10 Common Mistakes on Twitter – Part I

By now virtually everyone knows that social networking needs to be a strategic part of marketing. Twitter is a quick and easy way to get started. You can get work leads, increase your customer base and enhance your reputation by better serving your existing customers, and connect with potential partners. But it’s not without its pitfalls.

When using any social media, the cardinal rule is: Don’t antagonize! Creating hostility is most decidedly NOT the way to brand yourself or market your services or products.

Below is a list of the most common practices that I see your followers may find objectionable:

1. Spamming

You may think that you’re not spamming, but if marketing is all you ever think about, you just might be perceived as a spammer. Even if your ultimate goal in using Twitter is to promote your business, you’ve got to shift your attitude. Stop marketing, stop pitching, stop selling. Customers want to interact with you and with each other—they don’t want to be sold. Instead, think about how you can be part of the community and benefit others. Refrain from tweeting too much about your company and the services you offer.

2. Using an inappropriate photo

I’m sure you already know that you must have a photo on your Twitter site or no one will take you seriously. It’s best to put up a picture of yourself rather than your pets or something abstract. (I confess that I have a picture of my cat on my Twitter site, but I’m promoting my cats, not myself.) Use a professionally taken, close-up photograph of yourself. I see too many pictures where I can barely make out the person. Is it a bird? A horse? A human?

You can also use your company logo as the icon instead of a personal photo if that’s what you’re promoting. If you want to add a personal touch, you can also put a picture of yourself on the sidebar. In fact, that’s a prime piece of real estate for including more details about yourself or your company.

For some examples of highly successful Twitterers, see: http://twitter.com/savvyauntie (about 12,300 followers) and http://twitter.com/chrisbrogan (some 123,233 followers).

3. Sending ho-hum tweets.

You don’t have to write scintillating prose, but you do want to your tweets to be interesting, fun, or valuable to your clients. If your tweets are consistently boring, people will tune you out.

How you tweet depends on whether you’re representing your company or trying to brand yourself. Either way, do use a distinctive voice. With Twitter, you can sound casual, even a bit playful or offbeat. But remember, even if your tweets sound light and spontaneous, don’t forget that anyone can read them.

4. Sending mostly one-way “broadcast” tweets.

Remember that you’re supposed to be engaging in conversations. I remember one amusing spoof video clip on Twitter that made the rounds a few years ago. It showed a young man traipsing up and down the streets yelling out his thoughts and opinions about everything, while completely ignoring everyone around him. It was amusing in that it’s exactly how some people behave on Twitter. Don’t be like him; don’t add to the noise. Listen to the conversations around you. See what people are interested in. Be a resource. Try to answer some questions in your field of expertise. Offer tips, useful information, and third-party links.

That doesn’t mean you can’t tweet promotions or information about your organization. You just have to make sure that you have a good mixture of tweets. Include occasional personal updates as well. Revealing little glimpses of yourself  helps people feel connected and authenticity to your voice.

5. Using the default Twitter background.

So this isn’t a cardinal sin. But surely you can do better than that. An extremely successful consultant I know uses one of the free backgrounds that Twitter offers. That’s enough to get you started. But there are so many options out there, why settle for that? Give your site a little pizzazz by customizing it. You can use free resources like Twitbacks.com and www.twitdom.com. Others, like www.twitterbackgrounds.com offer both free and custom-designed backgrounds.

mcherylchow@gmail.com' About Cheryl Chow

Writer, Editor, Translator (Japanese/Chinese to English), specializing in Health and Fitness. Owner of My Cat is My Therapist site, exploring the health benefits of the human-animal bond.


  1. I’d like to add my pet peeve: people who have set up the feed to Facebook so their tweets are automatically posted in FB. Tweets that aren’t well-written end up sounding cryptic at best when they’re read out of context. Here’s an example I pulled off my FB page: ” I’d like to know why as well, seriously! RT @deansguide: @SanRafaelPolice Why not?”

  2. I agree with you totally! I generally try not to look at tweets on Facebook because I usually have no idea what they’re talking about. And I’m certainly not going to take the time to search for the original conversation.

  3. Excellent article, Cheryl. Gets right to the point and does it a lot faster than pieces that are much longer.

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