Twitter can feel like one giant red button. Push it at the wrong moment and you can destroy your brand in seconds. You may think that as long as you aren’t logging on after a few glasses of wine and rage tweeting at your competitors, you stand a pretty good chance of success, right?
Twitter is such an intrinsically viral medium, if you make a mistake, your folly spreads like wildfire. Hashtags can be hijacked. Attempts at humor can backfire. Photos can be misunderstood. Whether you like it or not, Twitter for business requires a thoughtful, timely approach.
The golden rule of Twitter is simple: tweet others the way you would like to be tweeted. Would you like it if someone aggressively demanded you buy their product? No. How about if they tweeted the same content at you several times a day? That would be horrible. What about if a brand just outright begged you to follow them? Please stop, you’re embarrassing yourself.
Sometimes knowing what NOT to do can help guide you in a way that learning what to do cannot. Let’s examine some mistakes other brands have made and what you can learn from their social fails. If you see yourself in any of these Twitter horror stories, it may be time to reevaluate your social media strategy.
1. You create a Twitter hashtag and it backfires—badly
Hashtags can either start a conversation that reflect positively on your organization, or they can light a fire impossible to put out.
Do a Google search of “hashtag fails” and you’ll find brands who used a hashtag without realizing it was already a part of a raunchy campaign, and other businesses who inadvertently spelled something inappropriate by putting two or three innocent words together in a hashtag.
Pro-tip: When crafting an original hashtag you want to first make sure that your idea isn’t already being used for something else. Minimize hijacking by doing your research before you put something out into the world. You want a hashtag that directly relates back to your brand. People won’t remember or see the relevance if it is too general. If you want to reference an inside joke or campaign, make sure your community is in on it first.
2. You don’t respond to your Twitter @mentions and messages
One social media research study found that 42 percent of consumers expect a 60-minute response time on social media. In this digital age, some companies now have dedicated customer service reps to respond on Twitter to meet this demand. But many don’t.
In 2015, a study by Brandwatch discovered that only 11.2 percent of brands responded to customer service issues on Twitter within one hour. That quick of a turnaround is indeed a tall order, but it’s definitely a goal worth striving for if you can do it with a personal touch. American Airlines was criticized after using an upbeat automated message to respond to negative customer service complaints. Twitter users soon caught on and began feeding the bot, eliciting canned responses. This of course brought on a bit of negative press for the airline.
Pro-tip: Respond to customer questions and complaints on Twitter as quickly as possible. Keep it natural and organic, just as you would with a customer over the phone or in-person. Your responses should add value to your Twitter presence and overall reputation for courtesy as a brand. Check out how Con Edison delivered quick, personal responses to tweeters after Hurricane Sandy.
3. You shamelessly beg for Twitter followers
Repeated tweeting at celebrities and influencers in pursuit of acknowledgement is all too common among teenagers. As a mature brand, you should know better. Begging people to follow your company in exchange for a follow back sends the message that you are more interested in making your numbers than being a real human. If you have the words “follow us” anywhere in your summary, take it down right this minute. When your company pops up on the “who to follow” suggestion box and the first impression is “please follow us!” it’s a major turn off to prospective followers.
Pro-tip: Project the warm, friendly, interesting personality of your brand. If you’re a blank, desperate slate, people won’t be inspired to hear more of what you have to say. Gain new followers the right way.
Bonus: Download the free strategy guide that reveals how Hootsuite grew our Twitter following to over 7 million users and learn how you can put the tactics to work for your business.
4. You’re always selling something
If your Tweets and bio scream that you’re all about the hard sell, you’re going to put people off. Unwanted advertising is all around us, on billboards, in TV commercials, and on our favorite websites. When it enters the Twitter stream it’s just as irritating.
Yes, your goal is to sell your product, but what if you thought about it as informing people instead? How would that change your approach? You want your audience to feel an emotion when they see your Tweet. A message that says “buy our product now” will not get the tears/excitement/joy flowing.
Pro-tip: Enticing your followers with an interesting or amusing question is much more clickable than a demand for clicks. When Hootsuite wanted to spread the word about our new podcast, we didn’t just tweet out “download our podcast now!” We crafted a Tweet to catch our follower’s attention:
The reader is left wondering, roadkill? What does roadkill have to do with Hootsuite? Well, you’ll just have to click to find out.
5. You fail to add a personal touch
If you need inspiration for turning on the charm, search no further than favorite diner chain, Denny’s. The Denny’s Twitter account feels like a warm hug. By successfully carrying the conversations people have in their diners into their Tweets, Denny’s has gained 331,000 loyal followers. For example, Denny’s recently tweeted:
It’s a hilarious image, and one that brings to mind babies crawling around eating soft pancakes. What could be better? Now if your company sells home warranties, warming up your stream might be more of a challenge than fluffy pancakes. But it can be done. Capture the right sense of humor about whatever it is you’re selling and you’re in business.
Pro-tip: As Denny’s social media team explained in their Shorty Award entry essay, they won over fans by “capturing the fleeting, though important, everyday cultural discussions, whether it’s about the news or reality TV, in our Twitter voice. We speak about the world like a friend would, and because of that, our fans don’t look at us like a brand forcing their way into the Twitter game, but as a friendly presence that shares the space, adds to it, and learns from it.” This. This exactly.
6. You never include multimedia
Maybe you don’t have any interesting photos or videos to share. Maybe you found a great photo but you don’t have permission to use it. Maybe you’re just feeling lazy. Whatever it is that’s stopping you from adding multimedia to your posts needs to be addressed and overcome. Adding an eye-catching image, video, or GIF to your Tweets leads to higher Tweet engagement rates. In fact, people are three times more likely to engage with Tweets that contain videos and photos.
Pro-tip: Your header image should be 1500×500 pixels, your profile picture should be 400×400 pixels, and your Tweet images should be 876×438 pixels to show up properly in your Twitter timeline. You can also use Twitter’s new feature to post up to four photos at once. You can add additional text to your Tweet by creating a graphic with a text overlay.
It’s never too late to turn your Twitter frown upside down. Tweet like the whole world is watching (because they are). If you can dream it, you can tweet it. Luck is what happens when preparation meets your Twitter account. Good luck out there.