Demystifying Twitter: Do’s and Don’ts of Twitter
Simply put, the basic concept behind Twitter can be identified as a modem version of short messaging service (SMS) channel with some added features. Your followers on Twitter are the people, who choose to be updated with the tweets (the post or message displayed on your profile page) you share, when you follow someone, you decide to be updated with tweets of that person. Besides sharing information like text, videos, pictures etc, this channel can also be used for exploring relationships (business or personal) with people who you may not know otherwise.
It is the easiest and the fastest way to update all in one’s network about what one wants to convey and also to receive updates from others about what’s happening in their lives, have access to what the others share.
If you are looking forward to sustain your followers in the long term, it’s very important that you tweet the content relevant and of interest to them. The tweets made by a person would reach the timeline of his/her followers instantaneously. Instead if one needs to communicate with a specific person, he/she could use the Direct Message (DM) feature, wherein one could tweet to that particular person, and none of the other followers would be updated about this tweet. Also, if one doesn’t want to explicitly follow a person, but has an inherent motivation to receive updates from that person, he/ she could make use of Lists feature, wherein one could add people to the list (similar to that of labels feature in Gmail) and one can regularly visit these lists to check the updates.
The ‘tweet’ has to be worded in just 140 characters! Be it a company or a person, the message has to be well drafted, to convey accurately and grab attention, with the challenge of putting it together in just these few characters. This channel has also been used efficiently by individuals to promote themselves, their blogs, their professional and personal achievements etc. Like other social networking channels, Twitter empowers individuals to build their identity in the virtual world. Listed below are some tips (Do’s) that can help individuals build their social identity using Twitter. Also listed is behavior which should be avoided (Don’ts) to have a valuable experience on this channel. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list of Do’s and Don’ts but surely covers some of the most important ones.
If you are yet to use Twitter or even if you are already using it, it would be a good idea to browse through http://support.twitter.com/ to understand more about the features and their judicious use.
Twitter Do’s and Don’ts for Individuals
1) Prepare an authentic bio
Anyone on the internet, who is unknown to you and by some chance lands at your Twitter handle, is likely to first go through your bio. It is the only source of information to judge your credibility and which may decide if the person is going to follow you or not. Also, given the limitation on the character space to express yourself, you should make judicious use of words to present the information. The most likely information that could gain interest is your profession and key interests. It would be advisable not to include lingo/jargon (like “geek”, “cool” etc) to describe oneself if you want to use Twitter for a serious purpose (business networking, building a brand etc). Also, it’s absolutely essential that you state your real name and preferably upload a recent picture of yours.
2) Follow relevant people
Twitter has certain restrictions on number of people one could follow. Once a person follows 2,000 people, he/she may not be allowed to follow any further people unless the ratio of following/followers meets certain criteria set by Twitter. When you choose to “follow” someone on Twitter, your timeline (Twitter updates from people you follow) includes the updates from this person. Instead of just about following as many famous personalities as possible, you should have a defined focus and follow relevant people. Following excessive number of people may clutter your timeline and create confusion. Even in an area of interest like social media, business or sports it would be sometimes difficult to identify relevant people at the first go, but following them for certain period of time, you can decide which of them are sharing information that is relevant or interesting to you. So it’s good to be selective and keep reviewing the list of people to ensure that you follow only those who are adding value as sought by you. It’s strongly recommended that, you should follow major personalities in one’s field, to remain updated about the field. This will help you in best utilization of your time on twitter.
3) Acknowledge every source
When you are tweeting (posting an update on Twitter) or retweeting (sharing an update posted by someone whom you are following, further to your followers), you should acknowledge the source from where the information is retrieved. The source could be a blog, news portal, or even an offline magazine or newspaper. This reaffirms your belief in ethics and will create a positive impression on those in your network. It becomes more vital in case you are retweeting a particular tweet. This builds your credibility in the minds of the source and there are chances that person will start following you. Also, if you appreciate a particular tweet, you should make it a point to thank that person and acknowledge his/her efforts.
4) Use appropriate hashtags
Hashtags (#) are an important feature of Twitter which facilitates searching the information you seek in the vast ocean of numerous tweets. Someone who is searching for information relate to a particular topic will search for appropriate hashtags. Hence, when you are tweeting about an event, person, etc. use of hashtags should be encouraged. This increases the chances of your visibility in a particular area of discussion and would help you in gaining more followers.
5) Maintain focus on your domain
If someone is following you, the person most probably has certain expectation from you on a particular professional domain for e.g. mobile phone software, digital marketing, automobiles, financials etc. This expectation gets build based on the twitter bio you have prepared and the past history of tweets. Hence, it would be unjustified if one tweets on unrelated topics that may irritate the followers. One should ensure that quality information and steady tweets is provided with respect to one’s field to fulfill the expectations of the followers. Else, one could easily notice that followers will start unfollowing (voluntarily stop receiving updates from you).
