How to handle 10 Twitter quandaries

Should you schedule tweets, follow new followers back, and thank everyone for the retweets? Weigh in on these and other common Twitter issues.

Twitter, with all its shortcomings, is truly a revolutionary platform.

I don’t say this because of its active role in the world’s most recent revolutions. I also don’t say this because of the major world events that broke on Twitter. I’m talking from a personal perspective. The people I have had the chance to meet—and even interview—are people I never would have had the opportunity to connect with had it not been for this platform.

Almost all Twitter users face quandaries when first joining the service, and they only get more difficult as time goes by. Of course, there is no right or wrong when it comes to using Twitter—everyone has to do what’s best for himself and his needs. However, there are some basic “no-nos” that annoy almost everyone. You can read about those here.

It is pretty clear to anyone on Twitter that you should avoid self-promotion 100 percent of the time, but there are many gray areas when it comes to tweeting. I, for one, still haven’t figured out the best answers to the following questions:

1. Schedule tweets?

I have written well over 2,000 blog posts on various sites. The problem is that while I share posts after I write them, older posts consistently get lost and my audience never sees them. I’m not talking about news posts—I’m talking about articles that are relevant months or years down the road. How can a person ensure that these old posts don’t disappear into the abyss of the Web?

One way is to schedule tweets. If you send out automatic tweets, however, you might not be around to reply to anyone who has a question or comment about a post, and we all know that Twitter is about engagement.

To schedule or not to schedule tweets?

2. Thank for a retweet?

One of the first things you will notice on Twitter is that everyone is really nice. People are much more willing to help each other out on Twitter than in real life. It gets complicated when someone retweets your tweet, however.

When someone retweets you, do you thank them? That would be the nice thing to do, right? Well, what do you do if you are a person like Alyssa Milano or Robert Scoble who get thousands of retweets a day? Do all of your followers need to see “Thank you for the RT” pollute their stream?

To thank for a retweet, or not?

3. Old vs. new retweet

Back in the olden days, there was only one way to retweet: Copy the person’s tweet and add a “RT @username” before the tweet. Then Twitter added a new way to retweet dubbed the “new RT,” or the “native RT.”

The main difference between the new retweet and the old is that in the new retweet you can’t add your own words to the original tweet, and you save the space of the “RT@.” However, your retweet will not show up in the person’s mentions, and the chances of the person seeing that you retweeted them are significantly lower.

Each retweet method has its own advantages but, based on my personal experience, most people use the new retweet.

To use the new retweet and save space, or to use the old one and provide extra “social” value?

4. How much should I share?

This is the famous question of how much private information you should share on the Web. It is important to remember that different people use Twitter differently, but everyone seems to struggle with this question. How much should you share, and how much is too much?

A good rule of thumb is to remember that sharing your bathroom practices is too much. Though this might be obvious to you and me, trust me when I tell you that it’s not obvious to everyone.

Companies or individuals that only tweet professional content will not get as many responses from their community as someone who shows his or her personal side. People like to talk to other people, not to companies. There is no exact percentage for how many tweets should be professional as opposed to personal, but most people agree that your tweets should include both in one quantity or another.

Should my tweets be mostly professional content with a touch of personal, or vice versa?

5. Time zones versus spam

We’ve already discussed losing old posts, but what about losing tweets? You may have followers from all parts of the world, and someone across the globe might never see what you tweet because of the time difference. The solution is to repeat tweets for different time zones. Guy Kawasaki is a big believer of this method.

If you follow Guy, you will notice that you generally see the same tweet at least twice throughout the day, if not more. Some might view this as spamming and polluting their stream. I try to mix it up and not repeat the same exact tweet. This causes another issue though, as people will click on the link and it will bring them to a post they’ve already read. This can be annoying as well.

Should you repeat tweets for different time zones and risk annoying some people, or tweet every post once and only once?

6. Tweet or DM?

If you use Twitter, you probably know the difference between a public tweet and a private direct message (DM). What most people, myself included, do not know is what belongs in a tweet as opposed to a DM.

For example, if you want to say good morning to some of your Twitter friends, should you tweet or DM? If you tweet, it might annoy people when they see 20 “Good morning” messages in their stream. If you DM, the recipient might wonder why you wished them good morning privately.

Again, there are no rules, but there are some things that clearly belong in a DM (e.g., private information), and some things that clearly belong in a tweet (e.g., a comment about a post that you liked).

To send by public tweet or by DM?

7. What deserves a response?

When I was just getting started on Twitter, many people helped me out. One person, however, deserves a special mention—Ahuvah. I asked questions on numerous occasions, and she sent me an immediate response with two simple words: “Google it.”

You don’t need to ask everything on Twitter. It’s true that I, and many others, turn to followers with questions about almost every topic (including this post), but some things should be left off Twitter.

I have said many times that while follower count is practically meaningless and irrelevant, one number I am very proud of is that 81 percent of all my tweets are replies. I almost always respond to people who reach out to me.

Not everything deserves a response, though. Don’t engage people that tweet offensive content—I learned this the hard way. It also annoys me when someone tweets me to ask what a DM is. Just Google it. Maybe I am not as nice as Ahuvah, but I don’t respond to every question someone asks me.

What does and what does not deserve a response?

8. Connect on other platforms?

This is always a tricky one. Twitter is Twitter, and Facebook is Facebook. They each have different audiences, different use patterns, and different connections.

When a Twitter friend adds me on Facebook, I always contemplate whether to accept. If it’s a person you have been communicating with for years on Twitter and he lives 10 minutes from you, the chances of your interacting in real life are high. Facebook is not such a bad idea in this case. But if someone liked a post I wrote and decided to add me on Facebook, I will immediately hit the “ignore” button-unless the person includes a personal message explaining why they added me.

LinkedIn is very different. If I have connected with someone on Twitter who works in my industry, then I am generally more open to adding them on Linkedin, and then on Facebook.

When do you invite a Twitter friend to connect on other platforms?

9. To follow or not to follow?

How do you decide whom to follow on Twitter?

For starters you can read The First 99 People to Follow on Twitter. After that, everyone has his or her own criteria. Some automatically follow back anyone who follows them, which defeats the purpose of Twitter and connecting with interesting people. Others look at the follower/following ratio. A person’s avatar might play a role in this important decision as well.

The first thing I look at when deciding whether to follow someone is if they have any replies to people in their last 10 tweets. If all 10 tweets are just blasting content or promotional material and they don’t engage, the person could have a million followers, the nicest avatar on Twitter and even be a celebrity, but I will not follow that person.

How do you decide to follow or not to follow someone on Twitter?

10. To sell or not to sell?

We have all heard about major companies such as Dell, Old Spice, Zagg, and many others using Twitter to boost sales—it works. Should you do the same? It depends. As with anything else in life, there is a way to do things. Nothing is more annoying than being spammed on Twitter when all you want to do is hang out and chat with your friends.

If you are going to use Twitter as a sales tool, how can you achieve results without annoying people? Twitter might not be the right platform for the type of business you are running, and traditional marketing and sales could be more up your alley. There are differing opinions on this matter, and both sides have some basis to their points of view.

The big question is: How does one balance the need for ROI and the worst mistake a brand can possibly make on the Web-spamming?

To sell or not to sell on Twitter?

You probably noticed that I do not have answers to the above questions. I hope you will share your insight on these matters. Hit me up in the comments below or reach out to me on Twitter, @hilzfuld.

Hillel Fuld works at Inneractive, and frequently writes for Appboy, Mashable and GigaOM. He blogs at Tech n’ Marketing, where this article originally ran.

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