5 Ways to Use Twitter to Kill Your Business

TwitterThere are lots of people out there with pretty strong opinions about how Twitter should and should not be used, particularly from a business standpoint. I’m of the opinion that Twitter is a flexible medium that you can mold, twist and bend to fit your individual needs; it’s there for you to use however you want to use it.

But, having said that, I have seen some activities on Twitter that have had horrible results, and I can’t really imagine any circumstances when these activities would be appropriate, unless you are up for an online bashing (which certainly can happen). So, here is my list of Twitter behaviors that have the potential to kill your online business reputation…and make you look a little silly in the process.

1. Leave Your Name, Location, Avatar and/or Bio Blank

You would think that those of us who are using Twitter to connect with others (which is just about everyone, isn’t it?), would take time to fill in some basics about who we are and what we do. I have seen so many Twitter accounts that don’t even provide a name. And worse, some that don’t have an avatar. Ideally, your avatar will be an actual photo of you, but at a minimum, you need something there (a logo, business name, etc.) to replace the default no-avatar graphic.

2. Never Tweet

I always wonder what the deal is when I see Twitter accounts that have thousands of followers with only a handful of tweets posted. Sure, this is the norm for many of the celebrity Twitter accounts, but what’s the point? All this says to me is that you are playing a numbers game and most likely not willing or interested in getting to know any of your followers.

One of the biggest benefits of using Twitter is the ability we have to use it to build relationships. If you’re not tweeting and engaging in conversation with anyone, you’re not getting to enjoy any of these person-to-person benefits.

3. Go Nuts with Affiliate Links

If you’re consistently posting links embedded with affiliate tracking code with the main goal of getting clicks, you will start to build a negative reputation. No one wants to feel used, and if you’re never posting anything without making it an income-generating activity, you’re going to turn people off.

4. Self-Promote to the Extreme

We all put links on Twitter; it’s a great way to share information and spark conversation. But take a look at your linking history. If the majority of your links are self-promoting (i.e. they go directly to your website, direct people to a sales page, or focus only on your own accomplishments), you may be missing the point.

Sure, people want to hear about what you’re doing and things you have available for purchase, but that can’t be the only side of your Twitter persona. Don’t forget to share information others might find useful, retweet, and read and comment on what your followers are posting. And when you get comments and retweets, please, acknowledge them and say thank you!

5. Attack, Abuse or Talk Badly about People

Twitter is great for the occasional vent. Not only does it let you get things off your chest quickly and painlessly, but these kind of tweets allow you to share a little of your personal side. And in my experience, this is what makes online relationships sustainable and real. We’re all human, we all make mistakes, and we all have bad days. Sharing your human side will make you more approachable, likeable and will help others relate to you.

But, think twice before using Twitter to attack, verbally abuse or otherwise denigrate someone else. A public forum is never the place to express anger at another person, whether it’s justified or not. This kind of activity only makes you look bad…and it’s embarrassing for those of us who have to witness it.

One More Tip…

Don’t forget to use Twitter search or other search tools to keep track of your name, business name and other targeted keywords. Not only will this help you monitor your online reputation, but it will also help you find people you may want to connect with.

So what do you think? Do you do any of these proclaimed no-no’s and have positive results? What else would you add to my list?

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  • Jon Sidnell

    Surely Sitepoint’s Twitter account breaks rule #4. I can’t remember the last time there was a tweet from Sitepoint that was general conversation, or didn’t link to a blog post, or to some kind of sales promotion or free download. Heck, they got me to follow them by offering a free PDF download of the Photoshop book!

