Do’s and Don’ts of Communication


Ruthanne Terrero with Michael Hobson
I am shown here with Michael Hobson, chief marketing officer of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, in the Taipan Suite at the Mandarin Oriental, New York.

When Twitter emerged as a new way to communicate online for free to a universe of potential clients, I was all over it. I had strong feelings about Twitter do’s and don’ts (as in, don’t tweet that you’re hungry or going to the post office; Twitter is not your subconscious—and besides, we don’t care).

For the past year I’ve let my Twitter obsession subside; I figured that those of you who were using it were doing so just fine and that if you haven’t adopted it by now, you probably aren’t going to and deserved to be left alone.

I recently stumbled upon an article on about a survey conducted by Microsoft Research and Carnegie Mellon University. The researchers surveyed more than 250 Twitter users to determine what factors do and don’t lend tweets credibility, according to It was titled “Tweeting is Believing? Understanding Microblog Credibility Perceptions.”

Heavy title, I know, but it really turned out to be a new listing of Twitter do’s and don’ts. There were some good findings here, which can be applied to any social media or even real life.

So, what makes someone who tweets more credible? Using a personal photo as your user image, says the study. I do agree that using your photo on Twitter rather than your agency’s logo will serve you the best. People want to believe a human is speaking to them, not a corporation.

Believing that the author is an expert on the subject he is tweeting about also adds genuineness. This means you need to be sure to portray yourself professionally in that one line they give you on your profile page. Leave out the fluff. Remember that you’re promoting your luxury travel service here. Keep this in mind in all your communiqués, from e-mails to promotions to the way you dress in front of your clients.

As for the don’ts: Using a cartoon or an avatar or Twitter’s default image as your profile picture loses you authenticity. And do not go crazy and follow thousands of other people in the hope that they will follow you back. That makes you look like a spammer. You should have many more followers than people you are following. One good way to get followers is to include a line inviting people to follow you on Twitter on your automatic signature.

Those who use nonstandard grammar and/or punctuation when they tweet lack the most credibility, according to the study. Bingo! This is my favorite “don’t” and it applies to the real world as well. We all know some people in business who don’t use capitalization when they write e-mails. To me, it indicates their message is of such low importance they can’t even stop to use the “shift” key on their keyboard; I can practically see them resting their chin on their hand and chewing an entire pack of pink bubble gum as they’re typing with one finger. A person once sent me an e-mail all in lowercase applying for a copy editor’s position. Appalled, I told her I found this alarming and that I didn’t feel she was appropriate for the job. She explained that was “just her style.”

Two people in public relations send me e-mails all in lowercase promoting their clients’ services. I think both they and their clients lack credibility. If you have advisors in your agency who are using this practice to write to suppliers, clients or their colleagues, put an end to it right now. You’ve got the statistics (above) to argue that they’re hurting your entire agency’s image. To get more proof, download the entire study at

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