Twitter Rules For Newbies

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A colleague of mine is new to Twitter, and sent me an email saying “I have no idea what I’m doing with this thing.” I figured I’d respond to him with this blog post, instead of replying to him directly.

Welcome to Twitter, buddy. Thanks for asking for my advice. Here are my suggestions for what you should do:

1. Share ideas, not activities. I couldn’t care less that you’re on a call with a client, at the airport, stuck in traffic, or (especially) eating breakfast. Maybe your wife cares that you’re doing those things (but I doubt it). People want to know what’s in your head, not in your mouth.

2. Talk to Twitter as if you were talking to a person. The biggest losers in Twitterville (geez, I didn’t just say “Twitterville”, did I?) are the people who tweet company marketing messages. What’s really sad is that, often, these are the same people who preach that “marketing has to change”. Yet they broadcast their marketing messages as if this were some traditional media. Think of a tweet as a conversation starter. Think of sharing some thought on Twitter as you would a Skype message to me. (But keep it clean, and don’t bitch about other people. Not that you would ever do that on Skype).

3. Share links — judiciously. I’ve got a Twitter buddy who’s an email exec (not you JC) who tweets every damn social media link he sees. Not only is it a good bet that 25 other people have already tweeted that link, it really doesn’t enhance his personal brand (oh geez, I didn’t say that, too, did I?). I try to share links that meet two criteria: 1) stuff about marketing/financial services that I don’t think everybody has already seen or are likely to see, and 2) stuff I think is really funny (and that I think other people aren’t likely to see).

4. A link to a new blog post. Please note that I said “a link”. This is your call. When I publish a new blog post, I tweet the link once, and only once. I hope and pray that other people will RT my tweet and/or tweet the link. I know of people that tweet links to a blog post multiple times throughout the day, and over multiple days. I couldn’t tell you where the spam line is.

5. Respond to what other people are tweeting. It’s called conversation. Trust me on this one: People will appreciate the fact that someone is actually listening to what they’re tweeting. It’s mind boggling how many people use Twitter to broadcast their messages, and don’t engage in conversation. That’s their call, they can use the tool as they please. Just sayin’  that I think you miss a big opportunity to engage people if that’s what you do. The big decision you’ll have to make here is whether or not to reply with the @ sign (a public tweet) or DM them (direct message). Here’s my rule of thumb: If I don’t want, or think it’s necessary for, anybody to reply to my reply, then I DM the person. Not every tweet has to go out to everyone.

6. Do NOT live tweet conferences. If Bartlett were around today, his book of quotations would run 20,000 pages. At least that’s my conclusion judging from the fact that so many Twitterers that attend conferences seem to think that every damn comment made by every damn speaker is worth tweeting.

7. Follow only the people who abide by the previous rules. Every two weeks or so, I scroll down my TweetDeck window, pick out the people who aren’t following the rules, and unfollow them. I realize it probably offends them. But I know you well enough, my friend, to know that you won’t lose any sleep over this one.

So, thanks again for asking for my advice. I hope this helps. I’ll leave you with my Twitter mantra, with the hope that you will make it your mantra: Add Value to the Conversation.

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