Twitter Best Practices for Social Media Marketers (Updated 2010)

August 7th, 2010 by Steve Latham Leave a reply »

twitter birdFor 2+ years I’ve been advising clients on how to use Twitter as a marketing platform.  Surprisingly, it seems that most brand marketers still don’t get it.  With the goal of doing my part to help the industry master this channel, I’m sharing my best practices for Twitter Marketing.  While these may not be comprehensive, they will provide you with 90% of what you need to be proficient at building your brand via Twitter.  In order of priority – here is my list. Enjoy!

Twitter Best Practices for Social Media Marketing (according to @stevelatham)

1. Brand Your Profile
Before you start tweeting, make sure your profile is appropriately branded.  Update your profile, including a tight summary of who you are and how you distinguish yourself.  Include your URL and use a pic that can be identified when viewing a stream on a mobile device.  You can now find personalized Twitter backgrounds for cheap so there’s no excuse not to have one (see ours here).

2.  Provide Interesting and Engaging Content
While Tweeting is easy, it’s important that you do it right, starting with a solid content strategy.  Content recommendations include:

  • Based on approved content guidelines, create Tweets that are engaging and relevant to target audiences.  It should be easy for potential followers to see that your tweets are valuable and worth reading.
  • Introduce your content.  People often provide links to articles without any explanation as to why it might be relevant to the reader.  I always try to provide my take on whatever it is I’m linking to.  I’d recommend you do the same.
  • Write tweets that will be shared.  Rather than simply posting links, introduce links with compelling copy that encourage clicks.
  • Allow time to pass between each tweet (at least 15 minutes) for several reasons: 1) no one likes to have their dashboard of tweets dominated by one account, 2) if someone is not watching they are likely to miss them, 3) spreading them out demonstrates consistency that yields brand benefits.
  • Limit Tweets to 120 characters so they can be easily re-tweeted without exceeding the 140-character limit. See “120 is the new 140” from @BrianSolis for more tips.
  • Leverage real-time search by prominently including buzzwords that will picked up by Google, Bing and other search engines.
  • For more on Content Marketing check out @juntajoe and his blog.

3. Remember! Engagement = Listening + Responding
Social media is about interacting, and you can’t do that if you’re not listening.  In addition to listening for your brand mentions, you need to keep an eyes on what your network is tweeting about and participate in the discussion.  Here are some tips:

  • Use tools to track when your profile or brand is being mentioned on Twitter.  Tools include as well as the SM monitoring tools mentioned previously.
  • Use the native search feature in your Twitter management tool to follow topics that are of importance to you.  For example, I have a search column in Hootsuite for “Social Media Strategy“.  This is how I keep up to date on the latest tweets on this subject.
  • When your brand is being mentioned in a positive way, RT the message, follow and recognize the person who tweeted about you.
  • Acknowledge mentions.  Monitor when your Twitter account name is mentioned and RT to thank, and/or acknowledge those who are mentioning you.
  • Build credibility and goodwill with your followers by re-tweeting (RT) posts that will be of interest to your audiences.  If you RT a follower’s post, they may acknowledge the RT to their followers, thereby promoting you in the process.

When your brand is being mentioned in a negative way, you can either 1) respond, or 2) ignore it.  If you choose to reply, consider the risks, given the nature of their tweet, their motives and their objectives. A confrontational response is rarely successful.  If you want to address a customer complaint, ask them follow you so you can then send a DM and take the conversation offline.  As mentioned above, ignoring the mention is often best.  You can inadvertently cause much greater damage if you engage in a public scuffle with a crazy person.

4. Building a network of followers
Without a network there is no reach, and without reach there is no ROI.  Contrary to most hopes and beliefs, networks do not build themselves; if you want followers, you have to work on it.  The good news is that with Twitter, the process is relatively easy.  When you follow someone, they will receive an email notification.  Currently, the normal etiquette is to respond by following the person who followed you.  Judicious tweeters will read your latest tweets to determine if your content is worth following.  If the content is good, most will follow you back – at least for a while.

  • Start with your own employees, partners, vendors and community.  Announce your new Twitter account and ask employees to follow and share with others.
  • Identify the top 50 influencers in your category on Twitter as these people can provide visibility and credibility for your brand among their networks of followers. Use, and to find users with shared interests.  Look for those who have large numbers followers and are active in sharing their opinions with the masses (aka influencers).
  • Follow people who follow your Influencers.
  • Include a link to your twitter account in email, on your site, on all social networking sites and in all correspondence.
  • Remember to maintain a favorable ratio of Following / Followers of +/- 1:1. While building your network, take time to check out who you are following that is not following you back at  For each person who is not following you, you can either: 1) stop following for good, or 2) unfollow and then re-follow.  If they do not respond on your 2nd attempt to reach out, you may consider unfollowing them for good.
  • Be careful with TwitterBots (AutoFollow) tools.  As you’ll quickly learn, building a network takes time.  If you are interested in using an network-building service, make sure  you use a credible tool or service that follows Twitter best practices. Failure to do so will result in suspension of your account.  While there are a lot of cheap bots that to avoid, there are some services that work (full disclosure: we offer one that works well).  Before you buy, do your homework and ask for references.

5. Managing Multiple Accounts
Many marketers maintain at least two types of Twitter accounts – one for their company and one for their personal tweets.   Twitter management tools (my favorite is HootSuite) allow you to manage multiple profiles.  Since many may follow your personal and work accounts, make sure you don’t tweet the same content at the same time.  Another common practice is to RT your company tweets from your personal account.  Remember that many will follow your brand and personal profiles, so make sure you space them out (no simultaneous tweeting!).

Common Twitter Mistakes to Avoid
Here are some common content mistakes many marketers make when Tweeting:

  • It’s all about me!!!  Too many still use social media a megaphone vs. a telephone.  Success requires that you listen, engage and interact with others in the community.
  • Using social media as a press release distribution platform.  While there are sites that are great for press releases, this should be the exception, not the norm.  As noted, conversations require an exchange of information.  If all you do it tell the world about your firm, audiences will grow tired of listening.
  • Boring content.  You should always seek to include and introduce links to video, articles, audio and other media that will be interesting to audiences.
  • Vague content. Doesn’t it bug you when someone posts a link with a cryptic introduction?  Make it easy for followers to see what you are presenting to them.  Introduce your links.
  • Sharing information that is confidential, sensitive or not appropriate.  This is especially important if you work for a public company or in a regulated, hyper-competitive or litigious industry.
  • Drawing unnecessary attention or being overly defensive when addressing negative comments.  Sometimes it’s best to ignore the haters.  If you respond, you may make something big out of a small issue, which may be exactly what they want you to do.

In Closing…
Again, this may not be all-encompassing, and I’m sure I’ve omitted a few important lessons.  That said, I hope these are helpful and that you find value in them.  If so, please COMMENT, SHARE and SUBSCRIBE to our blog.  Thank you for your feedback!

Steve Latham (follow me on Twitter)



  1. Good article. Probably the source of all questions related to successfully managed Twitter accounts should lead to: Motivations for opening the account in the first place – be it for business or personal purpose. Anyway, since it’s a public stream there’s no point of keeping the tweets private – a vigilent approach instead would be far more efficient and credible.

    Digital Lunch Community Editor

  2. mike rhodes says:

    Very good information, Steve. If only I cam remember it all. I’ll be following. I need to learn this.
    If possible, I’d appreciate you visiting my blog and adding some content please. I trying to put something together that can help everyone, but especcially the Newbies, and lesser experienced.

    Mike Rhodes

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