Hi there!

Someone has sent you this site as a polite way of helping you better understand how to properly use Twitter.

They're not mad, and they genuinely believe you're making common newcomer mistakes with the intention of doing the right thing on Twitter. This is a good thing, and an opportunity for you to better learn how to use Twitter in a way that will work better for you and your followers. Don't sweat it - we all started somewhere, right?

We're playfully calling these pieces of advice the "Twitter Commandments", because they are generally accepted as best practices for both interacting positively on Twitter, and in growing your Twitter following in a truly beneficial way. This may seem long, but each commandment is important, and I take the time to explain why.

#1: Don't get suckered by people claiming they have a way of increasing your Twitter following by x people in so many days

They will try to get you to pay for their system to learn all kinds of fabulous "Twitter secrets". They will promise you ways of increasing your followers by the thousands with no work at all. Some of them will even try to claim that their method isn't spammy, and that your new-found followers will be "organic", or that their "system" isn't a multi-level marketing ploy. Many will also offer a "money back guarantee". Stay away.

This is a flat-out lie. It is a scam. These people are multi-level marketers. Their "system" consists of you selling their system to other people desperate for more followers. They get a commission off of every sucker they convince to buy-in.

Even if unethical MLM business is okay in your book, there's something you need to realize. Twitter is so saturated with people trying to do the exact same thing that the only people who will follow you back if "Twitter secrets" are all you have to offer are other MLM people hoping to inflate their Twitter follower count. And since they are already trying to sell their own product, they're certainly not buying yours.

Many of these people will randomly start following you in the hopes that you'll follow them back, which artificially inflates their follower count. They're also hoping you'll be foolish enough to buy into their ponzi scheme.

In the absolute best case scenario, the few that are not flat-out stealing from you will sell you a system that simply doesn't work. That is, it may look like it's working based on your follower count, but the people following you are other MLM/affiliate people. They don't care what you say or what you think. You may well get the number of followers they promise (although that rarely ever happens), but your entire followers list will be populated with MLM scammers and porn bots. Not actual human beings.

The most valuable Twitter followers you can get are the ones that actually listen to what you're saying, and no matter how well they try to sell it, there is no shortcut to building a follower list that actually listens to you and cares what you have to say. Quite literally, that's something that money cannot buy, regardless of their claims. They are predators, hoping you'll buy in and become part of their "downline". You should look at these "opportunities" as skeptically as you would any "work at home", "make money on the internet", or "achieve the 4 hour work-week" scam, because that's exactly what they are.

Any actual, human followers who cared what you had to say will quickly abandon you when they see you advertising schemes like this in your Twitter feed, because they'll assume you're just trying to scam them out money. Because, in effect, you are.

#2: Make sure your tweets contain something more than retweets of other people or links to articles you've found online

Many of the people you've found on Twitter that provide useful industry news (whatever industry you may be in) are already well-known and established. If your entire Twitter feed consists of posts by other people, you're not bringing anything new to the table, and your followers could just as easily follow your sources instead. You don't necessarily have to have a blog, but make sure retweets don't comprise more than 40% of your posts. When people follow you, they want to get to know what you think. They want your take on things. Parroting out everyone else's words adds nothing new to their lives. DO retweet, but add your own thoughts.

Also, when retweeting, always be sure to give credit where credit is due. If you found out about a great link from someone else, make sure to include that in the retweet. It builds good faith, and people will be more likely to retweet something clever you've said if you do the same. Intentionally clipping the original tweeter's name is considered very rude and borderline spammy behavior.

Likewise, don't fill your Twitter stream with quotes unless that is the sole purpose of your Twitter account. Inspirational Quote/Bible verse Twitter accounts are a dime a dozen and anyone who has been on Twitter for more than a few weeks will have heard and seen them all. Twitter is about connections and dialog.

#3: If you don't have anything to say right now, wait until you do

Write the kind of tweets you would be interested in reading. Telling people that you're bored, or hungry, or having a sandwich, or watching TV, or that you're tired isn't a crime every now and then, but if your entire Twitter feed is nothing but that, would you want to follow you? Probably not. Unless your cat is really freaking amazing, it might be best to skip it.

Talk about your opinions, the industry you're in, how you feel about a website or article you read online. But don't post just to fill space.

Conversely, if you have a lot to say, try to spread it out over time. It's a real turn-off for a user to check their Twitter feed and see 7 posts in a row from you.

So how many tweets is the right number?
There is no magic number. Some people are very high-volume (hundreds of tweets a day), and they might lose followers for it. On the other hand, they may attract followers who prefer to be engaged with them often. A few tweets a week is probably a fine mininum for someone who doesn't have that much to say, but if you've got some good stuff going on, try to share. Some followers may unfollow users who haven't been active in several weeks.

#4: If you ARE trying to sell something through your Twitter account, your product can't be the only thing you tweet about

When all you talk about is your own product or service, people will lose interest fast, and they'll probably think you're kind of a jerk. Remember that Twitter is not a broadcasting medium like an e-mail newsletter. Twitter is made of millions of people talking to each other. If you're looking for a broadcast-only medium, stick with e-mail newsletters, targeted site advertising and site announcements.

