You’re Pissing Off Your Twitter Followers — Stop!

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spam twitter followers
Credit: Geek and Poke

Twitter is such an innocent little tool, isn’t it? After all, how much harm can you do in 140 characters? Actually, plenty! It’s remarkably easy to piss off your Twitter followers, and you might not even realize you’re doing it. No worries. I’m going to share some of the top ways you might be pissing off your Twitter followers here, so you can decide if certain kinds of tweets are really worth it. But first….

piss off twitter followers
Credit: BigStockPhoto.com

Why You Shouldn’t Piss Off Your Followers

“If they don’t like what I tweet, they can just un-follow me, so I can do whatever I want,” you might be thinking. Bullshit. I mean, okay, you can do whatever you want. But that doesn’t mean you should.

pointless little twitter messages
Credit: jmilles via Flickr

Your Twitter followers really do matter. They’ve invested themselves into mini-relationships with you on that platform. You’ve basically invited them to do so. How would you like it if your best friend called and asked you to come over, only to ignore you from the moment you got there? You’d probably be pretty pissed off. It was implied that your friend actually wanted to spend time with you. Instead, your time was wasted. It works the same way with Twitter.

Pissing off your Twitter followers can be a particularly bad thing if you’re using Twitter for business. After all, you want your target audience to connect with you there, right? Pissing them off shows them that A) you don’t know what the hell you’re doing and your business probably isn’t ready to use social media to connect with them and B) you don’t really give a damn about them at all — you’re there solely for you. Neither is something you want your audience (and potential customers) thinking about your company.

Now let’s get right down to it. Here are some of the easiest ways you can piss off your Twitter followers, whether you really mean to or not:

  1. Constantly post self-promotional links. — You wrote an e-book. Fabulous. Tell us about it once. Tell us about it once a day if you want to. But tell us about it once an hour or so and we’re probably going to start seeing you for the Twitter spammer you really are.
  2. spam twitter followers
    Credit: Geek and Poke
    Link to every single blog post you publish.
    — This is one of my biggest pet peeves. If I want to follow your company’s blog, I’ll subscribe to the friggin’ RSS feed. Twitter is supposed to be about personal updates — not a feed substitute (Don’t believe me? Read the Twitter Rules.) If you really must use those ridiculous automated tweets of all of your blog posts, then setup a separate Twitter account for people who want to use it to subscribe to your blog. Newsflash: not every one does, and those who follow it elsewhere probably don’t want to be inundated with your post links in multiple places.
  3. Post FourSquare updates to your Twitter feed. — Look. This might be fun if you’re using Twitter for more personal connections, but frankly I think it makes a lot of my colleagues look like complete jokes. It’s just another case of “oh my god, there’s another nifty tool I have to play with because I have no ability to distinguish the important from the useless.” Your followers likely don’t care where you are if it has nothing to do with them, and frankly I don’t care if you’re the “mayor” of Timbuk-friggin’-tu. One of my favorite PR colleagues, Judy Gombita, covered the FourSquare issue (@boresquare as she puts it) in much more detail over at the MediaStyle blog.
  4. Ask everyone to retweet your tweets. — Unless you’re trying to get more exposure for some noble charity or cause, asking people to RT your tweets just makes you look pathetic. Enough said on that front.
  5. Never respond to your followers. — Why is your business using Twitter (a “social” media tool) if you’re not going to be social at all? That’s just stupid. Sure, no one expects you to be able to respond to every tweet from every follower that’s directed at you, but make some effort to reach out. One of the easiest ways to alienate your followers (remember: they might be your customers) is to pretend they don’t exist. You probably did that just fine without joining Twitter.

Are these the only ways you might be pissing off your Twitter followers? Of course not. What’s considered acceptable will vary depending on how you use Twitter and what kind of followers you solicit.

