Twitter CupcakesHaving spent more time on Twitter of late, I’ve been noticing a few people, companies and organisations making rookie mistakes, that I sometimes take for granted as being obvious. Okay, the first part of that is a blatant lie. I’m not on any more than I’ve been for the past two years, but the latter half of that statement remains the same. More and more people are using Twitter and other social networking tools (could this mean it’s about to peak and then begin to decline as Facebook is beginning to do? That’s for another post…), which is a good thing, however learning the best ways to use these tools is also important, especially if you want to achieve a positive return.

To aid in this, I’m going to state the obvious, or what should be obvious if you are going to be the voice of a company/organisation or self-promotion.

1. Have an avatar
Even if I have heard of you/your organisation/company, I am less likely to follow you back or take you seriously if all I see is a wee Twitter bird where your face or logo should be.

2. Tell me who you are
I would like to see a real name and a link to either a personal blog/site or your company’s. This show’s me that you’re real, what you’re about and helps me decide whether or not you might be someone who I would benefit from following back.

3. Spacing
If you have a personal account and manage a company or organisations account – PLEASE do not tweet from them simultaneously.  Chances are you are bombarding your followers with the same message twice and by doing this, you are decreasing the amount of people seeing your post. Most Twitter platforms have the ability to schedule tweets, USE IT! Put out the original tweet and schedule you’re other account to RT it at least 20 mins later or even later in the day.

This also applies to RTing and RTing within an organisation. I once followed a man who has magazine company. This company has at least four twitter accounts for different areas. Said man would tweet something, then instantly RT from his other company twitter accounts. I was receiving the same message 4 or 5 times in a row! Then colleagues I might be following would RT as well. Epic fail in my opinion and I had to unfollow most of them and just stick to the main Twitter feed.

Side note: I do believe this has been slightly rectified with some in-house social media training.

4. ReTweeting yourself
There are times when it is acceptable to RT yourself and times it’s not. Some basic rules to follow are:
a. Don’t do it often
b. Don’t RT every single user that #FollowFriday’s you
c. If you don’t adhere to the first two, then please at least don’t RT them all in succession. This past week I had to unfollow a lovely place b/c they RT’d almost 15, FIFTEEN, #FollowFriday mentions in a matter of minutes.

5. foursquare
foursquare is a great tool and has unlimited possibilities for its potential. Yay foursquare! However, it’s good to know that when you set it up, you can choose to have your settings set to only post to Twitter (and Facebook) when you choose.

So basically this means you should check in until you can’t check in anymore – just don’t post every single check in to Twitter. I could probably care less that you just walked from the train station to Burger King, and I’m probably not going to meet you there for a milkshake.

A bit off topic thought on foursquare: Don’t put your home down as a place to check in. If you do this, people will have access to the GPS coordinates of your home. If you do, please don’t then complain about foursquare not being safe and people being able to use it to rob you when you are out and about. This is where common sense is still needed.

6. KISS
Keep It Simple Stupid. Twitter is a great tool, however, it is not meant (in my opinion) to be an instant messaging (IM) tool, such as MSN Messenger, gChat, Skype etc. 140 characters are there to keep updates simple and enable micro-blogging.

Please limit your @ replies with other users to three replies. Anymore than this and you begin to infiltrate your followers streams, with often a conversation they don’t care about or understand. Whether they are following lots of people or very few, it begins to clog up their stream and becomes annoying.

This also applies to making personal plans. Back & forths about who to meet, where & what time should be reserved for DMs, IMs or emails.

If this is the case in your Twitter stream, it is okay to unfollow people. Your stream should be relevant to your needs and people shouldn’t be offended by this. Often you can unfollow people who hold massive discussions and still read their tweets by following a list that they might be a part of.

If I have unfollowed you recently, this may be why, and I am still probably following you through a list instead.

7. Pride cometh before a fall
There is a fine line between confident and cocky. As an American living in Britain, this line is even smaller, since American confidence and optimism is often mistaken as cocky, but again, that’s another story.

Achieve a success – sure – share! By all means, but do you cross the line? Should you constantly tell everyone how good you are? Surely if you are as good as you are telling everyone you are, then your work should speak for itself and others will be sharing it on your behalf.

8. Arse Kissing
There seems to be a habit of over congratulating and ego boosting. I’m all about optimism, paying it forward and compliments, but sometimes enough is enough and other times, constructive criticism is needed. Just because we share a city/job sector/common interest and are both on Twitter, does not mean that I need to join a clique that loves your product when I’m not a fan.

Too many groups begin to form and sometimes this makes other users feel obligated to join in; to join in to fit in. Then, and I believe this has been mentioned before by Craig McGill (If you can’t say something nice…), if someone decides to go against the group and publicly announce this, they are shunned and of course, it’s taken personally – then the fangirls and fanboys jump on and chastise them for being mean.

We should reserve the right to speak our minds and share how we feel about something without having to worry about our follower count. Integrity – where would we really be without it.

Disclaimer: I know from time to time I too break these guidelines. No one’s perfect and nothing is applicable 100% of the time.

In the end I hope that this somewhat harsh sounding blog post has helped at least one person starting out on Twitter or hoping to learn a little bit more of twitter etiquette or best practice. I’ve learned I should blog more so everything doesn’t sound like a rant!

Did I miss anything? What would you share with others as Twitter usage best practice?