Do's and don'ts of Twitter interactions

I'm by no means a Twitter or social media expert. But I write this article just to ventilate about the growing number of annoying twitter interactions I experience lately. A lot of people don't seem to realize that people want to be treated the same way online than in real life.

The trigger to write this article were several different tweets from last weekend.

Don't hijack threads

Hijacking someone's tweets to plug your own content or product is rarely appreciated. It get's even worse when the company's sales pitch is based on lies.

When I see a company doing this, I will call out this behavior publicly. And often this results in the company removing their tweets. This was exactly what Trustify did.

I anticipated that this would happen, so I made a screenshot.

They spread false information about the British Airways hack and made nonsensical claims about "the false economy of free #certificates". I think they might have regretted this. See also the reactions from other people on Twitter.

This brings me to the next point.

Don't shoot the messenger.

It's ok to criticize a company when they screw up in one way or the other, like Trustify did. But don't insult, harass or ridicule the people of the social media team.

I often see that people get really mad at the people managing the Twitter accounts of a company. I surely have made the same mistakes in the past, but I try to keep in mind that these people are just doing their jobs in the best possible way. Mostly they don't have deep technical or product knowledge, but they're just the first line of support.

Do read for instance this thread where Käthe from T-Mobile Austria gets thrown under the bus and loses her cool because people keep on targeting her.

And yes, she said some things that are doubtful from a technical perspective to say the least. But this kind of "drama" shouldn't happen. Companies also have a big responsibility and should clearly instruct and train their social media team to take this kind of discussions offline immediately.

Asking for help or advice is ok, but...

I'm always willing to answer people's questions as long as they are genuine. But what I regularly experience, especially via DM, is that people ask me questions like this:

I was a bit naive in the beginning, but from several experiences I learned how this mostly turns out. In this particular case I told him a few times that I have no time for mentoring and that he first needs to find out what he wants to learn. After a while...

I don't know whether this is a bot or a troll account or someone who genuinely wants to become a "TOTAL 360 Hacker", but in any case he's consuming my precious time and the conversation is going in all kinds of directions except the right one.

Just don't do this. You're wasting other people's time. If you have a question about a particular problem for which you can't find the solution on Google or want someone's opinion about something, fine. Otherwise do your own research first.

Oh yes, and also introduce yourself and ask your question. Some people get a lot of DMs and don't necessarily have time for socializing.

I also regularly get requests from people to hack accounts or commit other shady, even criminal practices. This was one of the weirdest ones. Straight after his last reply he blocked me.

Don't "quote" people and twist their words

I often see quote tweets of my tweets that miss the clue about what I was trying to say. This can happen and I almost never react to it. But look at the above tweet. My mate Sean Wright was "quote" tweeted by this lady. In her tweet she criticizes Sean, but her criticism is based on her own interpretation of Sean's tweet. She claims that he said things which he never did. Don't do this, it makes you look bad, not cool at all.

Don't ask people you don't know to promote stuff.

This is something that particularly bothers me. People on Twitter that I don't know that mention me out of the blue - mostly together with a bunch of other people - to ask to visit or promote their (commercial) website or their latest blog post. This is an example from 2 days ago...

This is just one of the many examples and this guy wasn't particularly successful.

The only goal of this kind of tweets is to get as much retweets as possible. But we should all help each other right? So what's the big deal of retweeting someone you don't know's latest blog post or a news article?

First of all I hate it to be social engineered. I only retweet content that I find worth retweeting. It's my timeline after all. Once you start retweeting these kind of tweets other people that want to plug their content will start finding you and before you know it you'll get bombarded with requests to retweet. If you retweet all these tweets you're simply no longer owner of your own timeline and other people might lose interest in your profile as well. I'll consider tweets like the above one as spam and will mute the account.

Don't judge other people without any context

I saw Troy Hunt tweeting this the other day.

And it's so true. So many people on Twitter judge others without knowing the exact context of a situation.  

Discussions are fine, but be constructive or GTFO

A lot of people will always disagree, no matter what you say. It happens way too often that people jump into a discussion and that they're so convinced they're right, that they are not open for any other opinion.

They are not constructive and often they don't put arguments on the table to proof their claims. If someone can argument I'm wrong I will accept this, I see this as an opportunity to learn. But non-constructive discussions really drain my energy. My tolerance against this kind of behavior is getting lower and lower and I either mute out of the conversation or mute the person. This thread nicely illustrates the behavior I'm talking about.

Don't dox people

It's very sad that I have to add this one. It should be clear that you shouldn't dox people. But last week a prominent security journalist, Brian Krebs, doxed two security researchers on Twitter. And it happens more than you might think. Just don't do this, you won't make any friends...


Be genuine. Interact with people like you want people to interact with you. Twitter or other social media are really not much different from real life.

John Opdenakker

John Opdenakker

Blogger | #Infosec | #AppSec | Security awareness | Occasional Public Speaker | Cycling | Running | Enjoying life