5 Twitter Mistakes to Avoid

Steve Martin Social Media Strategist, Copperfox Marketing

Posted on December 4th 2012

5 Twitter Mistakes to Avoid

Image5 Twitter mistakes to avoid

My Twitter education came courtesy of trial and error. Like any tool, there’s a learning curve. Unfortunately, a mistake on Twitter is public and open to criticism at every turn. Many mistakes later, I decided to bring you a list of 5 Twitter mistakes that you can easily avoid. I hope these spare you some digital pain and lead to a more enjoyable experience for you, in 140 characters or less.

1. MT vs RT

MT vs RT
Here’s the skinny. If you’re just looking to RT and have enough room to send it as is, then let that RT fly out into the Twittersphere. However, if you are up against 140 characters and need to modify any of the original message, preface it as MT (modified tweet.) If you are adding your own copy before the RT, then don’t worry about adjusting it to an MT.

2. Mentions can silo exposure

Sometimes you may want to lead off a tweet with a mention (i.e., @TwitterHandle) and let the whole world see how clever and awesome you are. Makes sense. But did you know that if you lead a tweet with a mention, only those who follow both you AND the one you mention will see the tweet? Placing a period before the mention is the norm for overcoming this obstacle, but any character will suffice.

3. Experts and gurus

This may be my biggest bugaboo. If I see “expert” or “guru” in a profile, that’s immediate grounds for termination as a connection. No questions asked. I’m not the only one who thinks this braggadocios approach is annoying and meaningless. Who is ultimately choosing to follow someone because they titled themselves as an “expert” in their profile? How do we change this?

4. Not following back

Some accounts aren’t compatible and don’t make sense to follow back. This is the only legitimate excuse for a no follow. One excuse for a no follow that shouldn’t be tolerated is the quest for the coveted Twitter ratio. The Twitter ratio is the concept of having more followers than you follow. This pretense defeats the whole purpose of Twitter. If an account goal is to achieve a ratio of 1:2 then you’re doing it wrong. Follow those who are relevant or inspire you and the numbers will work themselves out.

5. Generic #FF

#FF is a great concept but has gone through some negative changes in the past year. It’s become a free for all (#FFA?) of just naming accounts and hoping for some new followers, providing little value. You could pick one account that you will #FF each week. Tell your followers why they earned that spot for the week. Another method is an elaborate version of the previous, but you could #FF all the meaningful contacts you’ve made that week. Tell each why they deserve that #FF status for the week. Although it’s a bit time consuming, it’s completely worth it. Strengthen your Twitter connections through sincerity and tact, and avoid looking like Twitter spam.

That’s it – my list of 5 Twitter mistakes to avoid. Here’s to a better Twitter experience for all of us!


Steve Martin

Social Media Strategist, Copperfox Marketing

Steve is the social media strategist at Copperfox Marketing, a full-service marketing communications agency in East Hyde Park, Cincinnati. Connect with him on Google+LinkedIn.

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Steve, thanks for explaining MT!

I could not figure it out for the life of me and I never would have thought M = modified. I'm still not too sure I'll use it that much because I'm not sure it matters to the original Tweeter. If someone changes my tweet because it's too long that's fine with me. I'd love to know how that impacts using MT has on things like Klout scores - for example does it hold the same weight as an RT?

I don't use "expert" or "guru" in my bio but I do use "ninja". I do it to add a little humor and I hope it comes off that way. 

Two years ago I set a following limit of no more than 1,000 people. In my mind there is just no way I can keep track of more than that. Whenever I get close to the limit I'll use a tool like Commun.it, JustUnfollow or even NutShell mail to prune my following. Sure there are a lot of people that have the same topical interests as me but who says I need to follow them all on Twitter? I'm active on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and more. Twitter is the only place I limit my following but it doesn't have anything to do with the ratio. It's just my personal perference.

Thanks for the post, I really enjoyed it. 

Hi Ileane. 

I'm not sure how MT impacts scores vs. RT. I feel compelled to mention that Klout is meaningless and faulty and I hope it goes away. That asid, I'll try to figure out the impact of MT on scores.

The ninja term is pretty humorous, kind of pokes fun at the "expert" and "guru" concept. Keep at it. Bring some humor into this digital world we're living in.

That's a great point. It's a huge challenge to have meaningful relationships once you get past a certain point. However, when managing brands, this is the factor that can set you apart as a great social manager. 

Thanks for reading and commenting, I really appreciate it.


One of the greatest mistake twitter users make is - they don't personal messages they post or I should say, their messages talk to robots, not human. There is no human voice in their messages.

Great point Kent. Let's make that number 6.

