Things Not to do on Twitter

There’s lots of advice about what to do onTwitter. But what about what not to do?

What are the things that can create a bad experience or a disaster. Here’s a list of things to avoid:

1. Fail to provide anything of value. Every tweet should make a contribution – be it a piece of information, a link to an article or blog post, or a comment about something you’re doing or seeing.

What doesn’t fall into this category are tweets that are of little interest to few people. Do people really care that you’re going for a cappuccino, or that you’re tired because its hot outside.

2. Be anonymous or fail to provide enough personal information. While tweets can disclose a lot about who you are and what you do, it’s also good to have a profile that offers more information and insight. This can include a good bio and a link to a blog or Web site.

3. Continually promote yourself or your company. Social media is not a “hard sell” medium, which means that constantly tweeting about your products or services is bad form. This kind of activity can be acceptable IF you provide a variety of other content about other people, companies and events.

4. Tweet too much. It’s great to be enthusiastic about Twitter but over-tweeting isn’t cool. My personal take is more than 20 tweets/day is a no-go, even for people offering a steady flow of good content. It’s like going to a party and dominating the conversation. It may be interesting but leaves people out of the loop.

5. Trash talk. Constructive criticism is a good thing but attacking people via Twitter is disrespectul. What wouldn’t go over well in person shouldn’t be done on Twitter.

6. Failing to provide links to other sources. One of the most valuable parts of Twitter is making it easy for people to discover new articles, Web site or online services.

7. Auto-reply or auto-follow. Automation some elements of social media is a good thing to improve your productivity but there are some things that should be on this list.

19 Comments on “Things Not to do on Twitter”

  1. A lot of top people on Twitter make WAY more than 20 posts a day. Interesting that you’d put that in. Does that exclude @replies?

    I don’t think it has anything to do with total tweets per day, but rather the distribution of them. If you take 30 minutes and crank out 20 posts, and sit silent the rest of the day, that’s a problem. If you’re spread out over time, then the appearance isn’t that you’re dominating the stream.

    One does have to consider their followers. For those who follow a smaller number of people (under 200 say) one can easily alienate those users’ by constantly filling their timelines.

  2. I’m going to be honest and say that I break rule number 4 (tweet too much) all the time.

    I like to think that I do it because of the value both I and my followers get from it. I try not to be spammy or annoying (although people are open to their own interpretation of if I am or not), but rather I use it to actually converse with people. Sometimes just one conversation merits more than 20 tweets back and forth.

    I personally think that if you’re having conversations and/or a majority of your tweets are @replies it’s ok to break that rule. I think that rule more stands for people who only use their twitter as a soap box to only talk to their audience, not with them. Posting a link to your same blog post 20 times a day is just spam.

    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

  3. You make a few good points, except I personally thing telling people about the little things makes the end user experience that little bit more personal. In this day and age it’s become almost expected that you will share all parts of your day. People can pop in and out of your lifestream and have a small idea of what’s going on.
    Can you honestly say you haven’t told the internet that you are going for coffee or asked them what you should get for lunch.

    I think this is a good start to best practices. Lots of common sense things.


  4. Social media certainly is not a hard sell, but adapting to the different times of day people use the service and hoping to provide valuable (and often time sensitive) information makes #3 difficult for myself.

    Hey, if you don’t like it don’t follow I guess. 😉

    Good article, and you’re doing a great job btw @40deuce.

    1. Geoff,

      Thanks for the comment. Just an FYI that Sheldon (aka @40deuce) is Sysomos’ social media maestro, while I (Mark Evans) handle most of the blogging, including this post.

      cheers, Mark

  5. Some excellent stuff here. I think “over-tweet” may differ from user to user: some think a dozen/day is too much while others, a dozen/hr is normal. But as a general rule, I’d agree that matching output to one’s followers is preferable.

  6. I agree with many of these, however at the risk of overstating it, tweeting too much can hurt you, however it varies by individual. Scott Stratten (@unmarketing) and Guy Kawasaki (@alltop and @GuyKawasaki) have gained huge followings based on a huge number of tweets. It’s still about good content and providing relevance.

    BTW, the part about not including a bio (or avatar for that matter) is an awesome point. No avatar, lame bio (or no bio) = no follow.

    Thanks! Russ

  7. I like this, but I have to disagree with #1 and #4.

    #1 — Never should all tweet provide value. *Most* tweets should, but not all. If every tweet is a news story, a link, or an insightful comment, you look like a machine. The #1 rule of Twitter is “be human.” It’s ok to not provide value ALL the time. Just most of the time.

    #4 — I’m biased because I do tweet a lot, but I’ve only had one person (ever) tell me they were unfollowing because I tweet too much. If you strike the right balance between human and providing value, and make sure you engage with your followers (friends!), “tweeting too much” is never a problem. “Engaging too little” is a very real danger though, and should be avoided at all costs.

    Great post, though!

    -Alex (@alexpriest)

  8. I also think it’s in good form to give credit where it’s due.

    If someone posts something you like, retweet it.
    Use OH if it’s something you overheard; I even ask peoples permission.
    Bottom line, don’t plagerize.

  9. Nice post, like some of the other comments I do agree that the amount that you Tweet is down to the individual. I understand my audience and the network that I am trying to create so as long as you are adding value to your audience then tweet away. I tweet about 50 times a day including @replies but I am known to provide valuable content and thought leadership within my industry (Social Media, building networks and entrepreneurship)so as long as I am doing that and engaging with my followers then I believe I can tweet as much as I like.
    Please follow me @beckysocial

  10. I don’t entirely agree with #1 and not just because I do it. Twitter was made so people could share their location and what they were doing so friends could join them, a little like foursquare. I think you can say what you’re doing or how you’re feeling, just keep it to a minimum. Plus, if someone’s tweeting about a cappuccino they’re having, good for the cafe– publicity!

  11. Great post. 🙂 I do somewhat disagree with the over-tweeting point you made. I do agree with it when it’s purely to blast information out there. However, if you use your tweets for engagement and therefore don’t fill up your fellow tweeter’s streams I think it’s fine. 🙂 I wrote a similar post about how not to become a social media zombie a week ago. You guys can check it out here if you are interested:

    Part 1-

    Part 2 –

    Once again, really good post. I always enjoy reading the Sysomos blog!

  12. A good post, and as you say one of very few to discuss what NOT to do on Twitter!

    Key ones for me are folk who ‘over-Twitter’, i.e. they churn out 10-15 posts in less than 10 minutes – I generally unfollow these.

    It is also good practice to RT tweets that you think are useful and merti re-tweeting, this shows courtesy as well as an interest – credit where credit is due!

  13. These points are very useful, but I’d like to point out that I think the number of tweets which qualifies as excessive depends on the topic and on the poster. For example, I have Site Point and Web Design Ledger followed with my twitter account and they totally dominate my twitter feed. However, both sources are essentially tweeting for multiple people. Both are tweeting largely about things posted by their blogs and/or store which are contributed to by multiple authors.

    I also find so many of the tweets by Site Point and Web Design Ledger to be so useful that I don’t mind them dominating my twitter feed. To me, it depends largely on whether you have enough really useful things to say that it warrants posting so often.

  14. Pingback: ANS » Twitterですべきではない7つのことに思う事

  15. I concur that if done incorrectly, one way links can harm your research engine rankings. Possessing to many outbound hyperlinks can increase a red flag with search engines, due to the fact they may consider which your site is too “spammy.”

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