Unlike some social media networks that have somewhat of a limited demographic, the sheer volume of Twitter users and the broad demographic they encompass makes it possible for businesses in nearly all industries to get positive-ROI results from Twitter. Although relatively simplistic, there's an inherent learning curve when it comes to tweeting and associated etiquette. 

Here are the Twitter etiquette guidelines that should be followed when marketing using Twitter. Following these guidelines will help attract more followers, build better rapport with your target audience and increase exposure and brand awareness. 

1) Don't Follow then Unfollow

One technique that some users employ is following a large list of people in hopes of getting follow-backs, and then unfollowing. This is one of the worst etiquette violations on Twitter and often creates ill will. If you choose to follow someone, make sure you're doing it because their page (and content) is relevant and that you have a genuine interest in it. This way, the follow backs you receive will be from like-minded individuals that can help with establishing a legitimate community. 

2) You Don't Have to Follow Everyone Back 

Sometimes, Twitter users feel a sense of obligation to follow everyone back who follows them. While it's a nice gesture if you're truly interested, don't feel like you're required to follow everyone back. Doing so can ultimately clog your feed with irrelevant or uninteresting content that has nothing to do with your industry. 

The best way to approach this is to check out the profile of the person who follows you to decide how interested you are in their content. If there is a legitimate interest, go ahead and follow them back. If not, don't feel guilty and follow back out of obligation. At the same time, it's important to understand that not everyone you follow will follow back.

3) Don't Over-Promote

One reason for launching a marketing campaign on Twitter is to promote your business's products or services. But this isn't the only good reason to do so, and doing this exclusively can cause your campaign to backfire. While it's perfectly fine to tweet links to promotional pages, it's important to use discretion when doing so. Sending out a never-ending stream of sales-oriented tweets can quickly turn followers off and lead to unfollows. Strive for a nice balance between promotion and less self-serving tweets. 

Other ideas include retweeting products or services from other businesses that customers might find useful or general industry information. Since many articles, videos and other video on the Internet include tweet buttons, curating content is extremely easy. 

4) Stay On Point

Another thing that many people find irritating is when someone tweets about everything under the sun without adding any real value. Nobody cares about that turkey sandwich you just ate. Although tweeting about a variety of different things may be acceptable on a personal account, a business page on Twitter should stick to relevant information concerning your niche. 

5) Always Focus on Quality

Sometimes, businesses will tweet mediocre to low quality content just to stay active. While you're not expected to always post content that's pure gold, it's important to adhere to a certain standard. Since what you tweet will ultimately be a reflection on your business, it's necessary to work diligently to maintain a consistent level of quality. Just make sure that all content is something that your audience will find helpful, entertaining or enriching to their lives in some way.   

6) Don't Overwhelm or Underwhelm Followers

Tweeting at the right frequency is, in itself, an art that takes time to master. Stay away from the extremes of tweeting too much or not enough. Barraging followers with an incessant stream of tweets can come across as being intrusive and obnoxious. On the other hand, only tweeting once a week can make followers lose interest. That's why it's best to find a middle ground and a nice consistency. 

Unlike other social media platforms where any more than a handful of posts per week seems like too much, it's fine to tweet every day on Twitter. While there isn't an exact model in terms of frequency, anywhere from one to five tweets a day is usually fine. When posting multiple tweets, it's also smart to break them up at different intervals throughout the day instead of all at once. Doing so makes it easier for followers to digest information and doesn't come across as being spammy.

7) Use Hashtags Wisely

Inserting hashtags into tweets is an effective way to help Twitter users find your content and maximize exposure. In some cases, this will help you appear in the trending results on Twitter's homepage. However, #insertinghashtags every #otherword can be #obnoxious and #makeyou #lookfoolish. 

According to Twitter Best Practices, "Used sparingly and respectfully, hashtags can provide useful context and cues for recall, as well as increased utility for the track feature. Used excessively can cause annoyance, confusion or frustration, and may lead people to stop following you. It's best to use hashtags explicitly when they're going to add value, rather than on every word in an update. A good rule of thumb to follow is to focus on your update first, and only if it quantitatively adds value, to append one-to-three hashtags."

8) Be Positive

Lately, it seems like Twitter has become a place for disgruntled people to rant and rave about what's eating at them. While Twitter feuds may bring some celebrities the attention they're seeking, being overtly negative with a business page can be detrimental to your campaign. 

When working to build brand equity, it's important to establish a reputation for being a positive force and not a downer who exudes negative energy. That's why it's best to stay away from confrontations and focus more on light-hearted topics of discussion. Even if someone takes a jab at you, it's best to take the high road and not retaliate. 

9) Give Credit Where It's Due

Anytime the content of a tweet is based around someone else's idea, research or opinion, it's a good idea to give credit to that person. If the information comes from Twitter, simply retweeting it will give proper attribution. Otherwise, inserting a link or mentioning the person or brand should be sufficient. Doing so should keep you out of any hot water and can potentially help with networking. 

Networking can often lead to new clients via referrals on Twitter. Many companies even use Twitter as a CRM software (what's CRM software? See this article). However you use Twitter, know that you're interacting with real people who could do wonders for your business if you play your cards right.

10) Avoid Controversial Topics

When promoting a business, there's no need to dive into personal opinions about issues like politics and religion. There's a time and place for these types of subjects, and a business page on Twitter is definitely not the place or the time. Not only is this bad taste, it can hurt your brand image and result in lost followers.

11) Shorten Longer URLs

With only 140 characters allowed per tweet, there's not a whole lot of room for excessively long links. That's why it's best to keep them short by using a URL shortener like Bitly. This software is completely free to use and doesn't even require any registration. Creating a shorter URL only takes a few seconds, but will condense links considerably and make them more eye appealing.  

August 7, 2013

Jayson DeMers is the founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based content marketing & social media agency. You can contact him on LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter.

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