10 Essential Twitter Etiquette Tips

Twitter

Yes, Frends, there is such a thing as Twitter etiquette, and whether you're a complete newbie or a Twitter addict, there's a good chance you're making a few mistakes (socially speaking). Every online community has unwritten rules of usage and/or proper behavior, and using proper etiquette on Twitter will keep you from being blocked, booed, or banned.

Instead of learning things the hard way like I did, you can check out this list of 10 tips on Twitter etiquette that I've come up with during my time on the service. A lot of them are common sense and apply to other areas of life, too (much less other social networking sites). I hope you find them useful.

  1. Don't plagiarize:

    If you see an interesting tweet, regardless of whether or not it's from someone you're following or a random post you found online, don't try to pass it off as your own, that's bad Twitter etiquette. Like most web-based communities, Twitter self-polices itself very well, and naughty boys and girls are made examples of swiftly and surely.

    Make things easier on yourself and retweet (you may have seen it written as "RT" on Twitter) your find for proper attribution. Not only will the original poster be thankful, but it also helps make you part of the community.


  2. Easy on the tweets:

    Unless you're churning out consistently interesting links, useful information, or insights into your soul, you should keep your tweet stream to a sane amount every day. Believe me, no one wants to hear about the 5 times you went to the bathroom or learn that the reason why you're going so much is because of the big lunch you had at the mobile burrito truck (there's a reason they're called a "roach coach", kids).

    Something along the lines of a half dozen or so tweets is probably good if they're of the "blah blah blah, pay attention to me" variety, but there's no hard/fast rule about this. If you're pumping out 30-40 interesting tweets a day you're not going to have much, if anything, to worry about.

  3. Too many links, whether sausage or website, aren't good for you:

    It's very tempting to add more than one URL when posting, but try not to. Any more than 1 link, maybe 2, is begging for confusion in your 140 characters (and for the love of Pete, use a URL shortener like Bitly). If you have multiple links you should think about splitting them up into multiple tweets.

  4. Let us know you're joking:

    Written communication like tweets, IM's, and email can't convey the subtle inflections that the spoken word can. If you're trying to be humorous make sure to let people know it by adding a smiley face ":)", an "LOL", or a well placed "j/k". Remember that the written word always reads about 3 times more harsh to others than it does to you and re-tool your content appropriately.

  5. Get to know your followers:

    You'll have a much bigger impact on your followers if you can find out what makes them tick, learn their (online) personalities, and deliver the content, information, or entertainment they want. The only way you'll do this is by listening to what they have to say in their tweets, their blog posts, etc.

    By all means jump into the pool with the rest of the Twitter community, but once you're in the water wade in the shallow end for a while until you get a good feel for how the rest of the folks are swimming. You don't want to belly flop your first time out.

  6. Know when (and when not) to DM:

    Direct messages are a great way to send someone information you don't want publicly available like a phone number or private email address. DM's tend to feel more personal, too, so be sure to not abuse your followers with too many messages. No one wants a stalker. And resist the urge to use an auto-DMing service since they're really easy to detect and it's usually thought of as spammy, and is a huge no-no in the realm of Twitter etiquette.

  7. One message = one tweet:

    Your followers are more than likely going to be hit with a lot of tweets during the course of a day from the group of people they follow. Don't unnecessarily add to the mix by re-posting the same tweet multiple times in a short period of time. It's rude, it's spammy, and it's a waste of everyone's time.

  8. Keep private things on the DL:

    Throwing a naughty little soirée with some friends? Making plans for a special date with your significant other? Maybe you're organizing a get together for after-work drinks with your co-workers to talk trash about the new HR Director? Great! But don't spill too many details on Twitter, otherwise you just might open the door for a real buzzkill by having unwelcome party crashers show up. Tweetups are one thing, but make sure you want to actually have an open invitation out there before you tweet about it.

  9. Would you want your grandma to read your tweet?:

    Even if you have a protected profile, you still have followers who read your tweets, and those people can copy+paste what you write in an email. Never post anything you wouldn't want a beloved family member, your boss, or a local sheriff to read.

    Examples of things to keep on the QT are embarrassingly graphic details of your love life, the who's who of your KOS list (those of you who PVP in online games know what I'm talkin' 'bout), or especially what you think of your boss or your job. Things posted online live forever, and there's no way to take them back. Ever.

  10. Not everyone will read (or follow) this list of Twitter etiquette tips:

    You should know by now that the Internet is chock-a-block full of idiots, naysayers, and contrarians. Don't get spun up by their posts and then sucked into a flame war because they're a nut looking to get a rise out of someone. Either ignore them or block them. Problem solved, and you don't look like just as big an idiot for falling prey to their brand of crazy.

That's it. Ten simple rules to make your life on Twitter easier. For the most part you can consider these Twitter etiquette tips more of a guideline than actual rules of the road and of course they can be fudged a bit every now and again, but be careful when doing so. The last thing you want is to be That Guy (or girl) and find yourself in the hot seat by something you do or say.

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