The Real Twitter Guidelines

I recently moved out of the big city of Montreal to a quaint suburb about a half-hour away from the hustle and bustle of the city. I now spend my morning commuting to work which basically involves a slow crawl scored by the chirpy sounds of talk radio. Lately I’ve been following the 2011 election here in Canada and I’m fascinated by how it’s being covered.

This election has been dubbed the “Social media election” one where social networks are considered one of the biggest fronts. Every morning I listen to a new social media expert comment on the proceedings and can’t help but guffaw at what some of these ‘experts’ say about Twitter.

They’re breaking the rules!!1one

“X candidate is ignoring the ‘4 to 1’ ratio rule” (4 replies for every Tweet)
“X candidate posts at uneven intervals”
“X candidate doesn’t follow anyone back”

These are only a few examples but all were said with the implication that candidates in question were taking huge missteps and were violating the sacred code of Twitter.

These ‘experts’ are not confined to political talk radio. Oh no, they’re scattered all over the web, conference halls and meet-ups and it’s something that’s always been a pet peeve of mine.


The Reality

There’s more than one way to skin a cat. While the above ‘rules’ might work for some, they aren’t essential to maintaining a healthy Twitter account. Every brand and industry is different. While there are guidelines for structure that can be quite helpful in making your content more visible, there aren’t any rules that dictate what your content should be so just let your social creativity flow.

Celebrities Tweet differently from major brands and major brands tweet differently from bloggers and bloggers tweet differently from each other. It’s not about the perfect Tweet ratio or most consistent schedule it’s about being relevant and present.

The Real Rules

Although I may have just made it sound like Twitter is some sort of free-for-all I’ll now attempt to rein you in before things get too crazy. There are still some important guidelines that I strongly encourage everyone to follow:

Finish What You Start

If you start a conversation make sure there is a resolution. Don’t leave people hanging. You’d never leave a customer in mid-conversation face-to-face and it’s just as rude to do on Twitter.

Give Credit

If you take the content of a Tweet from another Twitter user then give proper credit. Be it with a RT or a (via). Don’t take other people’s work and pretend it’s your own.

Bring Something to the Table

Give people a reason to follow you. If you’re an industry leader or have a lot of industry information at your disposal then put it to use on Twitter. This will get people wanting to know more about your brand.


Keep in mind that the average Twitter user represents the silent majority. They’ll use Twitter more as a glorified RSS feed than a social networking platform. Earlier this year, Yahoo! Research released a study that found .05% of Twitter users were producing over 50% of all Tweets. This says a lot about how much Twitter has changed over the years but comes as no real surprise to marketers. The average Twitter user has become more passive and uses Twitter more as a source of information rather than a tool for social interaction. Bottom line is: Twitter is becoming less social.

To get Twitter users engaged and talking about your brand you need to coax them. This can be done through compelling content, a good personality or through interactive initiatives like contests and give-aways.

Think of the average Twitter user as the shy lonely guy leaning against the wall at the school ball. Be the girl that goes up and asks for the first dance.

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