I’ve been using Twitter for over two years. I’ve noticed a few things in that time:
- There’s no specific, agreed etiquette;
- One user’s potion is another user’s poison;
- Your tweeting technique WON’T be liked by everyone, no matter what you do.
This causes difficulty, since there’s no standard to work from. Do you send out hundreds of updates every day? Should you schedule your tweets and pump out content even as you sleep? Will it upset someone if you state an opinion? Will it bore someone if you don’t?
For all the difficult questions millions of users pose every day they use Twitter, the twitterverse is a relatively friendly place. If someone doesn’t like the way you tweet, you won’t find much more than an unfollow coming your way. People get followed and unfollowed all the time, so you won’t have time to take it personally. That’s if you notice at all.
There are many opinions on how to tweet effectively. Most sound sensible and work fine if you follow them. That doesn’t stop the opinions from being controversial. Here are 10 tweeting issues that are subject to the biggest arguments:
1. Update frequency
How often should you tweet? Do you wake from the dead only when you have big news or do you try to maintain a regular heart-tweet? Many people suggest regular (but not too regular) tweeting. However, I don’t tweet at specific times and I sometimes skip an entire day. Nobody has complained yet.
2. Linking to your own blog
Personal promotion is frowned upon in one corner and expected in another. Should you broadcast your own links? If so, how often? Is this self-promotion like spam or is it simply a way of letting followers know when you’ve posted something new that should be of interest to them? Not everybody will subscribe to your site via RSS feeds, so I happily link out to my new blog posts. I tend to promote no more than once or twice and have no specific method.
3. Thanking for retweets
Do people expect to be thanked? Would they rather you didn’t bother thanking them? At what point does your following get too much to send out personal thanks each time someone retweets you? I thank those who retweet my own posts and links. I try to thank in other ways too.
4. Expecting to be followed back
If they don’t follow you, what’s the point in following them? If you value their content, does it matter if they don’t follow you? Are you looking for great content, personal communication, or both? New followers boost the ego, but you have to realize that not everyone will want to follow back. Reasons for not following don’t have to be personal or concerning, but it easily plays on the mind.
5. Using retweets
Where you should put the ‘RT’ in a tweet? Should you edit the retweet? Is it awful to you the official Twitter ReTweet button? Should you use ‘RT’, ‘rt’, ‘r/t’, ‘via’, ‘HT’ or something else? As Twitter has evolved, users have developed their own ways of communicating content. Even the simple retweet doesn’t have a clear right and wrong.
6. Too much of a single thing in your feed
Perhaps you only provide links, only copy quotations, only promote your own content, talk to yourself and not to others, say the same thing over and over again, and so on. Some users enjoy the reliable flow of the single element you bring to the table. Other users would prefer some variation. Do what feels comfortable to you. By all means surprise or change your game occasionally; just don’t surprise too often!
7. Gaps in tweeting
Should you spread out your tweets, or send them all at once when you’re on? Are automated tweets impersonal? Do people get upset if you don’t tweet at the weekend, or you miss out particular days? As with update frequency, nobody is going to complain of inconsistency.
8. Injecting personality
Should you talk about your personal life or should you provide value (unless you’re a celeb and can do both at the same time)? Should your personal life stay personal? For some, Twitter is a mere communication tool, not a lifestyle decision. For others, anything lacking a ‘human’ feel is too distant.
9. Going off topic
Will people unfollow you in droves if you suddenly write about something outside your field? If you mention a cause that you feel strongly about, is it asking for trouble? For some professional users, some care is necessary. For most, a bit of off topic banter is unlikely to shake someone’s confidence in following you.
10. Tweeting at particular times in the day
Is it best to tweet at peak times, all day long, during working hours, or whenever you like? Are you missing out on the best times for your followers? I tweet mainly to students and academics in higher education. I try not to tweet a study tips link at 3am, because most students will either be sleeping or partying. The link is more likely to be missed at that time. For greatest exposure, understand what hours best suit you. 3am may be wasted for me, but it’s perfect for someone tweeting sleep tips to insomniacs.
The use of Twitter brings up more questions than answers. There is no single way of using the service effectively.
The one piece of advice I’d give is this: Don’t panic about each unfollow you get. For every user who doesn’t appreciate your content, there are loads of users who will be happy with your output. Focus on developing a unique presence, not a concoction of what one or two users demanded. Your job is to listen and respond, not to roll over and obey.
You’ll never know exactly what everyone wants. Enjoy creating tweets that work for you. Eventually, you should enthuse, engage and inform others in the process. Genuine output is not only accepted, but also the most likely way to get you loyal, engaging followers.