20 Guidelines for Twitter Success

Did you see the article called 7 Deadly Sins of Twitter? It's an evergreen post from October 2009 that pops up from time to time. I read it again the other day and posted it to my Facebook page. While the theme is irreverent a great technique to get more readers to your blog the advice from Zoey Dowling is spot on.

Zoey compares each one of the 7 deadly sins with a corresponding Twitter behaviour. While I've been guilty of most of the irritants at some point in my Twitter history, it started me thinking about how my use of Twitter has changed with experience. New users often struggle to balance professional and personal information in their stream. Like most things, with practice and a fair bit of trial and error, you can achieve a good balance. Here are my secrets:

Always try to:

  • Share the best content you can find
  • Reciprocate if someone tweets your content
  • Answer every mention
  • Reply to every direct message
  • Keep most of your tweets related to your line of work
  • Pick YOUR battles, don't get involved in every drama going

Never fail to:

  • Say thank you
  • Attribute any content you share and give credit to the tweep who first shared it
  • Unfollow anyone you find offensive and don't offer commentary on the situation

Things NOT to do:

  • Don't bag anyone, especially your partner
  • Avoid the mundane, banal, scatological and tasteless
  • Never use profanity
  • If you grandmother would be offended by a tweet, don't send it.
  • Avoid politics
  • Avoid sexual topics
  • Avoid religion
  • Don't `out' anyone to Twitter unless they have a Twitter ID. This includes your family and especially your children. Don't mention their names. Don't talk about them except in the most indirect terms.
  • Don't say anything on Twitter you wouldn't openly say in front of your management team at work.

Keep in mind:

  • Every tweet could potentially be presented to you at the interview for your dream job.
  • Everything you tweet will be kept for eternity.

Of course, these rules are meant to be broken. Adhering to them helps me to achieve a professional, yet friendly, tone. I love Twitter but if you're using it for business you can't afford to let it all hang out. There are a lot of ways to get yourself in trouble in the Twitterverse but none of them are difficult to avoid if you take a moment to consider what you're really trying to accomplish.

What are your personal guidelines for Twitter?

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Image Credit: tweet by D'Arcy Norman, on Flickr

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  • Great reminders about how twitter posts can affect both business and personal reputations.

  • Hi Ray,

    I empathise with your experience. I can imagine you received a full blast of opinion you probably had no intention of invoking. I once made a comment on Twitter about health care in the USA and I’m still reeling from the weight of public opinion. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  • i made a mistake once by commenting on someones comment about gays and lesbians
    i was hammered because of my beliefs on what is acceptable and what is not …i learnt pretty quickly that it is a subject best left to others that have much stronger opinions and much thicker skins…it doesnt matter which way you swing on that subject it will upset someone!

  • Thank you to the collective group at Dowell Taggart (although I suspect it’s only one of you). You’ve hit on probably the most important guideline for a successful Twitter experience, listening. No one likes to be sold to, at least not anyone I’ve ever met, but everyone appreciates someone who is truly interested in what they are saying.

  • Good list of twitter rules. I think a lot of people spend to much time selling and not enough time listening and engaging with their customers.

  • Now see, this is what I love about a blog. I go away for a couple days R&R and come back to lovely comments.

    Keri – After a couple bad experiences with people taking umbrage to constructive criticism, I follow the advice of one of my professors from university who advised against office politics. He said, “Don’t go away mad, just go away.” I use that same advice now with offensive tweeps. I just quietly go away.

    Shaleen – You’re right, Saying please and thank you never goes out of fashion. It’s a great way to acknowledge support.

    Sue – You’ve made a really good point. I always try to give a shout-out to a new supporter by mentioning a blog post they have written. It’s been a great way for me to find new talent not necessarily in the mainstream of the blogging world.

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments. I appreciate it.

  • Great post! Thanks for the tips. I follow most of these rules, but there are a few I break.

    For example, I don’t agree that this tip is always true: “Unfollow anyone you find offensive and don’t offer commentary on the situation.” If someone says something I find very offensive, I will say so and why I am unfollowing them, but I don’t embroil myself in drama.

    The best tip, IMO, is the last one: “Everything you tweet will be kept for eternity.” As long as you consider that, your tweets will fall in line =)

    Thanks for writing!

  • I think that people nowadays underestimate the power of a simple ‘thank you’ and it’s great that you included them in your tips here. I can’t stop laughing at the part where you shouldn’t post a tweet that gets your grandma offended as I’m having a picture of an old lady tweeting on her iPhone. Thanks for the tips, anyway!

  • Hi Sarah,

    I agree about replying but I do think you need to mix it up a bit, otherwise you may find your twitter stream is just thanks. Sometimes I include a mention of the person’s blog post as a way to give back.

    What I also do is tweet posts by new followers at times if it is approporiate.