11 Things to Avoid When Using Twitter

twitterTwitter has taken off since my last post. It is all over the place. You can turn on the TV at any given time in any given country and be sure to hear it mentioned. Between Oprah, Ellen, Ashton, and many others, it is safe to say, Twitter is becoming much more mainstream as time goes on. I do not mean to say that these celebrities are mainstream, but their audiences are. Since Oprah joined Twitter, you can be sure that hundreds of thousands of “stay-at-home moms” across America have begun tweeting. There are of course endless debates surrounding this topic and whether this is a good or bad development, but one thing’s for sure, there are now many new people joining Twitter who have no idea what they are doing.

I already wrote a list of reasons explaining why you should tweet, how to tweet, and what to do after you join Twitter, I thought I would tell you what NOT to do when tweeting. Before I begin, let me say two things:

  1. This is of course my opinion only and since there are so many social media experts out there (will address that later), there are going to many of you who disagree with this list.
  2. I do not want to sound like I came up with all this stuff alone. I learned most of them the hard way, when I did them and was virtually stoned (with rocks, not the other kind) by my Twitter community (follow me here).


So here are 11 things to avoid when tweeting:

1:  Do not use the following words in your bio, no matter how much you think they will attract followers:

-Social Media Expert: I think it is safe to say these are the three most annoying words on Twitter. What is a Social Media Expert can someone please explain to me? I am of the opinion that very few people can honestly call themselves experts in the field. The remaining 99% are people who have been using Twitter for a few months, have a few hundred followers, and are as much of an expert on social media as I am on Yoga (never done Yoga).

-Guru: The same pretty much applies to the word Guru. Unless your name is Jeff Pulver or possibly Kevin Rose, and you write that you are a Web 2.0 guru, you can rest assured you will not see me on your followers list. Humility is the key.

-Make Money Online: People are mostly on Twitter to participate in dialog. People who write these words in their bio are just like email spammers, and beyond the annoyance, and the fact that they are single handedly ruining Twitter, they are also doing something immoral and wrong. I can safely say that without exception, these words should never be in anyone’s Twitter bio.

-Affiliate Marketing: Now this is a tricky one. There is nothing inherently wrong with affiliate marketing. It is a legitimate way of making money online. However, to put it in proportion, Viagra is also a legitimate aphrodisiac, that does not mean I would ever open an email with the word Viagra in it. So too, most people on Twitter would not follow someone with the words Affiliate Marketing in their profile.

-Increase your Followers: If you are telling me ways to increase my followers, you obviously have very little confidence in my intellectual ability or at the very best, my social skills. I do not want to be told who to follow and as one of my Twitter mentors told me in response to a question posted on Twitter, I do not want to follow random people. I want to follow people that interest me, and the basic assumption is that the people they conduct dialog with, will also interest me. Thank you Ahuva (follow her, she is the cream of the crop.)

2:  Do not ONLY answer the question “What Are You Doing” in your tweets: Maybe this is how Twitter started, but I think we can all agree that nobody wants to hear when you are eating, when you are going to sleep, and when (yes this has been tweeted on occasion) you are going to the bathroom. Now let me clarify; I am not saying that it is unacceptable to talk about what you are eating for lunch, and even post a picture of it, this kinda thing makes Twitter interesting and fun. However, I think if that is ALL a person tweets about, they will end up with very few followers, who might be true food enthusiasts. A guiding rule when tweeting is tweet things that would interest you if tweeted by others. In fact, I think it is time to change the Twitter box from “What are you Doing”? to possibly “What Can you Share”? or as a true social media expert suggested, just a simple “What’s up?”

3:  Do not ONLY promote your blog/business in your tweets: Once again, the main word here in “only”. In my humble opinion, there is nothing wrong with sharing your blog posts with your followers. If they follow you, they are apparently interested in your thoughts, and your blog can be viewed as an extension of your tweets, so why not share it? However, just like everything else, all in moderation. If I come across someone’s Twitter timeline and all his tweets start with the word “New blog post”, can you guess what my first action would be?