I don't follow people with the letters "SEO" in thier profile. period.    I also avoid people with large number of followers and matching following.  They are just about numbers not about interacting.  So if an individual (who usually posts nothing of real interest or value) has 15,898 followers and is following 16,998 they are playing the "followers game"....you follow a bunch of similar accounts...they follow back....if they don't you unfollow and just keep going...its an old trick to up your numbers and the dead giveaway is in the numbers.  Conversely I tend to avoid people with high followers and tiny following number (usually celebrities)  If they have 300,000 followers and only follow 5 people I just don't think they are going to be a lot of fun.  (unless we are talking about Cher...she is totally fun!  lol) 

I'd say 50% of the time your "SEO" rule is probably a good one to follow. However, I've made some great connections who have that title in their profile that aren't just about pushing content to me.

I'm not really into the numbers game. If they have a lot of followers, excellent. If they're following a lot or few, I don't really care. I tend to skip the profile stats (unless it says guru or expert, or something like that) and look at the content they are pushing out. 

I'd say 50% of the time your "SEO" rule is probably a good one to follow. However, I've made some great connections who have that title in their profile that aren't just about pushing content to me.

I'm not really into the numbers game. If they have a lot of followers, excellent. If they're following a lot or few, I don't really care. I tend to skip the profile stats (unless it says guru or expert, or something like that) and look at the content they are pushing out. 

ps. a great way to keep track of a large following is to fully utilize lists!  I use hootsuite to manage the lists because you can sort them into different tabs.  Certain lists I check every day, certain lists I follow during certain tv shows, certain lists I check for news, etc...  one list I have is for my kids friends!  shhhhh!  don't tell them - but its a great way to know what they are all up to!  I keep those lists private.  That said, there is a limit to how many tweeters you can legitimately follow and interact with. 

That's a great idea. Lists are completely underutilized and I'm part of the guilty party on that. Will definitely be working on some lists soon. Thanks!

Good thoughts, Steve. Wish I agreed with all your observations, but I've had the "follow back" discussion on many forums in the past. Many of us that don't follow back list people instead, which is a more impactful nod than follow. I've found listing is more powerful, especially when I send people an @reply telling them I am listing them for their expertise. Follow backs to just inflate other people's follower numbers are as empty as the arguement for not following to have a higher ratio. It's a personal preference and has nothing to do with anything when it comes right down to it. We know that follower numbers don't matter--only if you're a Klout disciple. Don't mean to be contrary but I think that whole idea of automatic follow backs is lame. I need to control the number of DMs I get--they are attached to an alert on my phone. Anybody I follow back can DM me.

Hey Chris. I think maybe my words aren't doing me any favors on the topic. So I'm going to try and clarify my points. Following or not following needs to be justified IMO. I'm not saying follow back everyone. I don't follow back everyone. I only follow back those who are relevant to conversation or have interesting points for that account. However, if it's easy to see the similarities between both accounts, then why not follow back? If a potentially meaningful connection only merits a list, then I think we must be using Twitter for different purposes. I absolutely understand the DM issue. I just posted about immediate grounds for removal when an auto DM is sent for a follow. Anyways, glad to hear your opinion. 

These are great tips for ways to get more Twitter users to see your tweets.

Thanks Qnary. Glad you enjoyed the post.

Same as Ileane, thanks for the input about MT (I thought that it maybe was shorthand for "mention", that's how far off the mark I was). However, I hardly use it, I try to acknowledge by inserting somewhere in my tweet the "via @etc_etc" of the info originator.

On the "follow" issue, however, I only follow people in my niche or with whom I am interested to interact because our respective professions complement each other, and sometimes I have unfollowed people I had been following when I notice that they make too many risqué jokes or comments in bad taste, because I for sure don't want to see those on "my" page. I am completely oblivious of numbers, that's not my purpose of being active in Twitter. I have met such nice and interesting peers and professionals through tweeting that I consider that as my greatest reward or raison d'etre for participating. I don't do much in other networks, outside of marking a presence, because otherwise I would not have any time left for actual work :=)! So my "follow" policy will not be influenced by numbers, nor will I automatically follow back any person that follows me. First I will study their profile, and if I find that what I find there will be interesting to share with my own followers, then and only then will I follow them back. I am sort of picky that way.

When I remember to assign #FFs to coparticipants, I usually try to insert something nice to show that it's me and not an automated robot that is doing the recommendation. I usually thank any #FFs that I get, and usually get thanked for any that I give out.



Simply put Nelida, you're doing it right! I think your approach to all of it excellent. Keep on rockin' Twitter. 

Thank you Steve, your opinion is much appreciated. It's always nice to hear that an experienced person approves of what you're doing. Have a splendid weekend!

You too Nelida. I'm no expert though :)

You will have noticed, that I carefully avoided using the "e-word" (expert) [LOL] and opted for "experienced" in lieu of that, which has a lot less hype, and a better connotiation all-around.