Twitter for Manufacturers, Part 4 – Good Citizenship in the Twitterverse

Posted on Jun 14, 2010 by Kerry O'Malley

Manners DO Matter, Even in Social Media


By this time, even if you’re an industrial marketer, I’ve convinced you that you need to be on Twitter. This post isn’t about what Twitter is, is not, or how you can use it as a business tool. This is a post about Twitter etiquette – or more succinctly, how NOT to annoy or offend people on Twitter.

Whether you’re Brittney Spears or a small manufacturing company, regular Twitter users generally fall into three main categories. There are “relationship builders,” who use Twitter as an interactive communication tool; “promoters” who use it primarily for self promotion or micro-blogging; and there are “power users” who have tens of thousands of followers and seem to be tweeting constantly. I must say, however, in the manufacturing and industrial marketing area, I mainly see Promoters.

The three types of twitter users do not seem to appreciate one another. In fact, I would say each wishes the others would disappear off the face of the Twitterverse.

Relationship builders think that Promoters are self serving and only out for profit. They think Power Users, by and large are grandiose, arrogant blowhards.

Promoters think that Relationship Builders spew ongoing bursts of meaningless drivel that only clutters the Twitter stream with unnecessary chatter. (They pretty much see Power Users the same way as the Relationship Builders do.)

Power Users are probably not even sending their own tweets most of the time. They rarely comment directly to their followers and are really just providing a micro blog that their followers will want to stay tuned into.  (If it were up to them, they’d be the ONLY one with followers on Twitter.)

None of these three types of users thinks the others know how to use Twitter properly.
In case you’re not sure about which group you fall into, here are a few hints.

With the exception of true spammers, Relationship Builders almost always follow people who follow them. They try hard to insert many @ posts, which acknowledges someone else or engages them in a conversation. If you are a Relationship Builder, you will feel offended if you send someone a direct message (DM) and do not receive a response, and confused if you follow someone who does not follow you back.

Promoters rarely post anything of a personal nature. Almost every tweet is about what they do for a living, what their company does, or well . . . promotes something about them or their company. They think it strange when someone DM’s them (unless of course, the person is a potential customer.) They don’t care much about @ posts, unless it’s a customer or vendor extolling their marvelous products or services. (As I said, sadly, most industrial companies fall into this category.)

Power Users have many, many more followers and very few people that they follow. They post frequently and sometimes it seems tweeting is their full time job. They rarely post @ comments OR DM’s. A Power User can be a celebrity or someone from the business world who has practically achieved a celebrity status.

If you want to know which style I think is more affective as an industrial marketing tool, follow me and send me a DM (Twitter name: kerrysomalley.) I will definitely follow you back and respond.

Consider these major differences, and you can see the potential for misunderstandings and breaches of what is considered true Twitter etiquette. Whether you’re a Promoter, Relationship Builder, or a newbie, if you want to be a good citizen of the Twitterverse, here are my top ten“Twetiquette” tips to help you out. (I didn’t include Power Users, because they think they know everything already.)

1.  Complete your Twitter profile and PLEASE use a real name! This is the Twitter equivalent of introducing yourself. I really have no interest in engaging with “pinkylady” or “dudeonthelake.” I’m on Twitter primarily for business, and I am interested in connecting with other people who are serious about using Twitter for business. Don’t hide behind some weird name (or neglect to upload your picture or company logo.) Make your profile appealing so that people will want to follow you.

2.  Keep the ratio of people you follow fairly close to your number of followers. ALL Twitter users hate spammers. If you follow 500% more people than follow you, people will think you’re a spammer. True or not, this is not healthy for your Twitter reputation. Keep the ratio fairly close, never a difference of more than 20% or so.

3.  Never, ever forget that Twitter is public. Once you post something on Twitter, it becomes part of a permanent Internet record dedicated to yours truly. Anyone who searches for you or your company can come across that post. Now that Google is indexing social media information, it could actually come up #1 on Google! If you wouldn’t say something out loud in public, it’s probably not a good idea to say it on Twitter. Be respectful; be genuine; be ethical.

4.  Get in the habit of using DM for ongoing conversations. You may have figured out by now that I consider myself a Relationship Builder. However, even I get irritated by lengthy private conversations flying back and forth because someone is too lazy to remember to use DM instead of @ all the time. Everyone who follows you doesn’t need to read the back and forth discussion you’re having with someone about where and when you’re going to meet. Save @ for meaningful comments that have value to anyone reading them. Use DM for ongoing, private conversations.

5.  Don’t overdo the self promotion. I’ve written entire posts about this before. I KNOW, I know . . . why would you want to invest all that time and effort into a Twitter “presence” and not promote your own company? It can be done in a balanced way so that in addition to the self promotion, you’re also providing value to your followers that will put you somewhere in between a Relationship Builder and Promoter. I can guarantee that if ALL you do is self promote, your following will stay small and probably only include some of your employees, relatives, vendors, and if you’re lucky, a few customers.

6.  When you send an @ reply, put something in the post that gives it context. Nothing is more irritating than to see a stream of @ messages coming through your feed and you have absolutely no idea what they refer to. It’s OK so send someone a public reply to their post (as opposed to a DM) but tie it to their original post. For example, if you read a post that says ,”Why don’t more manufacturers see the value of social media?” Your @ reply could be “Most manufacturers don’t see the value in social media because they’re too busy manufacturing.” See? Anyone who reads your reply will instantly understand what question you answered (and not be irritated.)

7.  Whether Relationship Builder or Promoter, respond to @ or DM’s. Seriously, if someone walked up to you at a social function and asked a question of you directly, would you simply ignore them? Of course you wouldn’t! You must start to see Twitter (and all other social media sites, for that matter) as that social function, but in a digital world. You have to monitor your account DAILY and respond to @ or DM messages. Your Twitter reputation and following depend upon it!

8.  Basic manners apply on Twitter. Do you know that people have actually been sued for libel as a result of Twitter rants? It’s true! Again, be respectful, be helpful, be genuine. Even when your comments are passive-aggressive, most people are smart enough to figure things out. You can never go wrong by following the golden rule, “treat others as you would like to be treated.”

9.  If you’re using Twitter for business, it’s probably best not to tweet after drinking. Do you think this one is unnecessary? You’d be surprised how many people go out for a few drinks in the evening and then have the brilliant idea of tweeting or setting up a few automated tweets. One tweet “under the influence” might be amusing – but don’t let it become a habit. Your judgment is impaired, your tongue is far too loose, and your spelling becomes atrocious. If you wouldn’t drink alcohol before going on a business call, don’t drink and tweet.

10.  Space out your tweets. Twittering 20-plus times an hour pushes other people’s messages off followers’ homepages. I have “unfollowed” and “blocked” people who do this. It’s annoying! If you have a lot to say, but still want to engage with followers without alienating them, use DM’s more often! Seriously! (I don’t really see too many manufacturing or industrial companies doing this, but I had to add it to the list.)

That’s it, you can return to Twitter now. Make Emily Post proud.

Author: Kerry O'Malley

Marketects was founded in 1999 by Kerry O’Malley, a proven marketing communications professional in international, manufacturing companies. Working on the “other side of the desk,” she hired ad agencies to manage her employers’ advertising and P/R programs. Frustrated over the lack of attention and level of enthusiasm she was looking for in the marketing agencies she worked with, Kerry realized that there was a definite need for a full-service marketing firm that specialized in working with industrial companies. She resolved that her clients would always receive the highest level of service possible and never feel like the last kid chosen for the team.

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