Twattiquette: why Twitter is not a messaging tool

Twitter should be a blog platform, not just another instant messaging client

So much has been written about Twitter and its Marmite quality I won't go into why you need to use it. Instead I've been thinking about how people use it.

Some folks, especially PR people looking for a conduit to journalists, *shudder*, think it's exclusively for @replies (tweets directed at a specific tweeter, but available for anyone to read). I can't think of anything worse. For me it's a blogging platform, not instant messaging. Sure, with a lively, witty and interesting conversation, @ away. Scrape your other appearances on the Web to your Twitter feed, fine -- but only the best bits, and tell us why they're interesting. Post links to the more obscure corners of the Internets, definitely -- but give us a reason to click, and don't be the gazillionth person to tweet Stephen Fry rapping to Jay-Z (an epiphany I had when I was the gazillionth person to tweet Stephen Fry rapping to Jay-Z).

If I see a Twitter feed that contains only these things, I'm not following. @replies are the worst. I see them like comments on a blog post; ask a question or say something provocative in your original tweet, and create @debates, great. But @ing stephenfry/robertscoble/barackobama to say "O hai, u r awesome kthx bye" is just lame.

Worse, recently I was subjected to a Tweet reading:

@(Mainstream Tech Journalist) conf call is set up. We are waiting for you ;-)

to which Mainstream Tech Journalist replied:

@(Impatient Conference Caller) Sorry. Battling with conference call system...

Aside from Impatient Conference Caller publicly making Mainstream Tech Journalist look unprofessional, both wasted our time by not direct messaging -- heck, or texting or IMing or anything but tweeting. Got that, tweeple? Be creative or you're wasting our time.

About the author

Rich Trenholm is a senior editor at CNET where he covers everything from phones to bionic implants. Based in London since 2007, he has travelled the world seeking out the latest and best consumer technology for your enjoyment.


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