I thought I would write a quick post dissecting simple Twitter etiquette for the newbies. I fear that many heavy users forget that not everyone speaks the ‘language’ and I find that I often get questions querying certain acronyms and so forth. (I also quickly discovered that I could go on for a while about this, so this might end up being part one of a series.)


  • @reply = how you converse with someone
  • RT = retweet (directly quoting someone else’s tweet)
  • HT = hat tip (subtle recognition to another)
  • via = how you found something (brought to you by)
  • cc = alert an individual or a group’s attention to (as per email)
  • Ping = like the cc but more energetic/focused
  • bcc = don’t try this because it won’t work!
  • DM = direct message (private)
  • # = tag to collate tweets or to micro-reference your thoughts/consciousness stream
  • :-) = happy, genuine
  • ;-) = smartarse
  • :-P = taking the piss
  • Haz = fanboi excuse for have/has
  • Nom/noms = don’t even drop this n-bomb
  • LOL = 90’s version of internet laughing
  • Hehe = funny but not laughing
  • Haha = funny and smiling
  • Bahahaha = funny and laughing obnoxiously
  • All others – ROFLCOPTOR etc. = too much time spent thinking about laughing, so not actually that funny

How to attribute:

If you see something cool in your Twitter feed and you want to share it to your followers – attribute it! It is better to reference as many people as possible back to the original source, as sharing and watching things spread is the very essence of the web.

When/when not to respond to DMs:

Not replying to DMs is just plain rude, unless:

  • It is an auto-DM/spambot
  • It is promoting something and you don’t know the person well
  • It seems like someone has mistaken Twitter for RSVP and you don’t know the person well/at all
  • It is far too general and has absolutely no call to action that you quickly forget you even received it – “Hi, how are you?”
  • It is sent at a weird hour and you forget you even read it after you emerge from your sleepy/tipsy haze
  • It is regarding something that you have recently tweeted the answer to publicly

And, last but not least:

  • Don’t repeat yourself… perhaps once or twice at different hours to capture international audiences but that’s it – don’t be a parrot!
  • Don’t ‘tw’ the crap out of everything e.g. “Twoday some tweeps and I twent to see Twavatar”
  • Don’t shout unless there’s good reason e.g. “I JUST GOT FRICKEN’ FIRED”
  • Don’t swear (okay, this is just conservative Kate advice – so many other words to choose from)
  • Don’t ignore (not listen to) other followers’ tweets and then post exactly the same link, thought, etc.
  • Don’t tweet a quote without using quotation marks and attributing the author (yes, I thought they were really your words and not Confucius, Godin, Twain, Einstein, Waldo Emerson, etc.)
  • Don’t DM someone when you don’t follow them back. They can’t reply… it may not be too PC but it’s basically ‘DM rape’
  • And, don’t forget to get yourself an avatar and a bio… it will take you two seconds! People will appreciate having context around your tweets

That’s all for now. What are you Twitter pet hates or etiquette tips for new users?

11 thoughts on “Twitter noobiquette

  1. Hi Kate,
    I like the blog, great for n00bs (btw, for those who don’t know a n00b (with two zeros) is a newbie).

    I wanted to get a rulling on something, as I’ve some Twitter nazis hold a strong line on this. One-to-one @conversations vs using DMs. Personally I don’t care, but thought it may prompt an interesting discussion.


  2. @Christopher I think one – one conversations via @ msgs is fine if the conversation is somethig you don’t mid others hearing.

    Given you’ll only see this anyway if your following both people people won’t be spanned by your messages unless they care about the other person as well.

    Here’s my rule of thmub – organising a meeting at a cafe and I don’t mind others hopping on board, use @ messages.

    A private meeting? Use DMs.


  3. Thanks for the comments.

    I am a big believer in using DMs over @replies. Picture going out for a conversation in a group and then having a one-on-one with someone while people are still chatting around you vs. meeting up for coffee with only the two of you. Both are great, but with the latter there aren’t any distractions, or background noise – you build a relationship directly. Plus, you get the extra characters with DMs as you don’t have to factor in their @username!

    I am also hesitant with spamming my followers with too many @replies (and updates in general). I know, not every @reply shows in someone’s feed if they aren’t following the person I am replying to, but I still like to be respectful of how much ‘noise’ I put out there.

    Often someone will @reply me a question, and I will respond back via DM with an answer.

    But yes, the beauty of Twitter is you can use it whatever way you like!

  4. Thanks Tim & Kate,

    You both make really good points. I think that I have fallen into the habit of @replying to all @ mentions. I never use DMs unless it a distinctly private conversation. As a result I do worry that I am choking my feed with tweets that are not useful to all my followers.

    Kate, I might try your approach for a while and see if it makes a difference.


  5. Love this fantastic post. Thanks Kate. A couple of ‘moments’ today highlighted some communication needs a little different outside those above.

    Acknowledgement of gratitude may not be interesting for the whole twitter stream, but sometimes public acknowledgement seems more appropriate (that is @ reply in lieu of DM).

    I also had the need to contact a relative overseas with no phone recently. With some sense of urgency, I tried all of email, facebook and twitter (DM perhaps checked with less frequency. @ reply used – although there was no relevance to the tweet stream).

    I also kind of figure, that the social medium is relatively young, and, may change again with need, and time (maturity). Looking forward to finding new ways to enjoy meeting new friends, and making new communities. @frombecca

  6. I would tend to disagree with ;-P, or ;P. Personally when I do a :P it means “cheeky”… And I’m always genuine when I do a ;-) or a ;) – I just CBF using the Shift key… ;) Do you know what CBF means? ;P

  7. As a total Twitter noob who’s just figured some of this stuff out …

    Thank You!!

    Nice blog! Social Media Marketing is definately kicking off the ground.

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