What are all these mentions?

Every Monday, I answer a question regarding manners on social media. Just like real life, there are ways to be polite and ways to be impolite. If you don’t know what they are, you risk losing your following.

DEAR JOHN: I’ve recently noticed that I’m getting mentions from people I’ve never met on Twitter. Sometimes they ask me questions, other times they share a link with me. What do they want? Does this happen to you? RESTRAINING ORDER

DEAR RESTRAINING ORDER: Yep, this does happen to me, but I generally think it’s a good thing. Whether you like it is up to you, and how you plan on using Twitter. If you want to build your personal brand, this is a good thing, as it means people you’ve never met like what you have to say enough to initiate contact with you. If you use Twitter primarily to stay in touch with your friends, you can ignore these messages entirely.

One thing to keep in mind is that links are often how viruses spread across Twitter. Always be wary when clicking a link from somebody you don’t know, especially if it’s an unsolicited link or the message has nothing to do with your interests. On a related note, be wary when clicking links — even from people you know — in direct messages, as those are another great way to spread viruses on Twitter. When an account is compromised, hackers often direct message that account’s friends in an attempt to spread the virus.

In any event, if you are interested in building your personal brand on Twitter, a good rule of thumb is to respond to mentions within 24 hours. Mentions are how conversation happens, and if you wait too long it’s likely that the other person won’t remember what you were talking about. Twitter isn’t just about shouting into a room full of shouting people, it’s about engaging and making connections. Remember, even though you may not know your followers personally, social media is how business gets done in 2011.

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