Lee Odden

50 Ways to FAIL On Twitter

twitter tipsLike many others, I scoffed at Twitter when I first heard of it. What use could sending short messages to people I don’t know be?  The mental leap from IM and Facebook status updates to Twitter makes it easier, but business use seemed pointless at first.  As I noticed more of my Search, Social and PR industry peers using Twitter, it seemed a good idea to test out.

While I don’t have a million followers, or even 100,000, I’ve found out that for my purposes, quality is the key and the 13k or so followers I am lucky to be associated with are appreciated a lot more. Being strategically useful and helpful builds trust, attracts influential followers (vs bots and spammers) and results in a new channel for social networking.  Individual tweets may or may not be useful, but when you add them up over time, a bigger picture emerges.

Twitter Marketing tips are not hard to come by. Ease of use combined with the overall ease of publishing online makes available more than enough advice on using Twitter as a consumer as well as for brand monitoring, marketing, customer service, real-time search, competitive intelligence and even direct sales.

Yes, there’s plenty of advice on what you should do with Twitter, but based on increasing mis-behaviors, there are many ways to fail.  Below is a list of 10 “Don’ts” on Twitter from me, followed by 40 more provided by the smart Tweeple who responded on Twitter :

  • Don’t auto reply follows with a link to your free piece of crap ebook. This sentiment is shared several times below.
  • Don’t provide an obscure description of who you are and what you do
  • No photo or an image that only makes sense to you and your imaginary friends
  • Don’t mention a great resource with no link
  • Not customizing your background
  • Don’t post 10 messages in succession (also repeated below)
  • Don’t follow over 1000 people in a 2 hour period
  • Don’t write about the cat/hamster/potted plant over and over again
  • Don’t swear often and expect business people to take you seriously (Unless you work for Outspoken Media)
  • Don’t over-abbreviate.

Here are a few “Twitter FAIL” tips from Tweeple following @leeodden

  • @glenngabe DON’T tell people on the public timeline that someone else is on vacation.  Saw this happen last week… Can get a house robbed!
  • @glenngabe DON’T reply on the public timeline when you meant to DM (or when it should be a DM…)
  • @cyandle don’t retweet EVERYTHING… 🙂
  • @kholloway Don’t expect me to follow you if you have 0 updates
  • @aimclear DO research content you recommend, add value to the bookmark, Success is gained by offering value, Friends made by being a friend.
  • @aimclear Don’t compliment gratuitously in public
  • @shelisrael  Don’t tell people not to do something on Twitter. It will just give them ideas.
  • @kenburbary Obvious but annoying, DON’T auto DM spam (also mentioned by @CarrieHill @Justin_Freid @NicoleElise)
  • @RonArden Twitter don’ts: don’t send spam and don’t send me ads for things. This is the quickest way to get me to unfollow someone.
  • @doctordns Just don’t be stupid – some people will take whatever you write and use it against you. If not now, then when you least expect it!
  • @JeremyMeyers “don’t” spend all your time on twitter talking about twitter (also mentioned by @timjahn)
  • @thelostagency dont tweet broken links, and if you are retweeting check link is accurate and not spam/broken 🙂
  • @rickburnes Don’t pretend that Twitter alone is a marketing plan (you only get referrals from Twitter if you have great content to refer to).
  • @steveplunkett don’t ever argue.. in writing on twitter…
  • @Aerocles Don’t tweet breaking news that’s more than one hour old, we’ve all heard/seen it already
  • @KateOnline Don’t take credit for tweets that did not originate from you (also mentioned by @matthewdiehl)
  • @glager Dont report on every piece of news you can get your hands on
  • @kimgarretson Don’t tweet about your need for coffee in the mornings. This has moved past cliche to downright irritating.
  • @Ms_Write Test links before tweeting them. Nothing worse then a dead link.
  • @MBenti Before you use twitter for your business b/c it’s the “thing to do”, take time to observe and figure it out for yourself.
  • @Zarniwhooper Don’t retweet something and leave off the original Twitter poster. Always give credit to those who wrote it first.
  • @KaseyInCharge here’s a “don’t”: don’t talk about ways to increase followers. so annoying. people are here for conversation…
  • @AmberGallihar Don’t repost the same tweet more than three times. We saw it.
  • @Zarniwhooper Don’t say anything that could get you fired or prevent you from getting a job.
  • @Zarniwhooper Don’t be boring. A simple rule is “Never tweet about food or the weather. And never your bathroom habits. Seriously. Never.
  • @steveplunkett no foul language in same tweet as a URL. (SafeSearch Anchor text)
  • @Saudiqua Don’t tweet emotional rants!
  • @bobmutch ya don’t share stuff you are doing or going to do that is too personal
  • @melaniemitchell don’t sell to people who don’t care about what you have to say.
  • @michaelpearsun Don’t worry about your follower count. It’s about quality.
  • @michaelpearsun Don’t let spammers into your feed
  • @marrina Re-tweet of a re-tweet. So annoying.
  • @patiomensch First, you must call it a list of “don’ts”  (ah, the spelling Fail)
  • @EstrellaBella10 Don’t post multiple back-to-back updates on Twitter. Many people have complained about that.
  • @myklroventine Don’t try to explain it to Letterman
  • @imeldak Don’t join things that gets you thousands of ‘instant’ followers. Quality of followers is always better than quantity
  • @anon Don’t post a link to a picture of yourself with a large knife, especially if you are a governor
  • @anon Responses to ethics charges are probably best left for a forum where you can respond with more than 140 characters

