July 27, 2011

Some Basic Twitter Etiquette

If you’re venturing into Twitter for the first time, it seems a bit like a different world.  People write 140-character sentances complete with @ signs and # marks.  What exactly is going on here and how can you fit in?

Since Twitter really is all about building relationships – or at least that should be the mainstay of your Twitter usage! – the @ symbol can be a very powerful tool.   In Twitter, @ is a way to direct a message to someone in particular.  Think of it like a conversation and using the @ symbol will  make sure that the other person hears the phone ring.  However, how you use the @ symbol in Twitter makes a difference.   If you start a tweet with @personsname then only that person and their followers will see your message  in their twitter stream.  If however you want what you’re saying visible to everyone in the world (including via web searches by people who don’t have Twitter accounts) you want to put the @personsname in the middle of the tweet.   Here are two examples:

  • @personsname I really appreciate your help with the graphic design work you’re doing for my company
  • Working with a great graphic designer @personsname to help me design new labels for my company

In the second instance anyone who is doing a search on graphic designers, labels, etc would be able to find your tweet and the reference to the person/company you’re talking about whereas the first bullet point would be a message that would only be seen by that person and their followers. 

What if you want to send a private direct message to someone?  Twitter has a messages tab that allows you to create private messages and send it to someone.  Altneratively you can simply type D personsname and then your message (D personsname I really appreciate the graphic design work you’re doing for my company) and Twitter will send that person your private message.   The big thing to know about private messages is that you can only send and receive private messages from people you follow and who follow you back.  If you want to be  quick to respond to any direct messages you can set up your Twitter account to send you an email whenever anyone sends you a private message.

Lastly, what’s up with all those # you see in Twitter messages?  Hashtags (#) are typically used to publicize events that are upcoming.  These can be anything from formal in-person conferences and tradeshows to grassroots community events to tweetups (in person meetups of twitter friends) to electronic-only events such as webinars.  Let’s say that you’ll be taking your small food business to a special event.  You can search Twitter to see if the event organizers have created a hashtag and then include that in your tweets.  For example:

  • Really looking forward to trying out our new pork empanadas at #thunderfarmersmarket this Sunday!

Along those same lines, you can create a hashtag for an event you’re planning if you’d like the public to attend.  Let’s say that you are teaching a class about how to make pork empanadas at the Thunder Farmers Market.  You could create a hashtag such as #empanadaclasses and then tweet about it:

  • Be sure to check out #empanadaclasses at #thunderfarmersmarket this Sunday!

This enables people to search Twitter for your event, follow it, retweet it (share it with others), and write about it.  All of which can help you spread the word.

Here’s what’s on tap Twitterwise for the rest of the week:

  • Thursday: Making Twitter Work For You
  • Friday: How To Use Twitter To Help You Get Press

Again, on Twitter you can find me @smallfoodbiz and this year I’ll be attending #ifbc (the international food bloggers conference) in Santa Monica and I’d love to meet you if you’ll be there.