Tips on Retweeting from a Seasoned Twitterer

Enough is enough already.

I’ve been using Twitter since March 2007. Since then, I’ve tweeted more than 79,000 times, been verified, and accumulated a modest 3000+ followers. I’ve written extensively about Twitter and have even authored video courses for Lynda.com on the topic. So it’s safe to say that I know a little about Twitter.

I don’t follow many accounts. As of today, it’s only 288. I pick accounts to follow based on my interests and what those accounts tweet. Sometimes I’ll add an account and a few weeks later, realize it was a mistake and unfollow it. It’s nothing personal. I just need to focus on the things that matter to me.

Recently, I unfollowed three accounts that were simply retweeting far too many tweets. I realized that their retweets violated a handful of “rules” I’d come up with to manage my own Twitter activity and retweets. This morning, I set them down in a short Twitter thread.

For the record, I pretty much detest Twitter threads — that’s when a twitter user replies to his/her own tweets creating a connected string of them — especially if they’re longer than three or four tweets. So you can imagine how much I hated making one that was seven tweets long. In my opinion, if you can’t say something in 1000 characters, you need a blog. I have a blog so I’m going to lay the contents of my thread down here where it can be easily read and found by others.

Here’s the thread, expanded.

1/7 The Intro

I was trying to be kind with this tweet. I had recently unfollowed someone who would consistently retweet multiple subtweets in a thread, none of which made sense on their own. And the previous week, I’d unfollowed someone who retweeted every single tweet in a lengthy thread, thus repeating the entire thread in my timeline in reverse order. And there were countless other people who seemed to retweet just about everything they saw, no matter where it came from. Enough was enough. I had to speak up.

2/7 Don’t Echo Threads

The other day, someone I followed retweeted the first tweet of a thread I thought might be interesting. I clicked the tweet and read the thread — all 20+ tweets in it. When I was done, I returned to my timeline and continued scrolling up. I saw the second tweet in that thread — which I’d already read. And then the third, and fourth, and fifth. And I’ll be damned if every single tweet in the thread wasn’t retweeted right there in my timeline.

After I’d already read the thread.

Why would someone do that? Don’t they understand the way retweeting works? The way threads work? Maybe not. Hence, this piece of advice: Don’t retweet every single tweet in a thread. Just retweet the first one or the one or two that resonate with you.

Sheesh.

3/7 Don’t Retweet without Context

The other day, I unfollowed someone who retweeted about a dozen subtweets with absolutely no indication of what they were all about.

Imagine this: You read a tweet, then click it to read some of its responses. As often happens, the responses branch off into various threads, some going off into weird and fun tangents. One of these subtweets strikes you as funny or interesting, given the context in which you’re reading it. But the tweet itself doesn’t include any hint of the context.

It’s like the punchline of a joke without hearing the joke.

Yes, it’s hilarious. And yes, you want to share it. But think a moment. If someone didn’t read the tweets leading up to it, would they get the joke? If the answer is no, don’t retweet it.

After all, do you walk around reciting joke punchlines without the joke leading up to it?

4/4 Don’t Hijack Tweets

This is a pet peeve of mine, mostly because of my feelings regarding content creation.

Twitter offers two ways to retweet:

  • Retweet without a comment.
  • Retweet with a comment.

When you retweet with a comment, Twitter lets you enter the full text of a tweet and append the tweet you are repeating to it. The tweet normally appears right below it.

Twitter offers this feature so you can add your own thoughts about the tweet to it while retweeting it in a way that preserves it. But what this also does is basically turn that tweet into a new tweet — your tweet — so when people reply, like, or retweet, they are retweeting your tweet. The interaction does not appear on the original tweet.

Hijacked Tweet
How many times have you seen something like this? A one-word comment or finger arrow pointing at a tweet? A “comment” that adds absolutely nothing to the tweet but effectively hijacks it so the retweeter gets all the likes, retweets, and possible new followers? (For the record, I deleted this example right after I made it.)

And, of course, abusers use this to, in effect, hijack popular tweets.

A very good friend of mine did this very often and it upset me to the point where I unfollowed her.

If you’re going to retweet with a comment, make a real comment. Something that adds to the discussion or points out a fallacy or points followers to more information at another source or tags someone you think should see it.

Keep in mind that all tweets that you retweet with a comment are retweeted to everyone who follows you, including people who already follow the original tweeter. So you’re repeating the tweet. What good is that if your comment doesn’t add to the discussion? It’s just more noise.

