9 Twitter Etiquette Tips for Businesses Starting Out on Twitter

As I continue to speak to corporations, professional associations, as well as social media workshop attendees on the strategic value of Twitter for both B2C as well as B2B companies, I am finding many businesses starting to take the plunge and explore tweeting as a business tool. As you can imagine, becoming comfortable with a Twitter presence, especially for a business, can be confusing, especially if you’re just starting out and getting your feet wet.  There are many different objectives that businesses have in embarking on using Twitter, but a common goal for many companies is to build brand loyalty and establish yourself as a helpful and useful resource for your followers, in doing so creating a relationship of trust.  There are many Twitter mistakes for business to avoid.  Here are nine Twitter etiquette tips for business to maximize a positive experience for both you and your followers.

1. Maintain a complete and current bio – you have 160 characters to make your case on a Twitter bio.  Make them count.  Create an engaging, personal, and informative description of what you and your business are about and make it interesting to potential new followers.  Maximize your use of what little real estate Twitter gives you, and remember to embed your profile with associated keywords so that those searching profiles for business expertise can find you.

2. Don’t shorten your URL or web address on your bio page – to some it might look dodgy. Include the complete address so they know where they’re going when they click on the link.  If you want to shorten your URL, use a branded URL shortener like my wind.mn domain you see on my tweets (subject of a future blog post!).  Otherwise, since there is no limitation on the size of your URL on your Twitter bio, don’t make it look like every follower who visits your home page is only a mere metric in your Bit.ly dashboard.

3. Investigate all links you plan on re-tweeting – unless you know the source of the tweet as a trusted authority on a subject and have followed them for awhile, don’t re-tweet a link unless you’ve been there and know what information you’re passing along.  There’s nothing worse than sending your followers to a dead link, especially if it’s pointing them to a questionable website selling snake-oil.  Ultimately, this will hurt your reputation and you will lose followers.

4. Don’t spam your followers – yes, you have a great product or service and you want to get the word out.  However, tweeting exclusively about it will only annoy people and again, you’re trying to build brand loyalty and establish yourself as a useful resource.  Be prudent when sending a message on Twitter about your own products by spacing them out between other valuable tweets.  There are many 20:80 or 1 in 10 rules about the ratio of self-promotional vs. curated content.  I say become an industry resource and try not to tweet more than one self-promotional tweet a day – period.

5. Use good manners, just like in the offline world – of all the etiquette tips, this is just good common sense: Like I always say, “New Tools Old Rules.”  If someone re-tweets your link or information, if at all possible thank them. Remember, if one of your followers re-tweets your information or link, it’s going out to all of their followers.  This is a valuable action, showing trust, and trust is a keystone in any business.  Show your appreciation, and people will be more likely to re-tweet your offerings again and again.

6. Do not DM anything that may appear as spam – needless to say, it’s a bad idea to bulk DM your followers.  Many of them, when receiving an automated or “sales” DM, will unfollow you or block you entirely.  They’ll complain about spam DM’s, others will read about it, and decline to follow you as well. It’s a lose-lose situation.  Save DM’s for personalized messages.

7. Stay away from controversial subjects – the old adage applies here – politics and religion are incendiary topics, and may bring you more trouble than they’re worth. If you’re on a personal account, the sky’s the limit and you can debate anything you like. However, in a business setting, unless it directly pertains to your product or service, it may be best to leave these subjects for another time or account.  Just ask Kenneth Cole, or read my blog post on Twitter content strategy, if you have any doubts.

8. Don’t buy into personal attacks, if they occur – there’s one in every crowd, and Twitterville is no exception. The medium of text communication means a definite margin of misunderstanding because there’s no way to hear someone’s tone of voice or observe their body language. What may be meant as a joke could escalate into something more negative, but it’s wise to just walk away if it seems a conversation is deteriorating into something contentious.  It’s just not worth it.

9. Have fun with it – yes, you may be using Twitter primarily to promote your business or service, but there’s no reason it has to be drudgery. Twitter users are savvy, smart, and can pick up on the nuances of personality through the tweets of others.  Make your messages personable, interesting, and lively.  Keep an eye on the information passing through your own timeline and become involved.  Twitter is truly the most “social” of the social networking platforms that exist.  Take advantage of this to benefit your business.

Twitter is a great platform in which you can promote and build your business and brand loyalty, but it’s a two-way street. It may sound funny, but you must engage in order to engage, keeping in mind these are real people behind those tweets that you see.  Not only are these your potential clients or customers, but they’re potential friends, as well.  Making strong connections with other people is what tweeting is all about, and once you follow these Twitter etiquette tips for business, Twitterville can truly become your oyster.

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