Recently, someone posted a comment on my Rate Limits and Other Rules You Break post, asking me what rules or guidelines I follow when it comes to Twitter etiquette. I’m going to run down my personal Top 5 tips, share some of your thoughts and provide links to some other guides that I think offer really good advice.
1. Follow Wisely (and Unfollow Without Prejudice).
- One of the questions people ask me most is — “Do I have to follow back every person that follows me?” The short answer? NO. The slightly longer answer? No, but I think it’s nicer if you at least look at everyone that follows you, rather than disregarding the list completely. For more details on how I select which people to follow, see my post: “Who I Follow and Why (And 5 Ways to be More Followable)”
- Follow people that you think might have interesting tweets — but feel free to unfollow if they are too wordy, make you angry or don’t serve as a valuable member of your community. You can always go back and refollow them if the circumstances change.
- If you follow someone, don’t necessarily tweet them right away — and never tweet them and ask them to follow you back. If for some reason you would like them to follow you so you can DM (direct message) them privately, it’s OK to tell them that you’d like to DM them or ask for other contact information, but even that should be used sparingly. A better way to get followed is to engage with someone over time.
2. Use Hashtags. But Thoughtfully.
- There are throngs of people who absolutely detest casual or comedic use of hashtags. #HeyIHaveDoneItToo But used purposefully — say, for a live chat or a special event — hashtags can be really great ways of directing your message. If you are going to be tweeting a lot, it’s a nice gesture to warn your followers (“Hey friends! I’m heading into a conference and will be live-tweeting — hence the hashtag storm!”). You can also direct them to http://muuter.com, which allows them to temporarily mute another user or a full hashtag.
3. Be Direct. With Messages, I Mean.
- Twitter is meant for conversations, and many times, the back-and-forth you have can help others. So in most cases, I advise you to use @ replies when having a discussion. But if the conversation goes more than two rounds (Me/You/Me/You), my preference is that you take it to DMs or even off Twitter.
- If you are going to ask a question that might be embarrassing or annoying, consider using the DM tool.
- If you are talking about something that only applies to you and the person you’re tweeting with — where you’re meeting for lunch or what time the carpool stars, keep it private.
4. Don’t Automate.**
- This really could have been at the top of the list, because it’s the biggest turnoff I have about social media. See that word? Social. Please for the love of all that is Twitter — do not automate DMs or other replies for new followers. I don’t care who you are, you are NOT so busy or so important that you can’t take a moment and be personal (and personable). If you want to acknowledge new followers, that’s great. But do it specifically, with intention and ask yourself… “does this seem spammy?” If the answer is yes, opt out.
- **There are rare times when I’m OK with automation — especially when it comes to blog posts. I use a WordPress Plugin called Twitter Tools (and another for Facebook called Wordbooker) that automatically sends it to Twitter/Facebook when I hit publish. I only do that because it puts all the relevant information in for me, and because it is the exact same thing that I would do manually.
5. Respond Selectively.
- You don’t need to publicly thank everyone that RTs your link, includes you in a #FF (Follow Friday) or even compliments you. If you do feel compelled to respond, I refer you to #3 (I try and DM people that #FF me to say thanks). If you still prefer to say thank you publicly, I recommend that you RT the original post and add your note to the top. Otherwise, it seems like you’re purposely keeping people out of the loop.
- Do this “Thanks so much! RT @XYZ Hey @kwidrick, I loved today’s post on Twetiquette!”
- Don’t do this “@XYZ That’s so sweet — thanks!”
There are so many other areas of best practices on Twitter — and you all responded to my call for additional points:
Obviously I have just scratched the surface, so I refer to you other resources:
- Nine Essentials of Twitter Etiquette (via Nerve)
- Complete Guide to Twitter Etiquette (via Webdoctus)
- Twitter Etiquette (via PBWorks Twitter wiki)
- Twitter Etiquette, Style Rules (via Save the Media)
- A Brief and Informal Twitter Etiquette Guide (via Chris Brogan)
What other advice do you have for people who are new to Twitter or are looking for some guidance? Best comments added to a future post!