Twitter for business: 18 things you should NOT do

Five years on Twitter doesn’t sound like a long time, however in the world of social media — it is, believe me!

I have learned so much along the way, building my own following, but also that of Firebrand’s, which now has well over 33,000 followers.

It’s also made me a little irritable about certain Twitter habits, so be warned.

Here are 18 things I learned you should not do on Twitter if you want to market yourself or your business.

18 Twitter #Mega-fails
  1. Do not set up Auto DMs for new followers. It really annoys people.
  2. Do not “protect your tweets”. What’s the point of using Twitter for marketing if people can’t see your tweets? It’s particularly amusing when I see marketers do this.
  3. Do not set up a spam filter for your tweets. Most people won’t follow through with the filter and follow you. This is a red flag for why you’re not getting new followers.
  4. Do not schedule your tweets so that multiple tweets suddenly appear in your stream at the same time. You will be labelled a spammer and people will unfollow you.
  5. Do not use anything other than a photo of yourself or company logo for your Avatar if you want to be taken seriously (eg. your pet hamster). People prefer to engage with people, so a photo of yourself is recommended, even above a company logo if possible. Put the company logo on your Twitter background instead.
  6. Unless you’re a food blogger, don’t tweet what you had for breakfast/lunch/dinner. People don’t care and you’re wasting their time.
  7. Stay away from banal tweets. I read one the other day that said “Went to scratch my nose and poked myself in the eye”. Immediate “unfollow”! Am I being harsh?
  8. And whilst I’m at it, don’t tweet about sex or religion unless this is your area of specialisation and that’s what you’re marketing.
  9. Don’t treat Twitter as a broadcast channel – do more listening and engaging than talking.
  10. Do not overly promote yourself. Be generous, add value and share a lot. It’s the best kind of promotion you can do.
  11. Do not use CAPITAL LETTERS – it’s the equivalent of shouting and no-one likes it.
  12. Do not post your tweet on other social platforms (manually or automatically) unless it is written appropriately for the other platform. E.g. If your tweet contains hashtags or @, remove them for LinkedIn. Also remember that the tone of each platform should be different. Best to customise for each one. BTW, keep the hashtags on Pinterest and Facebook, but don’t go overboard.
  13. Do not auto-post your Facebook updates to Twitter. If I see one more tweet that says “I posted an image to Facebook” I’m going to lose it.
  14. Do not use more than two or three hashtags in your tweets. Makes your tweets very unappealing to read.
  15. No-one cares where you checked in. Stop polluting feeds with this trivial information.
  16. Don’t set up an auto-tweet announcing how many people unfollowed you. Not cool. Not cool at all. We also don’t care how many people followed or retweeted you either. Bit too egocentric for my liking.
  17. Don’t send a tweet without checking your spelling. Spelling mistakes make you look totally unprofessional.
  18. Don’t share a link without crediting your source. I see this happening all the time, even with short tweets where there is room to give someone credit. It’s a certain type of person who does this…

If you have any other “pet hates” regarding Twitter, please share them with everyone by adding a comment to this post.

More reading:
10 essential personal branding tips for Twitter.
13 things that really annoy people on LinkedIn



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(55) Readers Comments

  1. Well said!

  2. Well done Carolyn, excellent observations. Just wished I’d read this a while back as I’ve done nearly all your no no’s.

  3. Great list! Would go well with my own recent blog post, which boiled down to two more Twitter dont’s:
    Don’t follow folks just to get a follow back and then immediately unfollow them to keep your ratio favorable. I call this the “bait & sTWITch.”
    Don’t respond to an unfollow like a bitter breakup, publicly calling out your unfollower on Twitter. Just move on folks, ‘mmkay? :)

    • Laura, those extra two “don’ts” are crazy. Can’t believe people actually do that. Thanks so much. Adding to the list :)

  4. Great list! I would add ‘don’t use @replies for long or private conversations, use DM’s instead’ and ‘don’t use “reply to all” and endlessly RT people’s handles, in long conversations. Both just pollute the followers’ tweetstreams’. Just my two cents worth… I look forward to your next entry!