    Which isn’t at all wrong. This is more about how I disagree with #4. There are some twitter accounts I follow in an RSS feed kind of way. WordPress plugins that autopost when a new post is published provide another valid method of keeping users up to date with what is going on. Granted, it might turn some people off – but they’re people who’re probably pedantically screaming “Twitter isn’t RSS – I’ve got Google Reader for that!!” so don’t need Twitter to be kept up to date :)

  • http://www.billbolte.com bbolte

    I totally agree with #5, nothing turns me off more than tweeters who constantly use for political attacks. Can’t unfollow fast enough…

  • Pam – Ryvon Designs

    Great Tips! Can I add, “Be sure to set up impersonal, auto DMs to anyone who follows you. Even better if these are self promotion, or an e-book link” ^_^

    Or “Feed the Trolls…..always feed the Trolls…”

    Looking forward to hearing more comments :)

    Pam – Ryvon Designs

  • http://www.avertua.com Alyssa Gregory

    Jon – You should take another look at Sitepoint’s Twitter feed…lots of personal conversation there.

  • Ketira

    What I hate is people who don’t post at least ONE link in the “web” area. It doesn’t matter to me what they put there – as long as it leads somewhere. (I’d prefer it to be their own website, but that’s not always the case. After all, look at mine… ;) ) If this is blank, I usually block them in a second.

    But this is business… I think I’d follow my best customers, just to see what’s going on in their lives or maybe remind them of birthdays/holidays/etc. coming up so that they’d maybe buy from my business. I don’t know if this is the norm or not, but it’s what I would do.

  • Gregory

    I think that @DubLi is doing a pretty good job of promoting their business over Twitter – they do break rule #1 somewhat, but the links are on the whole pretty interesting, and most importantly they address any concerns from disgruntled customers quickly. Which is what it’s all about from a corporate using Twitter, really!

  • J. Fletcher

    I don’t know about killing your business, but these things certainly won’t help. I think the attack one is important. I agree with bbolte, keep politics out of your “professional” account. I think personal and professional followers command the same level of etiquette. Any of this kind of activity automatically prompts me to unfollow. I found a post recently that put it well and ads a few to this list: The 7 people you meet in Twitter Hell.

  • http://www.tvlocales-depays.com/ Crasty

    Are you a professional journalist? You write very well.

  • http://www.YourDoseofLunacy.com Monica Hamburg

    These are great tips.

    #1 Shows such a lack of effort and caring that there’s no reason to follow the person

    and #5 Makes me think the person is insane or lacks basic tact and social skills.

  • http://www.heyraena.com raena

    @Jon, that’s definitely not the first time we’ve had that feedback. :) We are certainly taking steps to be more conversational — in fact, my new role here at SitePoint is specifically to look at community engagement and Twitter is a big part of that. We think there’s been an improvement from the @sitepointdotcom of the past.

    Of course, since Twitter users don’t see replies to people you don’t follow, you may not get to see these. But we are definitely now tweeting a lot more in a conversational fashion, here as well as Facebook and other places.

  • Jon Sidnell

    @raena It’s good to know you’re looking to up the conversational aspect on Twitter. Sitepoint really is ony of my favourite sources of learning and opinions about the web, so it’s good to know Twitter’s another way to communicate with you guys.

    I hope what I said wasn’t coming across as a criticism. I actually think that #4 is really up to an individual or a company to decide how they want to use Twitter. Twitter is by it’s very nature a flexible medium of social contact and if they just want to use it to provide another way for their users and readers to be informed about updates and news, that’s absolutely fine in my view.

    Of course, it’s almost certainly better to interact and converse as well, but I can see how some people and companies might not have the time or personnel resources to do this in a way that would be truly satisfactory. I’d say it’s better to only go that extra mile if you can really commit to it, otherwise you risk alienating people you don’t respond to or interact with simply because they fall through the net. Obviously, how much time that will take is entirely dependent on how many people we’re talking about interacting with :)

  • http://www.anistock.com anistock

    Good article, on point 4, is this not the driving force of twitter- self exposure and promotion, in fact I only follow people who stick to same subject/theme

  • squig

    The thing that makes me unfollow someone is when they tweet too much and include links in nearly all the tweets.

    Event if it’s *all* relevant (though when there are so many tweets, this is rarely the case) – I just don’t have time to follow up on everything.

    If there’s no way to tell which is useful stuff and which isn’t then I just end up wasting lots of time trying to find out … and then starting to ignore it all.

    I love SmashingMagazine, but…

    :-)