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How Not to Use Twitter for your Business

Whether you have an established Twitter account, are just testing the waters or are still investigating before committing to this aspect of social media, there are some things you should know. There are a lot of articles out there telling you how to benefit from Twitter or how to maximize your ROI, how to collect followers, how to analyze your metrics, etc. Instead, I’m going to tell you what NOT to do with your Twitter account if you want what’s best for your organization.

Mass follows

Don’t follow hordes of people unrelated to your business in a single-minded drive to increase follower numbers, also called “open networking”. Following hundreds of people doesn’t automatically make you look important. Numbers mean nothing if they’re the wrong followers. Start by following people immediately related to your business. Next follow people associated with your industry. Then follow the people you don’t know but would like to know. It’s better to have fewer, focused followers than tons of uninterested ones.

Broadcast only

One of the main features of Twitter is that it offers a great venue for interaction and collaboration so to use it simply as another venue to publish a press release would be short-sighted. Maybe not everyone will want to interact with your account and will be happy just to read your news bites but you should make it clear that two-way communication is encouraged. Ask questions, get feedback, tweet other people, etc.

Go directly for the sell

I can honestly say that I’ve never followed a Twitter account with the hopes that all they want to do is sell me stuff. Sure, increasing sales may be one of the goals but it shouldn’t be the only thing and it shouldn’t be blatant. If people follow you it’s probably because they’re interested in you so give them something more than a sales pitch. I think West Jet (@WestJet) does a great job of providing more information to their followers with things like “Winglet Wednesday”, info about new planes, celebrations of new routes and more. They’re also very responsive to their followers, which leads me to…

Don’t monitor your account

Have you ever been frustrated by someone who won’t returns your calls, even when you leave a message? If their excuse is “Oh, I don’t check my messages” it gives the impression that they really don’t care about you or what you had to say. Reply to your tweets. Remember that when you get an @reply, there’s a real person on the other end, potentially a new customer or client. Especially don’t ignore direct messages. But at the same time…


Don’t set up auto direct message (auto DMs) or auto-replies. These may seem harmless at first blush but they can actually be as annoying as spam. If you want to be taken seriously on Twitter, turn off these features. If you really want to thank someone for following you, for instance, do so personally.

Talk like a press release

Real people sound like press releases when they talk to each other right? No? Your social media interaction shouldn’t either. When someone engages your organization through Twitter they want to feel like they’re talking with a real person and not a rehearsed, calculated faceless entity. This doesn’t mean that you have to go overboard sounding über-casual but it will do your organization good to loosen up on the formality and business-speak reins. Tweet as if you’re talking face to face.

Inappropriate use of hashtags

There’s a new flavour of spam on the market these days. Hashtags are tags that you can add to your tweets that act like mini-searches to group tweets together. Hashtag spam happens when someone uses an inappropriate tag in order to make their tweets more noticeable. Furniture store, Habitat in the UK got themselves in hot water for doing exactly this. They used everything from #iPhone to #mousavi to try to promote a discount and get people to sign up for their newsletter. It got them noticed alright, but not in the way they were hoping. Using hashtags can be a great tool but make sure that the one you choose is relevant to your content.

Twitter is still a fairly new technology and we’re all learning as we go. If you want to improve your chances of success set your goals, define your strategy and take into consideration the seven tips above for how not to use Twitter for business. It will save you some frustration and potential embarrassment in the long run.