Top 10 Tips for Using TwitterAs far as I am concerned, Twitter is a must have for business; whether you are using Twitter to promote your business or to establish your expertise, it is a crucial piece of the puzzle to getting recognized and building relationships. But with all the clutter in the Twitterverse, it’s important not to ignore the etiquette of Twitter, otherwise you might find that you are not getting the most of this popular social networking platform.

Top 10 Twitter Etiquette Tips for Business

1. Listen to Your Mother and Mind Your Manners

This is just good common sense. As someone who is a marketing professional first, I always like to say, “New Tools Old Rules.” If someone mentions you or retweets you, if at all possible thank them. Not only do People like to be recognized for their efforts, but this is a valuable action, so not thanking them would be rude. This is also a great way to begin building a relationship on Twitter. This small gesture may open the lines of communication between you and a potential customer or business partner. Show your appreciation and people will be more likely to re-tweet your offerings again and again. Even better, return the favor and retweet one of their posts.

2. Use #Hashtags Appropriately

I personally love hashtags. They are a great way to encourage participation not to mention help others track and find information. Having said that, it is important not to overuse them. While I like the long hashtag as much as the next person, using it too often or putting a hashtag in front of every word of your post will do nothing more than annoy your followers.

3. Resist the Urge to Tweet Too Much

Time and time again, research has shown that there is a fine line between just enough sharing and too much. Oftentimes businesses that are new to Twitter don’t yet understand this principle. Don’t fill your followers’ feeds with spammy Tweets. The best way to engage your audience is to post relevant, interesting, useful, and original content. Before you post, ask yourself: “Would I care about this if I were a follower?”

Tip: If you have a lot of ideas, use a program like Hootsuite to schedule your tweets so that they can be spaced out.

4. Warn Followers if You’re Going to Tweet a Lot

If you want to live-tweet an event at your business or charity gathering, you will need to tweet a lot!. While it’s a good idea, you may lose followers who feel assaulted by a barrage of tweets. A little fair warning will be much appreciated, and your followers will likely give you a pass for the day.

Tip: Tell them to check out Twalala or Twittblocker.

5. Watch What You Tweet

There have been some famous and embarrassing blunders on social media that have gotten both individuals and even entire companies in a lot of trouble. Don’t ever use your brand’s Twitter account to discuss controversial topics, send inappropriate photos, or use explicit language. If you’re on a personal account, the sky’s the limit and you can debate anything you like. However, in a business setting, unless it directly pertains to your product or service, it may be best to leave certain incendiary subjects like religion and politics alone.

6. Don’t Get Too Personal

Developing relationships with customers is one the primary goals of Twitter, but you should try to keep your posts about relevant business information. Your followers don’t need to know your personal business. I will concede that there is a benefit to adding a personal touch from time to time, especially in a small business. If you’re getting married or a favorite employee just had a baby, you may want to share the news for your brand loyalists to celebrate with you. Just be careful when considering what is appropriate to share.

7. Write Professionally

Your social media presence is an extension of your business persona. Always use proper grammar and spelling. It will help you maintain a professional image. (No one wants to see a law firm or accountant office tweet “OMG! Its not 2 late 4 u to file ur taxes!”).

Tip: Be sure to use proper forms of commonly misused words like there, they’re, and their.

8. Be Aware of Your Audience

Keeping rule #6 in mind, try and tailor your content to fit your audience. If your brand is focusing on tweens and teens, speak their lingo. If you are a B2B company, you will definitely want to use industry jargon. Be sure to post information that is relevant and timely to those following you and those you want to follow you.

Tip: If applicable, awards shows and sporting events are great ways to engage customers.

9. Be Timely With Communication

Once you’ve started a conversation with someone on Twitter, it is imperative that you respond to them in a timely manner. Even more importantly, if someone poses a question to you, answer them! Social media is great for giving you an opportuníty to engage immediately and directly with your customer base. Nothing is worse than asking a company a question and not hearing back from them for 3 days.

10. Address Customer Service Issues Privately

Almost any customer who tweets you with a complaint or concern wants to be heard, but not all want to engage in a public dialogue. Directly address consumers through direct message, off the public “floor.”

Tip: you can even ask them for a phone number and call them personally to show them you care about fixing the issue.

BONUS: Don’t búy into personal attacks.

There are always those people who complain and no matter what you say they will not ever be happy. To make this worse, Twitter is a medium of text communication which means there can be a definite margin of misunderstanding because there’s no way to hear someone’s tone of voice or observe their body language. What may be meant as a joke could escalate into something more negative. If it seems a conversation is deteriorating into something contentious, it’s wise to just walk away. Trust me, it’s just not worth it.

Twitter has become one of the most effective ways to market your business of the last decade. Follow these rules, and you’re sure to have many happy tweets ahead of you.

By David P Mon (c) 2012