To tweet or not to tweet: that is the question. The answer is what follows.
OK, so that might not be an example of a perfect tweet, but it is at least fairly descriptive and well within the textual limit at 75 characters. With Twitter becoming ever more popular, there's an increasing chance for people to misuse the site. I'm here to help prevent that from happening.
First of all, let's not forget what Twitter is meant for in the first place: short (140 characters or fewer) personal or professional updates of an informative or entertaining nature. So please DO avoid a stream of consciousness style of writing here. We don't need to be kept abreast of your every waking moment. If nothing else, this makes for a very boring Twitter feed, and who would want to follow that?
On this same point, DON'T write tweets that span across two or more posts. Again, this defeats the purpose of the site--it's not meant to be a blog. If that's the type of communication you're interested in, look into sites like Blogger and Wordpress, and then you can use Twitter to promote particularly fascinating blog posts. Remember that--with this service in particular--verbosity is not a requirement to be informative or entertaining (Warning: adult language).
Of course, I completely concede that in order to provide compelling content, you may need to include photos and links, and the latter in particular often takes up an absurd amount of that valuable Twitter allowance. To that end, DON'T paste full URLs. Instead, use a service like TinyURL, Bit.ly, or Ow.ly to shorten it up. This way, you'll have room to provide some context for the link. For photos, DO sign up for TwitPic, and while you're at it, connect it to your cell phone so you can post quickly and easily on the go.
Twitter is prime for mobile use, so I say DO connect your account to your cell phone so that you can update via text. However, make sure you understand the permutations of your cell phone data plan before you do so. Also, unless you have a high tolerance for a never-ending stream of text messages, DO be selective when choosing which feeds you want to receive as text notifications.
This next tip isn't my creation--the credit goes to Sarah Evans at Mashable.com--but I felt compelled to include it anyway, since it's apparently somewhat of an epidemic. (The minute a colleague of mine heard what this week's "Dos & Don'ts" topic was, she charged over to my desk and brought this practice to my attention.)
DON'T install the Twitter application on Facebook if you send more than 10 tweets per day. You will seriously start to confuse your network...or worse, annoy them. If you're like me, my networks are separate. Not all of my Facebook friends are on Twitter, or plan to be. When I use "Twitter lingo" it confuses them.
Finally, as a PC Mag article so astutely cautions, DON'T drink and tweet. I'm sure it's embarrassing enough when even your immediate friends hear that stupid thing you just said while under the influence; now consider the humiliation if several dozen (or hundred) of your extended network were privy to your idiocy. Not that we don't appreciate the humor that sometimes comes from drunken communication, but it's probably better for your reputation if you keep those gems to anonymous sites like textsfromlastnight.com (Warning: adult content).
Noticed something I've missed? I invite you to share your own tips in the comment section below.
Last week: E-mail etiquette