For me (@queryfreewriter), Twitter is a way to give the readers of my freelance writing blogs a more personal glimpse of who I am. I’ll share post links if it’s something I think is worth featuring (and if it’s relevant to writers), but I don’t come close to sharing every post on my blog. I’ll talk about what I’m doing, but I’m not the type who’s going to ramble on about what I’m having for lunch every day. I respond to my readers. I ask them questions when I want input (about the blog, about writing, about freelancing, or about where I can buy something I can’t seem to find on my own). I share opinions, even sometimes harsh ones. But I’m not tweeting to try to attract clients or to try to attract new blog readers (although I do attract plenty of new blog readers through those more personal updates — for some reason it works well in my niche).

You have to figure out what is and isn’t appropriate for your audience. Go ahead and piss them off if you think social media is all about you. But when you finally get a clue, keep these tips in mind and you’ll improve your odds of forming truly meaningful Twitter relationships (if such things exist).

As a Twitter follower, what kinds of things do businesses do that really get under your skin? Do they post too much? Not enough? Do they ignore you? Do they send link after link about their products? On the other hand, what things have businesses done right on Twitter that have made you want to learn more about them (or spend money with them)?

34 COMMENTS

  1. While I don't disagree with most of your points, I think the bottom line is to set clear expectations with your followers through your profile.

    I don't mind when people post their every blog update (so long as it isn't excessive-in that case a separate twitter account is warranted) I have an RSS reader, but I rarely get to read a lot of it, and usually not in a timely manner so I appreciate the people I follow tweeting their content because I'm interested in them and what they have to say. I did a (very unscientific) poll a while back and a good chunk indicated they now use Twitter INSTEAD of a reader.

    Definitely agree on Foursquare and currently writing my own post about it, I love & use Foursquare all the time but I don't tweet about it–mainly because Foursquare can automatically add your Twitter followers who are also FS users to your FS friend's list. Therefore anyone who's my Twitter buddy and also on Foursquare is already getting updates, and if they aren't on Foursquare, it's probably because they don't care.

  2. There are some really good points here, particularly the foursquare one (and other specialized app updates), and the non-response one, too. I didn’t sign up for a one person show. I followed you because I want some input as well as some insight. My comments on where you’re the mayor aren’t really invited, even if it occurred to me to make them (which it won't). So why tell me? And no responses are just annoying. I don’t really need validation, personally. But, it is mannerly to respond to someone who talks to you in real life. So why not on Twitter, too?

    I’m not sure I’m with you on the inviting your friend over and then ignoring him metaphor. I don’t personally see Twitter that way, myself. To me, it’s more like inviting your friend over for a party that you yourself are attending, with the expectation that there will be other interesting people there for him or her to talk to as well (one’s other followers). I may not get a chance to talk to you, or possibly not as often as you’d like. But, the party I’ve invited you to might mean that you get to talk to someone other than me who may be even more interesting than I am.

    Also, where I see that using a tweet stream as an endless parade of blog posts one has written is obviously crossing the line, I’m not sure that posting links to all blog posts is bad. Provided that these tweets are supplemented by real engagement, I think tweeting blog posts answers the question that Twitter poses: what are you doing? Well, Twitter (and followers), I’m thinking about this issue, and I’m taking this action, which I’ve described in my blog post here. I think that’s perfectly within bounds.

    Thanks a lot for the post!

  3. I agree with this blog post 100%. My pet peeve is that there are those post nothing but business 100% of the time. Make yourself personable – we all drive, eat, and interact with friends and family on a regular day. Share those experiences with your followers – it makes you real.

  4. It all makes sense to me! We need not forget about the miracle of twitter. People are people, I personally like to be entertained and talked to! Isn't it what life is all about?

  5. Great perspective of Twitter use. I don't agree with all the points, but that's the beauty of the simple little media — Twitter can be used in many ways, to achieve many objectives, and can be evaluated from many different perspectives.

    For example, I *do* like to get news and product announcements from orgs. with Twitter feeds — because I prefer the 'realtime' nature of the media. I follow those orgs and generally benefit from their tweets.

