10 Rules of Common Twitter Etiquette

1: Use true retweets

This is one of my Twitter pet peeves – when someone uses a tweet without giving proper credit. If someone is clever enough to warrant sharing, then they deserve credit. So give them full credit with a true retweet!

However, if you have something meaningful to add to the tweet, it is acceptable to use the old RT format to add your comment. If the annoying character limit is keeping you from being able to add your entire comment, don’t shorten the RT. Do a true retweet and compose a second tweet starting off with “Re last tweet:” This allows you to give credit, provide full context, and add your full comment.

2: Provide Context when Replying

When replying to someone on Twitter with “lol,” all of your twitter followers have no clue what you’re laughing at. This annoys them and if your Twitter feed is mostly made up of lols, and 1-3 word replies to others, you’re likely to get unfollowed. So when mentioning someone on Twitter, try and provide context, particularly if all you’re doing is laughing, or saying something super short like “good point.” Not everyone has been following the conversation you’re jumping in on, so help out your followers and clue them in.

3: Use Existing URL Shorteners

If you’re linking to a site that already has a URL shortener (ex. Dribbble, YouTube), use their short URL. Not only does it help out the site owner by providing them with valuable statistics, it also clues your visitors to where they’ll be going. It’s a common courtesy that helps out website owners and your followers.

If you have a URL Shortener of your own, I recommend reading Seanwes’ article on How to Effectively Brand Your Custom Short URL. It provides some great tips on effectively using your own URL Shortener to increase click through rates.

4: If the link Contains Noise, Clue us In

If you’re linking to an audio or video file, say so in the tweet so we don’t alert the whole office we aren’t working and we’re watching videos of cats. This is commonly done by adding [vid] or right before the link.

“Look at this cute cat! [vid] http://youtu.be/cutecat”

It also doesn’t hurt to use an indicator for other link, like [photo], [gif], [article], etc. Your followers will be happy to know more about what they’ll find on the other side of the link. If they know what to expect, they’ll be more likely to click on your links.

5: Don’t Use Excessive Carriage Returns

While carriage returns can be useful in drawing attention to your tweet or helping make a point, several empty carriage returns in a tweet will only annoy your followers. One empty carriage return is acceptable, but anything beyond that is annoying.

6: Include Everyone in the Conversation

If you’re having a conversation with multiple people, /cc all who are involved. No one likes being that left out person in gym class, or on Twitter. Even if you aren’t concerned about their feelings, involving them helps drive better conversations, forges new friendships, and gives you a good chance of gaining them as a quality follower.

7: If Someone Mentions You, Give them a Reply

If someone asks you a question, compliments you, debates a point you made, or contacts you in one way or another, it’s common curtsy to give them a reply. It doesn’t have to be utterly profound, but a simple “Thanks for your kind words,” or an answer to their question, or engaging in a friendly discussion/debate can go a long way.

Exceptions to this rule are if you’re a blogger and someone mentions you in linking to your article. Or possibly if you’re getting oodles (yes, that’s a scientific term for lots) of mentions, it is possible to get away with not replying. However, once again, replying to those people can go a long way for both parties involved.

8: Don’t DM People You Don’t Follow

On Twitter, users can only DM people that follow them. To prevent spam, if you follow someone, they can DM you, but you can’t DM them unless they follow you back. If someone wants to get in touch with you, don’t DM them unless you follow them back. The only exception to DMing someone that you don’t follow is if you DM them with your email address.

9: Give Followers a Heads up on Rants

Anyone who tweets regularly is familiar with the character limit frustration. This can be alleviated by composing multiple tweets. However, if you’re going to have one long drawn out tweet, make sure to clue in your followers. This can be done by adding “(1 of 4)” to your tweets, or using “…” to the beginning and end of your consecutive tweets, or by simply tweeting warning them of an upcoming rant.

10: Don’t be a Troll

This last rule is the most vague of them all, but is also the most important. Even though this is the internet where trolls are more common than skinny jeans at a hipster concert, that doesn’t mean we have an excuse for promoting a hostile environment. Engage in discussions; read and ponder each point they have to make; respond to each rebuttal; provide constructive criticism; don’t call people names; try and be all around helpful to everyone you meet.

People will be more likely to respect you, even if you have differing opinions, if you show them respect and common courtesy. This promotes a healthy, constructive, and friendly environment for everyone involved. Trust me, you won’t change people’s minds by calling them names.

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