Twitter can sometimes seem like a world of its own, with a very interesting atmosphere that has its own rules and its own unique etiquette that users need to be aware of and follow. Just like when you’re eating at the most upscale restaurant in town, there is a specific way to go about things to not get yourself kicked out or looked down upon. When starting on Twitter, I was cautious about what I tweeted and how I acted when using the service. Now, years later after I’ve gained and lost followers over how I tweeted, I’ve found the limits of my followers to keep them (and me) happy. 140 characters may seem short, but there’s a lot you can do within that short restriction. I was recently asked for my tips on how to be good at Twitter; finding a spare moment to educate everyone, I’ve laid out my advice about what you should keep in mind when tweeting.
Twitter is one of the few social networks that I check every day and am constantly using. I check it on the desktop, my mobile phone, and everywhere I can get Internet service. I get all of my news and tech conversations through the service and wouldn’t give it up for anything.
Don’t overly use that Retweet button. It’s such an attractive button to use when you find something that you like and what to share it with your followers. It’s all right to use the button here and there, but there is such a thing as too much. If your stream is filled with nothing but retweets, it says that you can’t create original content and users won’t want to follow you because they’ll see something that could already come through their timeline if they follow the people who you retweet. There’s a perfect balance between tweeting your own content and retweeting things that you find interesting or useful for your followers.
Don’t over-share content that no one will really care about. When tweeting from services like GetGlue, Foursquare, or RunKeeper, keep in mind where it will also be shared. Your followers don’t need to know every TV show you watch or every single place you check in. This doesn’t mean that you should never share these types of things, because sometimes it’s useful. Take Foursquare, for example. If I happened to be at a prominent place and wanted to tell my followers I was there, that would be fine — as long as it’s not overdone. If a follower looks at your stream and sees all these automated tweets from services, they may be turned off from the lack of personal content. Just keep in mind: Does everyone else really need to read this?
DM responsibly. Nothing grinds my gears like someone who DMs you after you follow them with a message to say thank you. DMs are for personal conversations and not spamvertising your followers with unnecessary, non-personal messages. Another common mistake I see on Twitter is people asking people to DM them if they’re not following that person. The only way to DM a person is if they’re following you. Likewise, if you DM someone, make sure you follow them back so they can respond to your message.
Broadcast only. Some Twitter users only post things about themselves. Twitter is about engaging users, and if there’s only a one-way conversation happening, it can get boring fast. Even broadcasters and organizations running accounts should respond to people. It sends a message that you care about the user and that you’re willing to openly communicate about your topic. A company should be an example and retweet and respond to things not only about the company or person, but about its industry. For example, if I were representing a tech company, I’d retweet and respond to things about my industry by talking about the processor or graphics company that supports me.
#Hashtag overload. Hashtags are a way for users to tag tweets based on a category or description. This allows for extra exposure when people are searching for those tags on Twitter. It’s fine to tag a tweet with a relative hashtag, but it’s a little overboard when you fill your tweet with these tags. As a general rule of thumb, I don’t usually create more than two hashtags per tweet. It’s also okay not to tag every single tweet with a hashtag; it can add more noise to your timeline than necessary.
CAN YOU SEE MY TWEET NOW THAT I’M TALKING IN ALL CAPS? This one I have to throw in here because it can be very annoying and is an instant unfollow for me. When your tweet is 100% caps, it adds noise and makes you look like a little kid who is yelling for attention. I’m not saying that sometimes specific words can’t be all caps; I’m talking about the majority of your tweets and messages containing all caps.
U n33d 2 not use 1337 speak. It may be acceptable in text messaging, but your followers don’t want to sit there and decode your message for it to say hello and ask how you are. Use your words — the words you used in school to properly write and talk — you can take the extra second to type out what you’re thinking. It’s okay to shorten things like corporation to corp, for instance, but be reasonable.
Protected accounts are such a drag. Having a protected account is like being in public and writing in a foreign language that only the people who you’ve blessed with the cipher can decode. In some ways it can be good for security-conscious people who want to regulate who can see their tweets. If you only want to communicate with just a select few friends, having a protected account it great. It’s like having a group chat that is secret to everyone but those who you want in your group. If you’re more public about your tweets, it would be better to make your account private. Some people argue that having a private account is safe, but in all reality, if you want to be safe online, don’t ever post anything you don’t want coming back to haunt you later — in supposed “privacy” or not.
In conclusion, and to generalize these tips, think of Twitter as a huge conversation of millions and millions of people, but you only look pay attention to those who you find interesting. Twitter is not a one-way conversation, but goes back and forth. Twitter is public and businesses are utilizing it to check in on their employees. So the hilarious conversation about a coworker that could be embarrassing to the company or the person could turn out poorly. So be careful!
What may be appropriate for one setting might not be for the next. Be sure to pick and choose your words wisely; I know that I’ve reworded and just completely thrown out tweets because they didn’t work to convey what I was trying to convey. As an added rule of thumb, be very — and I mean very — cautious with NSFW (not safe for work) sharing on Twitter.