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 Ian Hitchings is a British true crime writer, author of  36 books, published in more than 20 countries  and a regular contributor to major newspapers and magazines worldwide. An officially rehabilitated ex-prisoner under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, he’s entitled “to be treated for all purposes in law as a person who has not been convicted or sentenced”. He’s a staunch campaigner for prison reform.

Getting Twitter

I am a man of my own time, old fashioned and set in my ways. I just couldn’t get to “grips” with Twitter for quite a while. Not being technically minded Twitter wasn’t something I knew anything about.

At first, to be perfectly honest, I took a sceptical view and thought this was yet another social media site without any real significance so I didn’t see what the point was of Twitter.

During an exchange of some friendly banter with my son and after he had eloquently explained in glowing detail the pros and cons of twitter. He suggested that I should seriously consider giving it a go. Now, I am converted hook,  line and sinker.

I’m a very private person and fearlessly protects my privacy. Therefore, I mainly tweet because it allows me to engage directly with the outside world and sound off about important “crime and publishment” issues that matter to me. Also, it provides a good platform to share and publicise articles/blogs which otherwise tweeters might never have seen.

The best and worst things about tweeting

Most people at first believed that the new social media – Twitter, in all its various manifestations, would be a very good thing for political debate. They thought it would make public life more open and democratic.

There is some evidence that this is the case. However, there is a great deal of evidence that the reverse is also true. Take the example of Twitter. Certainly, it is a way of getting information into the public domain very quickly. But there is no room at all, within the constraints of just 140 characters, to make complex or thoughtful arguments.

Twitter, therefore, reduces conversation to what is, in effect, a series of newspaper headlines. As a result, many tweeters enter a kind of competition to make the most striking or outlandish comments, in order to grab the attention of their audience – one reason why poor Mrs Sally Bercow came a cropper.

It’s of paramount importance to point out Twitter is unique and nothing like – Facebook.  You can shape and bend it to meet your own specific personal requirements.

Recipients are well up with the gossip and ahead of the news.

The worst thing about Twitter is that it can be extremely addictive.

Try your very best to be polite, useful and interesting. Most importantly be yourself.

My beautiful picture

Tips and successes

Twitter requires zero powers of concentration, and offers the promise of instant mental stimulus. It is, then, the ideal means of communication for modern Britain.

It’s far more important to know who is following you than how many. A small congregation who are paying attention and enjoy singing from your hymn sheet are dramatically more valuable than a large bored congregation.

You really don’t need to follow more than a few hundred. But, what you need to do is follow the right people. Nobody can tell you who that is – the only one who can make that choice is yourself.

So think very carefully about your particular target audience and when are they most likely to be reading their tweets.

It’s a pointless exercise tweeting if your audience are unable to read the tweets due to their work commitments.

Literally everybody on Twitter is connected, so naturally all news will always filter through the grape vine.

Obviously, when people are travelling on public transport the dreaded boredom sets in so they might find that’s the best time for them to catch up with their twitter feed.

It’s in your best interests to evaluate and prune your Twitter network on a weekly basis – it shouldn’t be left to go static. You’re under no obligation whatsoever to keep following anybody.

If you can’t remember why you’re following someone, that’s all the reason you need to unfollow them.

Usually, I am either busy browsing through endless reams of court documents, or  thrashing out a manuscript on my computer keyboard, or in court listening to the proceedings unfold of a “high profile” murder trial, so I tend to tweet at various convenient times of the day and night.

Whether you like it or not, other tweeters will undoubtedly judge you on grammar and punctuation. For goodness sake don’t hit the send bottom until you have made absolutely sure you have corrected any typos. Take pride in your tweets! After all, don’t forget they are on public display.

In this day and age, with the numerous successful Twitter libel actions any mistakes can prove costly.

 Things to avoid

Irritating trolls – block them.

Negative tweeters are poison, and you should weed them out of your network. Either cut them loose or better still block them.

Those tweeters who act like friends while constantly mimicking everything you say or do. They’re the worst. Cut them loose.

Some tweeters go out of their way to make maliciously offensive comments and they are nearly always the problem, not you – block them.


This is the 49th  post in the criminal justice/legal Why I tweet series. Read the others here.

If you’d like to develop your tweeting skills, check out my online Twitter coaching service which includes an individualised profile of your Twitter style.


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