Monday, October 19, 2009

Ten Mistakes You Don't Want to Make on Twitter


I'm writing this post on the top 10 Twitter mistakes because I have made almost all of them at one time or another. Social media is one big learning experience at this point, so if you see yourself in these, it's probably a sign you're out there falling on your face like the rest of the pioneers. Nothing to be ashamed of. However, here's hoping that you can use this list to prevent yourself from having to curl up in a ball and hide under your desk in a state of Twitter-induced shame and agony. Plus, you'll save time on having to hit the "trash" button on those ill-advised tweets.

Mistake 1: Sending canned DMs. Autofollow DMs are getting to be an annoyance. Stop them now before someone blocks you for being a spammer. Use DM to communicate with real friends, or to authentically thank a new follower. Other than that, say it all in public. That's what Twitter is all about anyway.

Mistake 2: Posting Twitpics of others without their explicit consent. You see a cute girl at your local java joint. You snap a pic of her with your iPhone, and post it to the world with a map link and the tweet "Hottie at table next to me." The next thing you know, it turns out that (lo and behold!) she herself is on Twitter and is using your @ to tell everyone she knows what a sleazo you are. Watch your follower count drop like a block of cement in Lake Michigan.

Mistake 3: Talking out of turn on a company Twitter account. If you work at a company, or act as a PR or other consultant for them and have permission to tweet on their behalf, it's only too tempting to forget that this is the voice of the entire company. Would the CEO really have retweeted that link to a Balloon Boy cartoon? If so, great. But if not, don't do it. Keep it light and professional, and think more in terms of offering an inside look into the goings on of your company (in whatever way is appropriate) than a chance to put out your personal style. Also, if you're an outsider and you don't know something about a company, don't try to fake it. Just leave it alone.

Mistake 4: Overtweeting. I don't mean tweeting too often. If you're in the flow and there's plenty of conversation bopping around you, tweet away. You do risk being dubbed Twittus Maximus, but apparently this is a title that can be taken away. No, what I'm talking about is tweeting too much. Link after link with no context. Bragging so badly you're a candidate for "Tweeting Too Hard." In short, acting like you're on a stage and speaking to a captive audience. No they're not. That's what the "block" option is for.

Mistake 5: Thinking that people might be interested in ways to make money from Twitter. Probably there are plenty of people that would like to transform their biggest time waster into some kind of cash machine. But here's the thing--you don't want to tell your Twitter followers about that. Just keep it a secret. If you're really making all that money, why share? Because you're actually pushing some stupid ponzi scheme, perhaps?

Mistake 6: Sending out a public tweet that you meant to be a DM. I'm happy to say that almost everyone I know on Twitter has done this at least once--happy, of course, because this means I'm not the only one. There are all kinds of reasons for this, and I think it happens most often when people are using a Blackberry or iPhone to send out their DMs. Too often, it's hard to tell. It is a most horrific experience for the tweeter. Here's one rule I've found useful: don't say anything in a DM that would be seriously compromising for yourself or your business. It's just too risky.

Mistake 7: Being an unpleasant bore. The truth about Twitter is that it's a chance to be funny in front of large groups of people. Just check out Favrd. But way too often, people think it's just the opposite. In the past, your long-suffering spouse and cowering kids were the only ones who had to listen to you blow smoke about what's wrong with Congress or why no one understands that HAM radio isn't just about old guys chatting to one another but rather is an important network that can be used in emergency situations blah blah blah. Now, with Twitter you can bore the entire world. But guess what? If you keep doing it, pretty soon the only people who will follow you are a bunch of boring old farts like yourself.

Mistake 8: Retweeting something that has already come and gone. Nothing says "out of the conversation" like tweeting to the world that Marge Simpson dropped trou in Playboy or that the Balloon Boy was a hoax. We already know, okay. Check those trending topics before posting a stale update. Just a helpful hint to prevent you from looking like a doof.

