How to Tweet Like You’re Not a Business

It’s Twitter Tuesday! And what a lovely Twitter Tuesday it is. This week we’re talking about tweeting for businesses.

If Mitt Romney really is right and corporations are people, then they sure don’t act like it on Twitter. And that’s too bad. People don’t want to do business with a business; people want to do business with people. And that must be true, because it is cleverly worded.

Here are seven tips for improving your business’s Twitter.

Human beings for the win

No one likes being advertised to by a faceless corporation, so how about making your business’s Twitter a little more personable?

Starbucks uses their profile info to show that they’re not a business, but just a close group of friends who like to sell you coffee.

Starbucks Twitter profile

Even AXE, a brand I’m not too fond of, does a great job of personalizing their tweets by adding the signature of a member of their social team.

Don’t overuse hashtags

I see a lot of businesses overusing hashtags. The strategy here is that by including relevant hashtags in a tweet, you can reach people searching for that hashtag. And that may be true, but I doubt those numbers are anything to tweet home about.

Use one, maybe two, hashtags in a tweet. Use more and you’ve got a pretty spammy tweet on your hands. Don’t scare away the followers who might have actually cared about your tweet in the first place.

Don’t over-promote your business

People don’t go to their favorite social media site to be advertised to. I think a lot of marketers and businesses forget that. You need to provide users with interesting and compelling content, and not all of it should be created by you.

What are you tweeting about? Ask yourself, “Why would someone follow this business on Twitter?” Don’t answer, “To keep up with our latest deals and promotions.” You can do better than that.

Establish your brand as an authority in your niche. Tweet the latest news from your industry, not just your business. Find a way to provide valuable information to your followers. Check out how Portent tweets out the news from our industry:

But what is the golden ratio for Twitter promotion? It depends on your industry, but you should try to balance a handful of promotional tweets with many handfuls of useful tweets that don’t directly advertise your products and services.

Don’t use autorespond messages

“Thanks for following! Please check out my articles at”

Your followers don’t want that direct message. It’s not a kind gesture to a new follower; it’s you telling them they are just another statistic on your social media reports.

When I see an autorespond message in my direct message inbox, I brainstorm at least a dozen ways to track down and kill that tweeter. Okay, that’s not quite true, but it does send me and many other users straight to the unfollow button.

Update: Just got this awful autorespond message and I lashed out unexpectedly:

terrible autoresponder message

Reply to your fans

Reach out to a new audience, but also just make sure you don’t not respond to the audience you’ve got. Frequently monitor your @ mentions, and consider using a third party tool like Hootsuite to keep track of your brand keywords.

Don’t tweet too much

How often does the average brand or business tweet? The number may surprise you.
I used How often do you Tweet to analyze 50 of the top brands on Twitter. Those brands averaged over 37 tweets per day. Wow!

But that statistic is misleading. Many of those tweets were @ replies to followers (which you should be doing!), and your followers won’t see your @ replies to other followers (unless they follow them too).

There is a balance to be found here. Don’t just fire off a dozen tweets in five minutes. Tweet quality is more important than tweet quantity here. If your business has 15 great things to tweet about today, then that’s the right number. If you only have three interesting things to tweet about, then tweet three times. Just don’t make your followers sift through 15 tweets to find the three good ones. They won’t.

Be credible and trustworthy

A study by Microsoft Research and Carnegie Mellon University analyzed the factors that affect the credibility of a tweet. Five factors stood out as having the largest negative impact on a tweet’s credibility:

  • Tweet has non-standard grammar/punctuation.
  • Twitter user has the default avatar/image (the egg).
  • Twitter user has a cartoon avatar/image.
  • The number of people the Twitter user is following far exceeds the number of people that follow them.
  • Twitter user has a logo avatar/image (this is what we’re working against here).

Online readers are becoming more and more skeptical every day, so know that you’ll need to earn their trust with a quality Twitter feed.

Have you noticed any other things businesses do on Twitter that send you scrambling for the unfollow button?

Oh, and play your role as a child of knowledge by retweeting this article out for present generations to learn from.

End call to action


  1. Great post, Jack.
    For “Don’t tweet too much,” I’d also add “Don’t tweet too much in one go.” I’ve seen some businesses who tweet their 15 tweets like they can only be bothered to log into Twitter account just once that day.
    One business I know once tweeted 40 bits of news… in less than 10 minutes. It completed killed my feed, and for that, I unfollowed.

