The Twitter Rules you may not realise you’ve been breaking.

Rules — if you don’t know them then how do you know you’re breaking them? Here are some highlights of the Twitter Rules that you may not realise you’ve been breaking!

Twitter Rules and Best Practices

The internet is host to many products and services and Twitter, like all the other internet companies, try to make sure its users adhere to certain rules and regulations. How often do you click ‘yes’ when agreeing to Terms and Conditions on an internet product without having read any of it? While my trust is in the product and name of the company, and this might override my decision to read ToCs, I should consider my own conduct too.

Twitter have an easy to follow page, The Twitter Rules, on their Help Centre website, so it’s worth taking a quick look if you haven’t done so already since it could save you a bit of stress when you are faced with, like I was, a constant message telling me I am blocked from following any more users at this time. I didn’t understand what was going on and it detracted from my enjoyment of using Twitter.

I’ve highlighted a few interesting official Twitter rules here, but still encourage you to take a look at the page since they are subject to updates and revisions.

*Please note: the Twitter Rules are part of their Terms of Service, which you must agree to before opening an account.*

Content — There is some limitation to the type of content one can post, for mostly legal reasons, things like violent outbursts and threats against others are not allowed, not that they would be condoned in most life situations anyway. Graphic or pornographic or violent picture or video content is also not allowed — although there is a hefty amount present on Twitter, you must realise that it’s against the Twitter Rules.

Publishing private information of another person is not allowed without their consent, this includes emails, postal addresses, telephone numbers, identity numbers, as well as intimate photos or videos.

Deception — The impersonation of someone or a company with the intent to mislead others is not allowed, and Twitter can reclaim usernames on behalf of companies or people when they have been taken. In relation to this, taking up usernames to buy or sell is not allowed and comes under Abuse.

Abuse and disruptive behaviour — Owning multiple accounts for the same use is deemed a form of disruptive behaviour since one might, and probably will, use them all to post the same material all the time. Also, sending messages to a single user from multiple accounts is also deemed abusive. Any violation of these rules could result in suspension of all accounts.

Username Squatting — This is a term I was unaware of until I wrote this section; it’s when an account is created just to take a username, but this can also be applied to accounts that are inactive for more than six months. Twitter reserve the right to take action against Username Squatters but do take into consideration a few things first like, how many accounts were created with similar usernames and the purpose of creating any of the accounts, as well as third-party maintenance (using proxy programs to maintain activity).

Invitation Spam — This is when you have your address book pillaged and everyone in it is invited to join X, and often it looks like a personal message from you. It can be a useful tool especially for social networks but it is not allowed on Twitter, so if you’re a software or app developer, please beware.

Copyright — Twitter’s policy is pretty standard and have guidelines for copyright procedures in Section 9 ‘Copyright Policy’ of their Terms of Service user agreement contract. Twitter will exercise the right to remove content they believe to infringe on Copyright and terminate accounts that repeatedly infringe on Copyrighted material.

Twitter Badges — ‘Promoted’ or ‘Verified’ Twitter badges are provided by Twitter only and are not be used without their consent and so the account could be suspended if used in header photos or profile pictures without official consent.

The official Twitter account verified with a little ripple-edged blue badge and with central white tick

Automated actions — There are a huge amount of applications and software programs that offer services to Twitter users to sort out the metaphorical wheat from the chaff, so it’s worth realising that if you’re using a third party application you might be in violation of Twitter’s Automation Rules and Best Practices. Automated bulk unfollowing and following is not permitted and any user or application engaging in this practice will be suspended. Rest assured there are verified apps out there that can help you in Twitter Housekeeping, just make sure they are kosher by finding out if they’re verified by Twitter before using them.

Using block as a means to unfollow — is not allowed.

Spam — Is a hugely important facet of the Terms of Service and the Twitter Rules, which is why I left it ’til last since there are many ways in which behaviour can constitute as spamming other users and can take a little more space to explain.

