Best of 2011: 18 Mistakes Businesses Make on Twitter

by Ken Mueller on December 28, 2011 · 23 comments


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This week I’m reposting some of my popular or favorite posts from 2011. This post originally ran back in July and continues to do well.

Last year I blogged about 10 Mistakes Businesses Make on Facebook, so I thought I’d take the time to create a similar list regarding business use of Twitter. Some of these will sound very familiar to the previous list, but Twitter is a different platform with different uses and different “rules”. Read this list and analyze your own approach to Twitter. Are you committing any of these errors, or do you know someone who is?

1. Creating an account and not using it – Twitter is littered with dead accounts. Usually what happens is a business creates an account, starts following people to get followers, then can’t keep up with a pace that is needed and they give up too soon. Often they expect overnight results, but that won’t happen. Don’t expect huge results and major ROI quickly. Twitter is a slow, organic growth platform in most cases.

2. Not engaging – Twitter is a conversation. If all you do is talk, but not talk to anyone, you’re boring. Reach out and start conversations with others. Don’t just stand up and shout out into the air.

3. Not replying to @mentions – It’s not just about engaging others actively, but also responding to others when they @mention you. If someone speaks to you, and you don’t respond, they will assume you aren’t there, don’t care, have automated your Twitter, or all of the above. When that happens, you can bet they won’t interested in what you have to say when you tweet.

4. Not building an audience – Your Twitter following doesn’t just grow. This isn’t an “if you build it they will come” proposition. You need to work to build your following, and that usually starts by you regularly, and strategically, following others and then engaging them.

5. Not tweeting enough – I’m going to step out on a limb and say there really is no such thing as tweeting too much. But not tweeting enough can be a real problem. Relationships are built on interaction. Rationing yourself to a certain number of tweets per day/week is a big mistake. Do you ration how often you interact with people in person? Oh, and if you’re tempted to outsource your tweeting to a Social Media consultant, there’s a good chance this will happen.

6.Not following anyone – There is no rule that says you have to follow everyone who follows you, but you do need to consistently follow others. If you have a gazillion followers and don’t follow anyone back, that means all you care about is what you have to say, and don’t give a rip about anyone else. Sorry, but it’s not all about you.

7. Not retweeting/sharing – Twitter works best when you tweet out a nice variety of content. That includes retweeting or sharing the content of others that you think your followers might be interested in. This is just one way of being a good citizen of the Twitterverse. Plus, if you regularly share the work of others, they will be more likely to share or retweet your content.

8. Auto DMs – When I follow someone and then receive an auto DM thanking me, I’m turned off. Mostly because the auto DMs clearly aren’t personalized for me. They often run along the lines of “Hey, I look forward to engaging with you. Make sure you check out my new ebook on such and such at this link!” It’s similar to meeting a guy for the first time and, before you even get to know him, he’s got his business card in your face. Do you wanna be that guy?

9. Heavy handed sales – There is a place for some sales content on Twitter, but I see a lot of folks who do nothing but sell. It’s clear that they aren’t on Twitter for relationships. They don’t view you as a person; you are only a potential customer. The problem with that view is that if you don’t move from potential customer to real customer, they no longer have any interest in you. Mercenary relationships don’t work.

10. Not providing relevant content – We could debate about this for a long time as we all have different ideas about how to define “relevant” content. And the answer will be different for all of us, based on who we are, what we do, and our intended audience. But if all you do is link to non-compelling content, you’ll be ignored.

11. Retweeting retweets of themselves – These are people who break their arms patting themselves on the back. I especially see this a lot within the marketing community. @MarketingGalA tweets that she won an award. @MarketingGuyB retweets her and appends it with a congratulations. @MarketingGalA retweets @MarketingGuyB’s retweet as if to say, “Hey, this guy congratulated me for winning an award, this makes me special!”. The real problem with this is that the people who are guilty of this seem to do it all the time. Get over yourself.

12. Incomplete profile – One of the first things you need to do before you really start using Twitter is to make sure you have a complete profile. This means having a proper image, as well as a nice description of who you are and what you do. This should also include your location. People like to have some sort of context and want to know who’s on the other side of your account.

13. Not publicizing that you’re on Twitter – You can have the best Twitter profile and be great at engaging, but you need to find ways to let your customers know you are on Twitter. This includes online methods such as your email, website, and Facebook page. This also includes using various offline methods that inform your customers when they are actually in your business.

14. Not integrating – Twitter doesn’t exist in a vacuum. You might want to include a Twitter widget on your website, or make sure that your blog gets pushed out to your Twitter followers automatically. There are many different ways that you can integrate Twitter with your other online properties.

