Twitter Etiquette: What are the Rules? Here's 21 to Consider

Twitter Etiquette: What are the Rules? Here’s 21 to Consider

As a social media marketer and consultant, I’ve been using Twitter since 2008 and have seen Twitter’s evolution. But some things stay the same, such as old-fashioned manners. Thus, my attempt to teach you all the rules of Twitter etiquette that I have learned over the years. Twitter is a special place, so as long as you treat people with respect, it will work in your favor. On the other hand, there’s an old saying that what you say on the Internet never goes away, even if you delete it. Don’t mess it up.

What You Tweet

This category of Twitter etiquette rules revolves around what you actually say on Twitter. In other words, as you compose the body of your Tweet (not tags) what should you think about? Not everything is helpful or advisable.

Further Reading: 7 Insanely Effective Ways How to Write Tweets that Drive Traffic

1. Watch what you tweet.

You may not think that anyone is listening, but Twitter is being monitored by lots of services and people, so you never know what might get you into trouble. Recent high-profile account suspensions have made this clearer than ever. Plus, bad Tweets can hurt your job prospects: 51% of employers review social media profiles of candidates before the interview. You might want to not swear as well ;-)

2. Keep it short and sweet.

Twitter etiquette punishes long-winded Tweets. Although Twitter expanded from 140 to 280 characters, it still is a platform for short-form content. Don’t feel like you need to go over 140 characters. Those extra characters are great for a few extra hashtags. But nobody likes long-winded Tweets in the long run. Remember, the longer it takes you to say something, the more likely that people will miss the point.

3. Don’t just talk about yourself.

While most people talk about themselves occasionally, you should never overdo it. If you want to be followed by others, share content above and beyond your own and become a “channel” that others tune into. That’s why I share a ton of curated content on Twitter.

4. Stay positive. 

It’s easy to want to complain about anything and everything on Twitter, but its best to refrain as much as possible from complaining. Save most of your complaints for the customer service aspects of Twitter, where brands WANT to hear how they can do better. Otherwise, too much negativity can cost you followers and engagement. Who wants to be around an angry person all the time?

Using Hashtags

Hashtags in social media originated with Twitter. But that doesn’t excuse you from considering Twitter etiquette. It’s possible to apply hashtags in ways that undermine your overall message, or that result in your Tweets getting buried. Neither of these outcomes are beneficial.

5. Don’t over-hashtag.

If you put too many hashtags in your Tweets, then it looks like you’re spamming people. As in, competing for too many places in search or the feed. And this breach of Twitter etiquette works against you. Studies have shown that if you put more than 3 hashtags in your Tweets, it can drop your engagement by 17%.

6. Do use hashtags to classify your tweet.

If you want your tweet to be found for a keyword that is not included in your tweet, add the hashtag. You can also add them to be included in an ongoing discussion if the Tweet is useful to that thread. Finally, add branded hashtags (or #sponsored) as appropriate.

This should go without saying, but there are some who see a trending hashtag and want to promote their own product or service to a larger audience by simply adding that hashtag to your irrelevant tweet. Don’t do that, unless you want to make a LOT of people angry at you. Worse yet you could get reported and have your Twitter account restricted.

Further Reading: 6 Reasons Why Your Twitter Account May Be Restricted (Without Your Knowing It)

Tweet Frequency 

How often you need to Tweet for certain results is often a hot topic. On the one hand, you don’t want to break Twitter etiquette by appearing to spam people. On the other hand, frequent Tweets are key to getting and keeping followers.

8. It’s OK to tweet a lot.

Do a search for your competitors, and so long as you don’t tweet as frequently as they do, you’re cool. This is especially true with top competitors in terms of Twitter followers. After all, if they sent too many Tweets people might go elsewhere. Nobody likes to be bombarded all the time. Quality over quantity.

ReTweeting

Admittedly, ReTweeting is a delicate area of Twitter etiquette. On the one hand, you want to share the best Tweets from other people. On the other hand, you don’t want to overdo it or make that other person feel like you’re copying them.

9. Don’t be afraid to ReTweet.

That is, if you want to share someone’s content with your followers. It is not rude to retweet. In fact, Retweeting is one of the most respected functionalities within twitter. And if it happens to someone’s Tweet enough times, they can become highly influential.

10. Add your perspective to a ReTweet.

Sometimes we just want to press that ReTweet button, but it’s always more respectful to the original tweeter AND valuable to your audience when you quote a tweet and add your perspective. You can do anything from disagreeing with the original author to carrying their point further. And yes, even humor is welcome in certain situations.

Liking Tweets

As with other social media platforms, liking a Twitter post helps the author’s engagement rate. If nothing else, it indicates that what they have to say is worthwhile. But this segment of Twitter etiquette also helps people find the best content-if it’s done properly.

11. Like other people’s tweets.

Especially when you want to send them a social signal or save the tweet for later. For instance, “likes” can help brands and influencers find each other for partnerships. Similarly, a “like” can help a customer find a great offer later, when they have time to browse the website. For consultants like myself, the “like” can help nurture a prospective client.

