How to avoid screwing up in 140 characters

This article was written for Social Media Lens, a collection of articles and anecdotes written by brands, businesses and influencers, and produced by digital agency immediate future.

Social Media Lens was launched at the Marketing Week Live Show this week. Download your free copy here.


We all know about the benefits of using social media.

Take Twitter for instance. Get it right and you can build your brand, improve your reputation, drive traffic, get new customers and grow your business.

But get it wrong and you can easily make yourself look like a…twit.

So what does it take to be successful on Twitter?

Have high standards
Make sure that every tweet is useful, interesting or at least mildly amusing. In fact, you should see everything you write as an opportunity to inform, engage and influence.

So prepare a list of topics that relate to your business or industry and only tweet or retweet about these core subjects. And be strict about this. Don’t wander off and start tweeting about the weather. People are busy. They haven’t got time for drivel. So don’t tweet about what you had for breakfast; the contestants on America’s Got Talent; or how cute and funny your cat is. Never, ever tweet about your cat.

Be nice
Seriously. Be nice. And open, honest, and friendly. Let’s throw generous into the mix as well.

When you retweet other people’s stuff, include a few of your own words at the beginning of the tweet: A must read, Good stuff, Funny, Disagree, Well written, Great post. You’ll find that people will retweet your stuff in return. Remember to thank them.

Answer questions. Be helpful. Do this and people will follow you, trust you and recommend you.

Oh and don’t hide behind a company logo or an abstract image. People want to see who they’re talking to. Use a real picture of yourself. Preferably one that doesn’t make you look like a second hand car salesman or a bunny boiler.

Don’t be a smartarse
Or a clever-clogs or a show-off. No-one likes a show-off. People don’t care about what clients you have or what projects you’re working on or how busy you are. Really, they don’t. Waffle on about great you are and it’s the quickest to get unfollowed.

And don’t cuss. In fact, don’t say anything you’d be embarrassed to say in front of your mother. Unless, of course, your mother is a 15 stone trucker with a fondness for Hell’s Angels tattoos.

Remember anyone, anywhere can read your public tweets at anytime. Once they’re out there, they’re out there for ever. So criticising a client is not smart. Neither is moaning about your boss or complaining about a co-worker. Only tweet something you’d be happy to say to someone’s face.

Social media isn’t rocket surgery. But it is social. Which means you’re going to have to interact with real people. So think about what you want to share, be nice about it and don’t be a smarty-pants.

  • Andrew Nattan
    Posted at 12:56h, 01 July Reply

    I like Tweeting about my cats!

    Other than that, great post!

  • Melanie
    Posted at 12:58h, 01 July Reply

    Fantastic post Sarah and spot on.

    Although I will confess I have tweeted about my cat, just once though promise. And, might have mentioned the weather…just once or twice!

    • Sarah Turner
      Posted at 13:20h, 01 July Reply

      Ha ha. Ok. You can tweet about cats. As long as it’s business related. “23 secrets my cat told me to help me grow my business by 135% in six weeks!”

  • Steve
    Posted at 14:33h, 01 July Reply

    If your cat’s giving you business secrets, you’re probably a bit mad.

  • Anthony Hewson
    Posted at 10:26h, 02 July Reply

    Actually, if your cat’s giving you business secrets, you can give up the business and sell the cat’s advice to OTHER businesses.

    Good post Sarah.

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