Guest Expressed: “How not to be a schmuck on Twitter”

Today I bring you a few tips from Nathan Pennington on how to avoid being a douchebag on Twitter. Enter Nathan:

For the longest time, I didn’t get Twitter, and I avoided it. Then someone told me something that is so obvious, I have no idea how I didn’t realize it earlier. Twitter is real life. Just because it’s on the internet and limited in characters doesn’t mean it’s different from how we interact in person. There is no alternate Twitter dimension.

What does that mean on a practical level? Well, when a pushy salesperson comes up to you determined to get you to buy, what do you do? Gladly buy everything that is shoved at you?

No, you look for a quick excuse to move on and get away. Yet many people on Twitter act like somehow they can be obnoxious and have long lasting success. Sadly for them, it won’t work out.

Here are four examples of how Twitter is abused that I see daily (followed by how it should be done).

1. Don’t tweet like six updates in a row, wait a minute and then tweet another four. It’s highly doubtful that you really had anything interesting to say. What you’re really trying to do is monopolize the conversation, and that’s transparent. You’re trying to make others timelines all you.

That’s just like the guy at the party who talks loudly and far to close (possibly even spitting into your face). What’s your natural reaction? You want to get away. Same thing on Twitter. Don’t be that guy.

2. Don’t spam your link every chance you get. It’s true, many people on Twitter are there for an ulterior motive. It’s not just a place to hang out; they’ve got something to plug. That’s cool if you know how to do it, but something I’ve seen too often is making a tweet and then including your URL like it was a signature.

Look, this is Twitter. There are only 140 characters. There isn’t supposed to be a signature (grin). It’s bad form to tweet something like, “Got up this morning and the sun is shining. checkoutmysite.com.” You give your followers a sensation that you are not sincere; you’re just in this for you and you smile and shake their hand, as long as you can slip them a business card.

3. Don’t be one-dimensional. Yes, you have something to promote, but don’t only talk and link to stories about that. Be human. It lets people really connect to you, which is what you want after all.

4. Don’t do a tweet that says “Buy my . . .” or “Check out my . . .” That’s just too hardcore and pushy. On top of that it makes you look needy, which drives people away.

Now, if you shouldn’t ever say, “Hey, buy my . . .”, how can you use Twitter to promote? Well, it’s actually easier than you might have thought. You do it by getting others to promote you.

How?

By not asking them. Yes, by not asking them. The only way to win someone over and get them retweeting your tweets and mentioning you and whatever it is you are promoting is if they like you.

And the only way they are going to like you is if you are helpful, fun, and conversational. In my opinion, most of your tweets should be replies to others. Encourage your followers. Joke a bit. Be fun and helpful. Then they will take interest in you.

I’ll say it again. Most of your tweets should be replies to others. Make it a conversation. Have fun.

Only then can you can post an update or something low-key about what you are promoting. If you’ve done your job, if you’ve made sincere friends, it will be retweeted and passed around.

Over the long term, if you do this simple thing (keep Twitter human and natural) will you do better (sell more of whatever you are promoting)?

Lots more, but here’s the difficult thing. Doing it the right way takes longer and the payoff is slower, albeit longer lasting by far. That’s why you see so many people pushing their own stuff frantically. It’s the “Pop-tart” culture of wanting everything now, or in five minutes at the latest.

If you’re going to use Twitter as a promotional tool, do it right and reap the full rewards.

Not surprisingly, you can actually find Nathan Pennington on Twitter. If that’s not your thing you can go directly to his website.

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