When I was asked to start tweeting as @profnet back in May 2008, I had a moment – OK, several moments – of panic. I had just heard of Twitter and had no idea what I was doing. (Some would say I still don’t, but that’s neither here nor there.)
Apart from queries, what the heck would I tweet about? And why would anyone care about anything I had to say? There were many moments when I would type a tweet, delete it, retype it, edit it, delete it and type it again – and then hold my breath as I hit the “send” button.
So what did I do? I found a mentor. For me, it was my colleague Vicky Harres. I respected what Vicky was doing on the @prnewswire feed, and decided to study her tweets and learn as much from her as I could.
What I learned: Friendliness and professionalism are not mutually exclusive. Your tweets can be conversational and still be professional. There’s no reason you can’t show a little personality, but remember: First and foremost, you are tweeting as @yourbrand, not as @you.
Am I an expert on Twitter? Certainly not, although I do think I’ve found a good balance between “official tweets” and “Maria tweets” (aside from my Snuggie obsession of 2009, which I’ve chosen to forget). So, please take my suggestions below as just that – suggestions from someone who tweets for a brand.
Find a Twitter mentor. If you follow someone who you think gets it right, learn from her. What does she tweet about? How often does she tweet? How often does she re-tweet? How does she re-tweet (does she just re-send the original tweet verbatim, or does she put her own spin on it)? When and how does she reply to negative tweets? When and how does she reply to positive tweets? If your mentor is open to it, run a few tweets by her and see what, if any, changes she would make.
Keep it positive. As tempting as it sometimes might be, avoid being negative, sarcastic or snarky. No matter how funny you think it might be, always remember that you’re tweeting as your brand, not as you.
Respond to negative feedback. If someone says something negative about your brand and you don’t respond, the tweet that lingers is the negative one. However, there are two caveats: 1) Be thoughtful in your response. You don’t have to respond immediately. It’s better to take time to think your response through. 2) Beware attempts to bait you. Weigh the pros and cons of responding. If you decide not to respond publicly, consider a direct message instead.
Steer away from controversy. Controversial topics (politics, religion) are controversial for a reason – there are people who are vehemently on one side or the other. Why alienate either?
Humor is subjective. There will always be someone who thinks your joke is in poor taste or inappropriate, so while I don’t think you should censor yourself, stay away from topics or language/slang that might be taken the wrong way.
Get a second opinion. If there’s something you want to tweet but you aren’t sure whether it’s appropriate, ask your mentor for his opinion. And if you’re still not sure, follow the next rule:
When in doubt, leave it out. This golden rule of writing also applies to tweets. If you have any doubts, don’t tweet it.
Don’t get too personal. Tweeting about Snuggies is innocuous. Tweeting about hemorrhoids or ingrown toenails is not.
Follow your followers. I know not everyone will agree with this, but if you want to promote conversation with your followers, you have to follow them back. I explained my reasoning for this in a previous post, To Follow or Not to Follow: Take the Auto-Follow Challenge. When I see someone whose following/follower ratio is pretty even, I find myself thinking that he is more open, and that makes me more likely to interact with him.
It’s not about @you. I come back to this because it’s really the mother of all rules, the one from which all the other rules grow. Every tweet represents your company – whether it’s in a positive or negative way is up to you.
Do you tweet for a brand? What do you think of these rules? Are there any you disagree with? Are there any I missed?
Author Maria Perez is director of news operations for Profnet, and she’s the voice behind @profnet on Twitter. She blogs actively on Profnet Connect – a free interactirtsve community linking PR pros, bloggers, journalists and experts.