33 Replies to “Tweet to Your Own Drummer”

  1. Thanks for the shout out and you are 100% correct – there are no absolutes on Twitter! Every business and individual has specific needs and goals for their Twitter account and based on the goal, the usage changes. I think more and more social media evangelists need to figure this out like you have! I’m really tired of people making rules and best practices for Twitter usage when there are so many applications for it! Thanks again and great post.

  2. One of the things anthropologists have noted over the years is that rules of politeness, etiquette, decorum etc. are of least importance to ‘elites.’ In fact, it’s often a recognized social ‘move’ by elites to initiate dispensing with such formalities. Sure, there are lots of uses for twitter, but value-laden phrases like “be true to yourself”, “authentic conversation and real personality” and the concept of “noise” contain (relatively obscure) models of proper comportment on twitter. And why shouldn’t there be social norms there? Twitter is, after all, a cultural sphere like any other in which humans engage with one another.


  3. I’ve found that most of the Twitter Etiquette lists are written by people who are hellbent on imposing their personal vision of how YOU should behave to best benefit THEM.

  4. First, if did ANY research; read my stream, asked the
    community, you know the basics, you’d know I discourage
    the “You’re doing it wrong” types.
    An all time favorite I use to teach: http://www.chrisbrogan.com/youre-doing-it-wrong/

    Did you actually read, and think through my comment Geoff?
    A truly humble soul would have felt what I said.

    You have indeed asked a community of people to follow with interest, your life stream.

    I gave a perspective, not a Nazi command,
    that intimates an appropriateness in taking seconds
    to update the most interested in your passionate community.
    It’s a bit narcissistic to expect people to
    read and take action when you want them to,
    and switch off like a computer when you don’t.

    You wanted to get this off your chest,
    and I was an easy target. “laughed”? “amusing”?
    A great man feels no need to be condescending to others.

    If you took any malice from my original comment https://geofflivingston.com/2009/11/06/twitter-hiatus-where-is-geoffliving/comment-page-1/#comment-5771

    back on December 1st, I am sorry, and hope
    no harm remains.

    Good health to you always,
    Ed Shahzade

  5. Thanks for your comment, Ed. You’ll note I directly linked to your comment in the post, too.

    I find it amusing that you expect me to pay for international telecom charges to keep my community updated about my personal vacation, which was specifically meant as time off from Twitter and social networks. It’s amusing that you think anyone is that important that they need to update during vacation and time off. This amuses me because I don’t think I am all that. In my opinion, no one matters that much, except maybe Barack Obama.

    I suppose the best thing for advice givers is to offer it when asked. May 2010 be a prosperous year for you.

  6. Geoff, love this post. I have always said there are no rules…for blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, etc. The only people who I think could possibly make ‘rules’ of some sort would be the people who build a community around an organization. Meaning, if they as a voice say ‘don’t spam us’ then don’t do that. However, if they love self-promotional stuff, then do it. As marketers, communicators, etc. we have failed before we’ve started if we embrace someone’s rules without testing.

    Andrew, I think the anthropology angle is super smart (as well as anything related to sociology), but the thing I often struggle with is the notion of ‘elite’ on social networks (as well as life) and who defines that. In my view, there are a lot of incorrect assumptions. Is that a social norm in regular society too? I’d bet it is. We see a neighbor driving a brand new Mercedes and think “Wow, they are successful, have money…” Next thing you know, the neighbor is placed on a pedestal of our making. What we don’t know is that they are in major debt and on the verge of losing their job. Or vice versa (old beater car, but millions in the bank — yet we look down upon that). Same thing happens with Twitter/Facebook. “Oh, they have 10K followers, they must be someone to know, someone smart, etc.” And yet, underneath there isn’t much substance.

    Beth Harte
    Community Manager, MarketingProfs

  7. You’re right, Beth, that there are all kinds of cross-cutting hierarchies of status in our late-capitalist Democracy. And assumptions about the elite status of others are, as you note, limitlessly defeasible. They can be undermined by incomplete observation (the Benz is rented) or by changes in actual status (the Benz driver is jailed for some crookery). And there is, of course, no direct hierarchical ranking–reckonable across all social milieus–in *any* society we’ve ever discovered–whether electronically mediated or not. There are, nevertheless, highly regular indices of status and some ‘good clues’ as to whether someone is higher status than you are along whatever particular fissure of hierarchy is important to you. On Twitter, as a simple thumbnail first impression, follower-to-follow ratio is not a bad index. List membership, and the frequency with which you are retweeted isn’t bad either. Affiliation with major brands or big players in the social media arena is also a good measure. ‘Proper’ behavior is just one of a variety of markers a user of Twitter can wield to index high relative status.