    And as you point out, Twitter is democratic — it's a democratic media. If I don't like the way someone is using the channel, then I can remove them from the channel (unfollow) and yet still benefit from the media. Unfortunately I can't really apply this to telemarketers…somehow they don't understand that I don't want their phonecalls. Sigh.

  6. Thanks! This was honest to the bone. But the question is still there for me. More and more businesses are going to Twitter. I guess I don't really care what people had for breakfast and if I'm following a mom blogger, or PR folks, media folks or members of our site I do appreciate links and I read them. I clicked on this right?

  7. You definitely make some good points. Like some of the other comments, I really don't give a hoot about GeoTagging. In fact I recently did a post about the danger of it. I wouldn't want my daughter telling the world where we live.
    And the “I'm at <insert a store> on such and such a street”, is nothing but annoying.
    On the other hand, tweeting your blog post once, I see a a good thing. Once is the key for this.
    I would add two major things that make me unfollow someone in an instant. Religion and politics. How arrogant and presumptuous to assume that I want to know anything about these things. Might as well tweet about your sexual preference – I imagine some do that as well.
    Thanks for a good post.

  8. Good post….the only part I did not like is the best friend analogy. Tweethearts are cool people on Twitter but the relationship is NOT the same as a friendship with a best friend. The problem is that the relationships are perceived as the same without the history or emotions that make friendships. That is the bigger issue. Friends lists ? friendships. However, simple respect and good communication would require that a twitter stream not be all self promotion and involve concern for other Twitter users.

  9. Here is another point you might add. Don't use profanity. I have unfollowed several simply because they were not creative or capable enough to make their point without reaching into the gutter for a word.

  10. All excellent points that many followers tend to forget (or perhaps choose to forget). I especially agree with #2. One of the 1st things I do when deciding to follow (or not) is look at their potential website and any posts. I find it gives me a better idea about following.

  11. @Rob and Trudy– The analogy wasn't necessarily to Twitter as a whole, but more specifically when people follow you first (which implies an invitation to connect and start a relationship with that person via the platform), and then ignoring those who actually do return the follow and try to engage in conversations.

    As for the blog links, yes some people do like to use Twitter in place of an RSS feed. Then again, some people like porn. Doesn't mean you should go around posting adult links for all of your followers to see. If some of your followers would want to follow you in that way, there's nothing stopping a business from setting up another account solely for that purpose without pissing off the rest of their followers. It's one thing if it's obvious up front that's all a business is using Twitter for (in which case they have a lot to learn about social media). It's something else entirely when you don't have an option to get the more personal updates that do exist without also being force-fed the same links you're getting elsewhere (or don't want). Interesting links to other places? Good thing. Constantly linking to your own site every time you want to announce you opened your mouth? Not such a good thing.

    @Brad – The problem with the “well just unfollow” argument is that it forces followers into an all or nothing position — and that's not good for the businesses attempting to use social media to connect with their customer base. If a business is using Twitter to connect on a more personal level with customers, then customers shouldn't have to weed through a bunch of other crap to find that interaction that's implied. Like I mentioned above, there's absolutely no good reason for companies to make customers choose — personal interaction with lots of stuff you may not give a rat's ass about, or skip us altogether — when there's a simple solution for giving followers options.

  12. @Jennifer — good points, and perhaps too specific. Twitter is a broad media where everyone is a broadcaster with an audience that can choose to listen, or not.

    I think I use Twitter differently than you do, and because of that, I have different expectations of the experience.

    Depending on the company, and it's online 'personna', I may well expect to get frivilious tweets in their stream – it's who they are, what they do, and how they act. In many ways, it endears me to them as it puts a more human face on a company.

    But as a broadcasting entity, any company cannot expect to please everyone that may be tuning in to the tweets. While I may appreciate the products and services of a company, it's twitter stream may not appeal to me. So I unfollow that stream and choose to interact in another medium – phone, web, email, brick & morter etc.

