Tweet as you would be tweeted

Twitter can be all at once wonderfully interesting and incredibly irritating. What tips the balance for you?

You can build and project your own image to the world on Twitter. Whether you use it for professional or personal reasons, you have a brand and will develop a reputation. How do you ensure it is a positive one?

'Do unto others as you would have them do to you' is the way many of us choose to live our lives (with or without the religious background) and we can definitely apply this to social media, in particular, Twitter.

When someone demonstrates poor behaviour, I find myself worrying (perhaps unnecessarily, I think) about whether or not I will find myself following such a path – do I have the volume turned up too high on my iPhone? Did I ignore someone's text? Have I lied to or let down a friend? And that's just offline.

So let's get the negatives out of the way first. Aside from these excellent examples what annoys you about other people on Twitter?

  • Overly long conversations? Do respond to questions, but take anything past 2-3 responses into a private conversation/ email/ message forum.
  • Businesses or people who only tweet about their product? The easy solution is to unfollow these folk. If you are in charge of a company Twitter feed, remember how disconnected with customers this makes a business appear – that they are only interested in plugging themselves, not engaging with the people who need or use their product or service.
  • Are people really interested in where you've been jogging every day over the last month/ how many estate agent viewings you've had in your flat / what you've had for lunch / how excited you are about your new job? Occasional personal information can add some depth, but be wary of the soap opera effect.
  • The Twitter equivalent of the unnecessary Reply-All? Being included in replies and conversations that aren't relevant. A reminder to us that we don't need to include everyone ever mentioned in a tweet. Or email.
  • People moaning about colleagues or customers? Ah, the online gossip. This never ends well. To quote Lemony Snicket, "the key to good eavesdropping is not getting caught". Do you want what you tweet to be associated with you forever? As in any written communication, it is so hard to sense tone – we've all been upset by a text or email that we have read in a different voice to that with which it was written. You only have to look at the case of Paul Chambers and his tweet about Robin Hood Airport to know that tweets can be taken out of context.

The dilemma in continuing to follow people with these Twitter traits is that they occasionally post good content yet counteract it with mindless waffle. Turn the mirror on yourself, have a good look. Are you doing the same?

How do we tweet positively to ensure good tweeting karma?

Figure out what you want from using Twitter. Pictures of cats? Easy. May I recommend @EmrgencyKittens to meet that particular need? But by only posting lots of photos of your pets you may find your professional interactions somewhat limited. However if you want to make connections in your industry, you're in luck.

Do you want to read interesting articles on subjects that are important to you? By sharing your own findings, your followers will be able to recommend similar pieces. This gives you a starting point to build a relationship, make a connection.

Rather than constantly retweeting other people's tweets, no matter how inspirational the quote, perhaps it is better to tweet the link and add your own opinion, whilst remembering to credit your source.

Invoking the rule of three will help keep things positive – sharing, engaging, promoting. Send one tweet with interesting content you have found elsewhere; the second should be a meaningful interaction with a fellow tweeter; after these more selfless Twitter acts, you can be allowed a moment of indulgence with a retweet or self-promotion.

I think tweeting as you would be tweeted is about being true to yourself. Be polite, be courteous, be professional - because even if it’s not about work, current and future employers can read it. I know I've said it before, but before hitting 'Tweet' consider what you would think if you read it and whether it would make you hit the 'Unfollow' button.

Annoy not as you would be annoyed. Tweet as you would be tweeted.

Suzanne Wheatley is Recruitment Manager at Sue Hill Recruitment (@suehillrec).  She tweets as @suzyredrec.