I often refer to Twitter as a social media cocktail party. It provides a source for great conversation, meeting new people and, sometimes, better feedback than a google search. But if Twitter is like a cocktail party, one look at your feed and you'll see that some people can’t hold their liquor. Let’s talk twitterquette.
I’ve written before about what I call The 8 in 10 Rule for Twitter: engaging conversation 80% of the time and self promotion the other 20%. If you’re unsure how you fit the numbers, take a look at your last ten or twenty tweets sent. How many were simply self promotion? How many were interactive? I don’t believe there is any shame in self promotion, but in order for the cocktail party conversation that is Twitter to flow, I find the 8 in 10 rule makes for a nice give and take.
TIP: Look at the last 10 tweets you sent. Then go back another 10. See if you’re contributing to the conversation as much as you’re asking of others.
THE TRUTH IS A VIRUS
Snarky comments, information shared in earnest that turns out to be wrong, opinions better kept to ourselves - some tweets we regret. I call it “Twitter Remorse,” and everyone experiences it to some degree. The key is to learn from it.
RULE: Think before you tweet. Say what you believe in, but stand by what you say. Be willing to admit you’ve made a mistake just as readily as you’d accept praise.
THE HUMBLE BRAG
Some tweets are awkward. Like the humble brag. I know I’ve committed the crime before. But some do it regularly. Daily. Deb on the Rox wrote a fabulous piece on the subject for Babble. Read, laugh and cringe.
RULE: Even a clever humble brag is awkward at best. This cyber village is ready to celebrate one another. In the words of Deb Rox, “Own the brag.” #ownthebrag
FOLLOW THE CROWD?
When someone follows must you follow back? Of course not. If you feel uncomfortable when don’t reciprocate, create Twitter lists placing those you want to follow daily in a specific list and only keep that stream on view.
It’s entirely up to you, but never feel obligated to follow anyone. And vice versa. Additionally, sometimes people think they're following people or Twitter elves unfollow for them (it's not an urban myth - I've seen it). Don't worry about who isn't following you, just be sure you're getting the tweets in your stream you want to see.
HANDLE WITH CARE
Using the Twitter handle of a business or service to promote a great experience or share with a friend is wonderful, but I believe a handle is meant to be used to connect with people not at them.
Social media is powerful. Don’t abuse that power.
When the company that hosts my portfolio added the Pinterest button to my site, making copyrighted work available in ways that broke their own TOS, I waited a week without response. I ended up breaking my own rule and tweeting them (I couldn't send a DM as they didn’t follow me). Their response was swift. I was relieved.
Sometimes without a handle, companies will find you talking about them. Last year, I was tweeting about Goody’s Spin Pins with someone as I had just sent them to friends in Australia. The next day, I had a tweet from Goody offering to send me Spin Pins. I thanked them, told them I already had several sets and hoped they’d one day be for sale in the Southern Hemisphere.
To some, that makes me pretty un-savvy. I believe it means I understand the power of our voices on Twitter.
I didn’t need free Spin Pins.
I did need an answer from my web host.
RULE: Use the power of a handle with care if you want it to retain value. Use your handle on Twitter with care so that people value what you have to say.
BUSINESS OR PLEASURE
If someone uses public Twitter streams to bash clients or other specific business dealings, I see it and make a mental note not to work with those people.
RULE: Don’t discuss the problems you’re having with a client or project publicly on Twitter. It’s bad business.
Direct messages are your friend. They can’t be overused. In fact, I don’t think they’re utilized enough. I’ve seen people ask directions to someone’s home via twitter. I wouldn’t share that info in a public stream, would you?
RULE: If what you share includes any information that you don’t think the ENTIRE planet should be privy to, opt for a DM instead. When in doubt DM. If they don’t follow you, tweet that you need to talk to them privately.
TO RT or NOT TO RT: PLS RT
To retweet something can be valid and valuable. Or a train wreck. Just as we talk about the ratio of interaction to self promotion, let’s apply a similar logic to retweeting.
RULE: To retweet is to rebroadcast information. Before you RT, consider WHY you’re retweeting. How can you enhance the conversation?
There really are no absolutes as to what you should or shouldn’t RT, but I’ll use myself as an example.
When someone is nice enough to include me in an #FF, I no longer retweet the list of people mentioned with my reply. Instead, I say thank you.
To RT an #FF is giving myself a pat on the back for getting a pat on the back. Humble brags so often disguised as retweets are pretty transparent. #ownthebrag
Because we all have our own unwritten rules for this place without rules, I asked the good people of Twitter, “If Twitter had rules, what would be your number one?”
Don’t auto-anything. Don’t send SPAM. Don’t take things personally. Don’t tweet asking for followers. Don’t RT the answers to the questions at your Twitter party. Be part of the conversation. Be respectful. Be an original.
None of these seem unreasonable or difficult to follow. Maybe we need to consider making the unwritten written?
RULES: Don’t auto-anything. Don’t send SPAM. Don’t take things personally. Don’t tweet asking for followers. Don’t RT the answers to the questions at your Twitter party. Be part of the conversation. Be respectful. Be an original.
RULES MADE TO BE BROKEN
Some Twitter rules I don’t subscribe to. I believe that Twitter can be used for conversation and used well. There are fabulous conversations to be had on Twitter - just don’t forget just how very public Twitter is. Tweet fights aren’t pretty to witness.
RULE: Twitter is for conversation, not confrontation. This is a community. If you have a personal problem with someone, take it elsewhere.
I’m not worried that the overuse of hashtags or sending several tweets in a row is bad form. (Some ppl pref 2 spl out what they say.)
I do think it’s important you don’t misuse a hashtag. A perfect example occurred with #BlogHer12. Hashtags are wonderful for the ease with which you can curate the info you’re seeking, but if someone is using the #BlogHer12 hashtag constantly to promote their product, it clogs the stream. Everything in moderation and there’s no need to worry.
Here’s what I want people to worry about: think before you tweet. Every tweet you send is being house in the US Library of Congress. Their project is a spectacular one. History books have always been written by the ruling classes, the people in charge, the minority ruling over the masses. With Twitter, they’re collecting a global history like never before. They can document how the world reacts as history unfolds and how it effects us all.
Consider what you want going down in history. Directions to you house doesn’t belong there. Neither do mine.
Disclaimer: As always, IEP is about netiquette and social ethics and is not to be taken as legal advice.
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