Many professionals I know don’t have much patience for Twitter talk. I try to explain the benefits of Twitter, but looking up their nostrils for an extended period of time is not easy.
But the truth is I once had the same lack of interest in social media in general and Twitter in particular. I remember thinking only twits tweet…. until a personal accident changed my view.
Back in January of 2011, I fell on some ice and shattered my ankle in multiple places. I needed emergency surgery. The next week was my 30th birthday. Would you believe 40th? Okay, 50th.
I was told age is just a number, but it did not feel that way as I used my walker to get my AARP card from the mailbox.
So I thought, “What would I do right now if I were younger?” After dismissing other non-viable options which I choose not to share, I landed on Twitter.
We are all aware of how the National Labor Relations Board seems obsessed with protecting the rights of employees who use social media to disparage their employers. So, when I entered the world of Twitter, I expected to find a world of employer bashing and ad hominen attacks.
But what I found was a professional world where I saw people acting far more graciously than many people do in the real world. Of course, there are exceptions, but they are the exceptions and not the rules.
There are many unspoken rules of etiquette for professionals who use Twitter. I have included my favorite five:
1. Support others. Most Twitter users know that at least 70 percent of tweets should be sharing quality content of others. Can any of us say that we spend 70 percent of our time praising or supporting colleagues?
2. Disagree respectfully. People on Twitter question, but don’t attack. Attacks are met with strong disapproval. Someone responded to a recent tweet of mine with the following message: “Sir, I respectfully disagree.” I was so taken back that I asked why. I now agree with him and disagree with me.
3. Collaborate with others. Even among competitors, there is collaboration on Twitter. (It doesn’t surprise me to see HR professionals supporting each other. But lawyers?) Some of the lawyers I admire most I have “met” on Twitter. If lawyers can be collaborative, then anyone can.
4. Be kind. I see random acts of kindness all the time on Twitter. People warmly welcome others to tweet chats, such as @weknownext. I was touched that, when I was less active on Twitter for personal reasons for a period of time, I received direct messages of concern.
5. People Say, “Thank You.” On Twitter, people regularly thank others for tweeting or retweeting them. Others thank tweeters for posting something that resonated with them or specifically helped them. Some say that is simply because appearing thankful makes the person look good. Oh, how I disagree. If that were so, why don’t more people express gratitude outside of the Twitter space?
When I told a friend about this blog, he dismissed it by making the following point: “People are on their best behavior only because they know there is a public record.”
My response: So what! Perhaps, that is why we aim to be our higher selves.
For one week, try thinking of every interaction as a tweet. Perhaps some of Twitter can spill over into the “real world.” What a better world it could be.
Gotta go. I feel a tweet coming on.
To read more posts by Jonathan Segal, check out his blog here.