Last, but not least: @marrinaHelp compile a list of “dont’s” for Twitter

That should get our “What not to do on Twitter list” party started. What are your Twitter dont’s?

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Avatar Christine Fife says

    Lee, as one of your followers on Twitter, I appreciate that you follow your own suggested Don’ts!

    My company has recently started sponsoring a new online marketing community and forum site, Marketing’s Market Conversation, and I’ve added this as a forum topic with a link to your blog post. I hope others will add their don’ts here to your blog post and join us in the community/forum to add them there as well.

    Marketing’s Market Conversation includes a blog aggregator, Twitter stream, and list with links of some of the biggest thought-leaders in the marketing industry–you of course are on that list.

    The forum post linking to this blog post

    Thanks for all your insights!

    • Thank you for that insight Christine and for the link to the community you’re working with. I’ve changed it to an anchor test link so the url doesn’t mess with alignment.

  2. Avatar Stacy Lukas (@damnredhead) says

    DON’T take Twitter (or yourself) too seriously. DO be human and have fun!

  3. Defraud the Iranian election. That makes them REALLY angry

  4. Don’t Tweet while driving – can be considered text messaging, which is illegal while driving in some states 

  5. Don’t crowdsource articles without linking the usernames of people who you thank for replying 😉

    • Malcolm, if you would like to volunteer adding those a hrefs to each entry, the community will appreciate your contribution 🙂

  6. Don’t try to slip in affiliate links to your Tweets
    Ultimately it’s not worth a few extra dollars for the risk of ruining your credibility. Even using full disclosure, it potentially chips at a well-earned reputation, something far more valuable.

  7. Don’t tweet about going to the bathroom. That’s just not needed.

  8. I thought you might say that 😉

    However, when I did this: http://www.malcolmcoles.co.uk/blog/best-time-tweet/

    you’ll see a lot of linked tweets at the end.

    I did it fairly quickly using Excel – setting up some formulas that took the username and added the HTML around it.

    So I wrote a cells with the a href=””, then a cell with the usernames, and then the closing HTML. With a few @s and commas added for good measure, and a bit of copying and pasting, it didn’t take long. Then I pasted it all into the HTML view of wordpress. Voila!

  9. Don’t have an automated Twitter feed that they obviously don’t check. For example, some HR experts push the keyword “resume,” but that often serves up unrelated news links like “Obama resumed push for …” or “Death penalty resumed.”

    • I think automation in general (but not always) isn’t a good idea on social media sites. Automated = impersonal. Social web = personal.

      • I don’t mind if the automated feed is highly targeted, relevant and fits me perfectly, but how often is that? Close to never, so you are right.

