Business Social Media Etiquette | Twitter: A Conversation/ Invitation

Posted by Bridget Beirne
May 22, 2013

Part 2 in our series on business social media etiquette!

Did you miss Part 1? Catch up with it here.

1.4 billion.

According to Daniel Post Senning of the Emily Post Institute, that is the number of Twitter searches that are happening on a daily basis. The social media network that is most often referred to as "a conversation" has crossed into many arenas- it has become a news outlet, thanks to an embrace from the journalistic community. It is documented by the Library of Congress. It informs us of the state of national (and international) consciousness in an instant through trending topics. It has reduced the human "six degrees of separation" to a mere 140 characters.

Yet, at it's core, it is still a conversation. Daniel puts it very succinctly: "The cliché is that it's like a conversation. A short exchange. It's about the interaction." The unique challenge inherent to Twitter- that each tweet must be under 140 characters long- is not as restrictive as it sounds. It affords us the unique opportunity to connect, and respond, quickly, often without all of the trappings and formalities of other forms of communication. When used to it's full potential, that content restriction causes us to think very carefully about the words we choose, and make sure we are conveying our message in exactly the right way. The happy side effect can be more clear and concise communication.

Our experts, Daniel Post Senning and Dawn Stanyon, President and Founder of Professionality, weigh in with some great business (and personal!) etiquette advice when it comes to the ongoing conversation that is Twitter.

The Conversation

1.  There is still a place for "thank you" and "you're welcome": At Ovation, we like to thank our new followers, those who retweet or mention us, and send a "you're welcome" when appropriate. Daniel thinks that's a good idea, and offers this advice, "I like to thank for follows, but I like the DM (Direct Message) thank you. It is more of a personal thank you, and not a thank you to the entire group." As for "you're welcome", Daniel notes that any excuse to engage and get the conversation going is good, and says that "acknowledging thanks is important. I'm going to accept it and appreciate it."

2.  Avoid "eye field" domination: If you're active on Twitter at all, chances are that you are familiar with that one follower who either tweets constantly or tweets in a large volume all at once. Daniel refers to this as "eye field" domination: "Somebody can be overused... some "@" gets to dominate someone else's eye field- particularly someone you don't know. We see it all the time with celebrities: '@WillSmith I’m eating lunch!' '@Will Smith it’s really good!' '@ WillSmith here’s a picture of it!' '@WillSmith Can you believe the waiter didn’t serve from the right?' That kind of domination is less than ideal." Basically, you are wearing out your cyber welcome in someone else's feed, and you run the risk of causing that person or group to tune you out. (If not block you all together...)

3.  If you're going to say it: make it count! Remember, this is a conversation. You want to keep your audience entertained and engaged. Think of it this way: if you're going to take up some of that valuable "eye field", make it worth their while. "More important than a stream of consistent and useful content is interaction and engagement," says Dawn Stanyon. "Everyone wants to be entertained, surprised and intrigued." Before you tweet, try and ask yourself, "How do I want this content to affect my audience? What am I trying to communicate about my brand?" If it's only about getting your name in a Twitter feed, think again.

4.  The art of preloading: Having a tool to preload your content can be helpful, especially when you are managing multiple outlets of content: Dawn advises that you "use tools like Hootsuite or TweetDeck to preload whatever it is you want preload – quotes that fit into your brand, links to articles you find helpful, questions you want to pose." However, "preloading doesn't create an engaging brand." Preloading content without follow-up or connection can be the social media equivalent of screaming into a pillow- you're putting content forward aggressively, but it's a one-sided conversation that no one will hear. Be sure to check in and engage with your content and followers.

5.  Ask and share: Just as you would in a face to face conversation, ask questions of your followers and support the messages of others through sharing, favoriting, discussing, etc. This helps build relationships in the virtual world that can not only enhance your brand image and credibility, but also encourage collaboration and continuing development of ideas. When you sign up for Twitter, you are making an unspoken agreement to participate in a two sided discussion- without asking and sharing, you are the guest at the party who talks about himself all evening to the disdain of others- not what you want to be.

The Invitation

You've made a new business connection, and hit it off. How can you tell when it is time tobusiness social media etiquette take the relationship to the social media level?

Twitter is one of the best unspoken invitations to connect in cyberspace, thanks to the ubiquitous nature of the Twitter handle. More and more, people are including their handle on their business cards (as Daniel does) or in their email signatures. "Part of networking is having discretion," Daniel mentions. "We always advise that you build the relationship before asking for a card, favor, etc." Once you've laid the ground work for that relationship, if your new connection makes their handle known on their card, that is an engraved invitation to follow them on Twitter.

You can also be the one to send the invitation. Daniel suggests that a good way to open the discussion with a new contact is to say something along the lines of, "I'm on Twitter all of the time. Is that a good way to keep in touch?" That way, you give them the option of accepting the invitation, rather than showing up in their feed uninvited.

Of course, the Twitter invitation comes with caveats. As with any relationship building activities, discretion is key! For example, we advise that when it comes to connecting with your superiors on social media, follow their lead- let them reach out first, and see if you are confortable connecting in that space. (You can find some thoughts from OC President Kerri Garbis on this topic and more here.)That face-to-face human connection is still of the utmost importance- be sure to build that relationship in the real world with new contacts, so your Twitter Conversation/ Invitation be as genuine and impactful as possible.


Check back here for Part 3 of our Business Social Media Etiquette series in upcoming weeks, where we'll tackle the big one next- Facebook!


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