Twitter Mistakes that Companies Make or How to Lose Twitter Followers

Twitter_logo_blue.pngI use Twitter regularly, for a number of reasons. It keeps me in touch with friends and colleagues; this is especially useful for me as a freelancer, since I don’t have a water-cooler (or, if I did, I’d have a lot of one-sided conversations with my cat). But I also use Twitter to share my work: I tweet new articles on my blog, articles I’ve written for Macworld and other publications, and new podcast episodes I’ve recorded.

Another reason to use Twitter is to follow the news, personalities, and companies. It pays to be judicious when choosing who to follow, because your Twitter stream can quickly become overwhelmed by serial tweeters.

I’ve been tempted to stop following a lot of companies lately because they have no idea how annoying their Twitter streams are. If you’re only following one company, then 50 tweets a day might not bother you, but when you have a broad range of interests as I do – from software to music, from theater to books – you’ll end up with way too many tweets to wade through.

What’s important about Twitter is that people read your tweets and, hopefully, “engage” with them, by visiting a website, watching a video, or buying your product. But if the signal to noise ratio is too high, people will ignore you, and unfollow you.

Here’s a list of things that many companies do wrong on Twitter. It’s not exhaustive, and I’ll certainly add more in the future. If you manage a Twitter account for a company, you should think carefully about these points.

If you do this, you’re doing it wrong:

  • Retweeting every mention: Too many companies retweet, perhaps not every mention, but dozens of them, where people say how great their product/CD/book/performance is. If someone is following your company, they probably already use your product, and these retweets will just be annoying. However, if someone shares a tip on using a product, that’s worth sharing.
  • Retweeting the same thing a dozen times a day: Some Twitter accounts seem to schedule the same tweets to be broadcast every couple of hours. I’m slightly guilty of this, as I often tweet new articles twice: once for European readers, and again, later in the day, for US readers. (I’m in the UK, so if I post an article in the morning, US readers will be asleep.) People probably don’t pay much attention to all the tweets in their timelines when they get up in the morning, so making a “time-zone retweet” is all right; but tweet too many times about the same thing and people will ignore you.
  • Constantly tweeting about a book or CD saying “new album” when it’s a year old: There’s one classical record label that tweets, once a week or so, about a certain artists’ “new album,” which was released in March, 2013. Seriously; we’re not stupid.
  • Constantly tweeting about the same “hot new artist”: Yea, you’ve got some new author or musician, and they’re selling units for you, so you want to milk them for all they’re worth. But for people who aren’t interested in that artist, it’s just an annoyance. Tone it down, unless you have something new to say about that person.
  • Tweeting 20 times about tonight’s performance: It’s nice to know some of the trivia about tonight’s performance, but 20 or 30 tweets during the day? That’s way too much information.
  • Doing Twitter interviews and not retweeting questions: Twitter interviews can be interesting. A performer or artist answers questions sent to a record label’s or publisher’s account. But too many of these accounts forget to retweet the questions, making it a surreal one-sided conversation.
  • Doing Twitter interviews without hashtags, so those not interested can ignore them: If I don’t care about the person being interviewed, I’d like to shut it off. My Twitter client lets me muffle hashtags. If you don’t use hashtags, I may see 100 tweets that I don’t care about. Unfollow.
  • Tweeting “I just posted this to Facebook” with nothing more than a Facebook URL: I see this a lot. I think it’s a problem with people who don’t understand how to work the apps they use to auto-tweet things. It looks stupid.
  • Tweeting things like “My best followers this week are…” Or “My week on Twitter,” and other app auto-tweets: Just like the above point, this stuff is stupid and a waste of time.
  • Not responding to questions, or answering a week later: The best companies know that answering customer queries, or complaints, on Twitter is essential. If your company plans to do this, you should make sure you offer timely responses. I’ve had very good customer service experiences through Twitter; and some very bad ones.
  • Tweeting contests that require users to like a Facebook page, retweet, turn around three times and spit: Companies like to have contests on Twitter, and on Facebook. But if you tweet a contest that requires me to like a Facebook page, accept a Facebook app, then retweet something, I’ll ignore you. It’s insulting that your contest is nothing more than a way to get people to spread your marketing in such a complicated way. Sure, the point of the contest is marketing, but don’t make it so difficult for people to play.
  • Tweeting things like, “Good morning, how is everyone today?”: I see this a lot too. You need to get a new intern.

Here’s what companies should do:

Announce new releases, new software versions, performances, signings, sales, promotions, contests, etc. Interact with customers by answering their questions. Highlight tips and trivia about your products. But don’t think you need to crush your followers. If they’re following you, there’s a reason; you’ve earned their trust. You’ll lose it if you act like idiots.