5/7 Don’t Retweet Unreliable Sources

This is a tough one. As my friend and fellow author Sandee pointed out, how do you know who is reliable and unreliable these days?

I wish there was an easy answer. I know who I believe — well-known and respected media organizations with good journalism staffs and responsible reporting that are neither far right nor far left. So yeah: I’ll believe (and retweet) the New York Times but not Fox News or Mother Jones. Ditto goes for verified Twitter accounts for employees of these organizations.

And yes, people reading this might not agree that the New York Times is a reliable source. Fine. Just don’t expect me to follow you. I certainly don’t expect you to follow me.

Use your brain, folks. Don’t believe everything put in front of you. Always consider the source. Don’t share something just because you wish it was true. Isn’t there enough misinformation out there?

That’s not to say that I won’t retweet something that’s funny, especially satire that’s obviously fake. We all need a laugh now and then. But if it’s something that people [with a brain] might think is true and it obviously isn’t, I won’t retweet it.

6/7 Don’t Ask for Retweets

There’s nothing that reminds me more of everything I hate about Facebook than including “Retweet if you think…” or “Please retweet” in your tweet. I don’t need you to tell me what to retweet. If something is worth retweeting — in my opinion — I will retweet it. If not, I won’t.

You telling me to retweet something makes it far less likely that I’ll retweet it. Why? Because I don’t want to look like a moron who needs instructions on what to share.

And when you retweet something that includes a retweet request, what do you think I think of you?

7/7 Twitter is an Echo Chamber

I follow only 288 accounts because, unlike so many other Twitter users, I try to read the tweets of all of those accounts. I’m not likely to follow the accounts of people who tweet and retweet a lot of content I don’t find interesting. Don’t take it personally. After all, why should you? Who am I?

I’m just someone who has been using Twitter for a long time to meet a particular need. The advice here is the advice likely already heeded by the people I’ll continue to follow.

Who knows? It might help you get — and keep — followers, too.

Bulk-Deleting Facebook Data

I’ve finally found a solution that works.

Years ago, I decided I wanted less personal data on Facebook. I figured I’d delete posts from past years, so only posts from the past year or so would remain. I’d do this regularly, at least once a year, to get rid of the old stuff. At least that was the plan.

Discovering that there was no built-in bulk delete feature really put a damper on my plans. You see, on Facebook, if you want to delete you posted or “unlike” something you “liked,” you had to make three clicks for each item. Click a menu, click an option, click a confirmation button. The folks at Facebook obviously did that to make removing old content as difficult and tedious as possible so the average person just wouldn’t do it.

Not being “average,” I’d periodically delete about a month’s worth of stuff. But then even I succumbed to the futility of it all. I figured that the best way to minimize stuff on Facebook was to post less there — which is what I do now. (I basically just share links to my blog posts.)

I tried other solutions I’d found via Google. None of them worked reliably.

Until yesterday. I found a Chrome extension called Social Post Book Manager. It looked so promising, I downloaded Chrome just so I could install and try it.

It isn’t sleek or fast, but it is functional. Here’s how it works.

Start by logging in and going to the Activity Log for your account. Use the filter options on the left side of the page to display just the type of thing you want to delete. For example, if you want to unlike everything you’ve liked, click Likes. Facebook displays only the items that meet the criteria you specified in the filter.

Now go up to the URL bar in the Chrome browser. You’ll see a tiny blue and red icon there. Click it to display Social Post Book Manager’s options.

Social Post Book Manager

Set the options as desired. This enables you to filter by year, month, and search word or phrase. If you’re brave, turn off the check box so you don’t review the changes before they’re made. (I’m a coward and left it turned on for the first few times I used it, but it really slows things down.) Then click the appropriate button at the bottom of the box and stand back.

The longer the period you’re working with, the longer it takes to do the job. I first deleted posts that included the word “twittering” from 2007; those were automatically posted by an app that took Twitter content and posted it to Facebook. The search took about 10 minutes. When I clicked the confirm button, it took another 10 minutes for those to be deleted. Deleting all Likes from 2012 took considerably longer. Like hours.

While the extension is running, you basically have to leave it alone. The screen will flash with a dialog box that disappears before you can click anything. Do something else — but not on Facebook. You must keep that page open without changes while the extension works.

When it’s done, the items it found are permanently gone.

