Want to Twitter? Here’s how to screw it up…

Note: This is part of a series of posts I’m starting of “Here’s how to screw it up.”  In the course of my daily life I see a lot of people trying different things, and do a lot of things to screw it up.  This isn’t meant as an attack on the people who do these things, but rather the actions themselves.  Please feel free to add or debate anything listed here, my hope is that by looking at the way things are done poorly, we can see how things can be done well.

If it has been apparent over the last few weeks, Twitter has become mainstream.  You hear it on the nightly newscasts, sporting events, awards shows and the list of celebrities on Twitter is just blowing up.  After using Twitter for over 2 years and over 3,300 Tweets later, I’ve seen a lot of people try to take up the Twitter ball and fumble miserably.

So if you’re looking to get started on Twitter, here are some things you could do to screw it up:

  • Following significantly (+20%) more people than the number that follows you: I understand when you’re starting out you obviously need to invest in following some people, but there’s nothing that screams “loser” quite like following 2x or 3x the followers you have.
  • Use Twitter solely as an outlet to pimp yourself. There’s something to be said about personal branding and Twitter being an opportunity to do so, but if the only thing you’re contributing to the Twitter is talking about what you’re doing, posting links to your blog, talking about your services, etc – then you’re missing the point.  Converse with other people, say clever things and offer insight. I don’t want to see a never-ending commercial about yourself.  It’s pretty easy to see right through it, and people will wise up and drop you.
  • Try to be an Expert at Twitter, and market that “skill”.  Let me save you the snake-oil money you’d spend on these “Experts” by offering you some free advice: Update consistently, be yourself, engage in conversations and try to add value.  Do you need an expert to teach you to use a cell phone?  Trust me, you’ll be fine on Twitter.  People will follow you if you’re interesting, not because you’re showing your LinkedIn URL in your Twitter background.
  • Use Terms like “Tweeple” or say “Tweet ya later” We get it, Twitter is a great new form of communication and way to get information, but it doesn’t constitute it’s own vocabulary.  “Tweet ya later” may be a bit subjective, but when did someone say “Cell ya later” on their phone?
  • Directly command or take advantage of your followers. The list of who can get away with this is very short: Shaq, Jason Calacanis.  Everyone else simply looks like a tool trying to wield an imaginary gauntlet.  It’s one thing to invite your followers to do something, or even ask a favor, but don’t order me around.
  • Constantly send @ replies to celebrity Twitterers.  I understand, we all want to get that magical response from a celebrity Twitterer that we can print out and frame, but you’re not going to do that by pretending to be every celebrity’s best friend and sending them 25 replies.
  • Misuse Twitter lingo. Not to contradict point #3, but there are a few terms that Twitter has coined: It’s called “TWEET-UP” not “TWITup”.
  • Repeat Tweet over the course of a few hours.  We heard it the first time, it just wasn’t that compelling.  It’s one thing to keep bringing up the same topic by adding something new – for example, when I talk about Greenfoot’s shows, I say that we’re sound-checking, watching the first band, etc.  I keep mentioning the show, but find ways to add value.
    I’m sure there’s plenty more, feel free to offer your “how to screw it up suggestions” in the comments.