Twitter Communication: Communicating on #Twitter Effectively (and Preventing Hurt or Disappointment)

Category: Weekly Columns

twitter communication

As most of you know, I’m a very bashful guy: the shy, retiring, quiet sort who doesn’t share his feelings or opinions. I wish. My personality gets me into occasional trouble, IRL. I also can occasionally put my foot in it online via a Tweet, email, or comment. BUT, twitter IS the most dangerous one of them all, for you and me!

All written communication has the risk of being misinterpreted. For that matter, all communication can be misunderstood. Some times it is innocent; some times it isn’t, but when it is the former that is when it is most disturbing. If I’ve written or said something stupid, then I deserve whatever consequences follow. Ask my wife for a couple dozen examples…just this week.

But, it’s those times when I meant absolutely no offense that really trouble me. I then scramble to clean it up and usually I’m able to do so. Sincerity can’t be faked so when I’m taking care with someone who was offended or hurt by something unintentional and/or just completely misunderstood, it isn’t hard to make good. I won’t feel good until I know I’ve done just that!

However, we all are guilty of making dumb mistakes that we could avoid. Let’s start with the biggest one of them all. Do NOT do this. Do NOT think you are better at it than anyone else. Forget about it. What? I’m talking s a r c a s m. It does NOT work 99.9% of the time in 140 characters or less.

And, the risk with most sarcasm is offending someone. Especially those people who may be sensitive to “the issue,” whatever it may be, to begin with. Especially to some people who like to follow the politically correct language police. Forget the sarcasm. Tone of voice is not there. A wink, a smile, any facial expression that would mitigate the words is also absent.

I say it again, this time in my best Brooklyn accent, “ForgetAboutIt!”

For the sake of this column, I’m going to focus solely on Twitter communication. I’ve already written about the importance of a good Twitter bio. Now it’s time to protect you from the wrath you might incur with a misplaced idea, word, or tweet. Given I’ve sent over 70,000 tweets in less than three years, I can safely say I have some experience. Also, since I love to participate in Tweet Chats, which are “live,” I’ve also had my share of goofs, without a doubt.

Given that lists are the rage and that I’ve done 25 of them for, here’s my random list of tips/advice, in no particular order, with the exception of repeating my #1 rule about sarcasm.

~~ Don’t be sarcastic in any of your tweets.

~~ Know your audience. For instance, if you’re male and you’re in a tweet chat with moms/women, don’t be a misogynistic jerk. Men cannot get away with mistakes as easily as women can, however…

~~ Moms – be careful. There is a ton of cattiness out there in the mom community. If you can’t be nice, be quiet.

~~ Speaking of being quiet, the old corny saying of “If you don’t have something nice to say, say nothing at all” applies very well to tweeting. What good will an arbitrary criticism do? What good will a public disagreement do? If you can’t control yourself, send it via DM. If that person is not following you, then that is enough of a clue NOT to do it, period.

~~ In addition to knowing your audience, know the individual. I know certain women that I can playfully “flirt” with because I’ve met them, we’ve talked, I know where they stand, they know I’m happily married, and we enjoy the playful banter. The times I’ve got in trouble were when I didn’t really know the person. So, if you’re unsure, don’t do it!

~~ Call me a prude, but there’s no need for any profanity. Save that for IRL if you must.

~~ Don’t forget that you really can’t erase a tweet. It’s there forever. So, even though it’s fun to send out a quick response, think about it before you hit “send!” Yes, you can delete it, but if someone has already seen it; it’s out there and then it is permanent! And, usually, by the time we want to delete a tweet, it’s too late!

~~ Be nice. It’s so much easier than being a sarcastic dweeb! Thank people. Honor people. Or keep quiet.

~~ If you have a personality, SHOW IT! As I’ve already expressed, some people’s personalities can be a bit “out there” (who could he possibly mean) but having a personality is better, a whole lot better, than being bland and/or boring.
However, just be smart. Use common sense. If you think someone might be offended, they likely will.

~~ When you RT, ALWAYS say something. If you have to cut the original post, keep its essence, change it from a RT to a MT, and add your comment. Otherwise, you’re a troll and you’re boring. Anyone can hit RT!

~~ If you want to reply to something and the original tweet is too long to do it via a RT, then re-state what was said in the original tweet in a few words and add your comment. Otherwise, NO ONE knows what you’re talking about! This is especially true during Tweet Chats, when there are often tweets – in replies – that say something like, “I agree.” Great. You agree with WHAT?

~~ Did I mention to skip the sarcasm?

If you follow the above tips, you will likely get in less hot water than otherwise. The bottom line, frankly, comes back to simple common sense and being thoughtful. If something sounds iffy, it probably IS. And, you can’t go wrong with kind words.

  • Arlee Bird

    I would never use sarcasm. Yeah, right.  And to my credit I avoid profanity–not only in my tweets but in everything I do (and I’m not being sarcastic).  