    1. I’m totally with you, Steve. A business should aim to be visible all day through steady tweeting, however much that may be, but throwing out a string of a dozen tweets in a row – that’s just awful.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Brad.
      You should first determine how many great tweets you can write per day. Then I would just try to spread those out over 24 hours. Twitter fits into every user’s schedule different. Some check it in the morning, some at night, and some once a week. I think it’s good to have your bases covered.
      Of course, Twitter is generally the busiest from 10am-5pm, so consider your customer’s time zone and tweet accordingly. I try to schedule my most retweetable tweets for somewhere between 1-3pm.

  2. Good stuff, Jack. The thing that annoys me most is insincerity. That DM is a prime example. Don’t automate some crap acting like you actually care about what I’m saying when you follow 100,000 people. Being automated is one thing, but creating an automated post disguised as sincerity deserves a smack in the head.

  3. ho ho love the response to your auto DM Jack!
    It’s a shame there are so many that do that really because I hardly ever now ( if ever at all) look at my DMS. I just can’t be bothered scrolling through the trash to get to the good stuff. 🙁
    RE number of tweets daily: Well I try not to think about this too much as I tend to use my timeline to help others a lot more than I am helping my own business so I don’t feel any guilt whatsoever if I go over a certain quota per day. The reason I often arrive here on this site is because I tweet from the RSS feed and use @portentint. I can check my own timeline daily then and scroll down to see who I have helped that day with @name and I make a visit over to read a post and often will add a comment such as this one. It works fab for me and my followers are usually are very interested and oblige with an RT quite often so everyone wins.
    In summary… there is automatum that helps, and there is automatum that spams …. it really is poor business practice if you choose the latter and act like your only a robot without a heart or a brain to boot!

    1. Thanks Karen. There are definitely automated services that can help you tweet better, and automated services that make your tweets worse. I’m a fan of the first kind for sure!

      1. oh BTW Jack… I tried that tool you mentioned “how often do you tweet”… my results 20.3 times per day. Phew… my favorite bloggers are obviously very active… which is gr8. The more good stuff spread on twitter the better 🙂
        I did check yesterdays tweets of mine and…. ok I’m recently active on Pinterest too, (which has a send this to twitter button,) so 3 of my tweets were selfishly to my own PINS. 😉 2 tweets were directly to my own website, and the rest were to my FAV blog sites via @name. From the latter I followed the links and made a total of 4 comments. Not a bad bit of activity eh? LOL
        It would be interesting to see how many tweets per day your readers of this post do…. 🙂

  4. Thanks for this info! We are just starting (as of yesterday), and need all the help we can get.
    We’re planning to include whimsy as a regular feature.

  5. Hey there Jack,
    First time on this site, and what a great post to see as my first!
    You make so many points that are indeed true… but I have to say I busted out laughing at the “Update” DM.
    Why anyone uses these auto DM’s is beyond me. I get so many every day it makes me want to scream.
    Anyway, thanks for the laugh!

    1. Thanks for leaving a comment, Darin.
      Yeah I am always surprised how many people use them. If they’re driving me to insanity, good to know I’m not the only one.

  6. Very interesting article. I don’t use twitter at this time, but I am asked for input and suggestions. I agree with the over emphasis on advertising right at you.. If we just want to be advertised to and let, we can watch TV.
    Twitter is new and should be creative, innovative and, well, just something different.

  7. I also don’t like the idea of receiving auto-respond messages in my inbox when I decide to follow someone in Twitter. It’s seems so impersonal. Just thinking out loud.

  8. I really thought I was the only one that was overly annoyed by automated messages. Not only are they impersonal, but who actually reads them. I stopped reading them when I realized it was the most blatant form of spamming possible on Twitter.
    Great article. Thanks for all this great information!

  9. Great point that not all of the content that you tweet should be created by you. You can’t be selfish in social media. If you want your content to get shared by others you need to share as well. If you aren’t doing this you aren’t getting the community aspect of social media.

    1. Glad we’re on the same page, Nick. Thanks for the comment. You really put it nicely:
      “You can’t be selfish in social media.” It’s a good mantra.

  10. I love knowing the real person who wrote something online, whether it be a tweet, blog post or email newsletter. I think it makes it so much more engaging, and well, social.

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