 2,000 pageviews in total. In May, I had 4,484 pageviews … in June, I had 27,044 pageviews . At the time of writing, I’ve had 53,926 pageviews on my blog over the past month… 47,322 since July 1st. A total of over 82,000 in just a few months.

    “From 21,000+ followers, I’ve literally had maybe a dozen people contact me to complain, and of course I’m mindful of those concerns, but I also have to take into account that the vast majority of people following the blog are following very willingly, sharing the blog posts with their friends on an increasingly regular basis. If they didn’t want to follow me, they wouldn’t follow me.”

    Hard to argue with that sort of success. His tweets are not conversational, but to promote links to his site, and it works massively, but also his content is very good. He uses a scheduled tweeting system on Hootsuite to deliver these links around the clock. Hmmm. I guess there are different uses for twitter. Is it rude, or just a different application? No, I don’t follow him anymore, but I do visit his site regularly.

    You can see his site at http://lesism.blogspot.com/

  24. says

    Hi Laura, although I can see how the bad habits on the list can really irk most people, the one that irks me the most is the follow/cancel. I notice some people follow and then after a predetermined time, will cancel if I choose to not follow back. I didn’t think the protocol was to follow everyone who follows you. For me, I follow people that interest me and tweet useful information and are engaging, whether they follow me or not.

    I notice, too, that with the advent of automation, many apps have an auto cancel feature when they notice that someone isn’t following back. Personally I stay away from any sort of automation for Twitter. It’s not very engaging. Like trying to have a conversation over the phone with one of those menu-driven customer service phone lines. Not pleasant.

    Anyway, I follow people that I feel have earned the right to be followed due to interesting content and engagement. Not because I’m obligated to follow back. So it bothers me when people follow me with the intent that I follow back automatically.


  25. Eric Tischler says

    In the case of twitter for personal communication, “polite” standards are valid, and it is certainly nice to follow back someone who follows you, but even at that level there are people (who I don’t know personally) who follow me who tweet too much, or too much junk, or stuff that is not my lifestyle. I follow who interests me and doesn’t offend or annoy.

    As for politely following others, nobody who “follows” hundreds or thousands of others actually reads most of those people’s tweets. When you get in those numbers you are only doing courtesy following unless you speed read and/or spend much of your day on twitter.

    At the business level, showing that you follow hundreds or thousands of those who follow you is probably impressive, but only a fool believes you pay attention that much. That level of twitter following and tweeting is for business promotion, not personal communication. And if there is anyone who tweets that much you can put them on a twitter list per http://support.twitter.com/entries/76460-how-to-use-twitter-lists and not be drowned in tweets all day long.

    So again, I think twitter has two domains at least. “Politeness” rules apply accordingly. As for the blogger I mentioned above, you can’t argue with business success.

  26. says

    Laura – Thanks for the great article. Great minds really do think alike :) because I actually wrote a similar post a couple of months ago (Top 10 Twitter Pet Peeves); you and I had a few overlaps, though you and your readers brought up some other good ones too!

    A couple others I didn’t see mentioned (sorry if any repeats): Making your visitors click 15 times to get to the actual post you’ve mentioned in your tweet… Tweeting inspirational quotes and nothing else (that’s a sure-fire way to get an un-follow from me!) and constantly tweeting your location. Notice Twitter no longer asks “What are you doing?” because people took that waaay too literally!

    I noticed someone pointed out that maybe Twitter should be whatever you want it to be… I think that’s a good point, but it depends on why you’re on Twitter in the first place. If you’re just there to make friends and tell jokes, then sure, there are no rules. But if you’re a business or are trying to promote yourself, you’ve got to follow some rules… That’s just good sense, and it’s no different from, say, going to work every day. You’re probably going to behave differently on the job versus at home, right?

  27. says

    Twitter is really a great tool and one good practice of it is ‘personalizing’ it (not break-ups though). But in our place, it is often the source of scoops and quarrels among celebs.And, the spam is the most irritating of all.


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