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If the first half of 2009 was spent telling the world how to use Twitter, the second half might be them telling you that you can’t use it.

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I guess it had to end sometime.

What I’m referring to are the free-wheeling, anything goes days when Twitter burst onto the scene. Sure, it’s been around since 2006, but the first half of 2009 was the golden age of Twitter. We saw Wired Twitter followers grow more than five-fold from about 15,000 all the way past 75,000, and the same exponential growth was seen by everyone from Barack Obama to Ashton Kutcher.

Celebrities, politicians, media properties, and personal internet life coaches alike jumped into the Twitter pool like a cannonball on a hot August day in Texas. There were Twitter award shows, Twitter charity events, Tweet-ups, and Tweet-based businesses starting in garages across the country.

But like the free love in the 60s, disco in the 70s, the hair bands of the 80s, the internet boom of the 90s, and the housing gains of the last 9 years, all good things had to come to an end.

Ironically, online marketers were pleading with their companies, showing anyone who would listen the value of the microblogging service. They fought through committees, hijacked a designer for a day, and laid out the benefits in their best Powerpoint form.

Then it was on to friends and family. No, it’s not the same as Facebook. Yes, I feel the need to tell everyone what I had for breakfast. Of course I need to know what Ellen DeGenerous tweeted yesterday.

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Then suddenly it was cool to know what Twitter was. To go beyond your mood or your meal or your place on a map. You could add value. You could add context. You could communicate. People were listening.

But while you were trying out that new iPhone app or online URL shortening service, the stories started to come out.

On August 3, the Marines banned Twitter, as well as Facebook and MySpace. They were ‘a proven haven for malicious actors and content and are particularly high risk due to information exposure, user generated content and targeting by adversaries.’

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On August 4, the sports world took notice when ESPN’s NBA Analyst Ric Bucher sent out a tweet saying that the worldwide leader had put the hammer down and prevented personalities from tweeting unless it served ESPN. They later publicly responded to the story, and shared their social media policy and guidelines (story from Mashable.com).

It’s a tricky situation for them… they gain more credibility, viewers, and readers when they have personalities like Bill Simmons, Peter Gammons, Kenny Mayne, Chris Berman, and others on staff.

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But where do they draw the line when these stars promote themselves in their own books, appearances, talk shows, and yes, on social media. The answer lies somewhere in the middle, but they obviously felt Twitter was an area where control was slipping away from them, and had to add restrictions. Will your business be next?

[Full disclosure - I used to work for ESPN]

Staying on the sports theme, the NFL stated that they are working on a policy that would govern the use of Twitter. The NY Times wrote a piece titled “The N.F.L. Has Identified the Enemy and It Is Twitter.” But NFL coaches aren’t even waiting for that to come out. Green Bay Packers players were told they’d be fined for using Twitter, and Miami Dolphins coach Tony Sparano (acting like Tony Soprano) has effectively outlawed it, even though he himself admits, ‘I’m naïve to the whole thing, I don’t really know what this is. I just learned how to text a couple months ago.’

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The NBA seems to be taking a different stance. The league itself has over 1.1 million followers, while Shaquille O’Neal has been a fan favorite since he signed up in November, approaching 2 million followers. But that doesn’t mean they’re not policing what is being said, as they fined owner Mark Cuban $25,000 in March for complaining about the referees.

A recent Wired stories lets us know it won’t be easy to send a tweet from prison, considering the proposed cell phone jamming bill in the Senate.

I found an article by Gina Chen of SaveTheMedia.Com that discussed the policies of the NY Times and Wall Street Journal on social media. They remind employees that what you write, what you share, what you recommend, and even things other people say on your page can get you into trouble.

And CIO magazine pointed out that IBM was one of the earlier companies to adopt a set of guidelines around social media, smartly setting up a wiki in order to solicit feedback from employees when putting together the policy.

The problem with social media, is that the line is definitely blurred between work life and personal life, but you have to be careful about stepping over that line. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that businesses, and their team of lawyers, are rapidly setting policies for using Twitter.

But could it go beyond just business to a personal and social level?

An article by Allen Salkin in the New York Times this weekend delves into personal gatherings held by Michael Malice, with the following stated on the invitation:  “don’t blog, post pictures to Facebook, or even think about Twittering.”

‘We are fighting against this whole idea that everything people do has to be constantly chronicled,’ Mr. Malice said. ‘People think that every thought they have, every experience – if it is not captured it is lost.’

It’s true. I’ve been at too many meals in New York City that included ‘Put that thing away!’ as an attendee had their face buried in their smart phone, be it checking e-mail, sending a text, or updating a status.

Does this mean that your circle of friends might need to set their own rules for Twitter? What if I told one friend I was really tired tonight, but then you tweet that we’re hitting the late movie? What if your wife has you on a diet to lose those love handles, and your co-worker tweets that we’re going for the meat-lovers pizza at lunch?

What could be next? A country-wide Twitter ban in all high schools or colleges? Tweeting under the influence sobriety tests? Um, sir, we’re going to need you to step away from the barstool. OK, I need you to extend your left arm out to the side, balance on one leg, and with just your right thumb, in 140 characters or less, update your status to say Need a good lawyer asap.

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A Twitter pre-nup agreement? Mashable.com already highlighted a story published in the CyberPsychology & Behavior Journal, that shows that Facebook increases jealousy in relationships. This comes about when significant others monitor their partner’s activities, added unknown friends of the opposite sex, or spend too much time on the site. Could Twitter be far away?

Drop me a line to let me know what YOU think will be the next area to institute rules around Twitter, or ones that I missed.

E-mail: MarketingGuy [at] wired.com

Direct message at twitter.com/hopkinsonreport… if you’re allowed to.

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