4:  Do not tweet the same thing more than twice in a day: There are some people on Twitter who I actually look up to and respect, but feel it is OK to tweet the same article ten times throughout the day. Now, there is something to this technique. After all, the people reading it in the morning are generally not the same people reading it in the evening. This is true, but there is one little problem. When you tweet the same article or link many times throughout the day, you are not taking the heavy Twitter addicts into account. There are enough people who will see all those tweets and get annoyed fast. If you MUST tweet the same link more than twice, at least change the lead in sentence. I must give props to yet another one of my Twitter mentors on this tip. Thanks Ezra.

5:  Do not tweet about your followers more than once a week: OK, here I must stress something. I was an offender of this rule for a little while when I was new to Twitter. I was put in my place by another fellow Twitterer, who by the way, happens to be one of my favorite bloggers. Check out her Twitter here and her blog here. So thanks Talia, I still think you need to publish a book from your blog. What I mean to say here is do not tweet things like “I have 5,000 followers, and I really want to get to 6,000, please RT this”. This is really annoying especially if you do it often. It is not the end of the world if you are at 99,999 and you tweet “Free iPhone for my 100,000th follower”, but beyond that, please refrain.

6:  Do not tweet exclusively in another language: OK, this one is gonna spark some controversy, and rightfully so. I strongly believe you need to speak the language that most people understand. I am not saying if your mother tongue is Spanish to NEVER tweet in Spanish, I am just saying to be considerate of your followers and the fact that as of today, there are still a lot of applications that only support English text.

7:  Do not tweet sensitive/private information: Once again, I am speaking from experience and learning from my mistakes. As recently as yesterday, I tweeted something that was not for certain eyes, while thinking “Eh, they wont see it anyway”. Mistake, big mistake! Tweets now show up in Google searches and anyone can easily access your tweets. So if you want to keep something private, probably not the best idea to share it on the fastest growing social network on the Web. Additionally, and I am not going to elaborate on this, being as it is a very controversial topic, and I am actually not completely sure what I believe, but I do think Twitter should be treated like a work place. Just like you would not share extreme political views, sexist, or offensive views of any kind at an office event, so to Twitter. It is all about sensitivity. I am sure a lot of you disagree, feel free to share your opinion in the comments.

8: Do not Auto DM people who follow you: Well, this has got to be one of the bigger annoyances in the Twittersphere, thank the Lord, many of my friends taught me how to disable this inconvenience. If someone followed you, they did not do it for you, they did it for them, so no need to thank them. Do not DM them saying “Nice to meet you and thank you for following”. I get one of those messages and you better prepare a goodbye reply too.

9:  Do not Auto Follow: Once again, just my humble opinion. Unfortunately, there are too many bots, spam accounts, and just annoying people on Twitter. Just because someone follows you, does not necessarily mean you have to or want to follow them back. In fact, I would say that maybe 30%-40% of the people that followed me over the past month were real people, with quality tweets on topics that interest me. Follow people that interest you, otherwise you will end up with an uncontrollable amount of people in your stream, which will eventually detract from your ability to use Twitter effectively.

10:  Do not consistently make spelling, grammar, or punctuation mistakes in your tweets: This is consistent with my general philosophy on Twitter specifically and social media in general. Just like I would not follow a person who could not be bothered to upload a picture to his/her profile, post a bio, or tweet at least a few times, so to I am not quick to follow someone who constantly makes elementary mistakes in their tweets. Now, I know this sounds a little harsh, but I think your followers deserve that extra effort. I am not saying you need to be a professional English writer, but c’mon, what interface does not include a spell check? Use it and be careful how you tweet.

11: Do not use Twitter like you use Facebook: I think it is an acceptable practice to check your Facebook once a day, week, or even month. Twitter needs more effort. It is true that you can use Twitter effectively even if you only tweet once a day. However, in my opinion, if you really want to maximize the tremendous potential that is Twitter, you need to keep your audience on their toes. Keep your followers interested.

