Apart from Twitter’s own terms of service which prohibit obvious things like harassment, transmitting viruses and spamming other members, there really aren’t many rules to the site. You can essentially use Twitter however you like.
However, for people and businesses who want to use Twitter successfully (eg: build a following and grow their circle of influence), there are a number of best practices that can be observed. I cover many of these in my book, Twitter Power.
And as I look back on my own tweets, I discover that many of them can be easily categorized. While this list is by no means exhaustive, I think it covers a lot of ground. I present you with my list of Fourteen Types of Tweets.
- The Mundane – What better way to answer the question “What are you doing?” then to share that your dog is licking himself in proprietary places or that you just burped and tasted the hotdog you ate an hour ago for the second time. Full of self and without any apparent redeeming value, The Mundane tweet is the backbone of Twitter. Narcissistic and banal, it’s all about me. But don’t think for a second that the mundane tweet is not without merit. If you have any doubt to its importance, give another read to my previous post Twitter and a box of donuts.
- The Communicator – Instant messaging is mostly for person-to-person communication. Forums allow more people to enter the conversation, but the process is slow. The immediacy of Twitter has facilitated dialogue unlike any Internet-based tool before. Not only can you respond to someone else’s tweet instantly, but others can enter the discussion just as easily. The Communicator tweet is nothing more than a public reply to another member. Many of the relationships formed via Twitter find their roots in this simple interactive tweet.
- The Inquisitor – I learned at a very early age that one of the best ways to get answers was to ask questions. The Inquisitor Tweet answers Twitter’s question with a question of it’s own. It’s not interested in what you are doing. Rather, it seeks to use the massive Twitter member base to derive solutions, opinions or any other response that can be gathered by polling the public. Asking a question is a great way to not only find an answer, but also to stir up your followers. After all, people love to be the one who provides the solution. Want to see something amazing? Go to Twitter search and type the phrases “How do I” or “does anyone know”. People are always asking questions. Forget Wikipedia. Twitter provides a much more instantaneous and interactive method of getting answers. And if you don’t like the answer, you can always fact-check later. Which leads me to #3…
- The Answerman – Are you one of those people who dominate at Trivial Pursuit and would be willing to go head-to-head against Ken Jennings on Jeopardy? You probably love answering questions on Twitter. After all, with so many people posting The Inquisitor tweet, there is no shortage of opportunity to enter the conversation and save the day. The Answerman tweet can be as simple as responding to a trivia question or as serious as helping someone locate a dry cleaner in New York City. (I understand @thedrycleaner is the guy to see. If you are able to answer a question for someone, why not do it? They will appreciate you taking the time to answer. You also score 10 Twitter Points for each correct answer. Um… well, if Twitter were a game. But it’s not.
- The Sage – Want to tweet but don’t have anything particularly important to say? Looking for something more significant than “Watching Three Stooges reruns. Gosh I love Curly!” The Sage tweet is there for you. SImply find a quote from a famous author, lyrics from a favorite song or line from a classic film to share with your followers. Pithy sayings and little tidbits of information are always useful, if not entertaining. I’ve even tossed in a “word of the day” with a definition from time to time just for giggles. Uplifting, refreshing, sobering… as long as your Safe tweet evokes a response, you are on track.
- The Reporter – The mainstream media can’t stand Twitter. It has making citizen journalists out of all of us. From the terrorist attacks in Mumbai and the US Airways plane going down in the Hudson to the Election sham in Iran and the death of Michael Jackson, more people are getting breaking news on Twitter than anywhere else. If you’ve got news, why not share it with your tweeples? It is important to make sure that the news is accurate. Shortly after Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett death announcements spread across the Twittersphere, some people thought it would be funny to spread rumors of other celebrity deaths. Jeff Goldblum and Harrison Ford were among the names of those claimed to have deceased. New agencies did step in to let the public know that these were nothing more than hoaxes. Of course, you can’t believe everything you read or hear in the mainstream media either, but it does pay to double-check before posting news. You don’t want to look like a Twass (That would be a Twitter Ass).
- The Linker – The web is packed with fun stuff. If it weren’t for The Linker tweet, how would your followers be able to enjoy the latest LOLCats photo or Jon & Kate book news? Whether for entertainment, business or other purposes, The Linker tweet exists to share something of little or massive value with your followers. And while links to stories are powerful, rich media is even better. If you link to audio, photos or video, you have a better chance at getting people to check it out. Just be sure to tag your tweets with [PIC], [VIDEO] or [AUDIO] as indicated. It takes little effort and is frequently rewarded with replies.
