Twitter dos and don’ts

Social media can be perplexing. Because it’s such a new medium, it can be hard knowing the etiquette for using the tools, especially when the developers keep changing the sites.

A Clise Etiquette Facebook page fan asked me to write a post on Twitter etiquette, or Twittetiquette, as I like to call it. Twitter is one tool that indeed has its own rules and dos and don’ts, although there are some similarities with the other tools.

Like all social media sites, the most important rule on Twitter is to be respectful and kind to others. Before posting anything online, imagine walking into a party. Think about the things you would or wouldn’t say to people at the party. If you wouldn’t say something to a person in front of you at an event, don’t say it online.

Not only is it important to treat others with respect online, but you must remember that what you post is not like some passing comment spoken to someone in person. Once you post an angry, rude or inappropriate comment online, it is there forever. And, likely your reputation will be tarnished. So, be nice, be kind and you’ll be fine.

In terms of Twitter, here are some dos and don’ts and guidelines.

To follow or not to follow
You don’t need to follow everyone who follows you, just like you don’t need to be real life friends with everyone you meet.

When deciding who to follow, think first about what your goals are. Are you using it to increase awareness of your business? If so, follow people who fall within your target audience or geographic area. For example, I use Twitter to increase awareness of my business. Since most of my business comes from people and businesses that work and live in Western Washington I follow individuals and companies that are in the area.

Perhaps you are on Twitter as a way to connect with others with similar interests or to learn about certain topics. If so, make sure your biography clearly states your interests and hobbies. That way, you’ll attract people with similar interests. Then, follow those who you find interesting, no matter where they live.

If you want, you can thank people for following you. And, that brings me to my next etiquette tip.

Thanks for the follow
If you do thank people for following you, and I encourage you to do so with at least those who you follow back, do not promote yourself, your website, book, etc in the thank you. A thank you should be just a thank you.

Many people use automated thank you messages. While it’s better than no thank you, it’s very impersonal. If you can take the time to personalize a message to your new followers it will be much more impressive.

Also, make the message a direct message, rather than filling the tweet stream with your thank yous to individuals. When I write a thank you for following message I try to read the follower’s bio and a few tweets so I can include something about them in the thank you. For instance, for a woman who mentioned something nice about Sofia Vergara in a tweet I wrote, “Hi Mildred, thanks for following me. I agree with you on Sofia Vergara. She is truly classy.”

Now, do I have time to personalize a message to every new follow? No, but I try to do it as often as I can. That said, I’m pretty behind on my thank yous. If you’re a new follower, I truly appreciate your follow and will be in touch soon.

No Spam
A couple other points about Twitter. Do not spam your followers. Social media is a lot like real life. When you build relationships with people rather than trying to get them to purchase whatever it is you’re selling, you’ll have much more success. The things you can do to build relationships with your followers is to reply to their tweets, retweet their tweets, thank them for retweeting your tweets. Basically, interact with them and you’ll find they will want to interact with you.

And, when you do promote your business, book, blog, website, product, etc, the rule is only 20% of your tweets should be promotional.

What tips would you add to this list? Are you on Twitter? If not, why not?

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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>

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