For businesses both large and small, Twitter is a very strange beast. Nothing in the history of advertising and public relations has been quite like Twitter and, even as social networking is becoming a better-understood field for business promotion, Twitter stands apart for many reasons.
So as businesses stumble onto Twitter, many are using the new medium to find innovative ways to fall on their face.
Though not every business or personal brand has been making a mess of Twitter, many have probably done more to hurt their image than help it.
On that note, here’s five ways I’ve observed businesses blowing it on Twitter and how to avoid it yourself.
1. Making it Promotion Only
Twitter is not a traditional broadcast medium. Everyone who follows your account does so by their own will and can easily unfollow you at any time. Unlike commercials or advertisements in newspapers, you can’t promote blindly and trust your readers will swallow it.
This means you have to be careful how you promote on Twitter and ensure that every Tweet somehow benefits your followers. This isn’t to say you can’t promote, but it’s important to remember that it is about engaging as much as it is broadcasting, Using your account solely to promote is a sure-fire way to make people click the “unfollow” button or never follow in the first place.
2. Nobody’s Home
In a similar vein to the first item, it’s important to ask “What happens when someone mentions my Twitter name or DMs me?” Twitter is about conversation and if you don’t engate with your readers, you come across as being uncaring and distant.
This doesn’t mean you have to answer every reply or DM, Justin Bieber certainly can’t, but if you simply ignore those trying to talk with you, especially if you don’t have enough followers to warrant it, you come across looking like a jerk.
In short, if you can’t participate in Twitter, it is probably better to not have a Twitter account at all. Even though it is inexpensive, it still requires time and attention to participate in.
3. Poor Targeting
Even if you’re a bricks and mortar business with a very limited geographic reach, Twitter can be a huge help in reaching your market. Thanks to geolocated Tweets, you can find people interested in your product that are nearby and reach out to them. However, many businesses don’t seem to understand that you can’t simply autofollow everyone who says a certain word in their tweets.
For example, I was recently followed by a real estate firm from Arizona, a state I haven’t even visited (yet). As a New Orleanian, this was a very cryptic person to follow me and then market to me.
The truth is that you have to know who your market is on Twitter and reach out to them. This pretty much precludes autofollowing as it requires human analysis. It’s important to remember that 100 well-targeted followers are worth more than 10,000 poorly-targeted ones in terms of making the cash register ring.
4. Bulk DMing
DM is the equivalent of email. This is both because a DM is a private person-to-person communication but also because DMs, usually, send emails to the recipient. However, at least a few businesses haven’t treated DMs as such and have bulk-mailed DMs, even when they would never send out bulk email.
Unsolicited commercial DMs are almost always unwelcome, yet some businesses continue to use them and refuse to abandon them. Fortunately though, this is a practice that seems to be largely dying out, largely because of Twitter’s own efforts in this field.
5. Forgetting About Phone and Email
Twitter is a very effective means of communication, but that doesn’t mean it has to be your only means of talking with customers. Some companies have been known to air dirty laundry by dealing with customer issues via @replies and mentions.
If a discussion doesn’t need to be in a public space, take it private. If it can’t be quickly expressed in 140 characters, take it off of Twitter and arrange a call or an email. Use Twitter only when it is appropriate and only in an appropriate way.
For many contacts, Twitter is just the way to get the conversation started and is not the best way to continue or finish it. Always keep that in mind.
There’s a lot of opportunity for businesses on Twitter but, as with all opportunities, there are great ways to fall flat on your face too. Learning how to use Twitter correctly can turn it into a powerful tool for both promotion and customer interaction,
Companies that make smart use of Twitter will reap great rewards while those who do poorly will likely hurt their brand more than they help it. As such, it’s important, before making the leap to Twitter, that you understand what you are getting into and have a plan of action in place.
This may mean you decide Twitter is not right for you, but it is much better to avoid an opportunity than have it turn into a catastrophe later.