My Twitter Understanding: Twitter Etiquette

By Heather Kallevig

Whether it’s stimulating political revolutions, connecting us in space, increasing celeb popularity, exposing corrupt politicians, and gaining support for good ones, creating parody characters, sharing your mood, your favorite articles, and your greatest passions – Twitter is the platform that meets all needs and all situations (Griggs, Gross. 2013).

So, is it possible for such a widely used platform to have a culture? Of course. Are there sub-cultures? Yes. Just like any other SMS, Twitter has a culture based on its specific make-up and users. Most of that has to do with the length and frequency of your tweets. To fit into the culture, you must know the etiquette.

Twitter etiquette has been studied, discussed, and written repeatedly. Most writers seem to be in agreement about the criteria and I’ve compared and contrasted the opinions of several sites and articles including Mashable, Twitter for Dummies, PR Daily, Business Insider, and CNN. Here are the themes that emerged:

Setting up Your Profile:

Username: If you’re creating a professional profile, choose something similar to your name or business name. It will add to your content in search engines, make you easier to find and follow, and add credibility to your tweets. If you make up a name, make sure it is something inoffensive, relative to your personality, and fitting with your tweet content.

Design: Choose images that represent you as a user. The images you post impact how your tweets will be judged by others.

Engagement of other Twitter Users

Twitter’s sole purpose is engagement. You must be a participant, not an observer. Unlike Facebook, it is 100% acceptable to follow people you do not know. Search, find, and follow people with common interests. However, do not automatically expect them to follow you back. In turn do not feel obligated to follow people who follow you. If you know them offline, however, it can be a pretty serious snub if you don’t follow back.

Don’t be afraid to tweet people you find interesting and may consider “out of your league” such as celebrities, researchers, colleagues, peers, etc.

Interact with those who reach out to you. Remember, you would like a response. Give them one – especially if they ask you a direct question.

Tweet Frequency

Once you have you set up your profile, it is time to start tweeting. Too many tweets can be considered “noisy.” Too few can make you not seem worth following. Find a happy balance. I was under the assumption that 3-5 a week was a good number. However, Mashable and Twitter for Dummies both recommend 4-5 tweets per day. This number is for beginners. They assure you will tweet more as you become comfortable with the platform (Hiscott, R. 2013). Keep in mind, however, do not share useless information just to get your 4-5 tweets – i.e. Eating a cold supper tonight. In this case quality surpasses quantity.


This is an important component of twitter. If you see something you like, retweet it. If you want to add a comment, it’s probably best just to reply to your post. Some people do what is called a “manual retweet” – reposting a post with RT.

There is some dissent about manual retweets. According to PR daily, an important part of a person’s profile is their “retweets.” If you manually retweet something, you alter the number of the original writer’s retweets.

Other pages, however, feel differently. If you do want to manually retweet, just be sure to tag the original writer @originalwriter, etc.

Most importantly, do not simply copy-paste their post without this distinction. Plagiarism does exist on Twitter.


Beware of context collapse – in one way or another your tweets could be seen by someone you did not expect. Therefore, always keep content to that which you would be comfortable sharing with your grandmother, boss, and future children.

Avoid the following faux pas

  • over sharing uninteresting information
  • spoilers – don’t give away the ending of a movie, tv show, book, etc.
  • negativity
  • too opinionated
  • There are many other things to easily violate.

Learn the Language

As in any new culture, it is important to familiarize yourself with the language, jargon, and/or slang. Twitter has many platform specific words worth learning. Tweets, bot, hashtag, mistweet, @replies, RT, tweeps, tweetup, twinfluence, twitterstream, and twitterverse. These are a few of the most commonly used words. Learn ‘em and use ‘em.

Always Add Value

I saved the best for last – if you are going to tweet something, make sure it’s worth it. Ask yourself the following question, “Will it add value to your follower’s day?” This last recommendation is from PR daily, and should be the mantra that guides all tweets. Do not simply tweet without considering the content and effect of your tweets. The purpose of social media is to make a positive contribution. With this question as your guide, you can ensure your tweets are quality – they “add value.”



Griggs, B., & Gross, D. (2013, September 19). 23 key moments from Twitter history. Retrieved September 22, 2014.

Hiscott, R. (2013, October 14). The Complete Guide to Twitter Etiquette. Retrieved September 21, 2014.

Twitter Basics: 4 Things You Need To Know before You Tweet. (2014, January 1). Retrieved September 21, 2014.

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