First and foremost, be kind and gracious. Don’t be the person who adds negativity to someone’s comments or makes them less willing to share their ideas in the first place.
Yes, and. Overall, heed Michael Nielsen’s suggestion and use a “Yes, and…” approach (a common improv mantra) on Twitter. Rather than tearing down the ideas that people share, build them up by adding your own views and experiences.
Express appreciation or agreement. If someone posts something useful or interesting, or that mirrors or challenges your own thoughts and experiences, this is a simple way of saying thanks and encouraging them to post more.
Ask questions in the replies. Do this when you have a genuine query about a person’s tweet that you feel others might have too, not as a form of engagement-bait. Ask questions that prompt someone to provide additional information and deepen understanding; good questions show a non-surface interest in the topic. Your questions can yield an interesting response and may bring up a point of clarification that will benefit others. Rather than challenging someone’s position, you might phrase your perspective as a question:
When prompted by someone to answer a specific question, do so. Prompts from those you follow can be an exercise in clarifying your own thinking and seeing how you converge or diverge from others. Answer open-ended questions thoughtfully and truthfully.
Provide further recommendations and reading. If someone tweets praise for a book, artist, company, or whatever, it can be simple and helpful to suggest, “If you like this, you might like this.” Helping someone broaden their knowledge on a subject they’re interested in is often welcome.
Be a connector. It’s easy to get siloed off on Twitter. Helping people create connections can be quick and informal and doesn’t necessitate the overhead of a double-opt in format over email. It can be as simple as “@user and I were talking about this, they have interesting thoughts that you can find here(link).”
Be patient. Whether you’re leaving a thoughtful comment or asking a specific question, it’s important to do so without the expectation of a response. If you’re replying to the tweet of someone with a significant number of followers, it’s likely they’re bombarded with comments and questions all day. Good questions will often yield likes as people signal they have the same one, making a response much more likely. Questions are then both personally helpful and also valuable to other followers.
We’ll cover dealing with negativity on Twitter later, but you can do your own big part by not contributing to the platform’s toxicity.
Don’t be negative. While being kind but critical in conversation is fine, being overly cynical on Twitter is off-putting to others—there’s rarely an opportunity to go back and explain “what you really meant.”
Don’t be pedantic or nit-picky. Everyone is working under the same 280 character limit when they’re sharing ideas. This leaves little room for nuance, so try to assume good intentions. If you need something clarified, ask. Being reductive or picking apart ideas is viewed as annoying. Try not to say things like, “You probably haven’t considered…,” or any reply that starts with, “Well actually…”