The art of NOT promoting yourself on Twitter

by on March 13, 2011

This post could also have been titled, How to avoid the #1 biggest Twitter mistake that many businesses makeonly promoting yourself or your business on Twitter. Tweeting only your stuff; your news, your blog posts, your promotions. Me, me, me communications.

It may seem like a waste of your precious time to do anything but promote your business via Twitter. But you must consider how Twitter works, and how it is used.


When you don’t use Twitter with these important considerations in mind, your Twitter stream becomes a form of advertising and background “noise.”

Imagine visiting a trade show booth, where there is simply a screen that flashes messages. There is someone there pushing buttons on a remote to bring new messages to the screen, but if you ask them a question, they ignore you. If you make a comment, not a flicker of response. How weird would that be? Well, by only promoting yourself on Twitter, that’s essentially a digital version of that situation.

Well, so what? Is that really such a big deal?

Actually, yes. It makes a BIG difference to your Twitter success in a couple of important ways. For one, many people have a look at a Twitter user’s stream before making the decision to follow them or not. If all they see is self-promo, they know that there is no point to trying to make a relationship with you, because that’s not what you’re there for. If you don’t interact, you’re just screaming – “Don’t follow me because I’m not interested in making a connection with you.”

Another major downfall to not interacting is that your business will not get the same exposure as you would if you were genuinely connecting and communicating with others. If you don’t get mentioned, you won’t be in the Twitter streams of others. This is an important part of getting more followers. By mentioning others, and responding to them, you will be getting responses back and increased exposure. And that’s what you want, after all.

Strictly self-promoting is a pretty sure fire way to make sure that you are ignored on Twitter.

How can I be more effective on Twitter?

Are you guilty of blasting out a bunch of messages, not interacting at all with your audience and, worst of all, not getting any responses? Let’s turn that around!

Twitter is a very powerful communications tool for small businesses, if used properly. You have to find the right balance of self-promotion and interaction, and it is generally agreed that the 80/20 rule is a good benchmark. Only 20% of your tweets should be self-serving and about your business. So what the heck should the rest of your tweets be about? I’m glad you asked. That’s exactly what I want to get in to…


You most likely already keep tabs on industry news, whether via Google alerts, blogs/ newsletters you are subscribed to, or industry publications you have bookmarked. If you don’t, time to get started. Just pick a few and spend a little bit of time each week skimming through. Tweet anything you come across that you think would be relevant or of interest to your Twitter followers. In this way, you are becoming a valuable source of information.


You might also come across some interesting tweets and articles on Twitter – why not retweet?  Again, you’re offering up value, and boosting your visibility and credibility. This is  also a great way to start or build upon a relationship with the people or organizations you are retweeting.


Ignoring your @ mentions is by far the biggest faux pas that I can caution you against. These are people that have mentioned you specifically, and have exposed all of their followers to you. My rule of thumb – always respond to @ mentions (unless it really isn’t appropriate). Even a simple “thanks” goes a long way. Most importantly, it shows that you interact with people. This makes you more likeable and encourages others to interact with you too; crucial to Twitter success.


Ask questions surrounding your business or industry. Get some conversations or discussions going. Not only does this encourage interaction, you could also gain some valuable insight that would help your business.


Lots of people share inspirational quotes or personal anecdotes. Choose topics that are important to you and show your personal side. People are on Twitter to connect with like-minded people. This helps bring a personal dimension to a digital relationship.

If you are tweeting as a business, you can still get more “personal.” Focus on general topics that relate to your business’ values. It’s not necessarily about sharing what you had for breakfast (I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone scoff that Twitter is silly for precisely this reason :)). But talking about what you had for brekkie could certainly make sense if your business revolves around health, nutrition or well, food.


You’ve got your Twitter lists set up for the exact purpose of monitoring specific Twitter users. So jump into conversations with them whenever you see a tweet that catches your eye. You could congratulate them on a success. Answer a question. Share a personal response to something they have shared. Keep it friendly and imagine that you are having a conversation with someone. This makes the interaction seem much more natural, and makes it a whole lot more fun!

