14 etiquette tips for Twitter
It's 2 months to the day since I started using Twitter. During that time I've gone from a complete novice to gaining some experience and starting to learn from that experience. Like any new communications channel that humanity discovers, it takes some time for us to develop social etiquette (in this case "Twitterquette"). We start to develop a sense of right and wrong and our own little set of do's and don'ts.
- Don't talk loudly for long periods of time on your mobile phone on public transport.
- Don't speak on the telephone at the dinner table if you have guests.
- Don't sent large volumes of email to people you don't know to sell Viagra.
- Do reply to people if they take the time to write you a letter / email / leave a voicemail.
- Do credit the source of your story when writing a new article.
So how about Twitter?
Twitterquette - version 1 (after 2 months, March 2009, UK)
Here are some tips I'd recommend that new Tweeters think about when using Twitter.
Notice that most of them are relevant to all forms of communication, not just Twitter, I just explain to detail relevant to Twitter.
Twitter is a continual conversation that you can dip in and dip out of. It's like a 24 hour party. You can stand on the sidelines and watch, you can entertain or you can introduce people. Just like any social event, understanding the unseen social rules will help you have a great time. Bear in mind who is at your party. Are they work colleagues, industry aquaitances, or true friends and family? Who is following you? Who do you want to follow you?
My experiences (and advice) are around the assumption that most of the people following me are mostly work-related.
So, here we go...
1. Give credit where credit is due
If you read a tweet that you like and want to tell others, rather than just plagiarising the source, use a "Retweet" to pass the message on. The syntax is as follows;
RT @username message-content
2. Say thank you for a referral
If someone re-tweets one of your tweets, send them a direct message to say thank-you. They are more likely to do it again if you say thank you.
3. Keep 1:1 conversations to direct messages
If you are having a conversation that is only relevant to you and the recipient, rather than use the public timeline to do so, use the direct message feature on Twitter; especially if it's a conversation that will last several tweets.
4. Don't hog the bandwidth
Just because someone follows you, it doesn't mean they want to receive 30 tweets a day from you and have you dominate their feed. There are a few people that I follow that send out so much trivial mush that I am now going to unfollow them. Clearly there's a balance somewhere. I've found (personally) that I can take 5 to 7 tweets a day from 1 person before I start to turn off.
5. Ask for favours, but do so sparingly
If you have a good following, you can use that to your advantage. You can for example ask people to RT (retweet) a message if it's that important to you. It is is a great way to build traffic or awareness. However, I got a little annoyed by a blogger who was constantly asking people to "digg" his latest article just so it would hit the first page of digg.com. In real life we give favours and receive favours. It's a balance that if upset means you take advantage of goodwill and lose some of that goodwill. Just like real life, use your network & friends sparingly, for what's important.
Tip; if you want to have your tweet retweeted, leave enough characters spare so that the RT @username will fit in without truncating the message. For me that means working to 120 characters, not 140.
6. Cite your source
If you didn't write something, don't pretend that you did. Cite your source (as in using a re-tweet) or make it obvious that you didn't write the content.
7. Recommend others
If you like following someone, why not recommend them? On Twitter, there's a custom of doing this on Friday and including the #followfriday hashtag to explain what you're doing.
An example; #FollowFriday @cindyalvarez (for product management nuggets of wisdom), @thetafferboy (for SEO tactics), @manne (for restaurant news)
8. Be positive
No-one likes a drainer. Sure, get things off your chest if you have to but do so with humour. Don't burden the world with your worries and troubles. Share love, not trouble.
9. Add your own content, don't just re-tweet
Some users are great at finding good material on a topic and then just re-tweeting it. A few twits that I follow do this, and I follow then because they are consistent in being fast and frequent in their subject niche. Generally though, I appreciate a few original thoughts as well.
10. Follow others that follow you
If someone follows me, I generally check them out by looking at their bio and their tweetstream. If I am sure I would not be interested I don't follow. Otherwise I follow and if it turns out later it's a waste of time, I unfollow. If in doubt, follow.
11. If something pleases you, say so
See a tweet that makes you laugh, smile or gets you interested in something. Now and then it's nice to reply to the source and just say so. It will make the source feel rewarded for making the effort and will more likely continue to feed you in the future.
12. If you want someone to follow a link, tell them why they should bother
As most links in Twitter are shortened, and as so many are posted each day, take the time to describe the destination content and why it's interesting.
13. Stay on topic
You need to decide who you are. Are you a corporate voice or are you an individual? Are you using Twitter for your current job, for your (general professional life) or for personal stuff only. Decide and decide quickly. Then, decide what areas of interest you will post on and stick to it. People that are interested in those areas will follow you.
14. Be real
I do like to hear the occasional snippet of non-work related stuff, even if I follow you because of your professional interests. Think: if you go to a professional networking event; no one jumps straight into work, there's always some related chit chat about sport, the weekend or what's in the news. Too much personal stuff becomes trivial, but it is always nice to see something of the person behind the machine. I find a 75% work interest / 25% non-work interest is a good balance in the working week and vice-versa at weekends.
It seems to me that the first rule of Twitter is therefore NOT always to answer the question "What are you doing?". Great Twits are much more subtle.
You can follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/davidcnorris.
(My interests are; ecommerce, marketing, restaurants, product management, cycling, skiing, movies.)
Other blog posts that I've found on the same subject: