by helen on April 21, 2011

Human beings are naturally social. I certainly enjoy sharing ideas, news, stories, experiences and laughs with others – and I’m sure you do too. And, while I think the 21st century social experience is very different to that of previous generations – in a good way – there are certain rules that apply regardless of how you are socialising.

A couple of things happened to me recently to make me think a bit more about these “rules of engagement”.

My 6-year-old son’s holiday homework was to write a letter about what he did during the Easter break and post it back to the class. I can’t remember the last time I wrote a letter and put it in the post. Birthday, Christmas cards yes. But a letter? It’s been ages since I sat down and shared some news with someone this way. But I still remember the “rules” of letter writing; address and date at the top, formal greeting, how are you’s, news, sign off etc. And to some extent, I stick to that structure in my emails – especially to people I don’t know very well.

Which brings me on to the second incident… at a business meeting to discuss how a start-up company could boost its profile using social media, I was asked if there was a right way to “tweet”. Especially in relation to re-tweets, where a comment has been added to the original by the RT-er.

When first using a new communication tool for business, no-one wants to look as if they don’t know what they’re doing. Nor do they want to offend by breaking etiquette.

Now I think good manners should be the same offline as online. And that, as long as you don’t do anything online that you wouldn’t do face-to-face, you should be pretty much OK.

Neal Shaffer of Windmill Networking seems to agree in his blog post 9 Twitter Etiquette Tips for Businesses Starting out on Twitter which includes the fab phrase “New Tools Old Rules”. Some great advice here, so well worth a read.

And for those who are after more tips – and a bit of fun – check out the definitive guide to modern manners, Debrett’s. They even have a resident mistress of etiquette, Miss Debrett whose advice on communication is just priceless!

So that’s my advice to businesses wanting to know how they should behave on Twitter. Perhaps you know different? If you do, I would love to hear your Twitter Rules.

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