6) Engage with community
Tweeting doesn’t mean one should involve in just one way bombarding of information on your followers. This would be just one way information flow and does not help a person to build relationship with others. Hence, when someone replies to your tweet or retweets or shows interest in the tweet, one should take this opportunity to engage with that person and build relationship with that person. In short two way information flow should be the objective. Showing gratitude when others appreciate what you post is a good starting point.
7) Use “direct message” feature judiciously
As of now the “direct message” (DM) feature is available only to those who you follow. By using this any of those that you follow can send a DM to you instead of posting on your timeline. This is an amazing feature, which guarantees privacy even on the social channel. It may not be advisable to get into argument with someone in open channel, or approach someone for some specific objective publicity. In this case you should make it a point to use the DM feature and get into personal communication with the concerned person.
1) Don’t automate
There are quite a few Twiter tools on the Internet, which could be used to automate one’s account for variety of purposes. For instance automated applications are available to send a ‘thank you’ message to new follower, or to unfollow someone who has not been active for a certain period of time, or to stream tweets at regular intervals of time (this is often practiced when one has followers from different part of the world) etc. Though it makes managing your Twitter account easy, it does not form a favorable impression. The personalization touch is lost with the usage of automated tweets using applications and the person on other side will be more often than not smart enough to differentiate an automated tweet and a real-time tweet.
2) Don’t ‘tweet’ unnecessarily
Tweeting regularly is a desirable activity, however tweeting unnecessarily is not perceived positively. It may not be necessary to tweet what you’re eating, or whom are you going for a date with and more such extremely personal information. This may result in privacy issues and also cause your followers to lose interest.
3) Don’t ‘retweet’ unnecessarily
You might be very interested in someone’s tweet. It doesn’t mean you retweet everything that this ‘someone’ tweets to your own followers. Your interest might not necessarily match that of your followers, so you should avoid retweeting unnecessarily and avoid spamming timeline of your followers.
4) Don’t tweet personal messages on your professional account
If you are an author, freelancer, consultant etc. most of your followers might be interested in your professional domain and not in your personal life aspects. So you should avoid tweeting about personal life on professional account. It would look unprofessional to tweet about personal life on professional account.
5) Don’t get involved in unnecessary arguments
If by some reason you end up in an awkward situation of someone picking on you, don’t get into arguments in public. In the heat of the moment you might write some untoward words, which might impact your image and send across wrong message to followers. Hence, it is advisable to pacify the situation and intimate openly that you would like to have a personal communication with the person who has created this situation. In order to avoid such arguments/awkward situations tweets regarding a person’s religion, relationships, career, salaries, professional issues etc shall be avoided.
6) Don’t urge people to follow you
In order to have good amount of followers, some people try hard to convince their friends and people around to follow them (which is often referred to as cyber bullying). This is an absolutely unwarranted social activity and one should avoid this.
7) Don’t delete your tweet
It just takes seconds for your tweet to reach the timeline of your hundreds or may be thousands of followers. So, if you delete a tweet from your timeline it doesn’t mean it won’t reach the wider audience. Hence, if by mistake one has tweeted wrong (not the correct wording etc) information, don’t feel shy to apologize in public. Accepting the mistake will result in respect for you. We all make mistakes. However always remember the golden rule ‘Think long enough before tweeting’.
Twitter Do’s and Don’ts for Firms/Brands
Firms (a for-profit organization, or any other type of organization. including non-profit, non-government etc.) can have a Twitter handle for them or specific brands to engage with their customers. There is no special requirement, it is as simple as one needs to have a personal Twitter handle. However, in maintaining the firm’s or brand’s account special care needs to be taken, because after all it’s managed by specific (or multiple) human beings. Though the interaction on behalf of the firm/brand is carried out by the executives, customers perceive ‘personified’ communication with the brand. The consistency message on behalf of the brand should be maintained. Conventionally, when a user has an issue/complaint about a product/service they talk to customer care representatives on phones and email. This is just a problem resolving approach, however social media is much more than just to answer customer queries or resolve customer complaints. It should be efficiently used to interact with customers, identify brand evangelizers, promote word of mouth for brand and enhance the positioning. Listed below are some of the key Do’s and Don’ts for firm’s or brand’s Twitter handle, which the social media managers need to take care of.
1) Optimize your message well
Firms and brands would ideally love their customers to read tons of pages about them. The ‘Twitter generation’ however is very different. The Twitter users more often than not look forward to crisp information that would help them familiarize with the product/promotion or for that matter anything else seeking their attention. Also, Twitter has a common rule for everyone, be it an individual or a brand, of 140 characters per tweet to communicate. So, firms/brands need to strategize their message accordingly and try to maximize the value of their message in the given restricted space. There may be a few iterations as you figure out what’s working out and what’s not. It’s a good idea to therefore take feedback from internal as well as external sources following the brand or firm and work out a process of frequent checks and balances to ensure effective messaging.
