Every new social network that surfaces and gains popularity eventually invents its own etiquette rule book. Myspace had general “niceties”- like NOT designing your page obnoxiously or forcing people to listen to your favorite screaming heavy metal band. Facebook even has built-in etiquette bots that make sure you are not assaulting people with constant plugs or messages. Twitter has gained enough popularity, it’s jargon has been propelled onto prime time TV and viewers GET what it means, even if they don’t HAVE a twitter account. Twitter is here to stay, however it evolves.
So, now that you have your account and your shiny avatar set up, you are ready to start micro-blogging.. about… your sandwich. Ah, yes, the age-old twitter joke. NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR &%$# SANDWICH! But we have all done it. Tweeted about something that, in the grand scheme of things, is pretty lame. But sometimes those lame tweets end up starting a conversation that, in the end, has NOTHING to do with your original mundane mutterings. And, you gain a few followers because of it. So, it’s not so much about the random “I friggin LOVE Spaghetti-O’s and I am not afraid to say it.” tweets, it’s about the community and the interaction. A give and take, just like any other relationship. If you keep that in mind, twitter can really become a useful tool, and not just a bulletin board for your mundane musings that are generally ignored.
In fact, twitter helped WRITE this article. When I need help, I reach out to my fellow “tweeps” as I call them. Usually I get answers… probably because I am there to help others as well from time to time. So, with my direction, and my helpful followers, here is the Twitter 10 Commandments:
1. Thou shalst learn the value of a RT (re-tweet).
A retweet is a quick easy way to share the work of your followers, and generally, the more you do it, the more appreciated you are for it… and the more you get in return. But a valuable RT– one that includes a REASON to click the link or check out someone’s comic– are the kindest and most sincere. Mix those in when you have the time.
2. Thou shalst be grateful and courteous.
Ah, yes, remember manners? Those things our parents taught us? Thanking people for retweets, tedious sure, but always appreciated. So is saying please when you ask for opinions or a favor. Replying when someone sends you a message or DM’s you, these things go a long way in keeping your community of followers happy and you on their “good tweeter list”.
3. Follow thy followers, and Thou shalst be rewarded (with more followers).
This kind of goes without saying. Unless you are a celebrity, if you follow very few people, you cannot expect people to follow you. I know, it does get hard when you start getting in the 100-range of active follows.. but that’s what twitter lists are for! Check out tweetdeck, also a big help. You can narrow down your twitter feed into a small close group for those times when you need less distractions.
4. Be sparing with thy self-promotion.
Most of us webcomic-ers had a main goal when signing up for twitter: a way to promote our comic. This is still the goal for many of us. But this does not mean our feed should be a constant barrage of “HEY! Lookit my comic!” Eventually, it just gets annoying, and your followers will learn to ignore you. This goes for the auto-tweet services too, they can be helpful for us busy entrepreneurs, or those of us who have twitter blocked at work, but overdoing it will only hurt you. Mix them in with other interesting tidbits, articles, funny videos, pictures, musings and of course, helping our your followers by promoting THEIR work!
5. Thou shalst leave thy personal stuff for thy therapist.
Emo’s, get off of twitter. Just like everything else, there needs to be a balance. Not that you have to refrain form anything but sunshine and rainbows, but every other tweet does not have to sound like a weepy country song. People lose empathy quick. ALSO, do realize you are tweeting to the world here, and it will be recorded in your feed for anyone to see: bosses, past coworkers, over-sensitive friends, your MOTHER. Think before you mention all those naughty things you did in college or how much you hate your job.
6. DM when appropriate.
There are times when going off the record is good for all involved. Use #5 to determine this time.
7. Hashtag at thy own risk
Twitter hashtags are a handy way to label or file a tweet away for others to find. We cartoonists probably use #comics, #art, #webcomics, or #illustration a lot. This is fine. Also, being as creative and witty as we are, we tend to come up with funny hastags that are just there for… say… #comicrelief. But there is, yet again, a balance… know when to say when. #Not #everything #needs #a #hashtag. #enoughisenough
8. Tweet unto others as you would have them Tweet unto you.
Golden rule. Still works. If you give, people will give back. If you yammer on selfishly about yourself and not help relationships grow, you will be ignored. As with any social media, things can get messy. Opinions will fly and twitter trolls will take over and want to stir the pot. A good tweeter will find the high road, and know when to let the debate go.
9. Consider Thy audience.
Okay, okay.. some things are just annoying. Hashtagging everything. Following people to gain more followers, and then unfollowing them. Writing in some form of text-slang that is so hard to read you find you no longer care what this person has to say. Writing in all-caps. Ignoring that there’s a 140-character limit for a reason. REALIZE you have an audience. Your followers gave you a slot in their twitter feed to be amusing in some form, don’t wreck it. If you want to write for yourself, go get a blog.
10. Thou Shalst Be Thyself!
Look, folks. The entire PURPOSE of twitter is to give people a little glimpse into your life. Who you are, your humor, your thoughts, what you are up to. From there it evolves into a social network… similar-minded people who GET you, and share in those qualities. For those of us with webcomics, it’s a chance for our readers to connect with us, as creators. If you have not noticed, that is what truly makes the webcomics community so great, and gives it an edge over traditional print– actual immediate contact with the creative minds behind a comic that readers love to keep up with. If you wanted to chat with Charles Schultz, you had to snail-mail him a letter and chances are, you’d get a form letter in return. So, above all, be yourself, let your readers and potential readers connect with you, and you’ll not only enjoy twitter, but get something out of it.