Using it for the past few days has taught me that the extension works best when set to slower speeds. When left at the default speed, it often misses many items. So it’s necessary to redo a period over and over to get it all removed. But no matter how long it takes, it’s a lot quicker than manually deleting or unliking content. Best of all, you can set it up to do a long period of time and then leave it while you do other things. I think of it as a multitasking partner.

And the one thing I’ve learned from this experience: I’ve shared and liked way too much crap on Facebook. Seriously. What was I thinking?

Tired of having Facebook share your life and preferences with the world? Give this a try and get some of that data off Facebook.

My Facebook “Boycott”

I might actually mean it this time.

How many times have I threatened to leave Facebook? How many times have I caved in and gone back? This time might stick.

Facebook LogoFor the record, I have never liked Facebook. Search this blog and you’ll find more than a few posts where I’ve bashed Facebook in one way or another. (Here’s an example from January.) While I will admit that it is a great place to reconnect with people from your past and keep in touch with people you know and like who might not live nearby, it has recently become a tool for the spread of misinformation, helping to divide our country — as if it needed any help. Even after unfollowing or unfriending or even blocking the folks with crazy ideas, there seems to be more arguments on update comments than anything else. It’s also depressing when you realize just how crazy some of your friends or even family members can be.

But what became the last straw back in February was when Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and the guy who gets a healthy chunk of Facebook’s revenue, donated $120,000 to CPAC. CPAC, if you don’t know, is the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual event where right-wing blowhards bash progressives and liberals for being…well, progressive and liberal. Normally I wouldn’t care much about this event, but this year it had made the news by proudly inviting Milo Yiannopoulos, a person who makes his living by publicly trolling people he doesn’t like on Twitter (until he was banned, anyway), Breitbart News (where he was a staff member), and elsewhere. Apparently there’s a lot of money in the trolling and hate speech business because an imprint of Simon & Schuster had signed a book deal with him for an advance of $250,000. I guess the folks at CPAC like the crap Milo was selling because they were welcoming him as a speaker, despite the fact that he’s gay (which I always thought conservatives had a problem with). I have no patience for trolls of any sort and I think that giving credibility to someone like Milo will only further the divide that is destroying our country.

The way I saw it, my participation on Facebook was generating the content and activity that Facebook uses to sell ads. In a way, part of that $120,000 donation made by Zuckerberg to CPAC was coming out of my pocket. I didn’t like that. So I posted a link to the Media Matters article I linked to above on my Timeline, informing my friends and followers that I was out of there. Then I logged off from everywhere I was logged in — there’s actually a link buried in Facebook settings to do that — deleted all the cookies in my browser so Facebook couldn’t follow me around anymore, and deleted the Facebook app from my mobile devices.

I suffered from withdrawal for about two days. Then I pretty much forgot about it. I did step up my Twitter use a bit. I’m enjoying the political activism there. One of my recent tweets to [so-called] President Trump went viral and was mentioned in a magazine article. That was kind of fun.

I’m in California now, helping out a friend with a few spray jobs he has and doing some recreational flying now that my helicopter is out of overhaul. (I’m going to Lake Berryessa today, hopefully to see its “Glory Hole.”) I’m also trying to set up a lunch date with my friend Shirley, who lives in the Sacramento area. She and I usually get in touch on Facebook — frankly, she’s one of the people I miss from Facebook — and I wanted to see if I’d missed a message from her. (I never used Facebook Messenger on don’t plan on starting.) So I logged in today.

No message from Shirley, but two messages from friends. One was a link to a neat airport home in Bisbee, where I’d recently visited with friends. The other was spam from a new “friend” who I’m starting to think is an idiot who needs to be unfriended. There were also 57 notifications that I looked at. I started to follow up on them, but grew bored and discouraged after just a few. Same old shit. Seriously. This person liked this. That person commented on that. These people liked that page. I realized, with a start, that I really didn’t care about the notifications. And when I found myself reading an update written by one of my friends, I realized that I could easily get sucked back in anyway. So I logged out.

I’m not going to try to convince anyone to stop using Facebook. I know it’s a waste of my time but it’s apparently not a waste of other people’s time. Besides: who am I to tell people how to spend their time, which is the most valuable thing they have?

But I’m so glad to be off Facebook and I really hope I can stay that way.

Oh, and in case you missed the news, Milo lost that CPAC speaking gig, book deal, and Breibart job.

Karma, baby. It rocks.