The 3 Biggest User Mistakes on Twitter

Tweeting is like gold!

Tweeting is like gold!

Twitter has exploded in popularity in the last several months with millions of new users. It resembles California after January 24, 1848 after James W. Marshall discovered gold at Sutter’s Mill. For the next several years (especially in 1849), more than 300,000 people poured into California.

That’s Twitter right now and the Twitter version of the Forty-niners is causing all kinds of consternation for the established base of Twitter users. Here are the three biggest mistakes new people make when they first join – and how to make sure you don’t fall into the same traps.

1. Cloaked or obnoxious identities and a failure to identify what your interests are.

It all starts with your user name and profile. If you call yourself “Make$$Fast” or “SEOExpert” you’ve identified yourself as a spammer and a scammer. People aren’t stupid. We’ve been getting junk mail and email spam for years – and most of us are savvy enough to avoid people that look like all they want to do is sell something.

Twitter isn’t supposed to be another marketing channel, although it can be a way to find business. The point is to listen, engage, and discover. This means being a real person and not a salesperson. Twitter is about micro-targeting – and despite misguided applications like Twitterholic that make celebrities out of power users – the platform isn’t supposed to be about having the most followers. It’s about having the right followers.

How can you accomplish this? Try using your real name – or at least have your real name front and center on your bio. You’ll notice that big brands using Twitter (like @starbucks or @gmblogs) identify their spokespeople by name. It’s a good practice.

Damn!  Not another fail whale.

Damn! Not another fail whale.

Next make sure that your bio says something about your interests. Writing: “I’m a slacker and a hacker” isn’t helpful. Neither is leaving behind a sales pitch or a link to your SEO ebook (a bargain at $49.99). So calling yourself by an obscure nickname and then leaving your bio blank makes the person you’ve decided to follow NOT follow you back. Because we know nothing about you.

Tell your Twitter audience why you’re there. Some people are there for business. Others for pleasure. There are groups – big and small – discussing wine, books, pets, cars, coffee, technology, social media, public relations, marketing, real estate, and even sex. So use your profile to tell people what you’re interested in.

2. Becoming a Followholic.

Let me say this again: the goal is not to have the most followers. The goal is to have the right followers. If you’re a application security expert and using Twitter to engage with that community – reporters, other experts, customers, partners, potential customers, etc. Then don’t start randomly following everyone. The person on Twitter who is there to discuss politics probably isn’t going to be interested in your content, observations or the community you’re building. Be selective. Pick followers and people to follow that will add to your dialog, give you knew ideas and present you with information that will help.

Can we tweet this news?

Can we tweet this news?

Joining Twitter and then going down a list of names and automatically following them because you want to build up a big list of followers right off the bat is a bad practice. You can always find these people because they have terrible following to follower ratios. If you have numbers like this:

678 (Following), 172 (Followers), 24 (Updates)

Then you’re a followholic and doing Twitter wrong. Stop the madness. It isn’t a contest to be the person with the most followers. You should be following people that you’re getting value from. Here are a few rules to follow:

• Don’t automatically follow someone who follows you. First check them out. Figure out why they’ve decided you were a worthy person to read every day. If it makes sense – your interests are the aligned, etc. – then follow back.

• Engage with people before you follow them. Send an @reply and have a conversation. If it works out then follow them.

• Don’t DM new followers with a marketing message or a link to your new slide presentation on monetizing the web. I’ve started to delete any person I follow who sends me a spam DM.

3. Using Twitter as a bullhorn.

If you’re only goal is to broadcast your own marketing and PR messages then you might want to consider starting a blog. Twitter is best when you use it to communicate with others. Many conversations begin on Twitter and then go elsewhere for a more in-depth discussion. If you don’t use the @reply feature and every one of your tweets is a Tiny URL to your web site — then why are you using Twitter? You won’t be getting the value you hope for.

Looking for why you should be using Twitter? Then take a look at this presentation. It gives you 10 excellent business reasons why Twitter can be an effective platform.

Twitter is an amazing tool – mine it for gold correctly – and you’ll enrich yourself and your business.

5 Responses to “The 3 Biggest User Mistakes on Twitter”

  1. Hey George – I really got a lot out out of your blog post as someone who is new to Twitter. I’ve been trying to be careful in building my network of followers and who I follow. To me, it’s like best practices for building an email marketing list – it’s quality not quantity. But for a ‘newbie’ like me, I sometimes wondered if I was on the right track when I saw someone with thousands or tens of thousands of followers. Now, I’ll stay on track with building carefully for quality rather than rushing for the big numbers.

  2. Hi Tom:
    Thanks. Twitter is still in its nascent stages and its evolving so quickly that its difficult to put a stake in the ground and say: this is the right way. But at this point, I do think it’s possible to point to some bad practices. Glad it helped.

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