Twitter etiquette : 5 rules to keep in mind

31 Mar

A lot of people think that the internet is a lawless place where they can ‘communicate’ and ‘share’ freely, without taking care of legitimacy, source or the intellectual property of the information they share. Well, it is not such a place.

Do you remember what teachers told us in college regarding decorum and plagiarism? I do! And I kept these lessons in mind until today because if you ever publish any content over the internet, these rules do apply to you as well.

Twitter etiquette

If you are the community manager for your company or your personal brand, you should know that the Twitterverse is made of codes. Each code as a purpose and a meaning, and it is your job to understand and manage them.

Below are 5 essential principles any individual or business should follow on Twitter (they obviously also apply for other social networks).

1) Use correct spelling

Yes, Twitter messages are limited to 140 characters, but it is not a reason to write like a 12-year old texting frenzy. So forget your teenager messaging habits and select your key words. Instead of shortening your words, choose them carefully and stick to the quintessence of your message.

Tip: Do not try to convey more than one idea at a time (well, at a tweet). I would encourage you to assign only one information to one tweet. After all, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”, Leonardo da Vinci.

2) Stay polite

Fun tweets: we love it! Uncivil tweets: forget it! Your tweets are your voice in the Twitterverse. If you wish to be considered as a respectful business actor, act like one. If you wish to criticize someone, the polite way is the best way. If you wish to counter-attack someone, the polite way is still the best way. My vision is that there is no reason EVER to be mean or impolite in business. If you wish to deal with personal matters online, this is your problem, but Twitter is most certainly not the place (have you heard of emails?)

Remember that we are talking about Twitter for business purposes and business purposes only: brand visibility, awareness, recognition, loyalty and finally love! And you don’t share love with rude people… If followers send you impolite tweets (independently of the truth or not of their complaint), be smarter than them and answer with respect. Whether you are blameworthy or not, people will always disapprove a bad attitude.

Tip: You should tweet only messages you would be happy to tweet again and to see retweeted. As the French first lady taught us: turn your finger seven times before hitting ‘tweet’.

3) Original content : don’t forget “title + link + hashtag”

When sharing original content (content coming from your own mind, website, blog or personal profile):
– Articulate a compelling title in less than 80 characters; i.e. “Twitter basics for businesses and individuals”.
– Add a shortened link to your article, video, picture, or website. I use, but you can also Google URL shortener; i.e. ” ” instead of ” “.
– Add one or two hashtags. These hashtags aims at promoting your brand’s unique selling points or your link’s key words; i.e. “#socialmediavalue #twitter”.

For instance:

Twitter basics for businesses and individuals #socialmediavalue #twitter

Tip 1: Don’t forget to add an image or a video in your website articles or blog posts. If your link hosts rich content such as an image or a video, a caption will automatically be generated by Twitter. This miniature will then be stored on the left side of your Twitter profile in the “photos and videos” section. This section is more and more appreciated as people love visuals; don’t forget to feed it!

Tip 2: Keep your tweet short enough to be retweeted. People who RT (understand “ReTweet”) have the option to edit or not your tweet. Assuming that they decide to rephrase it in any way, it will be easier if your tweet is not already 140-character long! Try to keep around 20 characters left.

4) Sharing somebody else’s content : don’t neglect intellectual property

“Redde Caesari quae sunt Caesaris” If you do not want to be accused of plagiarism, then give credit to people for their work and original content. It is true for a thesis or an article, it is also true for Twitter.

If you wish to share content coming from a blog or another website via the “tweet” button, go over the plugin proposition! When you click on “tweet” at the end of a blog post for instance, the plugin may propose you a text such as “Twitter basics blablabla http:link via @wordpressdotcom”. Well, even though the article may come from a WordPress hosted blog, it doesn’t mean that WordPress is the writer of that post.

– Start the tweet like any other one: “Title + Link”.
– Check the name of the authors (article writer, blog host, etc.), find their Twitter accounts and add “by @authorusername”. The easiest way to find the correct @username is to type the author’s “full name + twitter” in search engines and see the propositions. Then make sure to find the right Twitter account. Don’t give the credits to the wrong person…
– If the author does not have a Twitter account, then instead of adding “by @authorusername”, add “by #authorusername”. It will not lead to their Twitter profile but it will at least tag their name properly.
– Add the @username of the website or the blog you got the article from if different from the author; i.e. “via @nytimes”. Keep track of all the actors implicated and give them credit.
– End the tweet with relevant hashtags if you still have characters left.

For instance:

Twitter basics for businesses and individuals by @FlorencePoirel via #socialmediavalue #twitter

Tip: Including the author and the media you got the content from is not only a matter of intellectual property; it is also a matter of visibility: your visibility! By adding their @username, you notify them that you shared their content. They will receive a notification from Twitter saying that you mentioned them. The result: they will hear from you! This is a very good way to motivate potential clients, suppliers, partners or mentors (whoever the writer of the article is) to get in touch and/or to follow the discussion.

5) Retweeting from Twitter : don’t forget the “RT”

There are two ways to retweet on Twitter.
– First solution : you can click on the “Retweet” button under the tweet:RT

direct retweet

in which case you won’t be able to edit the tweet. The tweet will appear exactly as you saw it initially: with the avatar and name of the first sharer, even though it is now on your Twitter page.

Tip 1 : The advantage of retweeting this way is to diversify your own page. Don’t make your stream only about you, promote other users as well.

direct retweet 2

– Second solution : you copy the original tweet and insert “RT @username” at the beginning:

indirect retweet

This “RT @” at the beginning of your tweet will let users know that, even though it is published with your name and avatar, it primarily comes for another user.

Tip 2 : The advantage of retweeting this way is to keep the audience on your brand instead of allowing it to switch too quickly to that other user.

indirect retweet2

1 Comment

Posted by on March 31, 2013 in Social Media Value, Twitter


One response to “Twitter etiquette : 5 rules to keep in mind

  1. Florence Poirel

    April 23, 2013 at 7:37 PM

    This article was also published on Social Media Today! Read here:


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