12. Don’t like your own tweet. What is the purpose?

Like talking about yourself too much, liking your own Tweets can make you look self-absorbed. Of course you like your own Tweets. Why advertise it? Besides which, this doesn’t make any kind of positive difference for your Tweet, besides upping the “likes” by one. This is rarely going to impress someone.

Mentioning Others in Tweets

Since nobody likes gossip or idle water cooler talk, Twitter etiquette requires some care when mentioning other users. Some Tweets could be seen as attacks and get you sanctioned on Twitter. But short of that, there needs to be a reason why you want someone to read your Tweet.

13. Don’t mention random people in tweets in hopes that they recognize or follow you.

While Twitter is an open platform meaning that you can tweet at anyone and show up in their notifications, it doesn’t mean that they will respond to you. If you want to develop a relationship with them, start by sharing and commenting on their content. Otherwise, you’re just spamming them.

Sliding into the DM 

Direct messaging someone on Twitter is like emailing them at their personal account. This means that a level of discretion is necessary to preserve proper Twitter etiquette. To that end, you should be careful about who you DM and when you do it.

14. Don’t DM someone until you’ve built rapport with or know them. 

You don’t want to be the spammy advertiser that annoys people with constant DMs. Speaking from a user’s perspective, I’d be more likely to either ignore or block someone who does this too much. And remember to avoid their brand if possible. On the other hand, if I know you then it’s nice to get a DM that stays off of the public forum.

Receiving Mentions from Others

Having someone Mention you has its own Twitter etiquette implications. After all, Mentions on Twitter are similar to someone calling your name in a meeting, or even on the street. Therefore, you need to know how to properly respond to that call.

15. Reply to @mentions that are personally addressed to you.

There’s no question that you should respond to Mentions whenever possible. This is especially true of brands, since 53% of users who tweet a brand hope to get a response back within an hour. With brands, this is an important concern, especially since people often Tweet them in frustration. You don’t have to respond so quickly if you’re not a business, but you also don’t want to ignore it for too long.

16. Don’t be afraid to block inappropriate people.

There are lots of people (and bots) of all kinds on Twitter, so if you feel like someone is being inappropriate, block them, and, if appropriate, report them to Twitter. As the saying goes, don’t feed the trolls. In other words, if people are being negative and annoying, ignore them. You end up protecting yourself and the community in the process.

Following and Unfollowing

Knowing when and how to follow people is critical to achieving your objectives on Twitter. It’s also part of Twitter etiquette, because you don’t want to ruin your reputation through bad behavior.

17. Don’t follow just to unfollow. 

OK, this can be bad on several different levels. It’s true that you will occasionally follow someone, then something makes you unfollow them later. Things change. But don’t follow people with the intention of unfollowing them. It’ll throw off their analytics and yours. Plus, in certain circumstances it can hurt your credibility or make someone think you have an agenda.

18. Do follow back people if they are relevant to your objective for being on Twitter.  

Relevance can come in many forms. For instance, as a brand you’ll want to follow thought leaders within your industry or client industries. Another common reason to follow someone back is if they’re an influencer. This way, you can interact with their content and build rapport. Later, you might ask them for a collaboration.

19. Do follow people whose content you’d like to appear in your timeline.

This Twitter etiquette tip is one of the more obvious. Following someone results in at least some of their content being posted on your timeline. This makes it easy to see what they’re saying throughout the day. Of course, they don’t have to be exclusively industry leaders. Users you’re following back might be great sources of curated content and inspiration.

Further Reading: Twitter Followers vs Following: What is the Ideal Ratio?

Automation

Believe it or not, Twitter etiquette also touches on the use of automation. Not everything that’s automated is spammy. In fact, these days much of it isn’t. When used properly, especially when you have a lot of evergreen tweets to share, automation is a great tool for busy Twitter users.

20. Don’t set it and forget it.

There are times where you might need to jump in and pause your tweets, like when there are national crises events. Just look at what happened last year when people’s travel plans got cancelled due to COVID-19 and millions lost their jobs. A lot of marketers had to pivot very quickly.

21. Do schedule tweets in advance.

This frees up time to engage with others on Twitter. Plus, scheduling Tweets lets you send out content in the middle of the night and catch different segments of your audience. Not everyone is on California time-or any other time zone for that matter. Besides which, you can schedule a whole bunch of Tweets at the same time.

Further Reading: The Best 15 Twitter Tools for Marketing

Now go out there and be a good Twitizen!

Like most other forums, Twitter has rules for proper use. Some of these are in the Terms of Service, while others are social graces. Following those rules helps improve your overall brand image and effectiveness. Hope that these Twitter etiquette tips help you develop stronger relationships and more business on Twitter!

Hero photo by Souvik Banerjee on Unsplash

Unless you're an experienced Twitter user, it can be a strange place. Read this post on 21 Twitter etiquette rules so you don't make mistakes
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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.
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