Many companies and brands have a love-hate relationship with Twitter. Initially, it seems easy enough to use. Just send out 140-character tweets to people following the company and follow them back. Then, though, there’s no interaction and you don’t see that all-important re-tweet happening. Twitter can be really great, but it’s all about how you use it.

Twitter is important. The site has 313 million users, 1.3 billion registered accounts, and 500 million average monthly visitors. When it comes to organic social branding, Twitter is an all important powerhouse. Katelin Cwieka tells us why Twitter is so important to businesses. She says, “By being active on this network, we not only become thought leaders in the industry but it also provides a really nice boost in SEO ranking.” Perhaps even more importantly, she says, “Customer feedback often comes in from Twitter, so it’s a great place to have conversations with customers and address their concerns. I can say, personally, that when we address customers on this channel, in real time, they are impressed and it builds greater brand loyalty that we are so responsive!”

You need Twitter, but you don’t want to waste your time. For those reasons, focus on avoiding these common pitfalls.

#1: Don’t Be Shy or Only Engage with Just Your Followers

To be successful, you need to engage. Sometimes, that means engaging first. Don’t be shy or limit your engagement to just people that are already following you. Reach out to others in your industry. A good way to do this is through the use of social media listening tools.

One example is Whole Foods. The company is very active on Twitter. However, its focus isn’t on increasing sales so much so as interacting with others, building relationships, and growing its brand name. It wants to serve customers on its page. More so, it’s active in engaging with anyone that may benefit.

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#2: Don’t Just Favorite Something If It Needs a Reply

When someone tweets to you or links your company name, it’s easy to just see it and move on. However, if it needs a reply – or your business could benefit from one – reply. Do so right away, too. The more interaction you have directly to individual customers or others following you, the more attention and social benefit your company gets.

JetBlue is fantastic about interaction:

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#3: Don’t Send Automated Direct Messages or Posts

Automation is a good thing to some degree. However, as an organic social branding tool, Twitter needs to be more about personal-level engagement. Of course, you’ll want to engage as soon as you get a new follower, but that doesn’t always mean a DM.

Olsy Sorokina of HootSuite had this to say about over-use of DMs. Could it apply to what you’re doing? “When direct messages first became available, their release was followed by a slew of multiple auto-DM clients that allowed users to send pre-drafted messages. Common examples included thank-you messages to new followers and promotional messaging calling new followers to check out the user’s website/blog/podcast, etc. Widespread use of such clients didn’t last long—soon, users grew tired of receiving dozens of DMs containing nothing but automated thank-yous. This practice hurt both parties: the sender appeared spammy and disingenuous, and the recipient was at risk of missing more relevant DMs—or worse, stop using the DM tool altogether.”

#4: Don’t Follow Everyone who Follows You

Oh, look! Someone’s following you on Twitter. Hold on. Don’t rush over there and follow them right back. Take a look at their profile to find out who they are and whether it is a good idea to follow them. The people you should follow are your initial customers and industry leaders as you get started on Twitter. If you are just getting started, this might be a great place to start. It takes time to build up your following, and you’ll need those initial followers. Overtime, stop following every person or business that follows you. This clogs up your page and limits your ability to reach those who truly can interact with you and benefit your business.

#5: Don’t Use Too Many Hashtags

Over at Buffer Social, Kevan Lee provides some interesting statistics about hashtag use (or overuse!)

  • Tweets that include hashtags will get about twice the amount of engagement than those that do not use them.
  • Those brands that use one or two hashtags per tweet will see a 21% higher engagement than those who use three or more.
  • Those that use more than two hashtags will actually see a drop of 17% in engagement!

The #ShareaCoke promotion from Coca-Cola did well, engaging with many people in a simplistic, but easy way. It’s easy to take a selfie with a Coke! It takes one hashtag that’s well placed to work magic. But if they had tried to reach more people by applying more hashtags, the post would become cluttered with links, harder to read, and wouldn’t be nearly as effective.

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#6: Don’t Post the Same Type of Post Over and Over Again

Be creative. It’s something you hear a lot, but it’s very important in organic social branding. To help you to field some ideas for unique posts, consider using social media analytics tools. These tools can answer questions and give you some insight into what people want to see. Your Twitter page should include links, funny conversations, lots of photos, and unique elements whenever possible.

KFC was unique here:

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Even though this post is clever, if KFC were to only post this same type of content over and over, it would get old and people would stop engaging and lose interest. Make sure you are switching it up and providing a variety of content in your Twitter feed.