Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Twitter etiquette

As a relatively new member of Twitter, I was uncertain about one aspect of etiquette on this social media vehicle. The way Twitter works is that you "follow" certain people whose "tweets" you would like to read. A tweet is a 140-character message. Think of it as a very small blog posting. In turn, people follow you and read your tweets. You can find my page here.

People come to be followers in a viral fashion. They hear about you, search for you, or see your name on other people's lists of followers.

Last week, all of a sudden, dozens of people became my followers within a few hours. I was curious where they all came from, and so I tweeted a message: "I'm trying to figure out why I got a huge influx of followers within about an hour overnight. Can someone explain? Meanwhile, welcome all!"

Responses from around the world came in instantaneously. Guy Kawasaki had linked to a blog post that had a list of CEO Twitterers. I looked up Guy to discover that he had over 68,000 followers. He also was following over 73,000 people!

No wonder I had so many new friends, and so quickly. Thousands of people had read about me because of Guy. But his numbers left me wondering, and so I posed the question: "
Survey question:Is it rude not to follow everyone who follows you? I c 2 patterns: Some follow all who follow them, some only follow a few." I have about 800 followers, but I follow only about 80 people.

Helpful replies again came back from around the world, and I offer them for those of you who might be interested.

kerplunker @Paulflevy I've read it's not rude, it's nothing personal. You should follow ppl whose tweets you'll actually enjoy reading/will be helpful.

movinmeat @Paulflevy you can't reasonably follow everybody; I have found that my twitter overload point is about 40 following.

leewhite @Paulflevy Following should meet your needs for connection and/or information gathering.

judsond @Paulflevy not rude, think of it like blogs, i read engadget, doubt they read my tiny blog, cool if so, but i certainly not rude if not.

john_chilmark @Paulflevy no it is not rude, some followers are just fishing.

Damjan_DeNoble @Paulflevy whatever makes you a more entertaining/insightful twitter user is the way to go... good blog habits apply too/ i.e relevant links.

MrElderCare @Paulflevy- I follow those with potential for mutual benefit. Follows are an oppy to build relationship only. Not an an obligation.

mdbraber @paulflevy I check out every new followers, evaluate their first page and only follow if they fit my interests.

jeanneendo @Paulflevy Your call who to follow. You're the 1 who has to keep up w/the msgs. People just need to understand that.If not, you can't worry.

And a DM (direct message) from a friend:
"IMHO*: If you aren't a Social Media network (like Guy is), or an e-vangelist, intuition will be the best guide for whom to follow."

I am relieved! So, if you are following me on Twitter, and I am not following you, please know that I appreciate your company, but just don't have time to keep up with hundreds of people.

*IMHO = in my humble opinion


Anonymous said...

Hi Paul,

I am also new to Twitter and recommend you check out Tweetdeck ( It makes following Tweets, @'s, and DM's much easier!

Happy Tweeting!

rlbates said...

So very true, Paul. I sometimes scan rather than read the ones I follow. Makes me wonder if I am missing stuff, but it's info overload. Sigh

The Reverend of Rock and Roll said...


I don't think it's rude not to follow everyone who follows you.

I just think it's rude not to follow me.

Have a great day! Looks like I'll be in Boston soon.


Anonymous said...

Paul: I Second that on TweetDeck....minimally set up your 3 column dashboard.

Make sure you enter a "feed" search for @ replies, and perhaps "DMs"...otherwise you are "tone deaf" to all those you do not follow. Not good, if Twitter is about "connection".

Also see " can set up to 3x3 monitoring of feeds, etc...

e-Patient Dave said...

You are so funny. :) The other day another CEO I know said he's HAD IT with Twitter because so many people just say "Goin' to lunch now" etc. I said "Dude, click the UNFOLLOW button." (Yes, I said Dude to CEO. I may be 59, but when Pew comes out with its Your Online Age calculator soon, I'm pretty sure I'll be 29.)

When I first joined I rapidly discovered that by far the best healthcare caffeine maniac tweeter is @JenMcCabeGorman of FASCINATING stuff she runs across; her job at O.W. is to plow through reams of material and find the best wisdome and, um, organize it. Within two weeks I tweeted:

"My criterion for whether I follow you: are your tweets worth interrupting my Jenstream?"

e-Patient Dave said...

p.s. of course I'm @ePatientDave.

Anonymous said...


I'm impressed that you are able to blog and follow the comments on your blog while running a hospital. I wonder if you get any sleep.

We are in the information age, which dosen't mean we need to get all the information.


Ralf Lippold said...

Hi Paul,

Always surprises from you and BIDMC:-))

Thanks so much for that great post and background thinking about what Twitter is all about.

Will RT it on



PS.: Perhaps we should sent some CEO of "normal" companies to BIDMC in order to see what transparency and going new ways can make possible;-))

carmen2u said...

First off, listen to @epatientdave as he has lots of common sense and a great overview of how to harness social media in health care.

Second, given that you're new to Twitter, you might acquaint yourself to It is a site that gives tips on how newbies can use Twitter to best effect.

Lastly, join the party for a tweetchat every Sunday evening at 6pm PST led by @healthsocmed. Every participant in the chat uses the tag #hcsm in their message so that everyone can follow along. The best way to participate is to go to, then enter "hcsm" into the chat room field, and you'll be delivered into the forum and can see the conversation scroll along.