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Oops: 10 Common Mistakes on Twitter

Even advanced users make basic mistakes on Twitter. Don't be one of them.
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Call me a glutton for punishment, I guess.

Recently, I asked my Twitter followers to point out a few things I'm doing wrong on my own feed, and also point out common mistakes from other users.

Usually, I'm on top of my game: retweeting articles, engaging in conversation, and scheduling posts to make sure my feed is active. But my followers politely pointed out that I've been making some common mistakes--and I bet you are, too.

1. I singled out a follower when I didn't mean to.

Make sure you don't make this mistake. When you reply to someone but you want everyone to see your reply, add a period before the @ symbol. So, if you are chatting with a business partner and you want everyone to see the conversation, refer to him as .@businesspartner with a period. That gives you more exposure.

2. I didn't have a Twitter header photo.

Social media expert Ken Herron says every Twitter user should look at their own profile and make sure they've added photos. You may already know about the background photo and profile photo, but there's also a "header" photo. This is the image that appears in your profile behind your profile photo, name, and handle. By default, it is a solid color. Just edit your profile and click Change Header, then add a new image. (I've since fixed this mistake.)

3. My profile text could use some work.

Herron also says to make sure you have a profile that is optimized for search engines. Your profile is where you normally list your hobbies or what you do. Make sure you've included hashtags like #writer or #entrepreneur and include any related organizations like @Inc so people can find you easily.

4. You have two different profile photos for Twitter and Google+.

What, did you think Twitter was the only really important social platform? Social media expert Julio Fernandez from SocialShelfspace.com says it is important to make sure your Twitter profile image matches the one you use on Google+. He says Google does an image verification with your Twitter profile to confirm your identity. Fortunately, I was not making this mistake.

5. I auto-post to Facebook.

When you post something on Twitter, it automatically appears on Facebook. This is a common mistake, but few people are willing to change (including yours truly at times). Social media expert Alexandra Golaszewska (alexandrago.com) says the mistake has a double-whammy effect: People who do not know about Twitter get confused by hashtags and other Twitter-specific lingo. And those who do get Twitter think you're lazy because you're not connecting directly with anyone on Facebook.

6. I'm not using enough hashtags.

Herron and Fernandez disagree over this tip, so you might want to try some experimentation. But it's always a good idea to include hashtags in your tweets for hot topics like, say, #smallbiz. Herron says these hashtags help search engines find you (Fernandez says the search engines will find the keywords anyway). Try it out and see if more is better for you. I'm tagging keywords as often as possible.

7. I could stand to update my profile photo.

Golaszewska also said a common mistake is to post any old profile photo, thinking it is not important. The image you use creates a first impression when people visit your profile, and they will associate that image with your company. A professionally produced image, sized correctly for the profile page, is a sign of a social media pro. My main problem: My photo is a bit old and needs a refresh.

8. I should add video to my tweets.

If you're using a tool like HootSuite or SproutSocial.com, you might not know about this feature. On your Twitter profile page, there is a box that holds photos and videos you've posted recently. As marketing expert Jasmine Bina from J.B. Communications (www.jbcomms.com) notes, it's common not to fill these slots. You can quickly add six photos or videos by adding links as part of a new post. "You're missing out on a big opportunity to immediately communicate your personal brand to new and existing followers," she says. "If your stream is empty or outdated, then, frankly, so is your brand."

9. You tweet the full url.

Many social media dashboards like SproutSocial.com shorten links automatically, but it's amazing how many people insist on using the full URL. You might think Google won't understand the condensed link, says PR consultant Chad Hyett, but the search engine can read links from shortening services like Bit.ly just fine. Plus, you can track who clicks on the links and leave room for people to retweet and add their own comment. I use SproutSocial so, fortunately, I haven't been making this mistake.

10. It's not just about me.

Social marketing expert WendyFlanagan, who is president of Brand4Market (www.brand4market.com), reminded me to retweet articles by other authors and not just promote my own work. I know I should do this but lately had gotten lazy about it. Good advice! Keep me honest and see if I'm RTing more in the next few weeks--I'm @jmbrandonbb.

Last updated: Feb 27, 2013

JOHN BRANDON | Columnist

John Brandon is a contributing editor at Inc. magazine covering technology. He writes the Tech Report column for Inc.com.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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