10 surefire ways to fail at Twitter

If you use spam words, forget to thank people, or pose open-ended questions, you can kiss your followers goodbye.


What I hear most about Twitter from car dealers and their employees is, “I don’t get it!” They say, “I don’t understand why Twitter is so valuable. Isn’t it enough to be on Facebook?”

As marketers, we have to communicate with customers where they are, and many would-be customers are on Twitter.

Of the dealers I see on Twitter, many of them just broadcast. Their strategy is to shout things to the world, and that’s a mistake. Twitter is conversational. It’s person to person. You may be a brand, but people want to know there’s a real person behind the brand.

Any chance you have to be closer to the customers and help them buy from you is pretty awesome. Shouting marketing messages will not bring the customer closer.

In the past few weeks, I’ve had a few dealers ask me questions about Twitter. That tells me more are warming up to it and are ready to join the biggest conversations in the world. Participating in these conversations establishes credibility and trust with your customers. Once you have that, you can comfortably reach out to others in the community with marketing messages.

You must establish credibility and trust first.

There are many pitfalls Twitter newbies can avoid once they learn the lingo. Twitter is like going to a foreign country. You have to learn the language to not look like a doofus. Twitter has its own language: @mentions, #hashtags, retweets, shortened URLs, and of course, all tweets must be fewer than 140 characters.

What keeps many dealers from using Twitter is the fear they’ll do it wrong. Let me help by showing you what not to do. Here are 10 surefire ways to #fail on Twitter:

1. You chase the numbers. It’s much better to have 300 engaged followers than 3,000 who never speak to you. Use tools like Refollow and TweetAdder to help you find the people you want to reach. Locate Twitter users who share your customers and follow their followers. Your following will grow organically and you will capture a much more interested audience.

2. You only tweet a URL. If you want to share a story, you probably have something to say about it. At least include the headline of the story and credit the author. Tweeting a URL by itself looks like spam—because that’s what spammers do—and no one will click on it.

3. Your tweets are longer than 140 characters. I can’t tell you how many posts I see that aren’t 140 characters. Some apps allow you to post more than 140, but 140 is all your audience will see. Please use a URL shortener like Bitly.com. Tweet posts in fewer than 140 characters if you want people to retweet them. You have to leave room for the retweeters’ IDs, right?

4. You talk about yourself. Posts like “Check out the new body style of our 2013 model” are not compelling enough for people to click on. It’s not about you. It’s about your customers. Focus your efforts and content on what interests your network.

5. You automate Facebook posts to Twitter (and vice versa). Twitter users recognize these posts when they see them, and it feels like they’re from a robot. The same goes for people on Facebook. It’s OK to post similar content on Twitter and Facebook, just do it separately and speak the language.

6. You pose questions to “everyone.” Unlike Facebook, open-ended questions don’t work well on Twitter. A better strategy is to follow someone you want to reach. If he follows you back, thank him and ask him a social question like “How’s the weather in San Francisco today?” He may not answer, but he will remember you spoke to him and not the crowd.

7. You don’t converse. Twitter is conversational. @Mention people to drive conversations. Don’t broadcast tweets without interacting, sharing and mentioning other people on Twitter.

8. You use spam words. On Twitter, spam-like words attract eyeballs for the wrong reasons. Save words like “win” and “free” for your ads. If you use those words regularly, Twitter (or a follower) will mark you as a spammer.

9. You don’t show gratitude. Spend time every day to thank those who retweet your posts. Either reply or retweet what they posted. “Please” and “thank you” are part of the Twitter lexicon.

10. You aren’t authentic or transparent. People follow you because they want to get to know you. I have a dealer client who lets his personality shine on Twitter. He named Tang the “official drink” of the dealership, and has many conversations with folks on Twitter. Decide how you want people to know you and keep your message clear and consistent.

What would you add to the list?

Kathi Kruse is an automotive social media expert, blogger, author, speaker and founder of Kruse Control Inc. A version of this article originally appeared on the Kruse Control blog.

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