  5. Personal pet hate of mine on Twitter is people and/or companies adding someone’s handle into a tweet when the comment is not tailored to the individual. For example, spammers putting random handles into tweets, to try and promote a product/blog/service. If it’s relevant and interesting, of course I’d want to be part of the conversation. But, if my handle is just being added to the tweet in the hope I’ll click through, then that’s just spammy.

    • Emma, I completely agree with you. Adding to the list!

  6. Do not send tweets who people who don’t follow you. It’s technically possible to do this by using their individual @twitterhandles. But it’s annoying and invasive. It’s as if someone didn’t invite you, so you break into their home instead.
    Some idiots do this to promote their products, automatically sending the same spam message to dozens (or hundreds, or thousands) of @individuals. It’s a sure way of creating ill feelings and getting blocked and reported for spam.
    Rayne Hall

    • I disagree with the 1st half of this. If you don’t want strangers to engage a conversation with you, you shouldn’t be on Twitter. You wouldn’t go to a party and refuse to talk to people who you don’t already know, right?

      I agree with the latter bit of your comment though. Gawd forbid you tweet something like “iPhone” or “insurance”- it only leads to dozens for spammy tweets from bots. Really irritating.

    • Rayne, you, @Emma above and I definitely agree on this. Thanks for adding your thoughts.

    • Great post, and I agree with all of it. I really like the way you always pull no punches. I’d like to add to the above – if you want to be retweeted, leave something near the top of your page to retweet. Don’t let people have to wade through yards of RTs and conversation before they find something – or, if you must, don’t whinge about not being retweeted.

      Worst sin of all : when I retweet someone and they can’t even be bothered to look 2 tweets down my page for something worth retweeting back, and just RT the first thing, which might be a bit of pointless conversation. Another reason why the LAST thing I do during a Twitter session is do my own promotional tweets.

      • Thanks so much Terry. I’m going to add your suggestion on “reciprocation” to my next post.

  7. Great list, Carolyn. Tweets about people poking themselves in the eye aren’t posts I find annoying. Twitter asks, “What’s happening now?” I would, however, add people who retweet their entire tweet stream to the list of grievances.

  8. Caroline, We’ll add link to your list when we talk about this in innovation training.

    Some nice don’ts!


  9. Great post, Carolyn. To recap in 140: (i) Automate with care (ii) Add value via content (iii) Avoid hardsell (iv) Be courteous & respectful.

    [InfoGraphic] – A Day in the Life of Twitter >

  10. ….there’s always the point about using your bio to inform everyone you’re a guru/expert/maven.

    • I saw one the other day that said “social media rockstar”… Needless to say, I didn’t follow back :)

  11. Thanks for sharing. I have some apps connected to my Twitter and they seem to spam especially that one who tweets about people who unfollowed and the tweet validation which fills up my DM box.

    For other people’s tweets, I hate those tweets mentioning my handler like “Blah blah daily is out! http://blog.url ▸ Top stories today via @randomperson” It’s too annoying because everytime I go to mentions, all I see is that kind of tweets. I want to stop it but I don’t know how. Unfollowing would not make it better.

    • I think I can help. Go to your Twitter page and on the top right of the page, there’s a drop down menu. Choose Settings. Then go to the “Apps” tab on the left and there you will see all the apps you’ve connected to your Twitter account. Revoke access to the appropriate ones (each one gives you a description) and then those apps won’t be able to send out those annoying/spammy tweets :) If this doesn’t help, let me know (@chyams) and I’ll find out for you, but I’m pretty sure it will.

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  13. Very well said. Also please do not put a link in 100% of your tweets. even as a business it’s annoying. say something without promoting. Reply to your followers once in a while. @TerrillCharming

  14. Dear Carolyn,
    I think you’re missing one of the worst of the marketing types.
    Do not RT every positive comment made about you by other people. If you must occasionally RT a glowing remark about your latest blog post, product or service, or how great you are, have the grace to add something a little humble, *blush*, for instance.

