Where you are @: Twitter Etiquette

Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake know far too much about Twitter. Perhaps you saw their heavily internet-rotated video about the excessive use of hashtags on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. If not, go watch it here. I’ll wait.

Okay, are you back now? Funny, wasn’t it? It’s funny because it’s relatable. Anyone that’s used Twitter for more than two minutes is following someone that uses more hashtags than words in their tweets. This over-use is annoying if you’re a regular person. If you’re a company, it’s downright harmful.

I’ll admit, at first Twitter etiquette might seem like an oxymoron. Certain pop singers and sports celebrities barely seem capable of writing a full sentence, and they have amassed tens of millions of followers. With a 140 character limit and a rapid-fire set-up, it hardly seems reasonable to expect anyone to use proper grammar. But we’re talking business here, and Twitter means business. Look at the numbers. Every week, a billion tweets get sent out. Out of all the people on the internet, 30% are using Twitter. And the social media site has over 200 million active users.

Not impressed yet? How about the fact that every 10 seconds someone tweets about Starbucks? Or 64% of consumers have made a purchase based on social media content? Twitter is big business (11 billion dollars as of 2012), and getting involved can mean real sales for any business. But that can quickly dry up if you aren’t utilizing these social media tools the right way.

There are entire websites devoted to creating good twitter copy (this one for example), and I could spend pages talking about optimizing Twitter posts. But before you worry about targeting followers or adding graphics, you need the basics. Those are your tone and your word use.  Without mastering these two basic principles, you can forget about any sustainable Twitter business.

Let’s start with tone. Sure, Twitter is a conversational place. In fact, you’ll look like a fossil if you try to approach Twitter with a conventional marketing tone. You need to engage with your followers in a personal way. That doesn’t mean you’re talking to your friends—or even your co-workers. Keep in mind that the people you are talking to are strangers, and ultimately you are hoping those strangers will convert from followers to customers. That happens when your tweets are tight and clean, as well as personalized and engaging. Also, try your best to avoid getting into any sort of debate or argument on social media. If someone is unhappy with your company or product, use it as an opportunity to show that your company values their opinion. You need to respond quickly and efficiently. Do not be dragged into a battle. If it doesn’t seem like it would be a good idea to say a comment in person, it’s not good to say it on social media either.

That brings us to word use. Try to avoid shortening words. “U shod c this fal day!!!” Sure, you seem like a real person instead of a business, but you also don’t seem like a very reliable source. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but usually you can rewrite your tweet. Most likely, you’re being too wordy. Sometimes less is more. Also avoid swearing and slang. Even if your company is a little more liberal and relaxed, you want to entice as many followers to your tweets as possible. That’s best done with a clean mouth. On the other end of the spectrum, use basic language. I’m looking at you, tech companies. If the secretary has no idea what you’re talking about, you need to reword that tweet.

In closing, keep your tweets sweet and simple. And keep learning. I recommend following Wishpond, for starters. Not only do they give you decent little tips on Twitter, but they link you to larger articles as well. Keep your eye out for good advice. And pass it on! Next week I’ll be talking about Instagram, and how best to use photography in your social media.