Spam is, basically, ‘Irrelevant, annoying, unsolicited and sometimes dangerous tweets or behaviour’, and in the Twitter Rules — you may not use Twitter for the purpose of spamming anyone. So let’s find out more what spamming is:

*This is not an exhaustive list, so take a look at Twitter Rules page for more*

>Following and unfollowing accounts: Or ‘Follow Churn’; following an account then re-following. I confess to having done this for a short time because I wanted to see if I could increase my following and raise attention of those who I wanted to follow me back but I had no idea that it was a form of spam behaviour and is definitely not allowed. Luckily I was not reported or banned, however, having done this I have experienced a definite negative effect on my account since I am unable to follow as many people as I used to on my personal account, which is annoying since I can’t follow back as many people.

>Misuse of the Hashtag: Over-use of hashtags and using unrelated hashtags on a tweet can be seen as spam since it could be piggybacking on ‘trending’ or popular topics.

>Misuse of @replies and mentions: Sending out large numbers or tweets filled with @replies and mentions — either duplicated or unsolicited is a no no.

>Unrelated Lists of users: Creating lists of unrelated users is spam since it’s attention grabbing, un-useful and irrelevant.

>Creating false or misleading content: Tweeting lies or misleading information to get attention, it’s just plain annoying.

>Aggressively (and randomly) retweeting, favouriting and following: This is pretty straightforward to understand — favouriting tweets and retweeting lots of stuff is bombarding people with content and notifications and is thus extremely annoying.

>Using or Promoting third-party (proxy) services to gain followers: There is a nice article on Twitter’s help page (click here) about these third party application where you pay to get more followers, but it’s important that you do not engage in this practice since you are giving control of your account to a third party and when they do add followers to your account these new followers are not even in use (bot or abandoned accounts) so it’s a pretty useless venture since they’ll never read your tweets and will probably end up being removed anyway because they’re inactive.

Third party applications may also be likely to violate Twitter’s Terms of Service via phishing scams and fraud, which is not usual, and could then lead to your account being suspended or deleted.

(An excerpt from the upcoming book, Twitter for Academics)

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Topical Academic hashtags

Here I list the hashtags used most commonly within academic communities with a brief general description of the intentional use.

Remember: hashtags, even the curated ones, can be used at any time since there is usually always some talking on that particular subject.

PhDs and Academics


Tweets on anything to do with Academia


Tweets recommending other scholars/academics to follow


Tweets about anything to do with being Adjunct


Academic Writing – discuss


Conversation for and about being an Early Career Researcher


For conversational topics between/for PhD students


Advice for PhD students


Anything to do with PhD life


Tweets about being a PhD student


Tweets about being a PhD and/or PhD student (life, work, funny)


Bi-montly chat hashtag about gaining, wanting, or what to do with a PhD.


Tweets related to the emergency medical services


Science communication conversation


Alternative Careers (to research and postdoc) – jobs posts, careers advice…


Conversations between and for Post Doctoral Researchers


Tweets about writing in academia; tips, news, and conversation


Everything related to Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics


If you’re an academic and have a cat, you know what to do

Educational Academics


Education Technology


All to do with Higher Education


General Education News


Student Affairs conversation


Professorial Development (not professional)


Multicultural Affairs and Social Justice in Higher Ed Student affairs


Open Source E-learning platform chat


Massive Online Open Courses


Academic Advice


Related topics to undergraduate studies and universities


Educational Studies

An extract from the book Twitter for Academics – coming soon.

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Integrating Twitter into your existing work routine

You’re already busy in your job, so how are you going to fit in (more) social media? I think about Twitter as more of an augmentation to an existing work situation; the business-card; the living network of contacts; the journal club and literary resource.

Whatever your existing routine might hold within it, Twitter can overlay onto it.

Scenario 1. You are reading a paper – Tweet a link to the paper you’ve read and say what you thought about it – add appropriate hashtag for a wider audience. END.

Time management 101 – Tweet about the paper and close the browser or app and don’t keep checking for responses or reactions.

Scenario 2. You’ve found a great newspaper report on your field of research. Tweet the link and perhaps add a comment – add appropriate hashtag for a wider audience. END.

Time management 101 – Tweeting from a share icon saves you from having to tweet from the application thereby ridding you of the temptation to check all of your notifications.