There are so many more things you will learn as time goes on, and you will be amazed at how much you can learn about Twitter from the supporting applications to the lingo and the etiquette. I hope these are some useful tips that, in conjunction with Top 5 Reasons to Tweet, Top 5 Steps after Joining Twitter,  and Ten Things you Must Know before Joining Twitter, are sure to get you on your feet, help you start tweeting, and assist you in starting to build your Twitter network. Once you have done that, the possibilities are literally endless.

Would love your feedback in the comments or better yet, reply to me on Twitter here!




Hillel is Co Founder and Chief Marketing Officer at ZCast, a company taking on the pain of modern audio broadcasting. Hillel also blogs for many influential sites including TechCrunch, Mashable, The Next Web, Business Insider, The Huffington Post, Venturebeat, and others. Additionally, Hillel mentors startups across Israel in different accelerators including The Google Launchpad, the Microsoft Ventures accelerator, Techstars, The Junction, and more. Hillel has been named Israel's top marketer, has been featured on CNBC, Forbes, and many others and was recently added by Google to its marketing experts program. You can find and talk to Hillel on Twitter. He is @Hilzfuld.


150 thoughts on “11 Things to Avoid When Using Twitter

  1. Very informative.
    In regards to #8 though, I answer as many of the new followers by way of DM so are you saying that this is wrong? My words actually are varied for each follower. I say things like thank for the follow “their name” if they’ve listed it, and I usually check out their W/S or Blog and make a comment about it, again only if they’ve provided this information. On the other hand I just say thanks for following and leave it at that because I believe that those people are only there for themselves.
    I have just followed you in Twitter too BTW.
    AKA FreshRoasted
    AKA Urzay G.

  2. I admit that I have broken probably 9 out 11 of these rules above when a newby to twitter. I agree with most, but feel I get very ample results from my Auto DM on new followers, but want to add that it only works if you send them something meaningful and not a sales pitch.

  3. I agree with all of the above except for the language one.
    That point can only be valid in an environment where the dominant language is English.
    Although bilingual, I live and work in the Netherlands, and our daily language is Dutch. So we tweet in Dutch mostly, unless communicating internationally.
    The point should be, therefore, perhaps not to mix languages in your twitter. A seperate account for each language? If I wanted to go international and Tweet in English I think that is what I would do.

  4. Loved the list. Very useful advice. Even if I don’t adopt one or more of the points, at least it educates me on some of the dynamics involved in choosing.

    Sorry, but I am deeply amused–because of its context–by a spelling error in #10.

    It’s like stuttering over the word inarticulate.

  5. YES YES YES I constantly wonder where these “Social Media Experts” have come from. I have ascertained, like pyramid schemes, the people “making good money” from social marketing are the people selling the webinars touting “making good money as a social media expert.” Thanks for the good info.

  6. Great list for folks to have as a guideline for starting to use twitter.

    I’ve always thought Facebook as a family and friends site and twitter as a whole world site.

    I agree on the direct messages especially the most common ones that are selling a service. I suppose I’m so used to them that I might be missing real DMs because I skim my DMs.

  7. #12, don’t accidentally post a personal tweet on your business page. Your business’ followers don’t need to know that you love going to Subway with your wife. (like many things in life, this was learned the hard way 🙂

  8. Well, OK, some good thoughts, nothing is perfect. Since I am partially blind and my computer corrects most of my mistakes and changes some words to mean something else from time to time, I may feel a little embarrassed for having mess-spelled a word here and there. I too enjoy writing people of other languages and my computer will translate anything and everything to a degree that I can understand my friends from around the world. The Google Translator is free. Oh, yes, I might comment. I am an anti-social media expert, but I assure you, it is not intentional.

  9. Thanks for this information. I received my first direct-reply message thanking me for following someone about a week ago. I thought I was remiss in some sort of Twitter etiquette, so I started direct messaging people that started following me thanking them for doing so. I will quit doing that. Thanks for the heads-up.

