The Newcomers Guide To Twitter is a ten-part series of introductory lessons, tips and suggestions for people using Twitter for the first time. Please share these articles with your friends, family, colleagues and anyone you know who is struggling to “get Twitter”.
So, you’ve studied the basics, chosen the perfect username, setup your profile at Twitter.com, started following some cool people, picked up some followers yourself and wrote some really great tweets. It’s all looking good. Now… have you thought about your behaviour on Twitter?
As with most things in life, everybody’s favourite micro-blogging social network comes with a series of norms and expectations. These best practices are closer to guidelines than hard-and-fast rules, but newcomers to Twitter would do well to observe this list of 10 Twitter etiquette suggestions to maximise their presence on the platform.
1. It’s Okay To Lurk
In fact, not only is it good practice until you get into the swing of things, but there’s nothing to stop you lurking forever. Twitter can be an amazing source of data, and you don’t have to write even a single tweet to tap into that. But at the same time, if you have things to say, then you can improve that data by getting involved.
2. You Don’t Have To Follow Back
Never forget: you’re under no obligation to follow anybody on Twitter. Ever. It’s 100 percent your decision. Twitter doesn’t work unless you’re careful to only follow people who are right for YOU. Equally, just because person A finds person B interesting and worthy of a follow, that doesn’t mean the reverse is also true. Indeed – any many don’t want to hear or believe this – it rarely is.
3. Avoid Text Speak
If you can’t squeeze a proper sentence into 140 characters (or, ideally, less), try, try again. Never sacrifice quality of prose for an extra word or two, especially if they’re wrttn lk ths.
4. Keep It Real
Find the balance between being overly negative and happy clappy trappy. Neither camp is enormously popular except with other people who are like them. (And nobody likes those guys.) Don’t be somebody you’re not, but if the real you is a jerk, a sap or a fraud, you should probably work on it.
5. Retweet Often
Retweets are the backbone of Twitter and a day shouldn’t go by when you haven’t found at least one thing worthy of a retweet. That said, don’t retweet everything, and don’t retweet anything. Despite what some folks say (and state in their Twitter bios), to your followers, a retweet is usually seen as an endorsement or, at the very least, information that you want others to read and, if there’s a link, click. Accordingly, when you retweet on Twitter, think about the message that you’re sending to your network.
6. You Don’t Have To Thank For Retweets
When somebody retweets you, it’s a nice feeling, certainly when you’ve just joined Twitter. You’ll want to thank them. So I say sure, go ahead. After a while, however, assuming you’re doing okay, retweets of your stuff will become very much par for the course. Some of your tweets will get retweeted a lot. Thanking each and every person for doing this is not only a bad idea, it’s also completely unnecessary. If everybody on Twitter thanked everybody else for retweets, Twitter would be completely ruined. We’d have probably 50 percent more tweets and they’d all be noise. So, unless somebody has gone out of their way to do something special with your content on Twitter, you don’t need to thank them. Honest.
7. Don’t Send Automated Direct Messages
Never. No exceptions. Literally nobody likes these. And I mean that: literally nobody. Indeed, use direct messages sparingly. They really should be something that’s (a) absolutely private and (b) really needs the other person’s attention, with some sense of immediacy.
8. Closely Monitor Your Replies
On Twitter.com, this is now called the “Connect” area, but it’s essentially the same thing it’s always been, and the same basic courtesy applies – if somebody asks you a legitimate question on Twitter, you should always respond. I have always believed that we should think of the Twitter reply function like we do SMS text messages. If somebody asks you a direct question via text message, only the rudest of people ignore it. If the text is open-ended then there is less pressure to reply. I think the same basic principles should be applied to replies on Twitter. And if you keep getting the same question(s) over and over, respond with an open tweet.
9. Use Twitter Search
And use it a lot. It will help you (a) find information on Twitter and (b) refrain from adding to the noise by asking the exact same questions that everybody else is asking… even though the answers are already out there, on Twitter Search.
10. Know Your Self-Promotion Limits
There are probably more self-promoters on Twitter than any other kind of user. Even people who don’t think of themselves as self-promoters will often openly boast about that fact. The thing is: self-promotion works. And it works really well on Twitter. Because the network by definition is compromised of billions of of-the-moment, blink-and-you’ll-miss-‘em status updates, it absolutely pays to have a “look at ME!” approach to Twitter if you want to convert your presence on the platform into business. Or just retweets. The more you say something, and the harder you say it, then, most of the time, the better the ROI.
But there’s a limit here. If you push too hard, you’re going to irritate a lot of your audience. If you keep pushing too hard, you’re going to irritate your biggest fans. And if you still keep pushing, you’re going to irritate nobody, as they’ll all be long gone. Yes, self-promotion works. But as with most things on Twitter it needs to be part of an overall balance. Find where your middle is, and try not to veer too far off the path.
This post is part of The Newcomers Guide To Twitter, a ten-part series of introductory lessons, tips and suggestions for people using Twitter for the first time or thinking about signing up for a profile. Click here to see the other posts in this series (and if you’re just getting started, here’s part one), and please hit the comments to share your own Twitter tips.