As long as you remember the 80/20 rule and connect with others on Twitter in a valuable and genuine manner, you’ll be well on your way to Twitter success. If you have any other tips for avoiding the self-promotional deluge or personal  Twitter experiences, please share in the comments!

Comments, likes and tweets are always appreciated! Did I mention that I LOVE your feedback?

Image source: renjith krishnan /

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Joseph Doughty March 19, 2011 at 7:17 pm

These are excellent suggestions for tweet etiquette. Something that gets me, is the automated tweets. The only thing more disingenuous than perpetually self-promoting tweets is automating the process. This behavior is all too common among the new media d-bags. Thanks for being someone who suggests genuine interaction over fakeness.
Joseph Doughty recently posted..5 Ways to Grow Your practice using The Antioxidant Counter- A Pocket Guide to the Revolutionary ORAC Scale for Choosing Healthy Food


Martina March 21, 2011 at 10:46 am

Thanks for the comment Joseph! Yes, there are all too many tactics out there that take away from the whole point of social media; connecting and interacting with others. If you forget that, you won’t be successful.


Joseph Doughty March 21, 2011 at 11:55 am

I would add that I do some auto tweets on my biz Twitter profile, but I acknowledge them as auto generated. As a profile with a logo for a picture and more business oriented I feel there is some additional leeway. Others may disagree, but I think some selective auto tweets are helpful in letting others see some of my past posts. I also include content and posts from other blogs, I trust, to provide great information for my chiropractic audience.


Martina March 21, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Thanks for adding to your comment Joseph! I also use some “light” automation. For a business, it can be an important way to be more efficient, as you have pointed out. However, I would never automate any sort of interaction or “personal” message. It’s just so transparent and really defeats the purpose.


Jody Urquhart March 24, 2011 at 9:42 am

Great Post Martina. I write a blog every week day and I blast it to my twitter/ facebook feed. This is how I get it out to the world and is a practice they suggest at Hubspot my SEO provider

So to balance this ( i totally agree with your ettiquette tips) I started going to other blogs, reading, retweeting, etc. It has opened up a whole new world. I engage in meaningful conversation and this alters my approach and blogs.


Martina March 24, 2011 at 12:56 pm

I’m so glad to hear that my suggestions have worked for you! There’s nothing wrong with promoting your stuff 🙂 … you just have to balance that with other forms of valuable interaction. Thanks for your comment Jody!


Alison Dias-Laverty October 7, 2011 at 4:15 pm

I’ve had so many Twitter followers since I started my blog and honestly I just use it for my blog post or the occasional conversation tweets. I still don’t know how to use it as a basis for conversations as you mentioned in your post. What you said is worth a try so look out for some of my post Martina. Thanks again for you great post.
Alison Dias-Laverty recently posted..Create your own DVD Slideshow


Martina October 11, 2011 at 9:27 am

Sharing other people’s stuff on Twitter does take some getting used to, but with practice it becomes very easy (and fun)! You’ll find that your Twitter experience will become that much more valuable to your business.


Deb Haugen October 14, 2011 at 2:54 pm

I’m not on Twitter, do you think that works against me? I’m just much more a painter than a computer techno person. Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks, Deb
Deb Haugen recently posted..Malibu Art


Martina October 17, 2011 at 8:30 am

Hi Deb,
That’s a really good question and one that is a bit difficult to answer – it really depends on your business. It’s not the best online channel for all small businesses. While Twitter has become very popular, many people still aren’t on there. I have definitely recommended to some of my clients not to bother with it. It all comes down to what your goals are, where your target market is hanging out and what resources you have at your disposal. Depending on your business and what marketing stuff you have going on, other online marketing strategies may be more important and effective than Twitter for you.


Huw November 1, 2011 at 7:18 am

Great tips. Can’t underestimate the importance of being human and friendly even when tweeting for your company. Nothing puts me off more than a stream of corporate messages with no personality behind them


Martina November 1, 2011 at 8:16 am

I hear ya! So many businesses are guilty of this, and then they wonder why Twitter doesn’t work for them. Thanks for the comment 🙂


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