For companies not well versed with social media awareness, or who simply don’t have the manpower to oversee it, bad habits can grow over time into brand-killers. The onus is on you to protect your brand.
Below are 10 brand-killers and how to fix them.
1. Talking-heads tweets
Whether we’re going to conferences or just partaking in a global news event, hashtags are a way for tweeters of a feather to stick together. But many well-intended hashtag-driven subcommunities frequently become a gallery of talking heads. Have you read George Saunders’ “Braindead Megaphone”? If not, please do. Because that’s what hashtag-driven subcommunities become when everybody is talking at once—and to nobody in particular. It’s a brand development dead end.
Fix: Stop shouting. Have a conversation and engage. Talk about the conference you’re attending or the “American Idol” results show. Branding does not have to be in-your-face self-promotion. It just has to be humanizing.
Automated tweets are worse than spambots. They’re instant brand killers. It’s the Twitter version of receiving a form letter for users who have just recently followed you: “Hi @USER! Thanks for following me! Check out http://dumblink.com/barf.html!” More important, it’s a shoddy way to try to convert new followers into leads. By generating auto-DMs, you risk losing followers.
Scheduled tweets, alternatively, aren’t so universally terrible, but they still require awareness and discretion. Case in point: When the world learned about Osama bin Laden’s death from the president, many big brands—like Lady Gaga—had scheduled tweets go live, to unintentional comic effect. Another unfortunate deployment of a scheduled tweet? The PATH train’s Mother’s Day well-wishes that went live about an hour after one of its trains had crashed and injured over 30 passengers.
Fix: Keep it real. Disable the automator. Deploy scheduled tweets with discretion. Go the extra mile when necessary and delete them if the context becomes irrelevant.
3. Sandwich tweets
We all hate sandwich tweets. A sandwich tweet is exactly as it sounds. It’s a tweet a user contributes to the effect of, “Eatin’ a sandwich!” It’s devoid of substance. From a personal perspective, it provides no opportunity for further chatter; from a professional perspective, it provides many opportunities to be reviled and mocked.
Fix: If it’s the best sandwich of your entire life, by all means, tweet so. Then tell us what it is. Then tell us where we can get it. In other words: Give us the delicious details. Then give your favorite deli some props by driving business to them.
4. Troll tweets
This isn’t about gnarled old men tweeting aggressively from underneath bridges. It’s about people who pollute the Twitter ecosystem by lobbing nasty messages into the ether. It’s not that Twitter should become a beacon of the “new niceness” that has suddenly become Web chic. But it should remain a productive place to socialize, both personally and professionally. Troll tweets do one thing remarkably well: shut down all productive conversation.
Let’s look at one of Twitter’s best-known trolls in its short history: Chris Brown. With his angry tweets, Brown has quickly become a bête noire of Twitter. And though he can still sell records with such an indelible mark on his brand, the rest of us can’t—sell records or anything really. The answer here is simple…
Fix: Be nice or become a B2B bête noire.
5. Copycat tweets
There are users who perhaps haven’t mapped out their branding strategy or don’t want to. Instead of original content, they’ll just clog up the ecosystem by retweeting everything an industry or thought leader says, no matter how banal. The problem with this approach? It never amounts into anything more than a watered-down aggregator. You’re existing in the shadows of industry towers instead of standing out.
Fix: Stand out. Be opinionated and original. Don’t be afraid to be wrong. If someone calls you out on it, you can civilly discuss your perspective and hey, you may even earn a few followers in the process.
6. NSFW tweets
The evolution of business palaver is curious at best. We’re suddenly in the era of too-casual oversharing—and it’s a bewildering era. Kenneth Cole can insensitively seize upon a tragedy and still enjoy steady revenue! But we’re not all upscale peddlers of khaki pants and button-ups.
Also bear in mind that there is such a thing as too far: Remember when Chrysler fired that guy for accidentally insulting a broad swath of its market share? We might be too casual, but we’re still professionals.
That means: Watch your language, demonstrate a modicum of respect, and if you want to share dirty jokes, do it off the record and off the clock, so you don’t implicate your brand. Unlike a personal brand, a corporate brand is much slower to recover from colossal social media failures. Chrysler is probably still recoiling from its Twitter debacle.
Fix: Decency and discretion.
7. Billboard tweets
If you’re running a small to mid-size business and it’s not cut from the same fashionable cloth that fancy startups in Silicon Valley (or its petite East Coast sister Silicon Alley) are, awareness is going to be an uphill battle. But don’t mistake that challenge for an opportunity to use Twitter as another channel to spin out advertisements. Unlike TV or most websites that rely on display ads, Twitter’s opt-in engagement makes it so about 101 percent of the burden falls on the brand to entice users, not the other way around. That’s because the best and successful brands are already putting in 100 percent.
Fix: Just as blogging has made small to mid-size businesses responsible to establish themselves as original thought leaders, Twitter now challenges them to do the same in a lot less space. It’s about content, people.
8. Tone-deaf tweets
An important thing about Twitter is tone. Don’t use one that would have other companies regard you as one of the millions of #Beliebers. Though cutesy tones might work for Kim Kardashian or my personal favorite, “The Office” star Mindy Kaling, they’re both showbiz personalities. You’re an internet marketer, and even Kim Kardashian sticks to what she knows best on Twitter: shilling shady products. If she were to go off message and suddenly talk about keyword densities, her brand value would depreciate astronomically. By the same virtue, don’t forgo tone entirely—that’s worse. No one will notice you if your tweets lack flair and have all the appeal of slowly-peeling paint.
Fix: Know your limits. Stick to a smart, consistent tone.
9. Vacuum tweets
Questions are a great way to perk up your Twitter mix. They show that you’re looking to solicit feedback from your followers and anyone else listening in. But in abundance, they just kill your strategy. An abundance (as in 95 percent of your tweets) of questions waves a flag to the effect of: “Oh! We know nothing! We don’t know what to say! Do our job for us!” Inexperienced is a word that no brand wants stalking it like a stray cat. That’s exactly what a company risks by posing broad questions too frequently in its bid for user engagement.
Fix: Don’t suck up the conversation. Instead, create it. Engage users not by baiting them, but by inspiring them to respond.
10. Eavesdropping tweets
So you know how you hate it when you and a friend are talking about how awesome something—like chess sets—are? Both of you are like, “Man! Wooden chess sets rule!” Then a third person mysteriously appears and says, “Wooden chess sets are endangering forests. Forests are essential, and I’m about to explain why, even though the way both of you are furrowing your brows indicates waning interest.”
Well, Twitter users hate it when your brand becomes that third person. You could argue that they should DM one another if such a conversation was truly private. But it’s not up to you to dictate the terms of the conversation between two other people. It is up to you to mind your boundaries. Just because they’re high-profile tweeters doesn’t give third parties carte blanche to interrupt—unless it’s for a very good reason. As Jenna Maroney once said on “30 Rock“: “Respect celebrity privacy.”
Fix: Understand your boundaries. Never cavalierly break into a conversation between two other people on Twitter—unless there’s a gem truly worth sharing.
Mind you, this is by no means a Twitter gospel to brand development. These are merely basic rules worth learning. Because Twitter is like life: You have to learn the rules before you learn how to break them. Remember: Baby steps before big-kid strides.
Rohin Guha is the social media manager at Blue Phoenix Media, a New York City-based affiliate marketing firm. You can follow Blue Phoenix Media on Twitter. You can also follow it on Facebook. Or you can just simply subscribe to its blog.