by Jeremy Harper

“We have to be on Twitter!” is a common exclamation uttered among the stewards of brands.  The validity of this statement is still up for debate. Personally, I believe that some brands need to be on Twitter, and some do not.

But those who do should be aware of the atmosphere they endeavor to enter. Many will find the air nourishing and invigorating. Others will find it toxic. Before removing the space helmet, first know what you’re getting into.

Behold, The Twitter Commandments! Unlike most commandments, The Twitter Commandments aren’t carved in stone, aren’t written in dramatic Shakespearian syntax, and there aren’t even ten of them. (It’s not to say that there can’t be ten; I just haven’t thought of ten.)

Obeying the commandments won’t guarantee success, but they may steer you farther from failure.

  1. Earn Your Following. Unless you’re a beloved brand that consumers will defend to the death, merely landing on Twitter won’t gain you followers. You have to earn followers through relevant and engaging content. Oh, and one post a day ain’t cutting it.
  2. Be Part of the Community. Don’t be the Twitter snob who refuses to ReTweet (RT) or ignores conversations. Twitter is a living community that wishes to be heard and to grow. If you see a Tweet you like, give it an RT. If somebody mentions you in a Tweet, acknowledge it with a comment or just say “Thanks.”
  3. But Be Careful What You RT! There’s nothing worse that reflexively RTing a post or a link, then discovering later that the source is less-than-savory (or worse, your competition!). Before RTing, check out the Tweeter’s homepage and past posts.
  4. Loosen the Tie. Nobody joined Twitter to discover your latest store opening or applaud your newest employee promotion. Try to make a friend instead of a customer. If you’re a local business, chat about local projects. If you’re national, comment on sports or forward an interesting video. People will forgive an occasional product placement so long as you’re willing to go beyond the brand.
  5. However, Business News is News. Do you have a new line of skirts coming in? Are you introducing a radical flavor of soft drink? Is there a discount today? Post it! Just don’t “flood” your followers’ Twitter streams with marketing messages. That’s just rude.
  6. Develop a Digital Personality. Who would you rather follow? Dos Equis or The Most Interesting Man in the World? It’s more natural to follow a person than a corporate entity. Plus, it’s easier to write as a character than as a logo.
  7. Handle Digital Bullies with Dignity. Anonymous jerks are just a part of Twitter. Most can be ignored. The persistent ones are trickier. You can either send them a private message to start a one-to-one conversation, or respond once publically and then leave it at that. The worst thing you can do is engage in a silly argument in front of all your followers!
  8. Invite A Conversation. Open-ended tweets make followers a part of your brand. For example, if you make soft drinks, post something like, “There’s nothing more refreshing than a _________________ on a hot day!” Then let your followers fill in the blank.

The laws governing Twitter success are still evolving. These commandments could be outdated by the end of the week! And because every brand has a different story, every digital strategy is unique. But if you keep these basic commandments in mind as you’re opening your brand’s Twitter account, you could create a brand new channel to your customers.