Photo by Krawlings95.

Every once in a while, I’ll be on Twitter and start feeling glum. No one is talking to me, I think. No one new is following me. No one’s replying to my tweets. There’s a problem here, and that problem is me.

It never fails that if I notice a Twitter slump, it’s my own fault. Whenever I start feeling left out, I know it’s because I’ve gotten lazy. Twitter is not always the priority, so there’s nothing wrong with letting it lag when you have other things to focus on (that writing thing, anyone?), but sometimes we focus on Twitter and still feel dissatisfied. Those are the best times to take a step back and ask if there’s a good reason for this feeling.

Twitter is a social platform. Think of it as a party or large gathering. You can’t just stand in the middle of the room and talk; you have to go up to people and engage in conversations. You might get away with being the storyteller who draws people to you for a while, but eventually people will realize that you have no interest in others and wander away.

Today I’m going to cover the 5 most common shortcuts tweeps use, and why they can become a problem.

The Tweet and Run

We’re all guilty of this at some point. We’re busy shortening our to-do list, so we get on Twitter, dash off our most recent link, and get back to work. Every once in a while this is okay, but if you find that you tweet without even looking at your timeline more often than not, it might be time for a self-check. Are you giving, or just asking to receive?

The Favorite Button

The favorite button is a wonderful tool. It’s similar to the “like” button on Facebook, allowing you to show someone you appreciate their tweet. It’s also a great way to “bookmark” tweets you’d like to come back to. And occasionally, it can serve as acknowledgement. If you’ve had a conversation with someone but now have nothing left to add, favoriting their last tweet is a good way to say “I’m listening; I liked that,” without needlessly dragging things on.

However, the favorite button can become a lazy way out. Have you ever tried to engage with someone and instead of replying, all they do is push a button?

Have you ever tried to engage with someone and instead of replying, all they do is push a button?

It’s rather off-putting. Again, imagine this in real life. It’d be like going up to someone at a party, saying hello and introducing yourself, and they only nod and walk away. If someone takes the time to strike up a conversation, it’s polite to respond.

(Note that this doesn’t apply to retweets or compliments. A “favorite” is often a perfectly clear “I’m touched” or “thank you.”) Unless you’re famous (and sometimes even if you are), people on Twitter generally expect responses. This does not mean that you have to give them one. It does mean you will likely be considered rude if you don’t, so it’s worth understanding that the favorite button is not a substitute for actual conversation.

The Blind Retweet

Ever clicked on someone’s manual retweet only to realize that their personal note is totally wrong? That they didn’t actually read the article before recommending it? Yeah, don’t be that person.

Promoting others is a great way to spread good content to your followers as well as acknowledging and connecting with people, but promoting others without actually checking out what they’re selling? That’s a lazy way out, and your followers will not appreciate it.

The List Without Follow

Don’t put someone in a public list called “awesome bloggers” without actually following the person’s blog. Don’t recommend someone in a follow Friday tweet if you’re aren’t following them yourself. This is tacky, and comes across like you’re trying to ‘trick’ someone. Nobody likes flyers on their car.

The Follow-back Follower

There’s nothing wrong with following back people who follow you. But when was the last time you found someone new to follow on your own? Can’t remember? It’s time.

Great ways to find new people to follow include searches, Twitter’s recommendations, looking through your friends follow lists, and browsing hashtags.

Waiting for people to find you is understandable, but if you’re looking to meet new people (and if you aren’t, why are you on Twitter?), you should get out there and make the first move. Just like in real life, there’s a give and a take.

So consider this your friendly reminder to check the balance of your Twitter social life. Shortcuts can be great, but if we take them so often we forget the long way ‘round, we’re liable to lose sight of the fact that the journey is more important than the destination. (Dang. Don’t you hate it when the sayings are true?)

Are you guilty of taking the lazy way out? Does it bother you when others abuse Twitter shortcuts? And how can we remember to stay on track?

About Annie Neugebauer

Annie Neugebauer (@AnnieNeugebauer) is a novelist, short story author, and award-winning poet. She has stories and poems appearing in over forty venues, including Black Static, Deep South Magazine, Fireside, and Buzzy Mag. She's an active member of the Horror Writers Association and webmaster for the Poetry Society of Texas. When she’s not frightening strangers with her writing, she’s most likely frightening her husband and their two cats, Buttons and Snaps.