Twitterquette is the term for etiquette on Twitter. Like wiping your feet at the door and not slurping noodles, there are certain rules for using the social media outlet, accepted behaviors and expectations that have silently arisen as more and more people chat and share their lives 140 characters at a time.
Twitter has its own culture. While learning new words like hashtags and retweets, it’s important to understand the culture that these words and rules have developed in. The tips below are aimed at new Twitter users but old hats might need a refresher as well.
Name and Profile
There is Twitterquette to observe before you even send your first tweet. Your Twitter name has power. Search engines like Google and Yahoo! use SEO, search engine optimization, which means how close to the top of the page your name will appear. If you’re a company, try using a valuable keyword as your Twitter name (aka username and handle).
You don’t have to use your real name or your company’s name for your Twitter handle but if you decide to use a nickname be sure it is something that is friendly, accessible, and non-offensive. Make sure it reflects you. Your Twitter name may be written on business cards or name tags at networking seminars. Make sure it isn’t something you’re embarrassed writing down or having someone say out loud.
Use a short Twitter username. Limit it to 15 characters or less. Longer names mean less characters for people to use when responding to your tweets.
Dress yourself. People don’t want to look at a blank slate, so post an appropriate photo in your profile.
Use your Twitter bio to help others. Provide useful content about yourself to give context to your tweets. These can links to your blog or website, credentials you may have, and more.
Once you’re on Twitter and have let other people know you’re there (either by tweeting or informing friends on Facebook and other sites, and just plain telling them in person) you’re bound to get people following you. The big question is “Should I follow every one who follows me?” Check the follower’s profile. Does he have a profile photo? Is there a bio? In most cases, follow them back. But don’t feel you have to follow everyone, and don’t feel angry if they don’t follow you back as well.
Try to balance the number of people you follow and the number of people following you. For example, if you follow 5,000 people but only have 75 followers, users may think you’re a spambot. If a tweeter frequently retweets your posts or comments on them, it is nice to follow them as well.
Remember that the people you follow say something about you. People browsing your profile can see who follows you and who you are following as well. Make sure you won’t be embarrassed or get in trouble if your parents or spouse ask about your Twitter following.
What if you don’t want to read every tweet by every person you follow? Twitter is one of the greatest social meeting places on the planet. Whether you’re trying to find comic book collectors, people who love Veggiemite cupcakes or just new friends who live in your city, chances are you’ll find them on Twitter. Saved searches and Twitter lists can help separate the people you follow into easily organized and accessible sections. For example, if you’re an author you may have lists like “fellow authors,” “illustrators,” “agents,” “book vendors,” and so on. By putting people you follow into relevant lists, you can simply go back and forth and read the tweets that only apply to those lists.
Another popular option is mute. Many Twitter apps have that option; it allows you to stop users’s tweets from appearing in your home feed while still letting you follow them. This can be helpful if you follow a lot of people but don’t want to make five or ten different lists. This is different than blocking (in which the person can not contact you in any way at all) and isn’t permanent. When you feel like it, simply unmute them and they are in your home feed again.
You may get a message thanking you for following a person. This is usually an automatic direct message (auto DM). These are a no-no, Twitter is about social interaction and users should avoid automation if possible. There is no problem about scheduling tweets as long as you wrote them and they sound human, but try to avoid automation. DMs should be used only when you need to tell another tweeter something you don’t want everybody to read, use it as a way to keep things private.
The most important thing about tweeting is value. Always add value to your tweets. This is especially important for brands but should be applied to your personal tweets as well. Don’t tweet only headlines and links. It’s easy but try to pull out a quote from the article or give a clue to the content. If the original tweet isn’t yours, give credit where credit is due.
Beware of TIM (too much information) and giving useless filler information. Not everyone wants every detail of your life. This means not tweeting about your breakfast every day. By contributing helpful information and not expecting anything in return, paying it forward will help you immensely in the Twitterverse.
By being a helpful resource, you’ll slowly build yourself as the “go-to person” with the information everyone follows for news on a specific topic. This is where are all your time spent on your hobbies can pay off.
After getting comfortable on Twitter you may be tempted to tweet every free second you have. Don’t go overboard. Tweeting all the time will turn people off and they will stop following you. Go for quality rather than quantity. Some of the things to avoid going overboard about is tweeting Instagram pics all day, every meal you eat, every place you check into on Foursquare, and others.
Hashtags are keywords used to ID tweets. They begin with this mark # and have something attached. For example, tweets with #batman will be about Batman and Batman-related items. Don’t overdo hashtags, three or less is the norm. Don’t use overly long hashtags; for example #omgijustlovestrawberryicecream. Use hashtags that are relevant to your tweet. It’s also good practice not to use too many abbreviations. Twitter only gives you 140 characters but your tweet must be clear and concise.
Do you have to answer every reply or mention you get? That depends on how many followers you have. If your fan base is in the millions, you can’t reply to every tweet that has your name attached. But if possible, be social and engage those who have taken the time to put your name into your tweet. This will be much easier when you’re starting out and will pay off as you are building contacts and networks.
Retweets are one of the best ways to show a person that what you think they tweeted had value. It’s a way of saying that you liked what they had to say so much, you want to share it with everybody else.
Make sure you reply in a timely manner, to both tweets and DMs, and thank them for their retweets and other forms of information they have shared.
Watch what you tweet. This axiom is an oldie but goldie: Don’t tweet anything you wouldn’t want your parents, boss, law enforcement, your kids’ friends or your significant other to read. Every tweet becomes part of the Internet and may still have life tomorrow, a week from now, or even 20 years later. If you think your tweet might be offensive, stop and reconsider it. What’s rude in real-life is rude on Twitter and you don’t want an offensive comment to come back to haunt you. Twitter is not a weapon to be negative with or bring people down. It is a social engagement tool.
Never tweet when you’re drunk, angry, or extremely tired. If you have something to air out with a co-worker, do it face-to-face, not on Twitter for the world to see.
Continuously asking requests for retweets sounds desperate. Most people won’t do it if they’re yelled at. Let them decide if it is worth retweeting.
If you have to write “spoiler alert,” maybe you shouldn’t tweet it. With DVRs, Netflix, and more, not everyone is watching TV shows at the same time as they air. Don’t spoil cliffhangers and season finales for those who haven’t seen them yet.
Don’t send celebrity retweets. Not everyone follows Kim Kardashian or Katy Perry on Twitter. Keep the latest gossip on your own home feed.
Accept the good, the bad and the ugly. Not everyone is going to like every tweet you post. Don’t feel hurt or angry if someone stops following you. Twitter is a public forum and people will post stuff that gets under your skin. Ignore the snobbery and keep on tweeting. Avoid being negative, as well. Public debate is okay, flame wars are not.
Every so often, go through the people you follow and review whether they are useful or still interesting to you. It doesn’t hurt you or them to stop following people – they won’t take it personally.
Don’t be selfish. Always tweeting about yourself and your business will annoy your followers and may cause them to stop following you. Instead, help support your followers by retweeting their tweets and helping them build their brand. Twitter is social, what you do comes back to you. Be positive and generous. Use opportunities like #FollowFriday (#ff), #ToastTuesday, or similar tags to help out your followers and those new tweeters you want to connect with. You will be suggesting interesting Twitter users for others to follow (thus building their fan base) while improving your own reputation.
The Twitterverse is vast. But with some common sense and a few rules, it can turn you into a social butterfly. Show your personality, have fun, and engage.