    • You’re right. I’m definitely going to add this to the list. When I see it, I immediately think “big ego”

  15. Oh dear, more do’s and don’ts lists.

    Whilst I agree with most of your points, I’m not in any position to tell someone else how to use Twitter.

    For example:

    Point 1. Has anyone ever really got that annoyed about an automated DM saying “Thanks for following me”? If this is one of the most annoying things in your day, then I envy you. You may want to set your annoyance threshold a little higher.

    Point 15. Whilst I agree that viewing everyone else’s checkins for Foursquare, Facebook or gowalla can be annoying, these businesses would clearly disagree, and so do many real people. Let them get on with it. People will vote with their feet.

    Follow who you want to. Stop when you don’t want to see their tweets anymore. Bear in mind that there are many small-minded people out there, who will judge you acutely on how you use Twitter. Decide whether that’s important to you. Basically, suit yourself.

    If your intention is to game Twitter, and exploit the system to your advantage, then look at it a little more closely than these 18 points.

    PS. It’s really not possible to read all the tweets from more than 50 regular Twitter users. Following 1,000 or more may get you followed in return, but if they’re only reciprocating, they are unlikely to be reading your tweets. Cynics will follow thousands, and yet only read tweets from a list of say 50 or so. You may have thousands of followers, but only very few readers.

    • Thank you for saying this. What’s the point of “following” so many people and having them “follow” you, when in actuality no one is paying attention to anything anyone else is tweeting, b/c their feed is too large? And then everyone keeps tweeting the same thing over and over to make sure they’re “heard.”
      It’s the illusion of networking and support, all while diluting the conversations that are actually entertaining and informative. I like cat videos. I like posts about food and getting poked in the eye. I’m not going to unfollow someone who tweets random yet hilarious fluff. But then again, I’m using twitter to follow people I actually know and care about, not following just to get people to follow me or sell them on a product or service.

  16. Great list, Carolyn! I agree with all your points. Here’s another one to add to the list: Don’t send an automated tweet that announces how many new followers, mentions and retweets you’ve gained in the past week. Nobody cares.

    • Kay, your suggestion is definitely worthy of including on the list of don’ts. The only person who should care is the person who is tweeting. How does sharing it benefit anyone else?

  17. Thanks for sharing. A comprehensive list of ‘Don’t’s. My personal pet-hates are tweets with too many # or @. Sounds lots more promotional than sharing or acknowledging source. Also, tweets that leave no room for easy retweet when the original tweet use up all 140 characters space.

    Now looking forward to your list of ‘Do’s’.

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  19. Certainly agree with first point! I don’t mind people sending a message to say thanks, but it’s the automated, “thanks for the follow, check out my blog, Facebook, linkedin, my dog’s Twitter, my friend’s man’s website …”

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  21. I’m new to twitter. Very valuable. Learned at least 3key mistakes I’m making that need addressing. Thankyou

  22. Lots of great advice in here. Personally, I believe that every time someone sends an auto DM a unicorn dies!

    • Haha Marc. That’s a great response. No wonder there are no unicorns…!

  23. Great tips, Carolyn. I heard a social media commentator recently speaking on SM etiquette – think of LinkedIn as a business conference and Twitter as a cocktail party.

  24. Really informed choices here.

    I’d like to add a pet hate: Tweets announcing Klout scores – in the same realm as FourSquare check-ins. Even if people understand their relevance, no one actually cares. One to delete from your Apps section for sure…

    Looking forward to reading your business ‘dos’ on Twitter.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more Julia. Thanks for adding your comment

  25. Not to Forget , You shouldn’t avoir to do All thé things up above because on twitter there’s no rules but yours… And thé only rules you have to respect are the one OF the community You aim to target. Be You , write your own rules And followers who loves what You do Will follower And interact …

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  27. Don’t forget the excessive use of emoji

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  33. Nice collection of points. I might add, however, that facebook now works with hashtags (re. point number 13). Absolutely agree that blind copying and pasting should be avoided though!

    • Hi Kate. Good point. I’m going to have to modify my original post to mention Facebook and hashtags. Thanks!

  34. Great article Carolyn. I’ve never understood auto DMs for new followers either!

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