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4 Twitter Etiquette Tips to Use Right Away

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Like learning a new language, mastering Twitter isn’t just a matter of learning key terms. It’s also about understanding the culture in which these terms are used.

I am often asked the following four questions about Twitter culture and etiquette. Take my answers and apply them to what you and your business do when you tweet.

1. Should I follow every one who follows me?

Think of Twitter “follows” as valentine cards at grade school. You don’t want to be the person who gets all the valentines but gives none in return. Know why? Because it isn’t social — and you’re engaging on social media when you’re on Twitter. Being “cool” was fine in school — but on Twitter it really only works for celebrities. (I’m still waiting in vain for Lenny Kravitz to follow me back.)

Take a moment to look at the follower’s profile. Does she have a profile photo? Is it PG rated? Does she have a seemingly normal bio? Then show her your “social side” and follow her back.

When I tell this to my students and clients they bristle with, “But I don’t really want to read what she has to say.”

Ouch. Here’s the deal: you’re on Twitter, the greatest social listening tool on the planet. Want to know who loves vegan cupcakes? Buys purple eye shadow? Is renting a one bedroom apartment in Boston? Your answers can be had by listening to and searching for appropriate discussions. The best way to systematically look for these relevant discussions is to create saved searches and Twitter lists.

If your business is on a hunt for those vegan cupcake lovers, saved searches will help you wade through Justin Bieber squeals and reflections on coffee to concentrate on the terms that are most meaningful to you.

With Twitter lists, you can divide your listening of followers by categories. A real estate agent on Twitter might divide his followers up by “local folks,” “vendors and contractors,” “former clients,” “coworkers,” and “competitors.” When he needs to engage with former clients, he can simply click on that respective list and begin listening — without interference from coworkers, contractors, or anyone else he’s followed or established a list for on Twitter.

So yes — in most cases, give a reciprocal “follow” to be social. Then use saved searches and Twitter lists to listen to them only when appropriate. (I’ve created tutorials on searches and lists on YouTube to get you started.)

2. When I follow a new person, I often get a direct message from that person that tells me to follow them on Facebook or go to their blog. What’s that? Should I do that with my Twitter account?

That message is called an automatic direct message (an “auto DM”). Many Twitter apps provide this functionality so that users can tell their new followers about their other online channels.

This type of automation flies in the face of social etiquette. If I just met you at a conference, I wouldn’t immediately ask you to come with me to my office or home. That invitation would most likely happen once we got to know each other and mutual trust and respect were established.

The same rule applies on Twitter. Let your tweets gently hint at the great content you have on your Facebook page, blog, or other social channel. If your new follower finds the content there of value, he will check it out on his own accord.

3. Do I have to answer every reply or mention I get?

My sweet Lenny Kravitz has over four million followers. It would be nearly impossible for him to answer all the tweets that include @lennykravitz.

If your follower base is in the millions, I’d say it’s not worth your time to reply each time your username is mentioned on Twitter. If your base is substantially smaller, chances are mentions of you will be correspondingly fewer. So take the time to be social and engage with those who’ve taken the time to find your username and put it in their tweet.

4. If someone retweets something I posted, how should I respond?

If your posts are getting retweeted, congrats! That means that you are sharing messages of value on Twitter.

Try these two ways to give thanks to those who’ve taken the time to share your tweet (and thus give you extra exposure). The quickest way to give someone thanks is to “favorite” their retweet of your message. The favorite function is usually indicated with a star icon either underneath or to the right of a particular tweet.


Example of how to favorite a retweet on Twitter

If you wish to give a more personal thanks, send a direct message to that person. Again, don’t use the DM to tell the retweeter to check out your other stuff. Just use the message to send a meaningful thanks for the extra legs that person gave your tweet.

What other Twitter culture questions would you like me to answer for you? Ask me in the comments section! 

Headline Photo: iStockphoto

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