2) Decide your objective
Twitter is just a channel or a stage where a brand can do whatever it likes to do. A brand might use it for providing product information, promoting new products, sourcing new ideas, handling queries, responding to complaints etc. Hence, a firm/brand needs to decide well in advance the objective it wishes to attain through Twitter and accordingly messages should be strategized. The messaging should not be cluttered as it may confuse those who follow the brand. The firm has to handle complaints, provide product information, feature promoting offers and give other relevant information. The priority of which information is to be shared/catered has to be decided based on customer’s preferences and a firm’s strategy. This would avoid cross-pollination of messages and keep the messaging focused.
3) Tweet relevant information
The followers of a brand/firm could be any of the stakeholders. It could be a stock broker, a supplier, a customer, legal advisor, or in fact even competitor brand. The brand should stick to the tweets related to its brand/firm rather than providing updates about weather, riots happening in the city etc. Tweeting such unrelated messages just to garner attention would indicate that firm/brand doesn’t have enough content to be delivered to their followers, and it will not create a positive impression. A ‘congratulatory’ message on a famous victory in cricket can be a one off affair as this may add some ‘personification’ to the brand.
4) Use social media dashboards
When firms/brands have multiple accounts, it would be advisable to make use of social media dashboard to maintain these multiple accounts. Dashboards are applications that allow community managers to manage multiple accounts on a single medium, with a single login. Some of the common dashboards used often in the industry are TweetDeck, Hootsuite, Ping.fm, Digsby etc. This would allow one to track the happenings on multiple accounts and react on real-time basis.
5) Be responsive to both positive and negative comments
One cannot expect customers to always shower praise on the firm/brand. There might be some unsatisfied customers out there in the market, or some intentional competitor agents who might be trying to bad mouth the brand. As it is a social channel everyone has a right to speak and express, so there could not be a legal way to curb such comments. The community manager needs special skills to handle such comments. Avoiding such comments might provoke the tweeters to tweet further, hence, one should try to clarify the brands response to a negative comment and apologize/rectify if there has been a genuine complaint case.
6) Identify appropriate brand evangelizers
This should be one of the major objectives of firm/brand to identify appropriate brand evangelizers, engage them in discussions and encourage them to spread word of mouth about the brand. These brand evangelizers need to be handled very carefully else, they might also be powerful enough to spread negative word of mouth.
7) Gain customer insights
In the process of discussions with customers, brand should consistently look for opportunities to improvise their offerings based on the constant feedback via Twitter. When such an opportunity arises firm should make use of it and engage further with the customer to get to the depth of the issue.
1) Don’t become too eager for followers
It may be easy for well known brands to attract huge crowd instantaneously and have a large number of followers. It might not be possible for a local brand or a regional brand to replicate this. But, it doesn’t mean the brand should make untoward efforts like spamming to gain followers. A brand should respect others’ privacy and accordingly make a suitable pitch.
2) Don’t hard sell
One should not ideally look to Twitter only as a selling medium. Customers tend to get saturated of many channels through which a brand reaches them. They perceive Twitter as a unique form of communication and not yet another mode to disturb their privacy. So, this medium should be ideally used to listen, track and monitor the conversations about the brand, which often goes unnoticed through other medium. You may ‘tweet’ about some special discounts and new product launches but should not try to ‘overdo’ the selling else, users might perceive your Twitter handle as a yet another selling medium.
3) Don’t tweet remarks on your competitor
Like in any other public forum, a brand should restrain from commenting on competitor’s brands. This would create very wrong impression in the customer’s mind. And, if the competitor brand retaliates, it would be damaging both the brands, with no one gaining anything out of this ‘tit-for-tat’ exercise.
4) Don’t tweet about yourself
The community managers, who are handling the brand’s Twitter handle, should be very careful while tweeting. Customers are following the account to know about the brand and not about the community manager. Hence, community managers should not make personal updates on their professional account. This would damage the impression of the brand.
5) Don’t automate your tweets
Some firms try to automate their tweets with the help of various Twitter tools available on the Internet. It is not advisable to tweet via such automated tweets, as firms should always try to build a one-on-one relationship with each customer. Each customer should be individually addressed and sending automated tweets may be perceived as disrespectful by the customers who are following the brand. One more drawback is if a user posts negative remarks and there is an automated response, the user may feel further disgruntled Therefore it is a must to customize and personalize the message, however always remember “Never to get involved into an argument on a public forum like Twitter.” Get in personal contact with the user by a direct message and resolve the issue.
6) Don’t make personal contacts
Some community managers may also tend to make personal contacts with the customers and use them for personal gain. It should not be allowed at any cost and strictly prohibited by the firm. The Twitter handle should only have the focus to build relationship with customer and brand.
7) Don’t reveal key firm secrets
The community managers should also not reveal firm secrets on the Twitter handle, as there is high chance the competitors are following the brand. It might result in reducing differentiation for the firm. Twitter provides you an option to give permission to follow your tweets to only the people you approve. The moment you start using this option, your tweets will not be available publically.