To Tweet or not to Tweet

Recently, a twitter follower and work associate, @lawryn_m, of mine posted a link to an article, “Three Things You Shouldn’t Tweet“. I read the article and found myself guilty at one point or another of all three. But I have to say, while these are (decent) guidelines for companies or strictly-business people, I don’t think they should apply to the majority of tweeters. To be fair, if you are constantly updating your current location or whining about one thing or another, your followers are going to get annoyed. BUT, above all, I think it’s important to BE REAL. People respond best when they know they’re talking to a real person, not getting some filtered comment that was run through a PR agency before making it to Twitter.

Here’s a little something I came up with a few months ago on my personal Twitter policy. Check it out below.

For businesses, twitter is like advertising by word-of-mouth. It’s more of a community than a traditional advertising campaign. People on Twitter want to get to know you personally, not just what your business can do for them. This is great because you can establish customer loyalty by getting to know them. It allows your business to have a mom-and-pop feel with the customer range of a big corporation.

I like to think of Twitter in two analogies:

1) Twitter is like walking into a cocktail party. You probably know a few people there, but most of them you’ve never seen. Since it’s a party, it’s perfectly acceptable to go up to someone and start a conversation with them. This is how you get to know them on Twitter. The only difference is, you can target your Twitter friends by reading their interests and seeing who they follow, making it easier to decide who to start conversations with.

• Target people using search words related to your business, location, or interests

• It’s perfectly acceptable to respond to the tweet of someone you don’t know. This is actually appreciated!

2) Twitter is like a neighborhood. Once you have established some connections, you want to stop by and say hi to everybody, keep up with what they’re doing, help them promote their projects and expect to be promoted in return. Most people on Twitter will be good neighbors if you are one too!

Great ways to act neighborly include:

• Retweeting a tweet you liked (“RT” or “via”)

• Mentioning or CCing someone in a tweet @theirtwitterhandle

• Sending someone a Direct Message (great if you are exchanging several messages or a “welcome new follower” message)

• Follow Friday (FF): Mentioning a handful of people on any Friday that you think others should follow, show of appreciation

• Follow back. Someone took the time to follow your updates. If they aren’t a spammer, a “quote bot”, or tweet in a language you don’t understand, show some love and follow them back.

How to write good tweets:

Is it informative, funny or conversational? If not, don’t tweet it.

If you can, always post a link (use a URL shortener like or if your application doesn’t do it automatically)

Use hashtags and descriptors that can be searched for easily

I have a thousand million followers and follow just as many! How do I keep my tweets organized?

Lists. I’m a big believer in lists. I have a list of people I know personally that I keep up with (this is especially helpful for friends and family who don’t tweet often and would otherwise be lost in the flood of tweets). I also have a list of people I chat with often on Twitter (usually you end up on this list if you have ever mentioned me in a tweet.) and a handful of lists related to topics that interest me.

• Use a desktop application. I use TweetDeck, the app that organizes all your lists, tweets, searches, etc into separate columns and sends you alerts via Growl when you receive new tweets from specific lists or people. I’ve also used Tweetie and Twhirl in the past, which are a little less complex and fairly user-friendly.

Tweet via text. This may seem a little old school, but I love receiving text messages every time someone mentions me on Twitter. It allows me to respond quickly and to carry on a conversation I might otherwise miss. Sometimes it can lead to trouble, though, as you have to manually type the person’s twitter handle (potential for typos), and you can’t see their profile when you respond.  Sign up to receive tweets via text on the settings page of your profile on the Twitter homepage.

Go forth and tweet!

Obviously these are just guidelines, and you don’t have to follow them to a T(weet). Use your judgment; everybody breaks the rules now and again, but I think the one rule you should follow all the time is to BE REAL. Twitter is about creating personal relationships with people you’d never otherwise be able to connect with. So go forth, make friends and tweet!

Another good blog post about twitter: Ted’s Twitter Follow-Back Policy