How To Look Stupid In 140 Characters


I wrote a post some time ago regarding how to lose twitter followers which was a slightly (read: very) tongue in cheek look at some of my least favourite mistakes people generally make on Twitter.

There’s something else which has been bugging me recently along the same lines. It’s dumb things to do in 140 characters or less. Or more specifically, dumb things local and micro businesses are doing.

I think there are two major reasons which I have come across when discussing, not just Twitter, but social media in general with micro businesses which are a huge source of frustration.

First of all the belief that all businesses need to have a social media presence. Now, this might be somewhat controversial, but if you’re doing social media wrong, is it worth wasting your time with it at all? I’m not sure it is.

Secondly, the most popular questions I’m asked about social media are “How many sales will it get me” or “What will this mean to my bottom line”. Whilst Twitter can help micro businesses make sales, it’s very difficult to directly attribute sales to social media in most cases. Once I have explained this many business owners have lost interest… But then join in anyway.

Anyway I promised you ways 140 characters can make you and your business look dumb. Here goes…

1.  When you get too personal

To be clear, I’m talking about accounts in the business name. They usually feature a profile picture of the business (shop/cafe/premises) and some bio about what the business does/sells/makes. So, if we’ve established these are business accounts, why are you using them like a personal account?

Do you really want your customers to know that you had a “HUGE” night last night and are hungover today?

Or what your political/religious preference is?

Or that Mark broke up with you and he’s such a jerk?


I’m all for giving your business a persona, but when it gets personal you’ve gone too far. Stop it. Stop it right now.

2.  When you disengage

Twitter is potentially a wonderful tool for businesses to connect to customers (and potential customers). But this does mean you have  to actually tweet, and reply to tweets too!

There are so many business accounts littering the twitterscape which just push information onto their followers (if they have any) and never actually engage in the conversation.

Twitter isn’t about forcing your message on the world, it’s about interaction, it’s about building trust and relationships.

Don’t be afraid to engage with your followers or those you follow! That’s what it’s all about!

3.  When you’re an ego maniac

We all like to hear positive feedback about our businesses and I think this is especially true of micro businesses where it’s a small team of people working really hard to establish themselves.

It’s easy to think that by RTing these comments you’re putting your business in a good light, sharing customers praise to other potential customers.

If you’re doing this once a week, or once every few days when you get an exceptionally great piece of feedback then yeah, sure hit the Retweet button. If however you’re doing this every day, or maybe even multiple times everyday then how do you think this looks to your followers?

I see this mostly with businesses who’re generally pretty good at using social media and I guess it’s due to this they receive a lot of great comments and feedback over twitter. But I really don’t need to see every single bit of it though. Thank the person individually for their compliment and leave it at that.

Which brings me on to my next point…

4.  When you gush

Publicly thanking other Tweeps. Why would you do that?

Maybe you’re thanking them for a follow or a retweet. Whatever it is you don’t need everybody to know about it.

When I say “Publicly” I mean rather than directly replying to the person so that only yourself and they can see it, you say something like “Thanks for the RT @sometwitteruser”.

Worse still, I’ve seen businesses who clearly set aside a few minutes each day solely for this purpose and what happens? You fill up your follower’s Twitter stream with a block of messages which are completely useless to them. #Unfollow.

5.  When you OD on hashtags

Don’t get me wrong, I love hashtags as much as the next twitter user. They’re great for organising and categorising tweets. Just don’t OD! One or two hashtags (tops!) is perfect. Any more than that and your message becomes difficult to read and you look like a spammer. Read Twitter’s own guidance on the subject, particularly…

  • Don’t #spam #with #hashtags. Don’t over-tag a single Tweet. (Best practices recommend using no more than 2 hashtags per Tweet.)

Couldn’t have said it better myself..

6.  When you ignore difficult customers

Twitter is potentially a wonderful customer service tool. But you HAVE to front up when difficult situations arise (and they will). If you receive a complaint or negative feedback via Twitter the worst thing you can do is simply hope that it will go away. They won’t.

It is possible though to turn a negative into a positive by acting fast! A quick turnaround in replying to a complaint is a good starting point to rectifying the situation.

7.  When you Sell, Sell, SELL!

I see this so, so often, especially from eCommerce sites. Every other tweet, or EVERY tweet in some cases is a pitch. “Have you seen our new super sexy toilet brush holder, just £29.99″ or “Check out our amazing new super shiny fresh air polisher now!”

Who want’s to read that? Not  me, and probably not anybody other than bots.

If you’re posting tweets in order to promote your products or services, every one in ten tweets is still probably too much. Something like one in 20 – 30 is more palatable for your followers. Well, me at least.


My previous post on this blog was discussing SEO myths so some of you might be slightly confused to see me talking about social media? In actual fact though the role of “SEO” really has changed over the past few years, especially if you are a consultant working with micro businesses.

Social media is a key element of effectively building relationships online which can bring fantastic opportunities for your website, and a few links too maybe. With Google also talking about social signals becoming a more and more important in the future Twitter is something you should consider for your business, but only if you do it right.

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Be honest. Are you making any of these 7 deadly sins? If you are, it’s time to stop.