Like Ben Brooks, I've long had some thoughts about Twittiquette rolling around in my head. Ben expressed some thoughts this morning on the service and how he thinks people should react when they are followed or unfollowed by others.
It's an interesting subject as we all react towards these actions differently. But I try to keep a few things on my mind.
Don't take it personally
At some point, you're going to find out that someone you admired or respected doesn't find your stream of tweets attractive enough to keep listening in. This has happened to me, and I've done it to others. I do my very best to not be offended, and when I unfollow someone, it's my hope that they do the same.
Sometimes, even if you respect someone's skills and abilities, that doesn't mean you'll click in the format Twitter gives you. That's where the personal blog comes in. I still want to hear what you have to say, just on a bigger scale.
A vs. B
One fact that I do my best to keep in mind is this: there are two very different ways to use Twitter. Option A is as a social tool to interact and joke around with others, to connect. Option B is to use it as a source of sharing information, usually in the form of links to content or pithy blurbs of opinion.
Some people like the service for one, but not the other. Some people manage to strike a lovely, harmonious balance between the two.
The catch is that — in my opinion — we mostly want to follow folks who use the service in the same way we do. If I lean more to the social aspects and you only ever post links to technical info, I probably won't feel a connection. On the other side, if I've abandoned RSS for Twitter and you post about your workout every morning, there's a good chance I'm not interested in that ‘news’.
Personally, I shoot for the balance, but often fall more on the side of option A.
Everyone has a limit
For the longest time, I kept the number of people I followed on Twitter right around 50. If I added someone new, there was a good chance that I would remove someone else. The simple fact is that I can only take in so much input. I only want to take in so much input. My follow count is higher now, but only with people or accounts who tweet at a low pace.
If you tweet 20-30 times a day, there's a good chance I won't want to follow you. You would dominate my stream. Not that it's wrong for you to tweet at that pace, it's just wrong for me. I have my limit and although it may be much lower than yours, I have to respect my time. It does not mean I don't respect you, I'm just protecting myself.
This is something Patrick Rhone touched on early on Practical Opacity. Check out this video, specifically from 1:00 to 2:30. He hits on my exact feelings for this subject.
[Update] One last important factor with limits is personality. Some people can comfortably follow 400 people, because when they open up their Twitter client, they can simply jump into the flow. Some people, like this guy, have to go back and read every. single. tweet. I can only do that if my the number of tweets is reasonable. I don't believe there's wrong or right here, we're just wired differently.
In the end, I think my first point is the most important. I recently found that someone I had been connecting with on Twitter for over two years had at some point stop following me. I admit, it stings a little. But I let it go.
You're going to make a lot of great connections on Twitter, but don't feel the need to make every connection.