Almost everyone (online) has heard of it. Anyone can use it. But are they using it well? Some would argue that depends on what you're using this microblogging platform for, but nevertheless I've collected a short list of Twitter dos and don'ts for your consideration.
You may or may not agree with this list, and that's fine with me. Still, I reserve the right to say that people who don't take these points of advice are "doing it wrong." Your mileage may vary.
Bullet list rather than numbered list, as these are in no particular order.
- Don't post what you're eating. OK, maybe if you're being treated to dinner at a five star restaurant and the roast duck is simply to die for, but that most likely will be a very uncommon experience. Your daily menu (or daily routine, for that mater...) should not be Twitter-worthy.
- Don't follow more than 100 people. Personally I get concerned when I'm following more than 50. This may require you to make some very hard choices, but if you're following hundreds of accounts then chances are high that you will miss tweets by many of those people for weeks if not months. Are you actually following them, then?
- Promote other people. If the only things you tweet are links to your own website, people will quickly see you as someone who is self-serving and perhaps a bit egotistical. Watch your Twitter feed for things worth retweeting, and do so. (Just don't forget to give credit where credit is due.)
- Talk to people. Twitter can be used as a bullhorn, but that doesn't mean you should only use it as such. Answer questions. Reply to comments. If you find a link you know someone'll like, share it with them! Web 2.0 at its heart is about communication. Communicate with people.
- Think before you tweet. Imagine what your mother would say if she found your Twitter account. What your boss, significant other, stalker, or students would say. Don't assume that making your tweets private will prevent any of those events from occurring, as anyone you allow to see your tweets has the power to retweet what you've said. If anyone can see it, anyone at all, the potential exists for everyone to see it. (Or as Ben Franklin once said, "Three people can keep a secret if two of them are dead.")
- Leave room for retweets. There is something very satisfying about writing out a tweet that hits exactly 140 characters with minimal effort on your part. Unfortunately, when someone tries to retweet that they'll often find that the addition of "RT: @yournamehere" or "(via @yournamehere)" takes them far over the character limit. If you want what you're saying to be repeated, keep it as short as you can while still getting the message across.
- Keep it clean. While you personally might not have anything against profanity or off-color jokes, a lot of people do. Many of us like to keep our Twitter feeds safe for work/school environments. It is of course your choice if you want to post a series of offensive jokes, but if you do I won't be following you after that.
- Yes, we know Twitter's asking you what's happening for each post. Writing "Posting something on Twitter" was funny once, just once, and it was done by someone else before you signed up for the service.
- Check your sources. Web 2.0 allows for a quicker spread of information, but unfortunately also allows for the spread of misinformation. A famous hoax comes to mind, but there have been rumors of celebrity deaths, "facts" about the recent U.S. healthcare reforms, and more spread through Twitter and other sources. If you see something that raises your ire, make sure you're not getting fooled before you hit that retweet button with a vengeance.
Those are my tips. What are yours?