How To Look Stupid In 140 Characters

I wrote a post some time ago regarding how to lose twitter followers which was a slightly (read: very) tongue in cheek look at some of my least favourite mistakes people generally make on Twitter.

There’s something else which has been bugging me recently along the same lines. It’s dumb things to do in 140 characters or less. Or more specifically, dumb things local and micro businesses are doing.

I think there are two major reasons which I have come across when discussing, not just Twitter, but social media in general with micro businesses which are a huge source of frustration.

First of all the belief that all businesses need to have a social media presence. Now, this might be somewhat controversial, but if you’re doing social media wrong, is it worth wasting your time with it at all? I’m not sure it is.

Secondly, the most popular questions I’m asked about social media are “How many sales will it get me” or “What will this mean to my bottom line”. Whilst Twitter can help micro businesses make sales, it’s very difficult to directly attribute sales to social media in most cases. Once I have explained this many business owners have lost interest… But then join in anyway.

Anyway I promised you ways 140 characters can make you and your business look dumb. Here goes…

1.  When you get too personal

To be clear, I’m talking about accounts in the business name. They usually feature a profile picture of the business (shop/cafe/premises) and some bio about what the business does/sells/makes. So, if we’ve established these are business accounts, why are you using them like a personal account?

Do you really want your customers to know that you had a “HUGE” night last night and are hungover today?

Or what your political/religious preference is?

Or that Mark broke up with you and he’s such a jerk?


I’m all for giving your business a persona, but when it gets personal you’ve gone too far. Stop it. Stop it right now.

2.  When you disengage

Twitter is potentially a wonderful tool for businesses to connect to customers (and potential customers). But this does mean you have  to actually tweet, and reply to tweets too!

There are so many business accounts littering the twitterscape which just push information onto their followers (if they have any) and never actually engage in the conversation.

Twitter isn’t about forcing your message on the world, it’s about interaction, it’s about building trust and relationships.

Don’t be afraid to engage with your followers or those you follow! That’s what it’s all about!

3.  When you’re an ego maniac

We all like to hear positive feedback about our businesses and I think this is especially true of micro businesses where it’s a small team of people working really hard to establish themselves.

It’s easy to think that by RTing these comments you’re putting your business in a good light, sharing customers praise to other potential customers.

If you’re doing this once a week, or once every few days when you get an exceptionally great piece of feedback then yeah, sure hit the Retweet button. If however you’re doing this every day, or maybe even multiple times everyday then how do you think this looks to your followers?

I see this mostly with businesses who’re generally pretty good at using social media and I guess it’s due to this they receive a lot of great comments and feedback over twitter. But I really don’t need to see every single bit of it though. Thank the person individually for their compliment and leave it at that.

Which brings me on to my next point…

4.  When you gush

Publicly thanking other Tweeps. Why would you do that?

Maybe you’re thanking them for a follow or a retweet. Whatever it is you don’t need everybody to know about it.

When I say “Publicly” I mean rather than directly replying to the person so that only yourself and they can see it, you say something like “Thanks for the RT @sometwitteruser”.

Worse still, I’ve seen businesses who clearly set aside a few minutes each day solely for this purpose and what happens? You fill up your follower’s Twitter stream with a block of messages which are completely useless to them. #Unfollow.

5.  When you OD on hashtags

Don’t get me wrong, I love hashtags as much as the next twitter user. They’re great for organising and categorising tweets. Just don’t OD! One or two hashtags (tops!) is perfect. Any more than that and your message becomes difficult to read and you look like a spammer. Read Twitter’s own guidance on the subject, particularly…

  • Don’t #spam #with #hashtags. Don’t over-tag a single Tweet. (Best practices recommend using no more than 2 hashtags per Tweet.)

Couldn’t have said it better myself..

6.  When you ignore difficult customers

Twitter is potentially a wonderful customer service tool. But you HAVE to front up when difficult situations arise (and they will). If you receive a complaint or negative feedback via Twitter the worst thing you can do is simply hope that it will go away. They won’t.

It is possible though to turn a negative into a positive by acting fast! A quick turnaround in replying to a complaint is a good starting point to rectifying the situation.

7.  When you Sell, Sell, SELL!

I see this so, so often, especially from eCommerce sites. Every other tweet, or EVERY tweet in some cases is a pitch. “Have you seen our new super sexy toilet brush holder, just £29.99″ or “Check out our amazing new super shiny fresh air polisher now!”

Who want’s to read that? Not  me, and probably not anybody other than bots.

If you’re posting tweets in order to promote your products or services, every one in ten tweets is still probably too much. Something like one in 20 – 30 is more palatable for your followers. Well, me at least.


My previous post on this blog was discussing SEO myths so some of you might be slightly confused to see me talking about social media? In actual fact though the role of “SEO” really has changed over the past few years, especially if you are a consultant working with micro businesses.

Social media is a key element of effectively building relationships online which can bring fantastic opportunities for your website, and a few links too maybe. With Google also talking about social signals becoming a more and more important in the future Twitter is something you should consider for your business, but only if you do it right.

micro business actionToday’s Micro Action

Be honest. Are you making any of these 7 deadly sins? If you are, it’s time to stop.

Gaz Copeland

Gaz Copeland is the owner and creator of “Stoked SEO” the Stoke-on-Trent based SEO and Internet Marketing blog. A passion for creative link building, eCommerce and local SEO Gaz has worked as a consultant with hundreds of sites, on all kinds or platforms in many industries since publishing his first site all the way back in 1999.