- The Kudo – We all need strokes. “Don’t you look beautiful today @marycomm.” “Great job on that speech @Loral!” “@dannickerson came up with a superb idea today.” Giving compliments is a fantastic way to show appreciation for someone. It’s even more impactful when done on Twitter because it plays out in a public forum. Not only does the person or business receive The Kudo, but all of your followers see it as well. Now everyone knows what a great thing they did. This is especially effective for businesses as public compliments act as social proof, potentially influencing others.
- The Critic – Some live to criticize. Others do it more judiciously. Regardless, complaining is an international pastime. Being disgruntled crosses ethnic, social, economic and religious barriers. And what better place to broadcast your frustration than Twitter? Twitter provides a public forum to vent on our politicians, celebrities, businesses and each other. And while The Kudo tweet can lift a business to new heights, The Critic can be devastating and cause the target to go into damage control mode. In the past, I’ve implemented The Critic tweet to publicly lambast United Airlines for losing my bags. @davepeck has a great Twitter story featuring @southwestair and @jetblue. You have to hand it to businesses that are willing to develop a Twitter presence. They are really opening themselves up to public scrutiny. And let’s face it. If you don’t respond well to feedback or handle customer service issues properly, you could really be in for a public thrashing. I applaud companies like @comcastcares and @thehomedepot for their attentiveness to their followers.
- The Giver – When someone tweets something that you think is worthy of passing along to your followers, Twetiquette demands that you retweet it. The Giver tweet seeks to give credit where credit is due by repeating the tweet and honoring the person who originally posted the tweet. The format is simple. “RT @successsecret “For myself I am an optimist – it does not seem to be much use being anything else…” Sir Winston Churchill.” The original tweet can fall into any category, but the retweet is an act of kindness that spreads good will. We should all aspire to provide tweets that are valuable enough for others to want to retweet them. Be a giver and retweet generously.
- The Advocate – On your journey through the Twittersphere you will undoubtedly find people who you want to share with others. Whether they provide great tweets or add some other value, The Advocate tweet is your opportunity to suggest that other members follow them. Don’t keep good Twitter members to yourself. Tell others so they can meet and interact with them as well.
- The Benefactor – People love free stuff. They also enjoy winning things. The Benefactor tweet is used for contests or giveaways. Designed to be retweeted, the goal is have your tweet go viral so that more people are aware of your contest. I recently tweeted that I would randomly give away a copy of Twitter Power to a member who retweeted my contest. Tweetaways.com has an easy-to-use system that brings accountability to the awarding of a prize. The Benefactor tweet is known to receive many retweets and can help increase your follower count quickly and legitimately.
- The Marketer – You’ll notice that I saved this type of tweet for last. There’s good reason for that. While Twitter can most definitely be used to build relationships, enhance your brand and grow your bottom line, it is best not to treat it as a straight-forward marketing tool. Zig Ziglar once said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” In order to earn people’s trust, you must seek to connect with others and bring value to the conversation. Only then will they trust you enough to receive your marketing messages. The Marketer tweet can be subtle or blatant, but its primary goal is to acquire a new customer. The tweet could be for a free download, an information product, a physical product, a membership or subscription, or just about any other kind of business proposal. There’s nothing wrong with using Twitter in this way, but realize that it won’t be effective if all you do is sell, sell, sell. You MUST participate in Twitter using many, if not all, of the styles of tweets in order to connect with your base.
- The Spammer – Not be confused with a marketing message, The Spammer tweet is the tweet we love to hate. There are those who join Twitter and use it as a means doing nothing more than autofollowing as many people as possible in order to blast a spam tweet. Like email spammers, they figure if they throw enough of their crap against the wall something is bound to stick. Essentially, they take the social out of social media. They are the not engaged in any conversation. Because of this, their message falls on deaf ears and they are likely to be unfollowed and blocked by many members. Unfortunately, we are seeing more and more of this on Twitter, much of it coming from the get-rich-quick and the porn purveyors. I hope Twitter continues to develop tools to eliminate nuisances such as these. For now we can be glad that Twitter is a permission-based system and any account can be blocked.
So there you have it. That’s my list of Fourteen Types of Tweets.
Would you like to add to the list? Feel free to leave your comments below.
You can follow me on Twitter at @joelcomm. If you enjoy this article, please retweet it and share it with your followers!