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How to Avoid Seven Common Twitter Mistakes

There are many things you could do wrong on Twitter--are you doing them?

By
Aliza Sherman,
December 10, 2009
Episode #082

There are many mistakes you could be making on the oh-so popular microblogging site Twitter. Do you know if you're guilty or not?

7 Twitter Mistakes to Avoid

There are no rule books for Twitter. I repeat: There are no rule books for Twitter.

There are, however, best practices learned over time by those of us who have been using it for more than six months, and some of us publish our ideas about how we feel Twitter should be used "properly."

How you use Twitter can vary depending on why you are using Twitter. Are you using it to stay in touch with friends? Okay, then the rules may be pretty lax. But are you using Twitter for business? To build your professional reputation? To market a product or service? Well then, you better be thinking about how to use Twitter in strategic and appropriate ways.

Never to be one to shy away from having a strong opinion about the Internet, I've compiled 10 of my pet peeves about things people do on Twitter--and I'm occasionally guilty of a few of them myself--that should not be done.

1. Following a ton of people. There is no need to follow a lot of people on Twitter, especially if you are just starting out. Of course, “a lot” can mean different things to different people. I try to keep the number of people I follow under 2000. Others keep it below a few hundred. Still others follow only a dozen people on Twitter. Know your information overload threshold. Following too many people can send you into a mental tailspin. And it also makes you look suspiciously like a Twitter spam artist, so just don't go there.

2. Shaming someone for unfollowing you. Stop taking it so personally if people follow you or don't follow you, unfollow you, or never follow you back. Contrary to popular belief, it is not always about you. And calling out in your Twitterstream when someone doesn't follow you back or chooses to unfollow you makes you look like a spoiled child who had his toy taken away. Very unprofessional.

3. Forwarding links through Direct Messages. With the onslaught of Twitter spam, it just isn't good communications practice to share a link with someone privately in their DM box. If you cannot share a link publicly, then email it to them--and include something in the message that is personal so they know it is not spam. DMs are terrible for extensive communications anyway--take it to email for best results.

4. Crafting tweets too long to retweet.

Twitter is about listening to what others are saying, thoughtfully engaging others in conversation, contributing meaningfully to the conversation, and building real contacts and connects.

One annoying thing on Twitter is when you read a tweet that you really want to repeat--or retweet--in your own Twitter stream to your followers, and it is way too long to retweet properly. There is a very simple formula for crafting a retweet that I use: Take the number of letters in your Twitter handle. Add 5. Then subtract that number from 140. That will give you the number of characters for your retweetable tweets.

5. Overtweeting contests and giveaways. Everyone loves a freebie, but you'll lose friends and followers quickly if you keep retweeting contest and giveaway tweets-- unless that is what you are known for. We can all get overzealous with our retweeting--I personally tend to do a lot of it in the morning when I'm just starting my day--but remember that what you retweet is a reflection on you.

6. Automating a Thanks for Following Me message. Contrary to popular belief, canned “Thank you for following me” messages are not looked upon favorably. They come across as canned at best and creepy at worst. If you cannot take the time to review who is following you--and Twitter emails this information to you--and then send individualized messages to them, don't bother. No message is better than a fake message.

7. Being overly commercial. Want to put out a lot of salesy tweets to get people to buy your products or hire you? Just don't do it. Twitter isn't about broadcasting commercial messages. It is about listening to what others are saying, thoughtfully engaging others in conversation, contributing meaningfully to the conversation, and building real contacts and connects. Gone are the old ways of advertising and marketing. Today it is about real conversations between real people.

Bottom Line

Bottom Line: Seek out best practices about using Twitter for your business by reading white papers, blogs, and other reputable publications. Hire a knowledgeable consultant. But whatever you do, do not make easily avoidable and potentially costly mistakes while tweeting. If you do, you've only got yourself to blame.

Contact Me

That's all we have time for today.

Visit the Digital Marketer’s website at digitalmarketer.quickanddirtytips.com for links to all of the sites mentioned in the show. If you'd like to ask a question or request a topic for The Digital Marketer, e-mail me at digitalmarketer@quickanddirtytips.com or leave a message by calling 206-339-6279. You can also find me at Facebook.com/thedigitalmarketer and Twitter.com/alizasherman.

The Digital Marketer's Quick and Dirty Tips for Building Your Business With Web Tools is part of the Quick and Dirty Tips network at quickanddirtytips.com.

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Resources

Freshbooks – http://www.freshbooks.com

Harvest – http://www.getharvest.com

5pm – http://www.5pmweb.com

iTimeX -  http://www.timexchange.net/

TapTimer – http://www.tapapplications.com

MyHours.com – http://www.myhours.com

88Miles – http://www.88miles.net

Klok - http://klok.mcgraphix.com/klok/index.htm

Tick - http://tickspot.com/

Basecamp – http://www.basecamphq.com/

Twitter image courtesy of Shutterstock

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