Some Do's and Don'ts of Twitter

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For the first social media blog post, I thought a simple primer on what to do — and what not to do — seems like a good place to start.

DON’T… I’m posting my DON’T first because it’s a crucial lesson in this medium, and one that too few people understand.

  • Look at Twitter as a mechanism to blast out information about your company or its products. While that will be ONE thing you do on Twitter, it should be one of the lesser activities you’re doing there. Twitter is all about sharing and conversation. RT what other people have tweeted. (Or MT it.) Post links to articles and websites that are relevant to your business/industry, but not specifically about your business. Have conversations with other people who are tweeting about issues you care about. For you to be successful on Twitter, you have to engage in conversation, not just “lecture” to people about who you are.


  • Think carefully about your Twitter handle. Make it as short as possible. Why? One of your goals should be to post content other people want to RT. Twitter limits tweets to 140 characters. So every character in your Twitter handle is one less character someone can use when RT’ing your content. i.e. @BioBuzzMd
  • On that same vein, think about the length of the tweets you post and whether another user could add the “RT @yourtwitterhandle” and still be under 140 characters. People are less likely to RT you  if they have to MT (modify tweet) you.
  • Spend some time following and watching how others interact first, before you join the conversation.  Some active Twitter handles of fellow BioBuzzers are @rferrier (me), @BiotechMd, @AndrewEEckert,  @AgnesJTrow,  @twbrann@Kunal_Khosla  &  @JHUTechTransfer.  A full list of local Biotech Twitter handles can also be found at ‘Maryland Biotech’s are Buzzin on Twitter‘.
  • Have personality. Be a person, not just a company. The more your tweets sound like a company talking, the less people will want to engage with you. Case in point: The  Johns Hopkins Montgomery County Campus (@JHUMoCo) recently hosted an ice cream social for employees on campus. I could have either (a) ignored it because it wasn’t work/education related, (b) or tweeted something boring. But I didn’t. Why? Our campus is home to not only education, but to private companies, entrepreneurs, and research organizations. We pride ourselves on having a fun community here, and in being a community, not just a “real estate” location for those who chose to locate here. Socials like that are key to our community culture. So my tweet? “Ice cream socials in the middle of the day… b/c that’s how we role at the MCC.“. I think you can agree that tweet shows our personality. Also, realize that your Twitter bio is another place where you can show some personality. PR Daily recently highlighted 10 brands with creative Twitter bios. Check them out.
  • Establish hashtags. But make sure you research your hashtag first (at a site like to make sure it’s not being used in some other fashion. The benefit of a hashtag — if you can establish it and make it stick — is it will allow you to track what other people are tweeting about the topic/your product even if they don’t mention your twitter handle. (Case in point: I was establishing a hashtag for an organization for which I do volunteer work. We wanted to coin #GBF for our event. A quick search showed me that #GBF was being used to denote “gay best friend.” I’m all for gay best friends, but they aren’t relevant to a book festival. At least, not usually. So we had to modify our hashtag selection. Also remember, as with twitter handles, the shortest hashtags are the best hashtags.)
  • Research existing hashtags, use those hashtags, and follow those conversations. If you’re an organization working on a cure for a specific disease, chances are there’s already an established hashtag for that disease/condition. Find that hashtag. Use it in your posts — it’s a great way to ensure new people see what you’re saying. It’s also a great way to see what those who are struggling with the particular condition/disease are saying about it.

Some additional reading on this topic:

Do you have a social media question? Ask me and I’ll try to answer it — or find someone else who can — on our blog.

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