Thursday, September 17, 2009

5 Mistakes to Never Make on Twitter

I spotted this piece online and thought it might be helpful for others to read. Happy Tweeting!

5 Mistakes to Never Make on Twitter
Jennifer Van Grove (Mashable)

Twitter is so simple that many of us forget that despite the small parameters, the medium has huge implications for businesses. As a Twitterer with professional interests, you need to be aware of the potential negative side effects of a poor tweet, and approach the platform a little differently than a user with personal interests.

Although mistakes are part of the process, you can learn from the Twittering errors of others and avoid common or unintentional missteps that might damage your credibility online and off. Take heed in these five mistakes to avoid, as they'll help ensure that you and your team remain respected professional Twitterers that your followers can trust and want to engage with.

1. Don't Forget to Fully Fill Out Your Twitter Profile
This may seem obvious, but many small business Twitter users fail to capitalize on the space that Twitter provides for a real name, photo, location, bio, and URL. You may not realize it, but you're damaging your Twitter credibility with an incomplete profile.Use each field widely, and don't waste any characters. Most of the time your Twitter profile is the main factor in determining whether or not you'll be followed, and you don't want to leave that to chance. Plus, since Twitterers use third-party directories and apps to find and follow people of interest, that profile could prove instrumental in making sure you're discovered.

2. Don't Forget You're Always On
If you're an official representative of your company on Twitter, you need to remember that you're always on.Twitter is most certainly about being human, sharing experiences, and not always talking shop all the time. Given how informal discourse can be in 140 characters, however, it's easy to get overly relaxed and comfortable in your everyday Twittering ways, and in so doing forget that every tweet from your professional account will be analyzed by your audience. As such, the tone of your tweets is key, and you should certainly avoid being flippant about matters that might be important to customers, or unintentionally terse in response to a question that may seem to have an obvious answer. What may be just a careless 140 character mistweet, could turn into a big business blunder.

To avoid a mistake of this sort, get in the habit of reading back your tweets aloud. This may sound silly, but you're most likely to make a mistake when you're on the run and away from your desk, so the quick reread of your tweet is a good way to help you keep your focus.

3. Don't Tweet and Delete
Yes Twitter, and a majority of the web, mobile, and desktop clients, support deleting tweets, but the delete feature is not a good fallback method for a mistweet. Deleting tweets is something that you should avoid at all costs for two important reasons: your deleted tweets will live on in Google cache or Twitter search results, and a deleted tweet could send a flare to followers to investigate further.

Instead of finding yourself in a situation where your deleted tweet becomes newsworthy, see if you can use Twitter to correct your mistake. The platform is perfect for sincere apologies, and follow-up tweets to provide better context or clarity. Of course, the best defense is a good offense, so remember to take your emotion out of the equation, and avoid tweeting about sensitive company information.

4. Don't Tweet for Shock Value
For most, this is a mistake that you would never consider making, but for a small percentage of Twitterers looking to make a big splash, shock value tweets are a way to game for instant attention. The short term goals are most likely instant buzz for their small business, or a jump in traffic to their website, but using the micro medium to shock tweet is a definite no-no.The shock value tweeting strategy is a flash-in-the-pan gamble that only a few people will ever capitalize on. The reality is that your business is better off with Twittering employees who are diligently using the platform to connect with customers and help solve problems. Though you're not likely to see any major traffic boosts with Twitter overnight, a Twitter flame war or shock tweet won't serve your business interests in the long run.

5. Don't Abuse Hashtags
Hashtag spam is a relatively new issue that is starting to plague the Twitterverse. Hashtag spam occurs when a Twitterer appends a trending topic on Twitter to their tweets simply to gain extra attention. Typically tweets have nothing to do with the subject matter being discussed by other Twitterers, but the trending hashtag will be used in the hopes of gaining more exposure.

As a business user, you'll want to avoid associating yourself or your company with spammy practices, so while it may be tempting to try and game for Twitter attention with a popular hashtag, you should refrain from doing so if you want your followers, and your customers, to take you seriously.

Posted by Julie Vreeland, NRS, Brainerd

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