A Tip for Tuesday – Social Media Guidelines
November 15, 2011
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November 17, 2011
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They've got the hash tag, but this tweet chat could benefit from a Q&A and more engaging content.

Growing up, the hardest manner I had to mind was not to interrupt. Even today I have to bite my tongue so I don’t blurt out my every thought, and I’m still not always successful. What can I say? I get excited to talk. Luckily in today’s world, the majority of communication has moved to emails and text messaging, making it virtually impossible to interrupt, or so I believed.

I little while ago, I stumbled across a tweet chat that interested me.  For those unfamiliar with tweet chats, they are conversations on specific topics, held on Twitter and linked together with a common hash tag (#). More often than not they are scheduled and the discussion is led by one person, or one group of people.

I can’t recall what this particular tweetup was about, but nothing related to public relations. Normally I’ll respond to any tweet on my feed, but this tweet used a hash tag that included #DEN – a Denver-based tweet chat.

Could I interject? I wasn’t “invited,” but Twitter is public, right? I’m not in Denver, so does that make my opinion just noise on their feed?

I imagined people thinking “Who is this rando? And how dare she tread on our Denver-y conversation! Skiing!” and boo me out of the thread using all caps. Of course nothing could happen to me, but I didn’t want to interrupt. After all, I spent so many years trying not to.

So I took my question to people I knew would not shun me like the Denver tweet chat did in my imagination: The award-winning HMA Team. Our consensus: Yes! I should have jumped in, as long as I wasn’t disruptive or being irrelevant to the conversation.

That got me thinking, what are some other etiquette rules when engaging in a tweet chat? Are there certain rules that need to be abided by?

Here’s what we came up with.

  • Know the lingo
    • Know the hash tag (it’s what got you into the tweet chat in the first place) and use it in #EVERY #SINGLE #TWEET.
    • Familiarize yourself with Twitter abbreviations (RT – retweet, MT – modified tweet, DM – direct message) as well as industry shorthand. Ex. RFPs, ROIs, LBDs, XYZs, LMNOPs, etc.
  • Identify the topic of question being discussed
    • Tweet chats can get confusing, especially if they are fast-paced with a lot of participants. If the conversation is in Q&A format, which typically they are, label the questions and answers.  Number the questions Q1, Q2, Q3, etc.
    • Larger conversations also use T= topic which can be made up of multiple Qs.
    • Number answers with "A" that correspond to the questions so others can address your tweet.  Ex. This tweet.
  • Use tools
    • Tweetdeck, HootSuite, the aptly named TweetChat, whatever works for you, use it. Twitter.com does not allow you to easily go back and forth between your feed, the conversation and DMs, all of which you should also be monitoring during the tweet chat.
    • Third party tools can also help you track the tweetup’s analytics. This is especially helpful if you are leading the discussion.
    • Archive the conversation to reference later. Writing a post-blog that sums up the main points of the tweet chat helps keep the conversation going and prompts new ideas.
  • Be aware of guidelines
    • Some tweet chats are loosely structured, allowing a conversation to take its own course. Others are stricter and ask you keep up with the questions the moderator asks.
    • Take notes – yes, pen and paper – to jot down any ideas on a topic that has moved-on or additional questions you would like to ask at the end.
    • DM the organizer if you have questions about their guidelines.
  • Introduce yourself
    • Always introduce yourself, even if you think you know the majority of the participants. Even if your twitter handle is your name. You never know who may be following along and you want to establish yourself as knowledgeable in the topic.
    • Include info such as location or what industry you work in. Make sure your bio is up-to-date and have a picture. If you don’t want to use a picture of yourself, make sure it reflects who you are.
  • Remember – it’s Twitter
    • The art of versing an entire thought in 140 characters should not be lost in tweet chats. Tweets that runneth over add to the confusion and make it difficult to follow the conversation.
    • Don’t be spammy. If you wrote a blog post pertaining to a discussion topic, it’s okay to throw it out there ­once. To add the link to every tweet during the tweet chat is downright annoying.
  • Distance doesn’t matter
    • That is the beautiful thing about Twitter –it can connect you with people all over the world with the same interests. Who doesn’t want a friend in PolandIreland or Australia?
    • Even if there is indication that the tweet chat involves are particular location, let them know where you are from and offer insight from your neck of the woods.

What other social media manners can you think of? Have you ever been in a tweet chat where someone displayed inappropriate behavior? Let us know in the comments below!


Stephanie Lough
Stephanie Lough
A former HMA Public Relations employee.


  1. Don’t be a #tweetchat hogger! Though you may have a lot to say, use a filter – tweet the important stuff; not every single thought in your mind. Add to the conversation, rather than trying to be the conversation, so as to not annoy your fellow tweeters!

  2. If you are going to use what you learned fromthe tweetchat in a follow-up blog or other writing, be sure to give credit where credit is due. If someone else made a great point, attribute it to them!

  3. Stephanie Lough says:

    Editor’s note: The point made that you should write a blog post after the tweet chat to keep the conversation going was made by Alison Bailin.

  4. I loved this! Such useful info! I, too, suffer from interruptitis. And I also have had that awkward, buzz-killer kind of feeling when I’ve wandered into a thread thinking I’d just dive in only to be ignored. I will carry all these good tips to hear! Thanks!

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