Social relationships on Twitter

Social relationships on the internet are peculiar things – because so much of our interaction is based on being able to hear and see people the sort of social interactions when all you can read is text is very much an evolving medium, and one which is surprisingly fragile. One of the great tricks of working on the net – and this is true whether it’s email, websites or through social media like Facebook or Twitter, is tone and approach.

Here’s a handle on how to play this:

Instigating conversations versus stalking

Social media is based on trust, and surprising as it seems an understanding of a form of “personal space”. People get very sensitive about being approached on a commercial basis unless there is an established relationship first. So there’s a clear difference about responding to someone who asks for a recommendation in your field of expertise (which is instigating a conversation) versus tweeting someone out of the blue based on content in, for instance a blog post (which comes quite close to stalking).

It’s important that you don’t stalk; firstly, because people won’t like it, but almost equally as important because that’s what spambots do, and you want to be seen to be a human being, rather than a machine who wanders round the web looking for keywords to spam people with.


This is exactly what social media is about – an incentivised contact taking something of value to them and spreading it round their circle of known (and therefore hopefully friendly) contacts. We do not need to retweet their retweet because it is both wasteful (their friends are not our friends, so there is no real value achieved; if their friends are our friends, they get the message twice) and again feels a bit bot-like.

Syntax and grammar

Force majeure, Twitter enforces a clarity of thought and expression, simply because it confines people to a very few characters. That means you shouldn’t waste characters on things like your brand’s website address. You can certainly drop the “.com” element; it may even be preferable simple to shorten the whole thing to a bit.ly link and not mention the name at all, especially since your brandname is usually your username.

Taking time to learn all this

Social media is essentially an attempt to turn a face to face conversation (which we are evolutionarily adapted for) onto a very rapid, wide broadcast, text and visuals only medium which we has only been around for a few years. It is in constant transition and takes time to learn.

Jonathan Blanchard Smith
A strategic marketer with a range and depth of international experience, Jonathan is Managing Partner at Vivid London. He coaches at executive level and lectures on cultural integration with specific reference to cross-border mergers and acquisitions. Past chairman of a national patient advocacy charity, he also chairs the board of a technology company and a number of committees.


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