  10. My personal don’ts that will cause me to unfollow you:

    Don’t retweet when others praise you.
    Don’t thank people over and over again, and lots of them at once.
    Don’t excessively participate in #followfriday with lists and lists of people to follow.

  11. Don’t have canned responses to keyword mentions. If someone says “family reunion” in a Tweet, they probably don’t want to buy your event-planning product suite.

  12. Don’t attribute the loss of a follower or two to your recent rant about your least favorite carpet cleaning product.

  13. This one cannot be overstated:

    “Don’t swear often and expect business people to take you seriously”

    …that a real turn-off in any form of social media as people know you’re a bit of a lose cannon (or just have zero manners)

  14. Avatar Gail Nelson says

    Just wondering, how many folks have not transgressed at all, based on this list of Twitter rules and pet peeves? I plead guilty to at least one, maybe two: Lots of tweets in a short period, and thanking multiple folks for RTs in one (I thought efficient?)tweet.

  15. Hopefully the people that do these things are reading this and making changes, and it’s not just all of us venting!

    Another thing I don’t understand is why people just do an update with a bunch of @username replies with nothing else said. Wtf? I suppose it’s for follow friday, but just say something about the people you are referring. Are they great retweeters, informative marketers, funny, whatever…

    Another suggestion, when you reply to a post someone made, try to let them know which one of their posts you are replying to. A reply that just says “great quote” or “I agree with you” is so vague that I can’t tell which post you thought was great or agreed with without researching..which means time & time is precious.

  16. Avatar Kelley Marie Mitchell says

    Here’s my don’t: DON’T tell me what to do on Twitter. I certainly agree with the spam, security/safety comments and replies, but the some of the rest just sound prissy.

    1. “No customized background” That would be nice to have but it is hardly a Twitter Fail.
    2. “Don’t tweet breaking news that’s more than one hour old, we’ve all heard/seen it already”. We have??? Some of us only get to log into Twitter only once a day.
    3. “Don’t tweet about your need for coffee in the mornings. This has moved past cliche to downright irritating.” People do this to help describe how they are feeling which is ok with me.
    4. “Don’t be boring. A simple rule is Never tweet about food or the weather.” Then none of us should tweet about our jobs, spouses, or what were doing at all because to someone it will be boring. Not every tweet will be exciting to everyone.
    5. “Re-tweet of a re-tweet. So annoying.” Not at all, this can be a great way to find new followers because those retweeters are typically a like-minded people.

    Sorry Lee. I think this post was filled with too much negative connotation even if most of it didn’t come from you.

    For a more positive post see Chris Brogan’s You’re Doing It Wrong http://www.chrisbrogan.com/youre-doing-it-wrong/

    • Thanks Kelley, while the tone of a Fail/Don’t post is naturally going to be negative, I tried not to judge the contributions people made just like I’m not judging your reaction to them. Beauty as it were, is in the eye of the beholder. This is a social web and the opportunity to express opinions as well as agree/disagree is what makes it a useful communication tool.

    • I agree with Kelley and Gail. Tweet spam gets old, yes, but too many rules turns Twitter into an exercise in OCD.

  17. Twitter is less popular than Facebook in our region. I’m still wondering what Twitter uses up to nowSo I find this explaination is very useful. Thank you.

  18. Avatar Michelle Peer says

    Don’t include hash tags that have nothing to do with your tweet. It won’t make me want to follow you – quite the opposite.

    • Avatar Tony Krabill says

      One caveat on that. A hashtag with more than one word or name needs to be compounded or connected by an underscore. I’ve made that mistake a couple of times. During Sotomayor hearings, I created Lindsay Graham hashtag. Of course, it just came “Lindsay” and it brought up a bunch of Lindsay Lohan tweets!

  19. Avatar Denise Baker says

    I, too, am guilty of a few of these (don’t RT a RT and don’t update back-to-back). As with any don’t list, I consider what works or doesn’t work for me and continue on with what makes me comfortable (and a few updates about my cats seems to please a least a few of my followers!) 😉

    Thanks for the list, Lee.

