7 Deadly Sins of Twitter

Twitter has been out long enough now that we’re beginning to see some common uses and misuses of the platform. Back in the early days of Twitter, it had more of the Wild West feel to it, and everyone was trying to figure it out. There were no rules or expectations. Today, however, there still aren’t necessarily rules of Twitter, but there are certainly expectations about what is deemed proper Twitter use. With that in mind, here are my seven deadly sins of Twitter.

1. ReTweet Compliments: I rank this up there with the deadliest of the deadly Twitter sins. Nothing says, “I need you to affirm me and think I’m special” like ReTweeting a ReTweet about you. You might feel good about it, but you’re discrediting yourself to loads of followers so it’s best to avoid this altogether. I’ve written about this before so I’ll let you check that out if you’re interested in diving in further on this idea. Bonus sin: ReTweet a “thank you” Tweet to a ReTweeted compliment.

2. Automatic Direct Messages: If Twitter is a platform for personally and authentically connecting you with other people then what would incline you to create an automated (therefore, impersonal and generic) direct message for people who follow you. You might as well say, “I’m planning on hitting you up with all my promotions so get ready” because that’s the way it comes across. Bonus sin: Provide a link to a download of something you wrote.

3. No Profile Picture: Your Twitter profile is key on legitimizing your real-life existence. When you follow someone on Twitter, they’re trying to figure out if you’re human, interesting, and worth the follow back. You have one strike against you if you don’t use a profile picture. Bonus sin: Use a cartoon or celebrity picture instead of your own face.

4. No Bio: In the same way a profile picture legitimizes you on Twitter, the bio does as well. The absence of a bio on your profile communicates that you’re not interesting, not taking Twitter seriously, or don’t care. None of those are exactly encouraging people to follow you on Twitter. Keep your bio accurate and real. Bonus sin: Refer to yourself as some kind of ninja or rock star…[updated: unless you’re an actual ninja or rock star or both.]

5. ReTweeting Constantly: Twitter is a conversation medium, and that means you give and take. It also means you have an original thought every once in a while. Some Twitter accounts are nothing more than a list of ReTweets from other people. Although some of the ReTweets might actually be interesting, anyone following an over-ReTweeter is inclined to think they’re following a news feed rather than a person. Be a person, not a machine. Don’t ReTweet more than once every four or five Tweets. Bonus sin: ReTweet yourself…as in ReTweet something you said previously.

6. Never Responding: Twitter has the distinct ability to allow conversation to start by mentioning someone’s Twitter name. If you get mentioned, and specifically if you are asked a question, it’s polite (and proper) to respond. People who don’t respond to a mention of their name on Twitter are hardly holding up their end of the conversation bargain and essentially communicate, “I’m happy to have you listen to me, but I don’t care a bit about what you have to say.” Bonus sin: Abuse the mention feature, and use it to promote to people.

7. Promote, Promote, Promote: This might sting a little bit- here it goes: Twitter isn’t a promotion platform. If that’s hard to hear then you know you’re approaching Twitter with the wrong mindset. Twitter is for discovery, connecting, listening, sharing, and responding. There’s nothing promotionally oriented about any of those things. I recommend the conversation balance score to keep promotion in its proper place on any social networking platform. Bonus sin: Use automated tools to get more followers you can promote to.

So that’s the list. What did I leave out? Anyone feel the need for confessing a Twitter sin?

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Bill Seaver founded MicroExplosion Media in fall 2007 and has been blogging since June 2006. Bill has consulted numerous organizations to help them understand and apply social media into their marketing initiatives. He's led seminars, corporate training sessions, and numerous social media campaigns to include blog strategy and development, Google AdWords, podcasts, online video strategy, widget development, social media marketing campaigns, blogger networks, and social networking campaigns.