Everyone’s on Twitter. Your friends, your colleagues, your boss, your kids, and even a whole bunch of pets, inanimate objects and fictional characters. Businesses too, and in increasing numbers. According to a survey by Constant Contact that was released in March 2013, 25 percent of small businesses are now using Twitter, compared to only 7 percent last year. A 2012 survey found that Twitter was the most popular social network among big companies, with 73 percent of Fortune 500 companies reporting that they have a Twitter account.
It’s not all hype. Twitter can be a great marketing tool. It can be a great way to network. It’s awesome for content marketing. Unless you mess it up, in which case you’ll probably end up looking like an idiot … or at least lose a few followers.
Want to get it right? Here are 15 things you absolutely should not do on Twitter. (For tips on how businesses can use social media, read Jedi Strategies for Social Media Management.)
Be an Egg
You know that little egg you get as a profile picture if you don’t bother to upload one? It’s anonymous, faceless and totally unengaging, which is exactly how you’ll come across if you use it. And that’s a best-case scenario. The worst case is that people will assume you’re a spammer.
Set Up Auto DMs
Twitter’s a social network for sharing cool stuff in a relatively public way; it isn’t for spamming people with offers or bugging them to sign up for your newsletters/reports/free e-book downloads. Or at least it shouldn’t be. When you share and engage with people via tweets, that is the networking. If you do it right, it’s a way to spread a message, boost brand awareness and even drive traffic to your site. Trying to squeeze more out of it by terrorizing people through direct messaging is like wearing a self-promotional sandwich board to a business lunch: annoyingly over the top. (Get more great tips in Social Media: How to Do It Right.)
Only Share Your Own Stuff
You probably know someone who monopolizes the conversation and only talks about him or herself. What a jerk. If you only post content from your own site or business and fail to interact with other people on Twitter, you’re sort of a jerk too. Social media is about being social. Use your social skills.
Set Up an Auto Tweet Announcing How Many People Unfollowed You
Yes, there are actually apps that will determine who has unfollowed you on Twitter and tweet it out on your account. Maybe someone unfollowed you because they disagreed with your viewpoints, didn’t find value in your Tweets or just plain found you boring. Or maybe it wasn’t about you at all. On Twitter, people follow and unfollow other users all the time. No matter what the reason, announcing it is obnoxious. And really, Twitter has enough drama going on as it is.
Talk Too Much (Especially About Yourself)
A normal (and by normal, I mean "real-world") conversation goes like this: One person talks, the other listens, and vice versa. Unless you’re a comedian who can deliver a great punchline every time you Tweet, you’d better start listening, responding, retweeting and generally being a good conversationalist.
Ask People to Follow You
Will you be my friend? Please? Relationships got a lot more sophisticated than that right around the time you hit first grade. People will follow you because they want to, not because you ask.
Talk Yourself Up
You might be totally rad. If so, wait for someone else to say it. And please don’t use words like "maven," "junkie" or "ninja" (especially ninja – I doubt you’ve flipped out and killed someone lately) in your Twitter bio. It makes you look like an @ss.
Use Too Many Hashtags
Hashtags work. They help other users find relevant content. In that way, they might help other users find you. #A #tweet #with #too #many #hashtags #looks #ugly. What hashtags are supposed to do is alert users about the conversation you’re joining, or what’s important or relevant about the link you’re posting. The hashtag eyeball assault that’s become common on Twitter is pointless. (Learn more important hashtag etiquette in Streamline the Conversation: How and Why Twitter Hashtags Work.)
Game Your Follower Count
Yes, you can buy Twitter followers. They are cheap. They might even be real, at least in the sense that they’re real people in some low-wage country being paid to maintain a Twitter account. What they aren’t is fans of your company, your business or your content. They don’t buy your product, or spread the word about what you have to offer. And they might even expose your real followers to spam (or you to embarrassment if people find out.)
Tweet Inspirational Quotes
A quote or two can be cool, especially if it has some specific relevance, but if you want to be social you should really have something to say. Otherwise you’ll come off as a wind-up toy. It won’t be long before people stop winding you up.
Use Too Much Stupid Vocabulary
Tweeple, 140 characters creates enough confusion in the Twittersphere, and that’s without made-up words like tweetheart and twesume. They’re less than twitterific … and they sound like a speech impediment.
Send Multiple Tweets
Tweets are 140 characters for a reason. There are some good applications for writing what are called "tall tweets." Use them if you’re going over the limit, but do it judiciously. The best Twitter feeds have short, engaging messages and links that beg to be clicked. They don’t read like a novel.
In terms of an optimal number of tweets per day, there is a "tweetspot" (sorry, last one). According to a study released by Buddy Media in 2012, that number is about four per day. After that, you begin to suffer diminishing returns. Plus, if you flood your followers’ feeds, you’ll annoy the heck out of them.
Retweet Compliments, Retweets or Thank You Tweets
This might be a bit of a gray area, but retweets should be about saying, "Hey, look what this guy said. I like it, so I’m sharing it with you." It shouldn’t be about "Hey, look what this guy said about me." That’s what the Favorite button is for.
There’s a fine line between promoting your product and spamming your followers. This is especially true for those who sell a product or service. Yes, your followers might like to know about product offerings and promotions now and then. What they don’t want is to be plugged into your non-stop advertising channel. That’s grounds for an unfollow.
What Twitter etiquette rules do you live by? What do other Twitter users do to irritate you? Are you doing some of things on my list of don’ts and seeing success as a result? Let me know @TaraStruyk.