The Hostway Blog

To Tweet or Not to Tweet

Twitter can be a great marketing tool. But like all advertising, there comes a point when you cross the line and your messages start to become a little spammy. And Twitter and its users, rightly so, are sensitive to the potential for abuse.

Twitter defines spam as:

  • Creating lots of accounts or using automated tools to create accounts
  • Abusing the @reply function to post unwanted messages
  • Posting repeatedly about trending topics to try to gain followers
  • Repeatedly posting duplicate updates
  • Posting links with unrelated content
  • Follower churn — following and unfollowing lots of users

Most small businesses aren’t guilty of any of those things. The gray area is how much tweeting is too much? Sadly, there’s no set number of tweets you shouldn’t exceed. You need to use your common sense and put yourself in the shoes of your followers.

Don’t Forget the Social in Social Networking

Don’t become a one-trick pony. If all you have to offer are ads for your business, your followers will eventually dwindle or you’ll get reported as spam. You have to mix it up. Be sure your marketing efforts include conversation (give and take), support of other tweeters (retweet) when appropriate, interesting comments and links to things that are not on your Web site, and silence. Don’t tweet every five minutes.

Recurring Tweets

Some entrepreneurs have signed up with services like TweetAdder and SocialOomph, but beware. Services like these that allow users to pre-program and schedule tweets are becoming the bane of Twitter users everywhere.

In October of 2009, Twitter contacted and warned SocialOomph that recurring tweets were a violation of the Terms of Service. The message was loud and clear. Spam is not welcome here.

This didn’t stop the more inventive spammers, who have found ways to continue to rearrange or reconstruct their recurring tweets so that their ads are still sent, often. But, the writing is on the wall or, in this case, in the tweet. Twitter does not want their site “polluted” (as they called it) with repeated content.

Tweet Wisely

What does all of this mean for businesses who want to use Twitter as a marketing tool? It means you have to be careful about what you send and how often you send it. You can avoid this trap by being a good tweeter. Become actively involved in the community, and don’t just send off marketing messages to anyone who will listen.

  • Engage in conversations that don’t directly relate to your business or your products.
  • Provide interesting tidbits about things that aren’t your own sales.
  • Only use hashtags that apply to your tweet.
  • Use polling services like StrawPoll to get feedback on your Web site and services.
  • To get your customers to use Twitter and follow you, offer “Twitter specials” on your Web site.
  • Avoid the hard sell. Work your business into discussions organically whenever possible.

Like any other social network, if you want to get the most out of it, you have to put something into it. Twitter is still a viable marketing tool, but tweet carefully.