Tweetiquette - a roundup of ideas, attitudes and opinions, plus, our Top Ten Tweeting Tips

Twitter - sophisticated branding tool or simple, social-networking toy?

Ask President Obama, CNN, Martha Stewart or Ashton Kutcher and you'll hear a resounding "Yes" on the branding tool front. But ask a group of savvy twenty-somethings and be prepared for a gruff reply along the lines of: "It's just a toy." Surprisingly, the 'text-generation' often tends to be dismissive of Twitter's usefulness for anything more than staying in touch with one's inner circle.

Certainly two of the biggest factors driving Twitter's success are the fact that it's free and easily accessible. Just by joining, you create your own micro-blog, instantly. You also gain immediate access to fellow-members' postings - in Twitter parlance, you select the people or even the publications, you want to "follow." Choose your friends, colleagues, Vanity Fair, even Oprah!

Is Twitter the ultimate networking service? Let's just say that the jury's still out. Meanwhile, Twitter traffic is increasing. About three weeks ago, when Oprah posted her first "tweet", Twitter reported an immediate increase of 40% more traffic. Obviously, to keep things moving we need some guidelines - not roadblocks and motorcycle cops - just some sensible ideas to maintain and build the flow.

So, in the interest of Twitterers everywhere, we conducted a survey to measure what constitutes major infractions and what are simple, minor offences, barely worthy of a traffic ticket. Not surprisingly, just like highway drivers, Twitterers have no patience with "road hogs" - but we're getting ahead of ourselves. Read the entire survey here Tweetiquette Survey.

First things first - tweetiquette is evolving. Today, there are clearly defined boundaries for cell phone usage that simply didn't exist twenty years ago. Conversely, the code of behaviour called table manners has relaxed considerably since Victorian times. The ebb and flow of etiquette is constantly changing as people interact with one another.

Try Googling 'Twitter etiquette' and you'll be inundated with material. Then why, you're asking, do we need more rules? Our goal was to talk to the people - enthusiastic, mainstream Twitterers - to uncover what's really going on. And yes, there were some naysayers, folks who think Twitter will, or should police itself. Overall, there were so many ideas and suggestions that all indications are that it's time to update the existing, unofficial guidelines and provide some simple-to-follow dos and don'ts - the basis of our Top Ten Tweeting Tips.

One of the biggest bones of contention, according to our survey, is typos. Critics say the 140 character format is so small and manageable, there's no excuse for sloppy spelling or grammatical errors. Others contend that messages are often sent from mobile phones - the keys are tiny, the text is small, and the sender is often multi-tasking. This group maintains that it's the content that counts. For anyone struggling, there's help at hand from Grammer Girl's Twitter Style Guide, Ultimately, we believe, personal style will prevail - those who can, will spell correctly and those who can't, won't. While we're on the subject of style, it's smart to think about the image your online picture projects. For tips on putting your best face forward see, Put the Best Face to your Name.

The 'numbers game' is also debatable. Just how many daily tweets are acceptable? Here are some thoughts from our Twitter-nation survey.

"I dislike it when someone blasts out 20 or so Tweets in a row - I assume they must use some software app to do this - so that my whole Twitter page is filled with nothing but their Tweets. I mean, I am VERY chatty on Twitter, but I try to space out my Tweets so I am not hogging the Tweetstream!"
Posted by Dana Willhoit

"I would agree on the bombardment of tweets by one person, monopolizing the stream."
Posted by Diana Baldwin Martinez

"Once you start getting into double digit tweets a day, you need to seriously reconsider the 'importance' of your contribution to the Twittersphere unless you are writing headlines for a news service or issuing fire department activity reports."
Posted by Gayle Falkenthal, APR

Moving right along, using Twitter for personal conversations is another sore spot. Twitter is not a chat room.

"What bothers me is when two people that you follow have a personal conversation that goes on for pages. If you are going to have a conversation that lasts more than a few tweets, take it somewhere else. I am very happy on twitter because I just unfollow anyone that does annoy me."
Posted by Jennifer Wagner

We want to thank everyone for all their insights and for taking the time to respond. Now, let's wrap this up with our Top Ten Tweeting Tips.

Top Ten Tweeting Tips

1. DO censor yourself - limit your tweets and space them throughout the day. Think in terms of five times an hour, tops, or ten times a day.

DON'T hog the tweetstream with run-on tweets. Can't get it into 140 characters? Consider a blog entry.

2. DO use tweets to network and build relationships "Social Media" says it all.

DON'T register multiple accounts to repetitively broadcast the same message or hard sell - that's spamming.

3. DO use Twitter as a professional branding tool. And yes, it's okay to include some personalized background on your homepage.

DON'T gang up with other Twitterers to hard sell, or push and over-promote.

4. DO use DM to reply to one person and always, always respond to a DM or reply sent to you.

DON'T use Twitter as a chat room and send endless DM's to one person.

5. DO contribute regularly to groups you created.

DON'T feel obliged to follow all your followers.

6. DO post a range of comments - from news and newsworthy, to humourous or helpful.

DON'T ever criticize publicly or spoil "big-moments." Just because you've seen the movie doesn't mean the rest of us have.

7. DO give credit to a tweet's original writer.

DON'T retweet without recognition; some would saythat's plagiarism.

8. DO let your followers know when you'll be away.

DON'T use auto-direct messaging as a substitute for personal tweets.

9. DO suppress the wine demons that urge you to tweet after a glass too many.

DON'T get too personal, ever.

10. DO stay tuned for updates.

DON'T hesitate to tweet us with your thoughts!

Author's Bio: 

Leading Image and Business Etiquette since 1981. Diane Craig, President has released a new Teleseminar - The Look of Success by Diane Craig TM- it is brilliantly done and rich in content.
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