Scenario 3. Doing some fieldwork, at an event, or a work celebration. Take a picture with your mobile device – share the picture from your mobile picture app – add appropriate hashtag for a wide audience. END.

Time management 101 – If you have a lot of pictures you would like to Tweet at once, add them all to one tweet rather than as individual tweets.

N.B.: To be active on Twitter you don’t need to be using the Twitter website or Twitter app! From the above scenarios you can see how you don’t have to actually be on Twitter to be on Twitter – using proxy apps or ‘share’ buttons to post to your Twitter account makes you an active user without being tempted to be on the site.

Share buttons are a great way to avoid getting caught up in a long unplanned Twitter session. Most services on the internet have a facility linked to all major social media networks, so you can share without having to go to Twitter whether you are on your mobile device on at your desktop computer.

So, whatever you are doing, you can share it on Twitter without going on Twitter! Sounds a little ironic but it’s nice to think that when you do eventually get leisure time on Twitter you could open your account to a bunch of messages and responses to the things you shared when you were doing them.

(An excerpt of Twitter for Academics eBook – coming soon.)

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Favouriting on Twitter – it’s not a ‘like’ button

Favouriting a Tweet is a really great function for a number of reasons, and like a re-Tweet doesn’t necessarily mean endorsement, favouriting doesn’t necessarily mean like.

Uses of Favouriting:

  1. Bookmark: maybe the top reason people bookmark, I sure know I’ve used it for this reason; I just don’t have time to read the link from within the Tweet now and want to save it for later
  2. Acknowledgement: HT or the gesture ‘hat tip’, which means they’ve noticed your Tweet. Other forms of acknowledgement is flirtation or even show support or motivation. Hotly favourited Tweets come up in your followers activity in Trending section online. OK, so it’s like a ‘like’ button, let’s move on.
  3. I’ve seen your Reply/Tweet: Quite simply it’s saying I’ve seen your reply/message. So useful in conversation, if you have nothing more to say or too busy to respond, Favourite the Tweet to indicate you’ve seen it.
  4. To network – Yes, if you favourite someone’s Tweet then they’ll get a notification that you did, it’s a great way to get noticed and make new friends, but it doesn’t always work.
  5. Gathering testimonials – Companies gathering testimonials on Twitter from customers praising their products, not sure how this would work in academia, perhaps class feedback? I dunno, but you can already see how users have innovated a very simple action into for so many uses.
  6. Voting – ask followers to vote for something (Tweet >1 Tweet at a time). Simples.
  7. Used with IFTTT recipes – A great bit of application and coding, If This Then That, is designed around a particular function and then performs an action, so If Favourited, Then… send to Email. A great way to keep track of bookmarks or topics.

Also, pressing favourite by mistake – it happens a lot on some apps on devices which have the favourite button near other functions – I know I’ve done that on my mobile phone, sausage fingers!

(An excerpt of Twitter for Academics eBook – coming soon.)

Please comment if you use the Favourite for anything other than what is mentioned here.

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An exercise and tips for compiling a great Tweet

You know 140 characters isn’t a lot of space to be conveying a long message, so sticking to one issue and point in each Tweet is key. Don’t forget, including a link always gives more information so the talent is to try and get the audience interested enough to click on the link, reply, or take another action.

Remember - One Tweet = One fact or point

What are you Tweeting for, remember? So in as few words as possible state what you want to say. I’ll use an example to get going.

