I recently discovered the Twitter account of an artist whose albums had spent some serious time in my stereo during the early 2000’s. I was eager to see what he’d been up to, because his recorded output had slowed towards the later part of the decade, and though he was/is somewhat well-known, news about his current projects was surprisingly hard to come by on the web. I hit the “follow” button late one night, looked forward to hearing about what the guy had going, and hit the hay.

When I checked my Twitter feed the next morning, I was confronted with an almost solid block of tweets from this artist, looking bullyish as they surrounded the single tweets of the other people I’m connected with. I don’t follow a ton of people, but enough to assure that I’ve always got a nice level of diversity in my stream. This guy had thrown off the balance in my delicate Twitter ecosystem, and it was messing with my flow. I thought that maybe he was having an inspirational day (he kept saying that he was), but that quickly turned into an inspirational week. I eventually made the executive decision to unfollow him, thus restoring the peace to my ultimately unharmed stream.

Clearly this wasn’t a big deal at all, but it did have one residual effect that I wish it hadn’t: It completely changed the way I felt about this artist. He suddenly seemed boorish and self-obsessed to me, because not only were his tweets frequent, they usually only consisted of promotion for himself and his friends, or weird attempts at grandiose statements of motivation that he seemed to think everyone needed. He also tweeted so much that I wondered if he even had the time to do anything else. There was no mystery to him anymore: he clearly spent all his time in front of his computer. I just wanted some insight into the guy’s life, and whether he had any projects in the works. Instead I got rubbed the wrong way.

Here are some ways you can avoid becoming the annoying guy on Twitter, or any of your other social networks:

1. Self-promotion has its place, but it’s got to be part of a larger whole. People who use Twitter only to hype themselves are going to find it does just the opposite if you misuse it. No one wants to follow you if all you do is link to your album and your videos. It’s essential to let your followers know that stuff is out there, but if that’s all you do, people are going to stop paying attention real quick.

2. Keep your posts frequent, but not too frequent. This goes for Facebook, too. If you’re posting tweets or updates every 12 minutes, people are going to get sick of you clogging up their streams. You’re not the only person using the service, and you’re definitely not the only person with something interesting to say.

3. If you don’t have anything to say, don’t say anything. Nobody cares if you’re “Just chillin’.”

4. Think before you post. Jokes don’t always come across in print the way they do in person, and sarcasm is tough to express online. Make sure your thoughts are clear before you risk offending anyone and/or alienating your friends and followers.

5. Leave politics out of it. The quickest way to alienate and upset people? Start spouting off your opinions on hot-button political issues. If people see you arguing online, they’re not going to be too enthused about getting to know you.

If you need help managing your Twitter account, check out HootSuite or one of the other programs like it. They allow you to schedule tweets ahead of time, which is great for folks who have a lot to say, but not a lot of time to say it.