Top 10 Twitter DOs and DON’Ts

If you’ve been thinking about trying Twitter out, these guidelines should help your Twitter initiation go smoothly.

You’ve got a blog. You’ve got email, SMS, and IM. These are great tools for communication. Email and text messaging are two-way conversations. Blogging is mostly a one-to-many conversation. But what about something in-between? Twitter is part micro-blog, part instant message, and can fill the need for short public and personal broadcasts.

If you’ve been thinking about trying Twitter out, you may find the 140 character maximum a limitation or a useful restriction. But like many who’ve joined, you might develop an addiction to the simplicity of telling people what you’re doing right now.

So I thought it would be useful to give you some loose guidelines and help make your Twitter initiation go smoothly. Here are my top 10 Twitter dos and don’ts.

Do…

  1. Share distinctions
    If you just learned something or made a useful distinction, share it with the rest of us. Twitter is a lifehacker’s dream come true.
  2. Share your accomplishments
    We all have magic moments. And if you’re actively looking for them, you’ll find them more often. So when you notice something you’ve done and want to take a couple of sentences to brag, go for it. It will feel good and inspire the rest of us.
  3. Share your feelings
    Cyberspace can be a cold and disconnected place. 140 characters is a great frame to share how you are feeling. And if you go deeper than happy/sad, you might even increase your emotional intelligence.
  4. Get help
    Need an Apple genius? I’ve watched users post Mac questions and get answers in minutes.
  5. Spread the ideavirus
    Find something cool? Share it.
  6. Pimp your blog
    If you’re on WordPress, Twitter Tools will integrate your blog with Twitter. Check the Twitter Fan Wiki for hours of Twitter-hacking fun.
  7. Check SMS restrictions
    If you plan on using your phone to interact with Twitter, get to know your cellphone service plan. You can turn SMS off within Twitter’s settings to save you from a shocking phone bill. You can even set it to text you only when you receive direct messages so there’s some flexibility under Twitter’s hood.
  8. Utilize features and addons
    Twitter support gives you the basics of messaging and searching for friends. But if you want serious customization, dig around the Twitter Fan Wiki. I was able to hack Twitter, Quicksilver, iChat, and Growl into a perfect workflow for me. It was fun and I learned a lot doing it.
  9. Share jokes
    Who doesn’t need a laugh? If you can make someone smile in 140 characters or less, it’s your duty to do so.
  10. Invite people
    Don’t be shy. Add your friends. Add me. If they don’t get it, it’s their loss.

Don’t…

  1. Twit your to-do list
    There may be times when you need to micro-log your daily activities. Like when a group of friends are trying to keep track of each other on a weekend night on the town. But most people don’t care or need to know if you are now folding your laundry.
  2. Get too personal
    This is where Twitter is more like a blog than IM. It’s not a good place to have intimate cybersex.
  3. Leave out context
    Read Dave Winer a little while and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Dave can get away with it as an A-list technology pundit. But you and me? We should still try to communicate something that’s complete and makes sense.
  4. Twit if you need more than 140 characters
    That’s what your blog is for. If you need to split your Tweet into multiple posts, you run the risk of leaving out context and confusing the reader. Just blog it.
  5. Make it a distraction
    Twitter isn’t totally frivolous. It’s a great networking tool, both professionally and personally. It’s part journal, part time tracker. It’s bound to be used for SEO and marketing. But like email, manage it wisely.
  6. Use too many features and addons
    Pimp it, hack it, mash it up, just don’t go to far. If you listen to music like I do, it probably doesn’t make sense to auto-post every 3 minutes my latest iTunes track. And it doesn’t make sense to make each Tweet a separate blog post. Keep your addons useful to your followers.
  7. Force it
    If Twitter’s not for you, that’s fine. Sometimes I wish I had never started using email. But if you decide to make Twitter a consistent practice, don’t feel forced to post. Your followers will give you a nudge if they miss you.
  8. Expect followers to read everything
    On the hierarchy of communication priority, Twitter is probably pretty low. Don’t expect to break up with your girlfriend via Twitter. Text messaging is best for that.
  9. Twit and drive
    I know you’ll ignore this one but I wanted to add it just so that I can assume no responsibility to any vehicular mishaps that may occur as a result.
  10. Twit at your brother’s engagement party during dinner under the table with your Blackberry
    Seems obvious, right? Yeah, well not to me.

There you have it, my list of Twitter best practices. I’m sure you can think of something that I forgot. Please contribute.