Legal blogger Charon QC has stated on a number of occasions that 'there are no rules on Twitter' and I've always tended to agree with the sentiment behind that comment.
However, the "Twitter joke trial" and McAlpine/Sally Bercow's "innocent face" tweet affair shows that there are indeed quite a few rules to be aware of...
Leaving aside the legal arguments (I'm a former, not current, lawyer so I don't intend to discuss the finer points of those cases here); when it comes to Twitter I do tend to live by my own good conduct rules, which I try follow as a matter of course.
Here they are:
- Be nice at all times. You wouldn't be mean face-to-face, so why do it in cyber-space?
- Be yourself. As in real life, tweeps can spot a fake a mile off.
- Spell correctly and sort out your grammar, but don't be afraid to throw in a few silly made-up words and emoticons. Why? Like with email, it can be difficult to read humour into 140 characters. A little silliness never goes amiss.
- Don't shout, or rather, don't broadcast (excessively - see point 5). You wouldn't walk into a networking event and start shouting at the room. Don't do it on Twitter – people will think you're weird and rude. Not good.
- OK, a little broadcasting is ok - for example, if you want people to read your latest blog post. I try and stick to the 80:20 rule of 80% conversational and/or interesting content tweets, to a maximum of 20% promotional tweets.
- Don't engage in arguments. If you disagree with something posted on Twitter, not a problem, but think long and hard before you enter into this sort of dialogue with a fellow user. Why? Everybody can see the argument, and it is easy to enter into a virtual slanging match. Uncool.
- Don't pester people. If you @ mention them, and they don't reply, that's ok. Don't challenge them about it - they may have put their phone or laptop down to make a cup of tea, or go to a meeting. Or they may have chosen not to reply. Respect their right to ignore you.
I'm not suggesting that these are hard and fast rules, or that everyone should follow them, but they work for me.
By Victoria Moffatt