The Top Five Worst Twitter Marketing Mistakes

A Crowd and an Audience

Most guides on what to do or what not to do in Twitter marketing come from marketers who don’t have to suffer the pain of their own advice. This rundown comes from the other side of the equation. It’s the perception not of someone who lets a bunch of apps run their Twitter for them and hasn’t a clue who they’re following, but of someone who (brace yourself)… actually READS Twitter…

Some marketing is very clever and it does have a positive effect. Some, however, is truly awful from an engaged reader’s viewpoint. It’s the truly awful stuff I’m looking at here. I’m going to list the mistakes that all genuinely professional marketers are aware of, but are happy to let the rest of the bunch commit. After all, the money lost as a result of these mistakes is going into the pockets of the professionals who steer clear of them. Why would they complain?

Twitter Marketing Mistakes (1)

Here’s the rundown…


I see it all the time. A business follows me. I follow them back. They’re following 1,700 accounts. A few weeks later, they show up in my Not Following Back list on ManageFlitter. I unfollow them straight away (obviously), but out of interest, I take a look at their profile, and lo and behold, they’re now following a mere 10 accounts. How wonderfully popular they look now that they’ve ditched all the people in whom they feigned an interest.

Why This Doesn’t Work… The first problem is that people aren’t as stupid as the marketer thinks they are, and there’s a much greater public understanding of Twitter tactics today than there was five years ago.

If you’re not famous, and you’re not a substantial business with offline advertising to attract followers, then there are only two ways you can possibly end up with a Followers count of 25K, and a Following count of 10. You’ve either bought your followers, or you’ve essentially tricked people into following you by feigning interest in them.

In a sentence, your potential customers will take one look at your profile, recognise it as unrealistic, and know in an instant what you’ve been up to. If they believe that you’ve tricked people into following you, or you’ve bought your followers, then how much trust do you think they’re going to have in your business? Somewhere in the region of nil, I suspect. You’re someone who’s happy to screw people over, and that says it all.

There’s also the fundamental logic that if you’ve tricked people into following you, they can’t be paying attention, and if they’re not paying attention, they’re probably not reading anything you Tweet. So, a bit of a pointless exercise really. You look sly, and your followers don’t listen. Mission definitely not accomplished.


This has become more and more commonplace as the decade has advanced, and it seems to have taken quite an upturn recently. The idea is that you create a number of public Lists, give them ego-flattering titles (such as Top Photographers or Gurus of Psychology), then add any users you think are idiot enough to fall for the flannel. The supposed logic of the plan is that it gets you into people’s notifications and draws their attention to an apparent gesture of eulogy.

Why This Doesn’t Work… You’re not following the users you’re listing. You’re not favouriting them. You’re not replying to them. In fact, you’re not acknowledging them in any way, or benefitting their profile. You’re just putting them on a massive List, which no one’s ever going to look at, purely and simply to get into their notifications and flannel them into following you.

No one with a brain is going to fall for this. The first thing they’ll look at is whether you’re following them. If you’re not, the nature of your game is clear. And the slimiest factor of all is that you want people to enhance your profile by following your crappy auto-feed of spam links, but you don’t want to do anything to enhance theirs. If you want to strike a fair deal for people following you, follow them. Simple as that.

Twitter Marketing Mistakes (2)


This is just criminal. Someone follows you, and then immediately, either you or your auto-spamming app send them a Direct Message, thanking them for the follow and encouraging them to visit some dustbin of a site which will attempt to extract money from them.

Why This Doesn’t Work… Any kind of Direct Message as an immediate response to a follow is annoying – even when you’ve followed them back first. If you do it WITHOUT following them back, then what, realistically, do you think their response is going to be? If they read and take notice of their DM’s, they’ll unfollow you, and if they don’t read or take notice of their DM’s, they’re not engaged users, which means their follow is of no use to you. This mistake alienates the very users you need. Also, if you’re messaging someone privately, but not giving them the means to respond privately, you’re being exceptionally rude.

If you want to connect, follow back and message the user publicly. Evidence shows that this can work well with engaged users – even when those users don’t have a pre-existing interest in what you’re offering. It creates a totally different atmosphere, and transforms you from someone who’s perceived as rude, selfish and arrogant, into someone who’s perceived as friendly and considerate.

PAPER.LI AND OTHER AUTO-MENTION SPAM is a scraping tool which automatically aggregates users’ content, and then group-mentions the content providers in a bid to gain their attention. Like the Listing tactic, the system is founded on ego-massage and flattery. But again, the effectiveness is very poor indeed.

The vast majority of Tweets fail even to get a single Favourite from just one of the users mentioned. In my own survey I found that just one Tweet in 80 got any positive reaction. The rest got no response whatsoever. Given that these messages are going straight into users’ notifications and are inevitably being read, that’s a staggering level of ineffectiveness. It clearly annoys more users than it pleases.

Why This Doesn’t Work… Auto-mentioning is spam, people know it’s spam, and they don’t want it. End of story. If you’re running any kind of commercial enterprise and you’re using these transparent, bone idle ploys, don’t expect to be seen as anything other than a lazy, unprofessional spammer.

If you really must find a pretext to group-mention users, use Storify. It’s far from perfect, but with creative use it hammers

Twitter Marketing Mistakes (3)


The whole point of Twitter is leisure entertainment and breaking news. That’s why engaged readers are there. Here’s what they don’t want…

  • Repetitive streams of / links.
  • Repetitive streams of secondhand quotes.
  • Automated updates on how many people have followed/unfollowed you.
  • Any Tweets or Retweets which beg for follows, advertise ‘follow-trains’, or have no purpose other than to increase your follower count.
  • Any form of duplication.
  • Promotion without relief.
  • Monotonously-formatted emissions from automated ‘Publicise’ functions.
  • Twibble and similarly haphazard concepts.
  • Marketers who think that rigging up a bot to scrape news sites for links makes them “the news”. No one thinks you’re “the news”.
  • Reams of ‘shoutouts’.

Why This Doesn’t Work… There are no shortcuts to engaging the public and maintaining their attention. Anyone who thinks they could possibly maintain mass attention through a regime of bone idle automation and/or wall-to-wall self-interest is not looking at the situation from the viewpoint of the audience. At the end of the day, ask yourself this: do you ever read back through your own Twitter feed? If the answer’s no, then you’re expecting other people to be engaged by something you yourself have no interest in. Wake up to your arrogance and do something about it.

Twitter Marketing Mistakes

I’ll let you into a secret which very few Twitter users will admit. I now put 95% plus of the marketing accounts I follow onto mute. Not because they’re interested in selling me something (I want and need to make purchases just as anyone else does), but because the accounts are categorically and without any question whatsoever, absolute abject trash. All they have to do is show one scintilla of creativity and personality at the point when I follow them, and I’ll read them. But they don’t. Nearly all of them use the same stupid, insulting techniques to avoid doing a few minutes of work a day, and neither I nor anyone else is going to tolerate that when there are alternatives who do make an effort, and who are entertaining/original/informative.

The worst thing about writing this is that if I link to it on Twitter, then rather than these low-end marketers actually listening and taking it onboard, they’re infinitely more likely to blindly splog it into their automated feeds, ‘’ me into oblivion, and add me to their useless ‘Lists’… Oh, and then unfollow me, obviously.

That’s the trouble with the Internet. You write about improving privacy and the only people who read it are would-be hackers. You write in protest of fake ‘Liking’ and it gets the most fake ‘Likes’ you’ve ever got. You write about raising the quality of marketing and it triggers yet more low-quality marketing. C’est la vie, I suppose.