    Ultimately it's the listener's decision to follow or not. The best we can hope for is that we remain true to our mission and objectives, and hope that it aligns with the needs of our followers. And not be afraid of pissing off a few by not compromising ourselves.

  13. I want to hug this post. I want to make out with it. Let's be best friends slash make out buddies forever, okay? Seriously, I can't tell you how many people I just purged from my feed because they were constantly promoting/never responding/etc etc. I don't think tweeting about every blog post is bad if you only post, say, once a day. As long as you talk about other stuff (the other 75% of your tweets) that is. It's all about balance, man. The one thing that keeps me from railing on the crazies is that Twitter is still “newish” so some people are still trying to find that perfect ratio of personal and self promotional tweets.

    One thing I'd like to add though is that I can't STAND people who follow you, then (because you're nice) click on them to see what their all about and they've blocked their damn tweets! Ummm…. hello?!?! Why would I want to follow you if I can't see if you're worth following? I don't. And that's why you have 2 followers dummy.

  14. I liked reading your post…. I thing I want to make you notice, please increase the font size of your post, I had some problems reading it at a go. Although am not that aged, but people with spects are bound to have problems with the font-size!!! 🙂

  15. You're so right! Many people use Twitter the wrong way. I like your “mini-relationship” comment. Wouldn't it be nice, if when someone posts a Tweet that deserves attention (ie) a lucid reply (based on a keyword phrase or timely RT) an alert would be sent to your box. I've not seen this functionality yet, but I suspect some techie type will create this needed mini-app.

    Like others have mentioned, before I Follow a new person, I find myself clicking their Favorites, Lists, source of their Tweets and website/blog. If all their Tweets are API generated, I pass. If their URL is a Bit.ly link, I pass. If they have a poorly worded bio, I pass. In short, I used to Follow most who followed me, but that's all changed of late.

    Nowadays, unless they have some sort of association in my niche Social Media MarketingI find myself being somewhat of a Twitter snob and prefer not to add them to my SMM circle.

    I pretty much follow the same set of criteria with my Facebook Fans, albeit, my benchmark is a little more strict with FB v. Twitter.

    PS: glad I happened upon your Blog. I happen to like candid, intelligent people like you.

  16. Hmmm…I agree with all of these ways to piss off your twitter readers/followers except the one about asking for RTs. Maybe I'm “pathetic” but this is one of the ways I use Twitter – to pass things on for friends and have them do the same for me.

    Is that wrong?

    Am I totally out in left field?

    Social media, to me, is about sharing things that you feel are worth sharing. I guess one of the best ways to not be a complete DB is to not JUST pass on your own stuff. If you find a great article while researching your industry, PASS IT ON.

    If you write a great article that you feel will help answer a common question, PASS IT ON and ask your friends to pass it on too.

    As long as you keep things in balance, I don't feel asking people for help in passing on your content is against the rules.

  17. Same with me – I use TwitterFeed.com to post new blog links and see some of the bigger names in the blogging industry do the same.

    Like Rob said, if the Twitter stream is PURE blog posts or RT's of your own stuff, that's one thing; but if it's mixed with actual responses to client questions, RT other people's stuff, posting funny pics, etc., I think blog posting is ok.

  18. Hey Jennifer,

    I think Twitter is chaotic. I mention this in defense of tweeting my blogposts. The messages that are being broadcast are so heavy, I find it hard to believe anyone notices the 2 or 3 tweets I do a day.

    I think if Twitter were being used as a mobile texting platform for a small group of friends or family, like <50, the knuckle head that tweets constantly would get old quick.

    But Twitter has become a marketing tool, and we are using it the way we use everything, numbers. Your post is strong, and I like the list. I just think we are evolving, and all of us are stepping on each other as we discover how the social web will become effective for ourselves, and our clients.

  19. I also forgot to mention that there are so many Twitter related tools, we are all stepping on ourselves. I have to remember to check that I do not have redundant sites tweeting the same post.

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