  20. You might add, “don’t profess to know more about Twitter than others, as we are all learning together”

  21. With the uprise of Twitter comes a whole new way of communicating and a new set of “Do’s and Don’ts”. The lists I have read online are almost endless, but this one gives some pretty standard Tweeting Rules that should be followed.

  22. Excellent post and list. I just want to point out and make it simplify. Twitter users should not lie. It’s a place to socialize and share the good things. It’s a give and take system.

  23. Avatar Bennie Stark says

    I do twitter most of the times, but I also opened up myself into some other social bookmaring sites that can help me build traffic in for my site.

    Twitter is quite fun but of course, too much is always bad. Tweet and Live, Live and Tweet. 🙂

  24. I agree with most of the points on this list. I laughed out loud, literally, to “Don’t auto reply follows with a link to your free piece of crap ebook. This sentiment is shared several times below.”

    And here’s a thought: If you don’t like what a person is tweeting, stop following them. Done.

  25. This is a great post for those starting in social media and considering this channel to promote their business or organization. Social Media is very similar to SEO in the sense that if you over do it you’ll get penalized. The difference is in SEO you get penalized by search engines and in Social Media you get penalized by your own audience ouch!

  26. So far the best Twitter tip post I’ve ever encountered. I have to bookmark this page now 😉

  27. Avatar Willie Plasencia says

    If certain people are pissing you off…unfollow them.

    Not all of us were born to tweet.

    Great post!

  28. Avatar Paul Wilson says

    Hey Lee

    Awesome post!

    That is an awesome list you’ve got here. I think we’re all a bit guilty of posting stuff that annoys the heck out of people occasionally 🙂

    Adding you to my rss!

    Talk soon


  29. Excellent list
    though I’m guilty of tweeting while driving (in my defense, texting probably saved me from a speeding ticket lol -you’d have to read my blog to see what I’m talking about)
    Love the info here!

  30. Avatar David McMahon says

    Thanks Lee! Although, I have not fully maximised the use of Twitter for my business, it’s always good to know the things I should avoid doing.

  31. Great list! I think many people when they first start on Twitter they are not too sure just how they should be approaching the website and how it would work for them.

  32. Avatar Debra Wier says

    Good points! I didn’t really understand the power of Twitter until recently. There are two things that I’ve noticed to be somewhat annoying and perhaps a bit obsessive. They are:

    1. People who post back-to-back-to-back updates several times a day. Don’t these folks have a life?

    2. TMI. People who tell you everything they are doing, every minute of the day. Way too much unimportant information.

  33. Any one have suggestions about how to sort through all the irrelevant tweets?

  34. Avatar Jill Whalen says

    Rachael yes. Just unfollow those that mostly talk about stuff you’re not interested in.

    • Nothing like throwing the baby out with the bathwater, eh Jill?

      Rachael, if someone is consistently Tweeting garbage, then follow Jill’s advice and unfollow. If they’re spamming you, then block them.

      Otherwise, you can use tools like Seesmic desktop or Tweetdeck to manage what you see on Twitter by grouping your followers.

  35. Wow…so many top tips and twitting advice on tweeting. I think I’ll tweet these tweet tips on tweeter.

  36. No TUI (Twitting while Under the Influence) should be added to the list. Once your tweet is out there someone will see it and blaming it on the alcohol (or whatever influencing you) is no excuse. 🙂

  37. You obviously put a lot of work into that post and its very interesting to see the thought process that you went through
    to come up with those conclusion. Thanks for sharing your deep thoughts. I must admit that I think you nailed it on this one.
    I’m new to the blogging business. I’d love to learn more about this topic. I’ve bookmarked your blog. Looking forwards for your new posts.

  38. Avatar Livemercial Sarah says

    This is great research and information! Being somewhat new to Twitter myself, I'm glad I came across this post. I would have NEVER guessed some of the definite 'don'ts' and I'm sure I would have annoyed some people making these mistakes along the way. Thanks!

  39. Avatar Livemercial Sarah says

    This is great research and information! Being somewhat new to Twitter myself, I'm glad I came across this post. I would have NEVER guessed some of the definite 'don'ts' and I'm sure I would have annoyed some people making these mistakes along the way. Thanks!