Same goes for blog posts. It's perfectly okay to announce a new blog post on Twitter (assuming you don't blog 10+ times a day), but only announce it once, and make sure you've got more to offer than just that. If all people want to know about from you is when you've posted a new article, they'll subscribe to your RSS feed.

#5: Don't constantly follow/unfollow people hoping that they'll follow you back

That kind of behavior is considered very spammy, since the only reason someone would follow and then unfollow someone multiple times is if they're hoping the person they're following/unfollowing will automatically follow back to artificially inflate follower counts. Its a sleazy technique, and anyone whose been on Twitter for a while can see right through it. You'll end up getting blocked.

Follow people because you find them interesting. Don't follow people just so they'll follow you back. If they don't follow you back, so what? You're following them because you like reading their tweets. They may not have noticed you're following them, they may be totally swamped trying to get through their existing followers tweets - who knows? Try reaching out to them via @reply (see #8 and #9) and see if they respond or follow. Some will, some won't, but ultimately, the only determining factor in who you follow should be whether or not you enjoy hearing what they have to say.

#6: Use an avatar photo and fill out your bio

When people first find you, they don't have much to go on to decide whether or not they want to follow you. Your picture avatar and your bio may help identify things your potential followers have in common with you, increasing your chances of a return follow. Don't lie though - that's lame, and your lie will be discovered as soon as your new follower tries to make topical conversation.

#7: Twitter is not Facebook - avoid Twitter games

There has been a recent trend on Twitter where people are playing games through Twitter apps. Spymaster, Mafiawars, and any type of quiz game simply does not belong on Twitter, and you will immediately annoy and alienate whatever followers you have if you start sending them Direct Messages and @replies that are related to these games. Many of the games send out Direct Messages and @replies on your behalf, with or without you realizing it, so a good rule of thumb is to avoid them. Facebook is great for games if you're into that kind of thing - Twitter, not so much.

#8: When you find someone new to follow on Twitter, take the time to send an @reply to introduce yourself

People on Twitter like to know how people find them, and more importantly, they want to be sure you're a real person and not a spammer. The odds of someone following you back will increase exponentially if you take the time to reach out and say hello.

You don't have to (and shouldn't) write a book, but a quick tweet about where you found them and why you decided to follow will make them far more receptive to possibly following you back. Instead of "Hi, I'm following you", something like "I read your comment on Ars Technica - very well said!"

#9: Do not, under any circumstances, use an auto-DM service

There are tools available that will allow you to automatically send a Direct Message to people as soon as they follow you. I cannot stress enough how bad of an idea this is, even if your intentions are good.

Many people have Direct Messages sent to their mobile devices as text messages. You should respect them as such. Reach out with a real, person-to-person @reply, or skip it altogether. Auto-DMs, no matter how well-intentioned, are incredibly annoying, especially to people who return-follow many people during the day.

I get between 50 and 120 new follows a day. I may return-follow around 40% of those. On a busy day, if everyone I followed sent me an automatic Direct Message, I would have upwards of 40 text messages a day. Thankfully, my cell plan has unlimited texting, but it's really annoying to be disturbed with a text message for an impersonal, generic message.

Plus, as a website administrator, I have site monitoring services set up to send me a text message in the event of a server outage. When I get a text message at 4AM, I panic and jump out of bed. You can imagine how frustrating it is when that text message is just an insincere form-message.

Sheer annoyance factor aside, some people don't have unlimited text messaging on their phones, so only send a Direct Message when it's an actual personal message.

An auto-DM is one of the best ways to get people to immediately unfollow you and possibly block you. Just don't do it.

#10: Keep #FollowFriday and "Thanks for the RT" down to a minimum

There is a tradition on Twitter that every Friday, people often mention people they follow that they recommend their followers to also follow. They do this by Tweeting something like "#followfriday @name1 @name2 @name3", etc. While this is a cool idea in concept, some people take it a bit far and end up with multiple tweets - as many as 10 in a row - that are nothing but #followfriday. This can be annoying to your followers, and frankly, a blind list doesn't help them understand why you feel they should follow these people.

If you're going to observe #followfriday, keep it to one or two tweets tops, and give your users an explanation why you think they'd like them, like: "For super helpful programming geeks, #followfriday @name1 @name2 and @name3".

And if someone retweets something of yours or names you in a #followfriday, you don't have to thank them every time. If 10+ people retweet something or #followfriday you, you'll be flooding your own stream with thanks. If you're going to thank them, at least do it as a @reply so it will not show up in most of your followers timelines.

Instead, if you have a blog (and who doesn't these days), consider writing a post (or even weekly/monthly posts) about the Twitter people you think are great. It will last longer than a fleeting tweet, and it gives you a chance to go into a little more detail about why you think other people should follow them. Then your #FollowFriday participatinon can be one tweet that really shows your favorite Twitter people how and why you think they rock.

Hope this helped. If you have questions or comments, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @snipeyhead, or visit my website.