15. One dimensional presence – Don’t just tweet the same sorts of things. None of us is one dimensional. We have a wide variety of interests, as do our followers. Play into those. Some people do nothing but spit out inspirational quotes. If that’s all you do, people will get bored quickly. Remember, Twitter is real life. Act on Twitter the way you would in a face to face setting.

16. Only automating via Facebook or only scheduling – An easy way for businesses to manage a Social Media presence is for them to link their Facebook updates to Twitter. I have no problem with this unless this is all you do. Remember, the name of the game is engagement. More often than not, businesses that do nothing but post the same content on both platforms, will end up only monitoring one of them, and that’s usually Facebook. If you aren’t monitoring Twitter, you can’t respond to people who might try to engage with you. Plus you won’t be engaging others proactively. If you do link Facebook and Twitter, make sure you are also spending time on Twitter alone, engaging, replying, and offering other content.

17. Having a protected account – This one makes no sense and drives me bonkers. I have no problem with individuals protecting their account, but if you are a business, your goal is to build up a nice following. By protecting your tweets you are adding an extra hurdle for people when they want to follow you. They have to request, and you have to approve. Quite frankly, when I see a business do this, I don’t even want to follow them.

18. Tweeting before thinking – We’ve all heard the stories about Kenneth Cole, the Red Cross, and a lot of the other companies that screwed up when they tweeted something they thought was clever (Entenmanns), or when someone posted to the wrong account (Chrysler). And just as important as thinking before tweeting is knowing how to apologize properly when you have made a mistake.

Need more help? Check out 14 Ways Every Business Should be Using Twitter, 13 Useful Twitter Tips for Small Business, and 8 Tips and a Few Tools for Small Business Twitter Use.

What are some other mistakes that you see businesses making on Twitter on a regular basis. Are there any particular practices that annoy you or get your goat?



Good morning Ken!

I just posted this article to my facebook business page and to my twitter account. I appreciate the time it took to capture 18 of these biggest mistakes. I am constantly speaking with business owners about the power of twitter, and at the same time, cautioning them that if they don't do it "right" they could be doing more harm than good. It can be a complete time vampire which is why so many mistakes are made by businesses. Likely unintentional. Or they have a Check Mark beside Twitter. meaning that they are On it, but not gaining engagement or impact at all.

The one I see most common when new to twitter #2 and 3. Not engaging and not responding to people mentioning the business. This is like being at a party when you are just meeting someone for the first time. You try to talk to them and they ignore you.

Thank you for sharing! I look forward to seeing more great articles in the future!

Kimberly Allison


@TweetSmarter Thank you, that was very helpful, I'm new to twitter, and love to interact, so that article really helped!


Hello Ken. I'm very impressed with your breadth of knowledge and insightful comments and I'm looking forward to reading your blog entries and learning from you. I have one question though, since I'm at quite a loss. I just read your blog article entitled "18 Mistakes Businesses Make on Twitter" and #13 is "Not publicizing that you’re on Twitter". After reading, I feel it's great information that I'd like to share with my followers so I set out to write my own Tweet with a link you this article, and I'd like to include your Twitter handle. I've been through your entire site and I'm not able to find it anywhere (did I just miss something?). I eventually found it after about 10 minutes (@kmueller62 - and I'm above average using websites and social media) and now I follow you, but it was really hard to find on your site ( A quick, "Follow me on Twitter" graphic or something would have made things much easier. You are an expert, I am a novice - As asked before, "Am I missing something?" Again, I very much enjoy your information - thank you for sharing it with all of us, I look forward to following you in 2012! Sincerely, John (@FishSouthBay)


I think there is a thing as tweeting to much. I have stopped following people after they have tweeted about ever 5 minuets that they would soon have a webinar. Great you are having a webinar don't count it down for me two hours a head of time. Or people who automatically retweet the same thing on the hour every hour and have no interaction with you if you reply to a tweet. I hate that!


@kmueller62 Just caught up on some of your recent posts...kicking myself that I didn't have them to read with a certain consultee last year.

KenMueller moderator

@CheriLesueur I think that's less a function of tweeting too much, and more a function of tweeting "too much of the same thing". I think if you are tweeting in a way that is well rounded, and not all business, it tends to work, though as followers, we all have our own thresholds.


@bookoisseur it's ok. a lot of what i write comes from similar frustrations as I learn along the way


@KenMueller@CheriLesueur I agree, Ken. I don't mind lots and lots of tweets from an individual as long as they are new. I follow several people who tweet hundreds of times per day, mostly links, and 97% of them are of no interest to me. The 3% that I click on are really good though.

Latest blog post: Writing for Fun: Untitled


@kmueller62 It was incredibly helpful to see my frustrations laid out in a neat list though! I look forward to reading more!


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