5 Rules of Twitter Etiquette

Ever been struck with a fantastic idea, only to realize that you’re the millionth person to think of it? That’s the story of this blog post. In a recent meeting, a client who had just started using Twitter for his business asked us about the protocol for following other people. Was it “polite,” he wanted to know, to reciprocate by following them?

Ah—a lightbulb! Why not do a post on Twitter etiquette? Wait—we’ll call it “Twittiquette.”

Alas, a quick Google search revealed that not only was the idea unoriginal—so was the name. On the up side, though, a conventional wisdom is developing around good Twitter behavior.

So allow me to channel Emily 140-Character Post and present a few rules of Twittiquette for your business.

1. DO follow (real) people who follow you.

Getting right to our client’s question, it’s a good idea to follow folks who follow you. Not only is it “polite,” it will help give you insight into your customer base. You’ll know what they’re doing, what they’re thinking about, and—in some cases—what they think about your products and services. Of course, if a spammer starts following you, there’s no need to return the “favor.”

2. DON’T go berserk with promotional tweets.

People aren’t on Twitter to read mini-commercials. If you have something genuinely interesting or important to say about your business—like a new product launch or an upcoming event—then go ahead. But unless you want people to tune out your tweets—or worse—stop following you, keep it to the bare minimum.

3. DON’T be disrespectful to your clients

In my favorite Twitter morality tale, a hot-shot ad guy (ironically using the grandiose moniker of “KeyInfluencer”) tweeted disparagingly about the city of Memphis. He was in the city visiting a hugely important client, FedEx, to give a seminar on . . . wait for it . . . social media. Someone at FedEx saw said tweet and clued in corporate executives. FedEx excoriated Mr. KeyInfluencer, and it’s safe to say the agency/client relationship was highly frayed.

This is a dramatic example of the dangers of Twitter, but the lesson bears repeating: Don’t tweet anything that you wouldn’t shout out loud in the middle of Times Square. You never know who’s listening.

4. DO ask questions.

As Fast Company points out on its blog, Twitter is about conversation, not “pontificating.” By asking questions, you help spark a dialogue, and hey—you can learn something!

5. DO be transparent

Authenticity is the currency of social media. Avoid all temptation to set up fake Twitter accounts to cheerlead for your business. People will get wise to it very fast. And you’ll never regain your credibility.

There you are. Rules as timeless as saying “please” and “thank you.” What are your guidelines for good Twitter etiquette?

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