    • Bruce Sallan

      Almost my whole life “sarcasm” has been part of my personality – especially with guys. Online – especially on Twitter – it can truly be disastrous!

  • Ryan Biddulph

    The tips work well Bruce.

    Keep it civil. Never say something negative, that’s the blessing of the web.

    Wait a few seconds before sending. So easy to do, when you practice.

    Thanks for sharing Bruce!


    • Bruce Sallan

      Thx Ryan. It usually comes down to common sense and common courtesy doesn’t it?

  • ginavalley

    I hate to admit this but the overall thought running through my mind, despite your great list and excellent advice is:  What did Bruce say that got him into trouble?  🙂  

    Gotta admit that I do occasionally sarcastweet, but those are generally I believe easily discernible as sarcasm, such as this one from yesterday:
    No, no, please, let ME put the toilet paper on the spindle. I live for that. It’s why I got a college degree. #gettingstabby

    Love your Social Media Explained graphic.It is amazing how simply using common sense and basic manners makes every social media work better.  How sad that people have to be told to use common sense and politeness.  Even sadder that even after being told many people still somehow  skip the common sense and the politeness.  Of course, that seems to be a problem in RL, too.

    • Bruce Sallan

      Ha! Gina, the list is way too long! If we ever meet IRL, I’ll confess!

  • dadblunders

    I wrote an article the other day (Thursday) Full-time Employment and Fatherhood that was inspired by a twitter confrontation I had. I wrote a simple tweet and someone decided to take it personal against me and wanted my points of view on religion and other things. I explained II wouldn’t discuss those things or my opinion. It ends with them telling me I was nothing more than unemployed father (the farthest thing from the truth)

    I started to write an article about ways to disengage a conversation (and I still might) but I found it more prudent to write about why fatherhood is a full-time job. I found it amazing though how a person decided to become belligerent and rude for no real reason besides I wouldn’t give my views on subject.

    In my typical fashion I never got rude and was extremely nice (the social worker coming out in me). The interesting thing when I began to write my article I went back to check some of the tweets…mine were still there and his weren’t. Upon further examination his account had been suspended by twitter (it actually said that too)

    So, being my first real lesson in social media rudeness I have learned you can’t make everyone happy all the time (although I already knew that ….it reinforced the issue with me)

    Great article boss man (just kidding with on the boss man but you are #dadchat ).

    Aaron 🙂

    • Bruce Sallan

      YOUR tact paid off for you and your soul. Way to go, Son…

      • dadblunders

         Thank you sir! You actually just made my day with that comment.


    • Abdallah Al-Hakim

      These type of people unfortunately exist. The other day someone blasted another because he made a joke about apple maps on a blog post titled “fun Fridays”! Luckily the community stepped in and took care of it but it was a bizzare incident.

      • Bruce Sallan

        The ONLY thing to do with someone who is nasty OR refuses to “get it” is to ignore them! Thx for the comment, Abdallah!

  • Peg Fitzpatrick

    Fantastic piece, Bruce.

    I especially love this “Be nice. It’s so much easier than being a sarcastic dweeb! Thank people. Honor people. Or keep quiet.” I love sarcasm too but it just doesn’t play well in writing, I agree. You can’t assume that someone will go back and find the whole conversation and correctly interpret your meaning. Great tips!

    • Bruce Sallan

      Thx Peg…your positive feedback is especially meaningful to me! Xoxo

  • @MimiBakerMN

    What?! No sarcasm? Have you READ my twitter bio? I’m fluent in it! I am sarcastic with people I’ve tweeted regularly and if someone is being sarcastic on twitter (I mean it CAN be obvious), then I dish it right back! I do agree with you about cattiness  It’s ridiculous in the mom community and it’s embarrassing. As for profanity…I’ll pass!

    • Bruce Sallan

      Mimi, you know me – this is a case of “Do as I say, not as I do” but I HAVE gotten in trouble with my sarcasm so I have been trying to do it less and less…

  • Fat Customer

    Completely understand, this just happened to us when I asked a couple of people who weren’t following us using @replies (since we couldn’t DM) is if was our content that didn’t appeal to them … one of them god mad and said we were calling him out … when we were only trying to find out why. Be careful with what you say on twitter is the lesson I learned today.

    • Bruce Sallan

      We have ALL learned that lesson, TFC…

  • netster

    I like this post 🙂 Let’s hashtag all the celebs! hahaha

    140 characters is not enough to understand a person, observe common sense when tweeting. If we hurt someone, just apologize.

    Imagine if we interact with our friends and family, 140 characters at a time. I guess that is how hard is it to interact with each other.

    Just be old school, respect others and they will respect you back. Even if they don’t you have nothing to lose, you make more friends in return because you keep to your positive integrity in life.

    Cheers Mr. Bruce! 

    • Bruce Sallan

      You are joking about communicating in 140 characters is NOT enough, but you’d be surprised how communication skills among younger people has deteriorated due to the Internet, Texting, Twitter, etc.!