Twitter Etiquette: Do’s and Don’ts For Your Twitter Behavior

The big difference between making a mis-step in the social media environment and in the old-world communication environment is reach. Tweet the “wrong thing” online and literally millions of people may see it. Worse yet, by the time you “take it back” it could already be too late. While there may be a remedy soon – twitter insurance – companies may pay up to $100,000 for a $10-million policy to protect them from loss and liability.

While most of our mis-steps, hopefully, won’t rise to that level of risk, watching what we do in the twittersphere is important. It’s not necessarily intuitive and there are some “little things” that may not get you into trouble, but might mark you as an amateur or simply be considered “poor form.”

I do think it’s good to “try things” and I often use my own social media accounts specifically for that purpose. But, some recent experiences with a new client pointed to a variety of minor issues that made me cringe a bit. Ultimately, of course, it’s the client’s site and up to them how they wish to be perceived. Here’s some of the advice I offered:

  • Think before you tweet. Some people are braver about sharing their personal opinions-however controverial-online, and some people are purposefully creating an “edgy brand.” For others, though, sometimes it pays to think twice before hitting that “tweet” button. Sure you can “delete a tweet,” but not necessarily before it’s been read, retweeted or made a potentially negative impact.
  • Exhorting or begging your followers to retweet you as in a post like this: “Come on! when is somebody going to retweet me!” In terms of requesting retweets, there opinions on both sides, even when requests are done one-to-one. But, to ask the entire list of followers to do this, particularly without giving them a reason (e.g. contest or something) can be problematic.
  • Retweeting your own retweets. Retweets are highly valued, of course, but you don’t want to look quite so desperate or self-serving.
  • Similarly, watch comments like: “You seem to be the only one RTing us these days…” Again, this just doesn’t send a strong message about the value of your content. Bottom line: Retweets are organic and based on your followers’ perceptions of the value of your tweets. You basically *earn* retweets – they’ll come eventually as you learn more about the type of content/info that your followers respond to. It’s an iterative process. You can “turn off” followers by appearing to be too “needy” or self-serving. (Tools like can help you identify who yu may be turning off by letting you know who has “un-followed” you.)
  • Offering to “buy” tweets, blogs or favorable comments in general. This is the most egregious “oops” in my opinion. If you’re not familiar with them already, and you do any type of self-promotion online, it’s worth checking out the FTC guidelines related to online endorsements.

The actual *types* of potentially personally (or professionally) damaging behaviors that you might exhibit online are really no different than the behaviors that impact you in the “real world.” Except for one very important distinction-your face-to-face faux paus (and even your email whoopsies) don’t have the potential for such broad distribution.  Just ask such high profile tweeters as Gilbert Gottfried.

Be careful out there!

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