  1. The message. For example, I found a great article on evolutionary microbiology which describes new life at the bottom of the sea at hydrothermal vents.
    • Now I ask myself, do I want to incite a lively debate, friendly conversation, or just tell people the news?
  2. Hashtags. Upon deciding my point, I decide on my hashtags. I want to reach more than my followers but I also want to indicate, within the Tweet, the intended audience and topic.
    • It’s usual to have at least one hashtag and sometimes up to half a dozen, but it depends how long your message is. Prioritise: The paper is about evolution and microbiology, these are long words too, but I could also pick: Biology, Science, Ocean, Sea, Species, Diversity, Discovery, Research, Hydrothermal, Extremophiles, Environment, Vents, Conservation. Basically, any word you think will grab the attention of anyone who might be interested in the topic. Some fields of research have their own hashtag so keep a look out for ones used by your network.
  3. Picture. If I didn’t have a link to a page I would consider uploading a picture of a photograph related to my message. So, for this example, if there wasn’t a link to the paper I was reading, I might take a picture of the article on my desk so people can have a reference.
    • Pictures are so easy to take on mobile devices and the Twitter mobile apps are so easy to use and even have filters and editing software built in to make your photos look even better. And, people will see Tweets more prominently if they have an image.
  4. The link. I’m sure there aren’t any people out there who’d type it out, but even when cutting and pasting links errors can occur, so make sure the link works by cutting and pasting in a new browser window first.
    • Share buttons are common now both on web pages and from mobile device applications. Share buttons usually automatically assign a message to the Tweet so you don’t have to think of a message and sometimes add a mention to a Twitter account, usually the person or company who wrote the content. There is an option to edit the post too, and through this process one learns general formatting of Tweets:
  5. Formatting. Message, link, handles, hashtags.
    • Always start with the message, then if you’re mentioning someone in a Tweet, put their handle either within the message or at the end. I am in the habit of doing this, before the hashtags, so it doesn’t detract from the message. It’s important that Tweets should be read as quickly as possible and be identified for what they are, often by their hashtags, but converting words within a message into hashtags makes the message very difficult to read so do this sparingly.
  6. Checking your Tweet. Once the Tweet is composed I read it through at least twice; once to make sure there are no spelling mistakes, and a second to make sure it makes sense.
    • The initial message can go through a lot of editing in order to keep under the 140 character limit so one can easily change the meaning of the message by the end of the editing process. It gets easier with time.

Quick writing tips:

  • Add the link and picture first – in this way you know how much space you have left for your message and hashtags instead of having to heavily edit after you’ve added the link and/or photo
  • Use positives – People want to read about Great, Amazing, and Good things, so whenever possible make your Tweets sound exciting.
  • Keep to around 110 characters – if you want replies and have used up all your characters responders will have to edit before replying, since your username is also going to be included as a part of the reply.

(This blog is excerpt taken from Twitter for Academics – coming soon)

Please add more tips and share how you form a Tweet in the comments below.

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An Exercise in Forming a Good Twitter Bio

No-one reads your Twitter bio with care especially when they are surrounded by other bios and pictures. But you can create a Bio that will attract more of the right Followers not only from a glance but by appearing in topical search results too. 

Below I detail how I create them. Please feel free to add your comments at the end of the blog to share your best tips and ideas.

Below is a fictional academic departmental bio:

Originally an army medic, Professor John H. Watson M. D. Ph.D. joined the Department of Forensic Science and Psychology at the  prestigious London Holmes University in 2001. Dr Watson teaches courses in Criminal Psychopathy 101, Understanding Perverted Genius 221, and Army Medical Forensics. Recently awarded the Conan-Doyle prize for his research in child psychopathy, Prof. Watson adds this to his long list of merits as well as his most recent accolades for fictional writing. In his spare time Prof. Watson writes blogs and writes crime fiction, as well as tutoring at the Sherlock Boxing school for boys. John is husband to Mary and father of two.

Pick out the key elements and the bio is down to size. It already looks more like a Twitter bio. Note the separation of professional and personal with a line:

Medic, PhD and Professor of Forensic Science and Psychology at the London Holmes University Teaching Criminal Psychopathy and Army Medical Forensics. Winner of the Conan-Doyle Prize | Crime Fiction Writer who likes Boxing. I’m a Husband and Father.

Still too long at 244 characters – getting rid of superfluous words and taking out the punctuation the Bio is shortened to 171 characters:

Medic, PhD and Professor of Forensic Science and Psychology at the London Holmes University Teaching Criminal Psychopathy Army Medical Forensics and won the Conan-Doyle Prize | Crime Fiction Writer who likes Boxing. I’m a Husband and Father.

