This article is part of week-long series of social media stories, which you can read by clicking here .
The invitation to Twitter’s never-ending party has been hanging over your head since July 2006. If you now are ready to put on your party shoes, we’re here to help you polish them, along with your social media skills.
Like a latecomer to a party in real life, you should be keenly aware of etiquette, dynamics and terminology within the social circles you are joining on Twitter, advises communication strategist Ben Grossman of the marketing agency Oxford Communications.
“(You) don’t start freak dancing in the middle of a formal ball. (You) don’t start screaming in a room of hushed conversations. The same goes for Twitter,” Grossman said. “Don’t start invading peoples’ private hashtag conversations with your advertising. Don’t automatically direct message people with a canned greeting when they’re expecting a human ‘hello.’”
As you enter the popular social Web gathering – whose attendees have tweeted from their businesses, homes, conferences and even outer space – you should follow certain guidelines to ensure you become a successful attendee on the micro-blogging website.
Here, Grossman shares basic etiquette tips, offers insightful usage suggestions and explains common terminology to help you appropriately use and understand Twitter.
Connect with like-minded people: When looking for other Twitter users to “follow,” make sure that you select relevant ones. If the connection you’re trying to create with the user isn’t clear, consider “@ mentioning” them to introduce yourself and start a conversation.
Reciprocate: When someone follows your Twitter account (they’re called “followers”), it is generally expected you take a look at their profile and consider following them back. If you decide to reciprocate, consider exchanging a friendly “hello” message with the user to kick off your newly formed twittership (Twitter relationship).
Incite dialogue: When you want to start a one-on-one (but still public) conversation with another user or to mention them in an easily identifiable way, place an “@” symbol before their Twitter handle (username) in order to make it apparent that you are talking to or about that specific user. Placing the @username at the beginning of a tweet makes it clear you are tweeting directly to someone and are calling for their attention and, potentially, their response.
Join bigger coversations: Use “hashtags” when you want to participate in a conversation or contribute information to a group of tweets, while making it easily trackable by the public. Simply add a “hash” or “pound” symbol – (#) – preceding the tag, resulting in hashtags such as: #followfriday, #blackfriday, or #socialmedia.
Keep some things private: “Direct Messages” are private one-on-one messages thatallow users to have more classified or personal communication while still on the Twitter platform. Use these for personal asides, much like an e-mail. Users can also have these messages forwarded to their mobile phones or e-mail accounts.
Learn what’s popular: Every once in a while, a new trend – called “memes” – will pop up on Twitter that the community rallies around and embraces. Twitter has even implemented a feature on the homepage (called “Trends”) to identify and recognize those memes. Participating in this feature can make users instantly trendy and relevant to the participating community. Many users enjoy it when brands become more human by participating in these trends with the masses.
Organize your connections: A relatively new feature on Twitter, “lists” offers a great way to help keep track of the people you’re following by sorting them into different, customizable groups. When you attend a conference, meet people at an event or are active in an in a specific industry, the lists feature is an effective way to recognize users as part of a community and creates another way for newcomers to explore who you are and who you follow.
Share what you read/learn: One of the best things about Twitter is that people say and share some pretty amazing things. If you see a tweet come through your stream that you enjoy and find valuable, “retweeting” (which is often abbreviated as RT) that content is a great way to recognize the user and share it with you followers. To do so, you can follow one of the two following retweeting protocols:
- Type out a new tweet using the following structure: [your commentary about the content] + [RT] + [@author’s username] + [original tweet]. This should yield something like: Must read post! RT @BenGrossman In case you missed it, my new blog from #BrandsConf: "Humanizing Brands: Part 1" http://bit.ly/fg1WoW.
- Use the built-in Twitter “retweet” button below every tweet, which sends the original tweet out without any of your personal commentary.
Give kudos: Twitter tends to be a community heavily focused on recognition (hence retweeting rituals and @ mentions). When you see great tweets or have great conversations, consider thanking users publicly, which can prompt your followers to follow that user, too.
For a full list of Twitter terms, visit the Twitter Glossary.
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