Mistake 9: Arguing religion on Twitter. Free speech is all well and good, but we are a community with diverse views, which to me means practicing tolerance wherever and however possible. Not long ago, a brave soul within the tech community admitted that he believes in intelligent design. The pile-on was not fun to watch. It's fine to link to your favorite site on Darwin, but do you need to go on the offense if someone says they're of a different belief system? Kinda cringeworthy IMHO.

Mistake 10: And the tenth mistake on Twitter is... Tweeting from one handle when you meant to tweet from another. Can you say "busted"? 

Mistake 11: Okay, I lied. These go to 11. The final mistake is to use Twitter as a place to offer inspirational quotes. "What?" You say! "I love the inspirational quotes. They pick up my day." Let me ask you this: do you like reading those quotes as they choke up your tweetstream, or do you like tracking them down online and then tweeting them so the whole world will know how deep and literate you are? Yeah, I thought so.

18 comments:

Mark Kerr said...

*hee hee* I've done a couple of these myself....tweeting from the wrong handle was the most interesting cuz when I went to delete the wrong tweet, the retweets lingered.

Thanks for posting! Will now tweet this. :)

Sunshine said...

Thanks for the comment and the tweet! Yes, I wrote this as a fellow sufferer in the hopes others would avoid the worst of these traps.

BlogInterface.net said...

I don't like those unpersonal after-following DMs. Because I know that that is a just "machine". The next annoying thing is a web link in the Twitter profile that leads you to Amazon or an another great free Twitter e-book. In this case it is better if the user doesn't have any blog.

Anonymous said...

Great list! As the person doing SM for my company, I have also posted a few personal responses from the wrong account. Eep! Good reminder. :)

Barb McMillen said...

Wrong accounts! Setting up one, that's all I was doing. For someone else. Forgot to log out. Ouch!

Scot Rathert said...

Mama always said..."if you don't have anything worth saying keep your trap shut."

daku said...

nice write up, but i disagree on the quotes. i actually like to read them. and yes, i do like to share them and i know a bunch of people appreciate it. so i think a quote once in a while is cool.

Mike said...

Great list Sunshine. Though I think you should have stopped at 10. There are a number of top tweeps that have built a strong, responsive following tweeting little other than inspirational quotes. I've also used it to good effect both for myself and several clients.

Anonymous said...

great writting and thanks for sharing, i hope to break all of these before i reach my 3000th tweet too....

maire said...

daku-it's more the people that are constantly tweeting quotes that bug me at least. one or two every now and again is fine. it's just the people who tweet quote after quote when it is completley irrelevent to a situation.

But that's just my opinion.

Nina said...

I completely understand these, but I suppose if someone doesn't care if they have followers than it doesn't really matter what you tweet. Isn't it kind of the point? To tweet what you want to say/are feeling?

Anonymous said...

I enjoy reading the inspirational quotes and I tweet them on occasion myself.

I do wish that people would stop using Twitter as a revenge tool though. Seems that some folks have way too much time on their hands and use Twitter as a way to "out" cyberpeople.

Kitty Ballistic said...

I agree with most of those, especially the auto-DMs. "Thank you for following me, *insert name here*, I look forward to reading your tweets." [/lazy and insincere].

I am partial to the occasional inspirational quote. Not keen on the Quote-a-trons though. ;-)

Sd said...

Great list but I do like the quotes too. They make you think of something you might not have by yourself, great way to start a conversation.

Fallen Idol Studios said...

Great list! The one that I really hate is when people tweet about how I can make a ton of money. Really?? Then why are you wasting all of this valuable time tweeting about it?? Go make your millions and stop clogging up the twitter steram!

Kat said...

Great list! I agree with everything except for #11. I personally find quite a bit of inspiration from my twitter friends and will often RT something that inspires me....

Jennifer Riley said...

These are great, thanks!

Jara said...

I agree with daku. I like reading (meaningful or funny) quotes. I also share some that are on my mind if they fit my mood, including quotes from "real" life.

Btw, "retweets" are twitter quotes. Think about it.