In 2011, a message tweeted and quickly deleted by designer Kenneth Cole suggested that fervor over his new clothing line incited riots in Egypt. Even though the message was removed, reports Brenna Ehrlich of Mashable.com, one of the thousands of Cole Twitter followers lampooned the message on a Kenneth Cole shop window. For non-celebrities, pounding out 140-character missives about dim-witted bosses or family gossip does not have quite the global impact, but is equally scathing among a circle of friends. Instant delivery over Twitter and third-party Twitter clients makes the faux pas difficult to immediately delete. Follow traditional etiquette advice as well as rules embraced universally by Tweeters for tactful navigation of the Twitterverse.
Time and Place
"Be careful where you Tweet," say Charles Winter and Ann Winter. The co-authors of "The Official Book of Electronic Etiquette" caution that "It's out of place at solemn occasions, such as funerals, court hearings, etc." Not every memorial or meeting carries historical importance. The presence of a mobile device or laptop may also seem rude to other attendees.
A well-cultivated existing list of related followers inspires conversation and attracts additional followers. Do not aggressively follow other Twitter users merely to increase your follower list. Twitter defines aggressive following as "mass following and mass un-following for attention." Rather, extend friendship to your contact list first. Click on the "Find Friends" tab. Select Gmail, LinkedIn, Yahoo! or AOL. Securely enter your login information for the designated site. Twitter generates a list of your email contacts that use Twitter. Your real-life friends will inevitably follow you back.
Use the Direct Message, or DM, system to relay additional information to a Tweeter. Give a requested phone number or express condolences privately. Some Tweeters thank new followers by DM. If you choose this route, personalize each message. Otherwise, you risk appearing as a spammer. To inspire conversation, thank a follower publicly with the @mention feature. It thanks a follower twice: first, by expressing your gratitude and second, by calling attention to his name. Your followers may become his followers, too.
While third-party platforms may broadcast scheduled or delayed tweets, refrain from spamming your followers or potential followers. Do not frequently copy and post the same tweet. Phrase information you feel compelled to rebroadcast. Use the @mention or @reply feature to remark about another user's tweet or to notify only a friend about a link. Posting a link to your business and mentioning a person who did not solicit you constitutes spamming, according to the Twitter Help Center. The user may unfollow you, at best, and report you to Twitter if the behavior persists. For business accounts, a lost follower is a lost customer.
Resist the temptation to break someone else's personal news or confided secrets. Your cousin will surely blacklist you for broadcasting her pregnancy or divorce before she makes an official announcement. Miss Manners, etiquette expert Judith Martin, compels gossipers to ask themselves if "there is any useful reason for repeating it." The answer is almost always "no." Tact now outweighs damage control later. Ask relatives and newfound Twitter friends alike if you can officially break the story.
- Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images News/Getty Images