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  1. I agree with most of your points Gaz. The only one I can really disagree with in any way is number 4. Publicly thanking people is fine. In fact, I think it demonstrates that you are not all one way traffic. I tend to notice people and companies who actually take the time to be human and acknowledge peoples efforts. So, if I do stuff for a company, and they never acknowledge me publicly, they are just taking taking taking, and keeping me in the background. Not cool. #Unfollow.
    Phil Gregory ⇜Zero1➚ ( recently posted..Basics Basics BasicsMy Profile

    • Hey Phil, great to hear from you 🙂

      I know what you’re saying and from your point of view it’s great to be thanked publicly and from time to time I don’t see a problem with it. However, what I’m talking about it that EVERYBODY is thanked, all the time. I don’t see much value in that for your followers, or for the person receiving the thanks
      Gaz Copeland recently posted..Why I share my drafts, and you should tooMy Profile

  2. Great Article Gaz!. I agree with all your points. One of my major turnoffs is people who just post links. If I don’t see interaction on the timeline, I won’t follow or quickly unfollow.
    Neil Maycock recently posted..SEO copywriting – Top 10 TipsMy Profile

  3. I agree with Phil’s point that thanking people is totally fine. However, I do agree that you can over do it. If you’re getting a lot of RTs…you don’t have to thank everyone publicly.

    I think the main challenges for microbusinesses is that very few understand social media to begin and whether they understand it or not, they don’t have a lot of time on their hand to properly manage their social marketing. As a result, they do what is simplest and easiest – blast their Twitter streams with links, their specials, etc. etc. Basically violating half of the rules set here.

    I would advise microbusinesses getting started to NOT worry about these rules. Keep them in mind, but don’t become overwhelmed and suffer from paralysis by analysis. Just take action! Once you get a better understanding of Twitter and become more comfortable with it, then fine tune your efforts by applying the great tips shared here!

    Travis Van Slooten
    Travis Van Slooten recently posted..5 Press Release Mistakes Your Business Should AvoidMy Profile

    • Hmmmm. I’m not sure I agree with you there Travis. Is it better to do something badly than not at all? You can do some real damage to your business by getting social wrong you only have to see the latest Twitter slip up to see that.

      Thanks for the comment!
      Gaz Copeland recently posted..Source Suppliers For Your Online Store In One HourMy Profile

    • Hi Travis

      One of the big things I advise people on is their Online Reputation Management, so as Gaz asked is it a good idea to setup a Social Media profile and to learn by making a lot of mistakes?

      Or is it better to sit down and write up some rules for you and/or your employees to follow when using the company social media profiles…

      I really feel that if you are going to invest time and money as a Micro Business you actually create some kind of strategy. A strategy that is going to make you stand out from the crowd a little bit, create a persona, setup RSS feeds to find content to share and use Twitter search to find people who are talking about you and your products.

  4. I just stumbled across your blog today, and I LOVE it! It is so refreshing to find someone else who has a sense of humor that comes across in their writing. Good stuff, man! Keep it coming.

  5. Ok, so I’m guilty of publicly thanking people for RTs. But I make sure to also add a question… Which might or might not be related to my tweet they shared. I’ve noticed that tends to work really well and it’s probably because I genuinely want to start conversation.
    Lorenzo recently posted..Funny Beliefs And Superstitions Of BelizeMy Profile

  6. Your second point re engagement or the lack of it particularly resonates with me. I don’t understand why companies just do the sell, sell, sell thing and don’t engage with anyone even if people are directly engaging with them. This to me says they really don’t understand the point of social media. The point is that it is ‘social’!

  7. Hi Gaz,
    Great post!, another stupid look for twitter are those that sent non stop dm’s. If you’re auto-DMing anyone who follows you, chances are you’re going to look spammy. Just because someone followed you doesn’t mean they want you to treat their Twitter accounts as if they signed up for your email list.
    Thanks for sharing this great post!
    Valentine Belonwu recently posted..6 Foolproof Tips for Boosting SalesMy Profile

    • Hey Valentine,

      Thanks for the comment, you’re right, that is an awful use of Twitter! I’m thankful that on the whole I’ve not come across anybody who does that as yet. If and when I do however I’ll be reaching for the unfollow button pretty quickly!

      Gaz Copeland recently posted..The future of SEO in 2013My Profile

  8. Gaz, this is a great post. And the title is very clever as well. I couldn’t help but click on it as I was scrolling through the bizsugar stories. You’ve given some great tips and I appreciate you sharing them with us. I must admit, when I first got started with twitter, I was one of those ones looking “stupid”. But as I’ve grown in my marketing, I’ve learned the “do’s” and “dont’s” of social media fairly quickly. Thanks again for sharing!

    Ti Roberts recently posted..[SEO Rebel Roundup!] Lady Gaga, Traffic Tidal Waves and more… Cowabunga dude 😉 …My Profile

  9. Great tips, Twitter is by far one of my favorite tool when it comes to online marketing thanks Gaz.
    Herby recently posted..Richard Zeitz CEO of Purzue: Your Career Starts HereMy Profile

  10. I don’t have a major issue with people sending out individual thank you tweets as long as it’s not a constant stream, which is what tends to happen every Friday morning when folks send out a bunch of #FF’s. My other pet peave is when SME’s have their Facebook and Twitter accounts linked and post a bunch of new photos to Facebook resulting in a flow of “I’ve just uploaded a photo to Facebook” tweets … Unfollow

    Nice blog btw, will have to stop by more often!
    Nick Rink recently posted..How to Generate Content Ideas Using HashtagsMy Profile


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  7. says:

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    Run a micro business? Looking to raise your profile with Twitter? Then please don’t make these deadly mistakes. They’ll make you look stupid….

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