  10. Thanks for sharing this with us! I think many people who read this often make mistakes, including me. I do think that this a process we will have to go through and in the future Twitter will be better used.

    I do think that you missed out on the goal of using Twitter. A lot of people I know use Twitter to communicate with their friends. So if that is your only goal I think the language does not really matter.

    I am curious about your next blogs!

  11. Excellent list! As you pointed out you learnt this the hard way and that’s the best way to ‘get’ Twitter. I’m all for keeping it real, organic growth and keeping the ‘social’ in Social Media.

    You definitely treat Twitter differently to Facebook and should invest more time. Twitter = network building; Facebook = to nurture and strengthen that network, and LinkedIn = credibility …that’s my successful Social Media recipe. 🙂

  12. Great and easy to follow Twitter basics here. Nice job.

    Twitter isn’t for everyone but there are a lot of people out there that can use this tool to educate and entertain others, but they won’t even give it a try due to their preconceived opinion.

    I personally hope that Twitter sticks around for a few more years. I get all of my initial news from Twitter and that leads me into searching for more details if I’m interested in the topic. I love it. The strategy of my tweets are to write about beverages and beverages only.

    Thanks again for your tips.

  13. good points … I also don’t like the ‘auto-follow’ and ‘auto-DM’ thanking people. Thank you for confirming my beliefs.

    as well, i have always said people should refrain from using ‘expert’ and much less ‘guru’ as these 2 terms are soooo damn over used. I c people with a few thousand followers and they are ‘Social Media Gurus’ and I say, ‘huh’ … IMHO, ‘guru’ is a spiritual term and should be respected in this manner.

    thanks again for sharing your views 🙂

  14. Your post is fantastic. Thank you! You have kindly outlined all basic “Etiquette Rules on Twitter” and I agree with all of them. The reason I called it “etiquette rules” because you provide the reasons “why” and also explain the outcomes… Twitter should be treated as a working medium to learn, grow, and share the best ideas, practices, and experiences. Thanks again for respecting our time and giving your fellow-twitters their daily lesson on how to tweet in style!

  15. Thank you for putting this list together. You’ve helped clear up a good amount that I was wondering, especially the DM thank you piece. 🙂

  16. These tips are awesome & I couldn’t agree more. I really admire how you write from a Twitter user’s perspective and not from a “holier than thou” point of view. I’ve grown more and more frustrated by people telling me how to use Social Media without actually seeming like they use it themselves. Your articles (which I found today from an Alltop tweet) are great, and I wish you a ton of success (not like you need it!).

  17. “I have read that U.S. users are less than 50% of Twitter’s users. It’s an international communication tool. You choose who to follow, it’s up to you to follow only English speakers if your language skills are limited to English. It’s too bad you won’t be able to converse with people from other countries by learning their language.”

    Um, ye, 50% are in the US. What about … I don’t know … England? Australasia, South Africa and many of the English-as-a-second language countries such as India and Holland.

    The point is, if you want lots of international followers, then use English. But sure, if you only follow German tweeters and you’re German, then obviously speak German. I think that’s kind of obvious.

    I would have probably had this rule down as ‘Use the appropriate language for your purposes’, rather than highlight English.

    But ye, English isn’t only spoken by Americans, hence the name, ‘English’.

  18. I raise my hand up in the air and hang my head in utter shame….. I joined twitter about 2 months ago and broke every rule, I just had no idea how one was to get people to interact with me. I first tweeted Hi …. but no response, I thought it was not working (stupid huh). Any ways have purchased twitter for dummies and it should be arriving in the next few weeks and will begin to mend my ways. I wish twitter would pay attention to what you write as I has most certainly opened my eyes and I will be taking your advise to heart and start sorting my twitter page out. Any one who is new to twitter needs advise on what to do and what not to do …. look what happened to me.

    Ruth (South Africa)

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