Social Media Etiquette Lesson 1: Twitter

When the internet first began it was an information exchange board and users were as identifiable as patrons to a card catalogue. We came up with psuedonyms even when interacting with friends. You could be tall, sexy, cool, wealthy, conquer castles or even heir to a multi-million dollar inheritance from Ghana. Everytime “AngilO1” logged in, she felt like she was at a masked ball. Then someone told us to take the masks off. Suddenly the internet was as anonymous as a series of cocktail or networking parties where, if you frequented them enough, you already knew 10% of the people there.

Twitter Friend or Follower?
The difference between a friend and a follower is the level of interest and familiarity. The op ed writer you read each week only cares who you are to the extent you submit questions and share their column with your friends: You’re a fan. Your neighbor who comes and chills on you couch to watch the Packers every Sunday is your friend. The guy you met at the last networking event is an acquaintance, and possibly a connection to more acquaintances. On Twitter, it really does work much the same.

I follow you, you follow me = We are connected.
I follow you, you don’t follow me = I’m a fan, you are awesome.
Neither of us follow eachother, but we chat = We are acquaintances.
I actually know you in real life, and we follow eachother = You are my friend.
We follow eachother and often chat = You are my Twitter buddy.

Meeting People: Fortune Favors the Bold
Where Twitter becomes interesting  is in meeting people. Twitter, like the internet, began with a smaller group of disconnected people who liked to talk. As it evolved, so did the connections and degrees of separation. Soon it became possible to “meet” someone through one of your connections.

1.) Crashing Twitter Parties

When engaging in a Twitter conversations groups use hashtags to keep in touch and build cohorts of people who waver between cliques and mini social networks. #UsGuys is one great example. When jumping into an #UsGuys channel without introduction, I at first received a not-so-warm welcome: “Who are you?” “Have you participated in #UsGuys before?” @UsGuysmember1 to “@UsGuysmember2 I really hate when people just jump in our feed.” I was not discouraged! I wanted in. I found their chat time the next week and jumped in with the standard Twitter chat hello:

“Hi, I’m Kari! I work in social media, here to chat!”
[Who are you] – [What do you do/want to do] – [What do you want from Us?]
The next week when I was once again jumping into the #UsGuys feed I was again met with some “who’s the stranger” resistance, much as before, but this time I “knew” people in the “group” who were ready to help out.

2.) Being Introduced on Twitter

In a connected world it is possible to “meet” someone through one of your connections on Twitter across the internet. A proper introduction is the same as in real life parties:
“@myfriend, have you met @kariobrien? She is a social media maven!”
[Friend I’m speaking to] [Person I’m introducing] [Fun fact about them]

You may also introduce yourself to someone you’ve met in chat, much like someone you participated in a group conversation with at a party:
“@awesomeperson I loved your comments in #GenYChat! I’m following you now. Where are you from?”
[How do you know them] [Following them shows you want to know them] [Question starts a brief intro conversation]
And flattery never hurts!

3.) Jumping in on a Conversation
At a cocktail party, etiquette says you may “float” over to a group conversating and politely comment on the conversation. You may have to wait for a break before you can introduce yourself, but if you know someone, or they were mentioned by someone you know, it’s easy!

When someone retweeted someone you want to meet: [Hi I’m name] [I loved your comment about]
Entering an ongoing conversation of strangers: [Affirmational statement validating their thoughts] [New fact that will interest them]
Entering an ongoing conversation with a friend and a stranger: [Address the friend] [Make a comment] [CC the new person]
(Alternatively you can ask the friend to introduce you by direct messaging them. “I so want to meet so and so!”)

4.) The Cold Introduction
On Twitter, it’s easy to jump in on any open conversation, but if you go in cold, you may still be met with the “Who are you?” I say; Fortune favors the bold. Just go for it! If you are charming, you can easily disarm stranger-wary Twitterlites, and introduce yourself even to the most popular and important people. We’re all just 140 characters anyways.

Making friends with a big wig: [@BigWig] [Comment about something they tweeted] (Even their lunch! It works!) or
[Round of applause, quote from/for Big Wig] [Ref. @BigWig]
Making friends with an author: [@author] [Compliment about their work] [Insightful comment]
Getting a singer’s attention: [Bold statement with quirky appeal] [Ref @singer]
Introduction to potential employer: [@Employer] [Comment about the industry] [Question calling for their expertise]

In examples where you are trying to make a personal introduction it is better to reference the person’s name. This makes the conversation private from the beginning and it’s clear you are only interested in them. In cases where the person is just so big, they are often approached this way, referencing them with a quirky comment is a way to gain their attention. We are afterall, all on Twitter because we think the things we say are the most interesting and important! So please, validate this.

Next Lesson – Following Up!


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