Here are the kinds of tweets that can kill your social media goodwill with customers, 140 characters at a time.
Last week I offered advice to small business owners on 10 things you should tweet to build your brand and connect with customers.
Now let's look at the other side of the coin. When businesses use Twitter poorly and broadcast stupid messages (140 characters at a time), they damage their reputations, their brands, and their bottom line.
So here are 10 things to avoid at all costs when using Twitter as a marketing/branding tool:
1. The "my competitors stink" tweet:
You do not want to start battles with your competitors on Twitter. It will only lead to mutual bashing across a wide range of social media platforms. The result? When people Google your business, they are going to find a whole lot of nasty comments about you and/or your company.
2. The "misfire from the company's social media intern" tweet:
This is where things can get very dicey. Many small companies assume that since their interns (or newly hired employees) are masters of using Twitter, then they should be messaging on behalf of the company. A 13-year-old boy has the vision and coordination to drive a car, but that doesn't mean he has the judgment to drive. The same applies in business.
3. The "obvious lie about my business" tweet:
This can be suicide for your company. (It's often closely related to mistake #2 above.) If you are making things up, whether it's what you can do or what you've achieved, someone out there is going to know it and punish you for it. The Web is extremely transparent and there are people out there just dying to bring your dirty laundry to light.
4. The "I'm going to deny allegations about my company" tweet:
There will always be unhappy customers who use Twitter to trash your company. Getting into a fight with your detractors, even when you are in the right, will only generate a bunch more negative tweets about your business. A much better strategy: Use the opportunity to either ignore, diffuse, or engage. You can always respond by asking to take the discussion offline. Also, if there are dozens of positive statements about your business and only one or two negative, it may be best just to ignore the negative ones.
5. The "knee-jerk reaction" tweet:
It is human nature to be defensive when attacked. When you are attacked online, even if the attack is just 140 characters, it is way too tempting to immediately deny the claims brought against you. If you've messed up, then own up to it and move forward. Denying the truth won't buy you time on the Web, it will just fan the flames.
6. The "look at the amazing dinner I just had" tweet:
While this may be a common one to tweet from your personal account, it's not such a hot idea for your company account, unless your business relates closely to food, travel, entertainment, etc. Don't be self indulgent! Be relevant to your audience's interests instead. (This also applies to the "see what cute kids I have" tweet and the "can you believe the mischief this kitten just got into" tweet.)
7. The "really lousy 'Twitter-only' offer" tweet:
Twitter is a great way to give your followers fantastic deals. But if the offer is not an attractive one (i.e. "Buy 10, get one free"), then you are just going to alienate your followers.
8. The "wildly out of the mainstream political" tweet:
Save it for your personal account (if you must). Unless you're certain your entire target audience shares your views, you risk turning off potential customers.
9. The "look at these great pictures from my vacation" tweet:
This is another one that falls into the self-indulgent category. But it's even worse than that: Instead of communicating that you love what you do and you're passionate about your customers, you're effectively telling your followers that you're making a lot of money (off of them) and not minding the store.
10. The "pretty much anything that puts the business in a negative light" tweet:
This covers everything the previous nine didn't. It can be an off-color joke, a sexist remark, a tweet filled with typos... you name it.
What did I miss? Add your suggestions in the comments.
More from Inc.com: