I joined Twitter in the summer of 2010, and even though I’m a college-educated, published author, active blogger, Facebooker extraordinaire, and mom of four teens, I’m still thoroughly perplexed about how to use Twitter efficiently and appropriately. You see, I’m an oldest child—a rule-follower by nature—and a little shy to boot. And before I leap onto a new scene, I like tohave a heads-up about the accepted etiquette so I don’t look like a complete horse’s ass (another consequence, no doubt, of being an oldest child). Know if I should be wearing jeans or a cocktail dress. Whether I should bring a hostess gift or make a charitable donation. Which fork to use for the salad.
Sure, I did the easy stuff like choose a handle (@AndreaReiser), set up my bio, uploaded a photo, customized my background, found some interesting people to follow, and even organized everything in a nifty third-party Twitter app. But then I had no clue what to do— and more importantly how to do it “properly.”
So I began reading everything I could about Twitter manners and best practices so I wouldn’t come off as a giant newb. Devoured books that had the words “Twitter” and “dummy,” “moron,” “loser,” “dimwit,” “numbskull” or “dunce” in the title. Googled stacks of articles and blog posts on Twitter etiquette and tips. Paged through countless ebooks claiming to be the “ultimate” guide to Twitter. Sought advice from successful tweeters. Studied actual conversations happening among the folks I followed and their followers.
And after my exhaustive research, I’m more bewildered and disheartened than ever. It seems there are conflicting “rules” about everything. There’s even a conflicting rule about rules themselves: “Twitter is personal and there are no rules,” some swear. But I just googled “Twitter mistakes” and got over 40 million results! “Make sure you follow the rules or you’ll turn people off,” some of these superior folks admonish, as they no doubt roll their eyes while they point and laugh.
See for yourself why the “rules” make my head explode:
1. CREATING A TWITTER ID
Some insist: Make your Twitter ID the same or similar to the name of your site.
Others claim: Your Twitter ID should always be your own name so if you change your focus you don’t need to change your handle.
2. CHOOSING PEOPLE TO FOLLOW
Some insist: Follow whomever you want, based on your interests and social media goals.
Others claim: You should be extremely selective about who you follow, as people will judge you by the quality of your community.
3. HOW MANY PEOPLE TO FOLLOW
Some insist: Follow as many people as you can. It says that you’re trying to learn more, trying to meet more people and that you’re a good listener. And it increases the chances that people will follow you back, thus increasing your follower count.
Others claim: Don’t follow more than 150 people, or you’ll be too overwhelmed to be able to actively engage in meaningful conversations.
And a few advise: You don’t need to follow more than 500 people.
4. FOLLOWING BACK
Some insist: Follow everyone back. By not doing the courtesy follow, it’s like having people approach you at a party and turning your back to them. You look elitist.
Others claim: Following everyone back is unnecessary. Keep your social media world uncluttered by having a follow strategy: selectively follow back people who are interesting to you based on your own criteria.
5. # OF FOLLOWERS
Some insist: Don’t worry about how many followers you have. Twitter is not a numbers game if you use it purposefully.
Others claim: Twitter is definitely a numbers game, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. People assess your popularity and desirability by the number of followers you have.
6. WELCOMING NEW FOLLOWERS
Some insist: Use an autoresponder to welcome new followers.
Others claim: It’s insulting to receive impersonal canned messages. Never send automated welcome tweets, as many people will unfollow you immediately.
Some insist: Unfollow people quietly.
Others claim: It’s courteous to direct message people you unfollow to tell them why.
8. GIVING THANKS FOR RETWEETING
Some insist: Thank every person who retweets you.
Others claim: Thanking people for a retweet is a waste of bandwidth. It implies they were doing you a favor by retweeting you, when, in fact, they were doing something nice for their followers. Instead use @reply or DM, or return the favor by praising something they tweeted.
9. WHAT TO TWEET
Some insist: Don’t be scared of tweeting what you did last night, what you ate for breakfast today or how much fun you had walking your dog. You can tweet just like you would update your Facebook status.
Others claim: People don’t care about the mundane details about your life. You’re supposed to be a content curator, adding value by being a resource to your followers. And above all, make sure your tweets are entertaining, informative and rich with panache.
10. TWITTER MANNERS
Some insist: Don’t be afraid to interact. Don’t feel intimidated or worry about “rules.” Just jump in and start having conversations.
Others claim: Twitter has standards for good manners. Make sure you know the proper etiquette and grammar because people will judge you and won’t take you seriously if you don’t follow the rules.
11. TWEET FREQUENCY
Some insist: People will unfollow you because of inactivity.
Others claim: Don’t tweet too often. You’ll annoy people and they’ll unfollow you.
And here’s a handy rule of thumb for how often you should tweet:
– Every hour or so in chunks
– Make sure to tweet at least once a day
– Every 31-60 minutes
– Every 2-3 hours
– You should do 5 automated tweets supplemented by 1-3 spontaneous tweets
– 6-8 tweets a day is way too chatty for someone who isn’t a personal friend
– In a “sustainable and consistent” stream
– 7-20 times per day
– A minimum of 3 times a day for a new user
– Don’t tweet just to tweet
– As much as you want! You can’t get too far by being shy.
– 4-8 tweets a day
– No more than once every 2 hours
– 10-20 tweets per day
12. SCHEDULING TWEETS
Some insist: You should absolutely schedule your tweets so they are spread throughout the day and you can ensure they’re posted at peak hours.
Others claim: Twitter isn’t a broadcast tool. It’s a community of humans interested in building relationships and spontaneous communication. Automation doesn’t achieve this honestly; it’s a glorified spamming plan. A lazy short-cut to social media. You need to listen to and engage your followers.
13. JOINING CONVERSATIONS
Some insist: If you can view a Twitter conversation, it’s fair game for you to jump right in. Forget what you know about not butting in to a conversation between complete strangers. On Twitter, it’s not only acceptable, it’s encouraged.
Others claim: It’s rude to interrupt when people are talking. Observe a conversation on Twitter and enter only when it’s appropriate.If you appear too pushy or intrusive, people will be turned off and ignore you.
14. LURKING VS. ENGAGING
Some insist: It’s ok to just be a content consumer by following “A-listers” and not posting tweets yourself.
Others claim: Without engaging often and authentically, you’ve missed the essence of Twitter.
15. HOW OFTEN TO CHECK TWITTER
Some insist: Plan a couple of daily check-in times and respond to what’s happening at those particular times.
Others claim: Twitter is an instantaneous service where conversations fly by throughout the day and you’ll miss out on a lot if you’re not constantly there in real time.
Some insist: Don’t abuse hashtags. Use them judiciously, generally when you tweet something that you or others might want to track, like an ongoing event or popular topic, or to provide better context to a tweet.
Others claim: You look hip by using creative hashtags with wild abandon, particularly to punctuate your tweets with a bit of irony or humor.
17. TWITTER CLIENTS
Some insist: No need to use anything other than the web version of Twitter.
Others claim: Definitely use a Twitter client. You need to use Tweet Deck; it’s the best. You need to use HootSuite; it’s the best. You need to use Twhirl; it’s the best. You need to use Twitterific; it’s the best. You need to use Nambu; it’s the best. You need to use Tweetie; it’s the best. You need to use Seesmic; it’s the best.
18. PRIVATE LISTS
Some insist: Private lists are useful filters to keep things organized.
Others claim: Using private lists is elitist and makes you a Twitter snob.
19. REPEATING TWEETS
Some insist: You should repeat every tweet three times over 48 hours
Others claim: You should repeat tweets four times, eight hours apart
While a few assert: It’s tacky and obsessive to repeat your tweets. You’ll alienate your followers.
20. BEST TIME TO TWEET
– Between 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. PT
– Between 9:00 and 10:00 a.m. ET
– Between 4:00 and 5:00 pm ET
– 4:01 p.m.
– At 9:00 a.m. PT then tweet the same message again at 1:00 PT and 4:00 PT
–6:00 p.m. ET
– Tuesday-Friday between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
– Don’t tweet on Mondays or between 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 pm on weekends.
– Tuesday-Thursday late afternoon, Friday/Saturday late evening, Saturday/Sunday early mid-day, and Monday late morning
21. SHARING OTHER PEOPLE’S STUFF VS. SELF-PROMOTION
– 70% of your tweets should be promoting other people’s stuff
– 8 out of every 10 tweets need to promote other people’s content
– You need to promote other people’s stuff 12 times for every self-promotional tweet
– Tweet other people’s content at least eight times as often as your own
22. FOLLOW-TO-FOLLOWER RATIO
– Never let your following count get more than 10% higher than your follower count
– You need to have a 4:1 follow ratio
– Keep your follow ratio below 105%
So what are your “rules” for Twitter? Feel free to enlighten me as to the definitive proper way to do things. (Yeah, that oughta clear things right up!)