PhD Professor Forensic Science Psychology London Holmes University Teach Criminal Psychopathy Army Medical Forensics Conan-Doyle Prize | Crime Writer Boxing Husband Father

The name of the university takes up a lot of space and the institution have a Twitter account whose username @HolmesUni is shorter as does the Conan-Doyle Prize:

PhD Professor Criminal Forensic Science Psychology @HolmesUni Teach Criminal Psychopathy Army Medical Forensics @C-DoylePrize | Crime Writer Boxing Husband Father  (162 characters, still too long)

Now the list of taught courses is confusing so concatenating them will help:

PhD Professor Criminal Forensic Science Psychology @HolmesUni Teach CriminalPsychopathy Army Medical Forensics @C-DoylePrize | Crime Writer Boxing Husband Father (161 characters)

What words can be replaced for shorter without changing their meaning? (We still need space for some hashtags).

  • Professor = Prof
  • Father = Dad
  • Boxing -> Boxer

PhD Prof Criminal Forensic Science Psychology @HolmesUni Teach CriminalPsychopathy Army Medical Forensics @C-DoylePrize | Crime Writer Boxer Husband Dad

Having both PhD and Prof is needless reiteration so choose one.

Prof Criminal Forensic Science Psychology @HolmesUni Teach CriminalPsychopathy Army Medical Forensics @C-DoylePrize | Crime Writer Boxer Husband Dad

(148 characters, we’ve reached below the 160 goal)

Not quite finished!

Add some hashtags, which will become hyperlinked (blue) so the Bio more readily appears in search listings:

Prof Criminal #Forensic #Science #Psychology @HolmesUni Teach CriminalPsychopathy #Army #Medical Forensics @C-DoylePrize | #Crime #Writer #Boxer Husband Dad (156 characters)

(Note how one word to do with Forensics and Crime is hash-tagged)

Still have 4 characters left to fill. Add another interest or make the Bio more readable.

Prof of Criminal #Forensic #Science #Psychology @HolmesUni Teach CriminalPsychopathy #Army #Medical Forensics @C-DoylePrize | #Crime #Writer #Boxer Husband Dad (159 characters)

FINISHED! What an eye-catching and functional Twitter bio! If more need to be said it can be put it in the Banner.

***(Please note that many feel it necessary to indicate their Tweets are their and not the views of their employer. In which case just write Views Own at the end of the bio.)***

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Make your own professional-looking profile pics

Not everyone has the opportunity for professional portraits, so I’ve developed an easy way to create some, and with the help of a few online apps for editing.

  • STEP ONE: Natural light — This is the most important part. Daylight is needed to give not only a good quality self portrait, but is also fantastic when taking pictures of objects.
  1. For self portraits, place yourself in front of a frosted glass window — the kind you find in bathrooms; the light is fragmented and less harsh giving a lovely even effect on the skin. A camera flash is really not the best way to take someone’s portrait.
  2. Make sure the background is as plain as possible — stand with your back against a plain wall

STEP TWO: Take a pose — keep your back straight and turn your head to look slightly more over one shoulder; the turn will accent your neck structure.

  • Shoulders down and relaxed
  • Head in line with your body
  • Chin in, but not jutting out either
  • And for those who want a ‘tighter’ looking jaw line (less of a double-chin) try sticking your tongue in the front roof of your mouth.
  • Think of something or someone that makes you feel at ease

STEP THREE: Take a lot of photos! — The more you have to chose from the better. I even make a few funny faces just to break the monotony. Sometimes I get lucky and get a pic I’m happy with straight away, other times it just takes more patience. Don’t despair too much since there are fantastic apps that can edit your picture into something great.

STEP FOUR: Editing your photos! — I used Google Photos in-build online editing software to edit my photos, but devices usually have their own editing features. Separate apps such as Instagram are also great photo editors.

The day I choose to re-do my profile pic on a day when I my hair cut (only happens about once a year), that way I know I’m looking my best.

BEFORE — Taken on a mobile phone: I’m crouching down at the back door with frosted glass.

AFTER — edited using Google Photos. I experimented with filters and always copied the edited version to a new folder — keeping the original to edit again.

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