    Generally, my point is that the suggestion that there are–or should be–no rules to some arena of human social interaction is an ideology (often associated with elites who don’t have first-hand experience with the consequences of breaking the rules) that ignores more than a century of observations of social arenas, observations that show over and over again that status-free social interaction simply doesn’t happen and isn’t even a realistic goal.

    You would never tell a client that there are ‘no rules’ on Twitter, and you wouldn’t sit down at a fancy dinner party and proceed to eat as though there were no rules. Etiquette manuals are extremely practical observational guides to social life. Why undermine their utility? You may decide to Tweet to your own drummer, but you ought to at least be acquainted with the perils of non-conformity first.

    And to your last point, it is, sadly, all too often the case that someone with 10k followers who’s not too smart and offers little substance is also someone ‘good to know.’ ;-)


  8. Andrew: The only rules are Twitter’s Terms of Service. Everything else is a personal choice that either attracts or repels people from you. In that sense, either might be OK. Some folks want a lot of followers, others don’t.

    What works in your country may not in mine, and in fact, it may offend so on the contrary, there really are no hard rules. To each their own, but there is not a need to create artificial “status” and finite rules in new areas like Twitter.

  9. I think that people fear a break in case the Twitter stream passes them by and they are forgotten. It can happen rather quickly, but that depends on if the relationships they built were real to begin with. My experience has been that once you get back in the swing of things you begin to pick up readers/followers/fans and sometimes taking a break leads you to have more interesting things to talk about. It’s not so much a game of rules as it is a dance with interpretive steps.

  10. “Everything else is a personal choice that either attracts or repels people from you.”

    Precisely, and this is the effective point of every guide to social etiquette. It indicates which of your personal choices will attract and which will repel. Rules don’t have the force of law, and sure, eventually they’re made to be broken. But, as every poet knows, you really have to master them first.

    We should acknowledge that the ‘new areas’ of social media exhibit all of the hallmarks of the culture we find elsewhere. Surely there’s no cause for railing against folks who’d like to offer some suggestions for navigation. Some of the rules people suggest may be based on bad observations or may have contrary consequences, but to suggest that there are no rules is simply bad advice for novices embarking on any social encounter.


  11. Andrew:

    I think we differ in that rules do imply laws, a principle or regulation governing conduct, action, procedure, arrangement, etc. There are no laws on Twitter beyond the Terms of Service.

    As to the assumption that we “should acknowledge that the ‘new areas’ of social media exhibit all of the hallmarks of the culture we find elsewhere,” I am not so sure. What social media has done is it has brought greater freedom to those who had to live under the rules of other people controlling information through mass media. In my mind, it has done more to break down societal rules than any other communications technology in history with the exception of the Guttenberg press.

    That being said, behavioral norms do carry over. They are also increasingly questioned. It’s not the same game, so trying to bridge the same rules as a should is probably flying in the face of change. What past cultural behavior does bring is context for understanding why things are the way they are.

    For example, Ed may feel like I am a newspaper and should publish everyday. That would be a norm that would explain such an attitude. But I am not, so I rejected his rule. My community continues to follow me, so the rule did not apply.

    Remain fluid with social media, and don’t be surprised when things change. This stuff moves quickly.

    Great comment, and an outstanding discussion.

  12. Geoff, great post, taking us back to basics and cluetrain days.

    Humor, personality, being cool without trying too hard, what ever that special magic is that creates chemistry between people, that’s what might work best…

    But as you suggest, its what you personally are comfortable with doing in social media.

  13. Andrew, this is why I respect you so darn much! I don’t think I could add a single thing… ;-) Hope to see you soon to chat about this more.

    The one thing I will add is that Geoff is absolutely right when it comes to cultures. What we find normal as Americans, Europeans are stunned by and vice versa. As ‘global’ citizens, I think anyone engaged in social media (esp. for business) should enlighten themselves by learning what cultural norms are for other countries. I can guarantee it’s fascinating! Then again, I am biased as I have my masters in international marketing. Hofstede is a genius in my book!

    Have a great weekend!

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