One measure of the popularity of Twitter is the proliferation of Twitter debacles due to inappropriate tweets—with one Scottish politician committing political death when he referred to his elderly constituents as “coffin dodgers.
And politicians aren’t the only offenders: while many people have a morbid fascination with celebrities, is there anyone who doesn’t have Lindsay-Lohan-tweet-fatigue? I’m about to buy that family a washer/dryer so they can stop airing their dirty laundry in public.
Here’s the thing: like Facebook, Twitter began as a way to make your opinions known, and one of its supposed ‘benefits’ is its immediacy. But how often is our first reaction our best? I say, rarely. Consequently, and forthwith, my #1 rule for Twitter:
- Tweets are forever: Don’t tweet anything you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the New York Times.
After that, the other elements I consider mandatory are:
- Be amusing without being mean-spirited.
For example, I have tweeted about T-shirt slogans I found preposterous: “Avoid Responsibility” not being work-attire; and firstname.lastname@example.org not being my first choice for the email address I would put on my resume.
- Offer actionable information people can use to run their business, or their life, more efficiently.
For myself, this has included items along the lines of “Here’s a great telephone greeting I heard,” and “Wow, this big box store not only gave my dog a cart to ride in- they gave him a pillow to sit on.” In both cases, both readers, and the businesses mentioned, wrote to thank me.
- Additionally, and despite the 140 character restrictions, do not fall back on abbreviations, emoticons, and/or any other trappings of the junior high school set.
As you’re not in high school anymore, your tweets shouldn’t sound like you’re stuck in detention.
Used wisely, Twitter is a great way to help others feel connected to you and your business. But just because its immediacy gives it a shotgun-wedding-in-Vegas feel, doesn’t mean the words you commit to it aren’t important– and binding. So tweet wisely, or forever hold your peace.
Frances Cole Jones