Respect thy follower: how to clean up your act on twitter


This month, Twitter celebrated its birthday. In the nine years since the blue bird flew into our lives, the population of the microblogging site has grown to 288 million monthly active users, with a whopping 500 million Tweets sent each day.

It’s played host to a string of celebrity breakups and seen countless ill-advised comments from all kinds of public figures. Meanwhile, the growing use of hashtags has allowed the media to gauge the current zeitgeist on everything from breaking news headlines to Kim Kardashian’s re-configured ‘curves’.

As a democratic platform, one of the biggest challenges Twitter faces is policing its users. Last month, its continued failure to tackle bullies and a particularly ugly breed of internet trolls prompted CEO Dick Costolo to admit: “We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we’ve sucked at it for years… I’m frankly ashamed of how poorly we’ve dealt with this issue during my tenure as CEO.”

Yet, while it was less of a headline news story, it seems things have started to change. This week, a small group of users confirmed that Twitter has hired a digital bouncer. Less dramatically titled a ‘quality filter’, their notification states that it “aims to remove all Tweets from your notifications timeline that contain threats, offensive or abusive language… or are sent from suspicious accounts.”

The fact that not everyone has been granted access to the filter means the majority of users will, for the time being at least, need to stay on their guard for inappropriate comments.

In the spirit of mutual respect (politicians take note), it’s about time we all started to think a bit more about how we treat others online, as well as how we present ourselves. The fact that Dick Costolo has owned up to the issue of abuse shows a level of maturity that many users of the platform could also benefit from considering, especially those with professional, business accounts.

That’s not to say you need to go to finishing school to observe a little digital etiquette:

Rule number one: Never respond in haste. You can’t control what others say on Twitter but you can manage your own responses. If someone sends a rude or derisory comment, consider whether it merits a response at all. If it does, picture yourself face-to-face with them in a crowded auditorium where hundreds of your peers are listening on. What would you say then?

Rule number two: Don’t be too formal – or informal. Hugs, kisses and pokes are indulged on Facebook but on Twitter, they risk coming over as inappropriate and, frankly, a bit weird. That said, this is still a young, fast-paced channel, so it’s important to avoid being over-formal and boring followers with one-sided corporate messages.

Rule number three: Don’t be a watcher. The less active you are, the fewer followers you’ll get. Show your personality, have fun and engage.

Still worried about making a social media faux pas? Check out our PR Tips and Tricks page for more on using social media for business, or visit our digital page for more on how Whiteoaks can help.