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Robert Halfon MP: The Ten Commandments of Twitter

HALFON-robert Robert Halfon is MP for Harlow and tweets @halfon4harlowMP

1. Treat Social Networking like a religion. If you're going to Tweet, Tweet properly.  Twitter reqiuires faith. There is no point in joining social networking sites and rarely providing updates.  If you're going to do it, you have to believe in it and update regularly. Tweet early and tweet often.

2. Twitterers must be mobile. There is no point in having Twitter or Facebook if you only update when you are at a main frame computer.  Most phones like Blackberry or Android have great twitter update facilities.  Use them, as you will be giving your audience constant updates.

3. My Tweets are my bond. There are unnwritten gentlemen's agreements on social networking sites.  If you retweet something, or use someone else's tweet information, always give credit where its due.  If you don't, you will soon suffer reputation loss.  Word will get round that you are a twittaliser.  You might even lose followers.

4. Think before you Tweet and remember Othello. Remember, reputation is everything. What was it Othello said? 'Reputation, reputation, I have lost my reputation.  All that remains is bestial'. You are only as good as your last tweet and that good tweet has to be very recent.  One bad tweet will be remembered and could cause you significant reputation damage. Think before you tweet in a meeting which might be regarded as confidential by others.  You will lose credibility and business if you break confidences.  If unsure check with colleagues or ask permission. Remember that once you tweet, there is no going back. Tweeting is instantaneous. You can't delete as it will either be on Google or someone else will have retweeted.

5. Social Networking sites are social. Be Interactive.  It is no good using Twitter and Facebook just to post propaganda.  That is what websites were like a few years ago. We have moved on from web 1.0 to 2.0 and even 3.0. The best social networkers are those who interact with their followers, respond to views - even when they disagree with what is being said.  Use Twitter to find out people's views.  Where possible act on them.  The more interactive you are, the more followers you will have.

6. Do not be afraid to stand up for yourself. Twitter invariably attracts loons, fruit-cases, loons and and nutjobs.  They will inevitably send you nasty tweets.  Do not be afraid to stand up to them.  Always correct inaccuracies.  Remember Goebbels: 'If you repeat a lie often enough, people will begin to believe it'.

7. Twitter is not for shrinking violets. Shamelessly plug your tweets. Remember Twitter and Facebook are a form of advertising.  It is no accident that pizza delivery companies put so many leaflets through your door.  They don't want you to forget them. Don't let the Twittersphere forget you either. The more tweets the more free advertising and - unlike pizza leaflets - it's free as well. Make sure you retweet anything tweeted that mentions you in a positive light.

8. Use Twitter as a public service. Follow twitter sites that may have nothing directly to do with your business or personal interests, such as traffic reports, weather updates and local GP notices. Retweet their information and your followers and 'friends' will be incredibly grateful.  Remember that what may not be interesting to you,  may be very interesting - and helpful - to them.

9. Twitter requires imagination. To be a success on Twitter, to get followers and friends, you need to work hard and imaginatively. Try and write original tweets, funny ones even.  Dry humour is an essential Tweeter's quality.  The more original, the more respect you will gain.  Better to tweet less but with imagination than tweet often with any old rubbish.

10. Twitter is only the aperitif - not the main course. Twitter may be a religion, as I described as number one, but never use it to hide behind. However brilliant it is a networking medium, it will never be a substitute for meeting people in person. Building relationships is one of the most important things in politics - and no doubt business too.  Face to face contact, the hand shake, must always take precedence. Social networks provide the foundations, not the building itself. Treat Twitter as you would a lonely hearts internet site.  You can do all the chatting online, but unless you have that date, you're still stuck behind that computer, with only a mouse to keep you company.


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