The Do’s and Don’ts of Twitter

Twitter has become one of the best ways to spread the word about your new business and increase exposure across markets. With such a flexible tool, it's easy to abuse such a strategy and consequently turn its power against you. Of course there are no Twitter speed limits, yield signs, or stoplights to control the speed and accuracy of your social media campaign. But as for any newly developed open market, there is a natural etiquette that emerges and continues to grow.

I've compiled a list of Do's and Don'ts from my own experience that may help in growing your follower crowd. Slackers be warned: this is not a get rich quick scheme. If you're looking to grab several thousand followers in a day and don't care who you pick up along the way (spam, robots, etc.) then there are tools out there for you. The following list is how to attract valuable followers that could potentially become customers. This "helicopter tour" list can grow and morph with time, so I encourage feedback and input.

Do

  • Follow relevant people.

Maintain your "following" list to include users of interest. You can determine if a user is relevant based on their Twitter feed. Also, it's okay to follow people you don't know. A percentage of these people will follow you back because they monitor their follows and may be interested in what you have to offer.

  • Watch your follower's tweets.

People like to see Twitter used as a platform for open conversation. As such, your follower's tweets should be of interest to you, whether you wish to @ reply, retweet, or direct message in response. Easy ways to monitor tweets include using a third party client such as TweetDeck. The more you monitor, the stronger the connection you can build between you and your potential customers.

  • Pay close attention to @ mentions and Direct Messages.

If someone mentions you (public) or direct messages you (private), it means they're thinking about you (or using an annoying bot to auto respond to a follow). This is good news. Knowing when this happens opens the door for more direct and useful communication.

  • Respond to important @ mentions and Direct Messages.

Not all mentions or messages are important to respond to. If you have thousands of followers that tweet about you all the time, this can be even more difficult. Identify key mentions and messages, and respond. Examples of criteria include shared customer complaints, praises, and questions.

  • Pay close attention to your keyword search.

Services like TweetDeck allow you to have panels that monitor certain keywords, such as your company name, so you can keep track of what people say about your company. You can also do this by logging out of the Twitter web interface and using their search. This search not only mines tweets with @ mentions, but also looks at the inline text and condensed url's.

  • Customize and personalize your profile.

Use your Twitter profile as another face for your company. Use your logo as your avatar, type a brief description of what you do or simply your tagline as your bio, and include your location. You may also customize your design settings by uploading a background image and editing the color palette to match your own site. People want to know that you're real, not a robot.

  • Mind the gap between "Following" and "Followers."

You don't want to seem desperate. Desperation can easily be equated with low quality. If you go in the negative (following more users than are following you), make sure it's only by a small percentage of your total followers. If at all possible, you want to have a positive ratio of followers to following.

  • Use #hashtags wisely.

Hashtags are a great way to get your tweets noticed by people that aren't already following you. Choose hashtags specific to your tweet and your overall goal.

  • Provide relevant and useful information.

Whether it's your own blog posts, company pictures, product development updates, or industry related retweets, the more useful and helpful your information is, the more people will be likely to follow you. Too often people just tweet what they're thinking or feeling without considering whether anyone else cares. Does your big toe hurt? Don't just tweet it just because you think it. Tweeting takes only a few seconds, but you should spend more time than that making sure your followers will care.

Don't

  • Become a "follow-spammer."

A follow-spammer is someone who follows anyone and everyone in order to get people to follow him or her back. This may produce a high number of followers, but followers that are of no value to you. Additionally, such a method is generally frowned upon by the larger community and will hurt your overall image, decreasing the likelihood that potential customers will follow you.

  • Use an automated "follow back" service.

If you use such a service, you will end up following spam bots (non-valuable machines) and follow-spammers (non-valuable humans). You don't want these in your following repertoire.

  • Set up automatic "thank you" DMs.

Automated messages that thank your followers for following you can easily work against you. No one likes to feel like a number. If you want to thank people, do it yourself.

  • Tweet excessively.

No one likes to see his or her feed consumed by one person, especially when it's useless information. Make sure all your tweets are quality and aren't too frequent.

  • Solely promote.

Twitter is a community tool, not simply an advertising board. If all you post is advertisements and promotions, you will likely see your followers hop off the bandwagon.

There's no overnight method that will grab all of your valuable followers, but if you're willing to work at it and play by the growing market etiquette, then tweet away.

Zach is a senior digital strategist, combining client-focused business acumen with creative digital ideas. He helps bring on new clients and ensures their success, including Discovery Channel, ESPN, Dick's Sporting Goods, and POLITICO.

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