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Everyone makes mistakes. Here are a few that people can’t seem to stop making on Twitter, and how to avoid them yourself.

We’ve given you tips for running a business Twitter account 5 Tips for Running A Business Twitter Account 5 Tips for Running A Business Twitter Account Read More , while pointing to mistakes businesses make while using the microblogging service. But you don’t need to be running a business to feel confused about Twitter.

Here are some mistakes you might be making, why they’re mistakes, and how to stop making them.

Starting A Tweet With A @Username

The vast majority of your followers aren’t seeing some of your tweets. This isn’t a bug – it’s part of how Twitter works – but a lot of people don’t seem to notice it’s happening.

You already know that including someone’s @username directs the tweet to them – they will see a notification, and (hopefully) respond. It’s how conversation works on the site.

What you may not realize is that any tweet that starts with a @username isn’t sent to all of your followers.

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You see this? It’s my private hatred for my podcast co-host Dave LeClair. And because I began it with @sideox, only people who follow both Dave and I saw it on their timelines.

This is because Twitter assumes such messages are part of a semi-private conversation. If you want to include someone in a message, but also want all your followers to see it, you’ll need to put something before the “@” symbol in the tweet. Some people use a period for this purpose:

The period in front of this tweet allows me to more publicly declare my dislike of Dave. It means all my followers will see it. I could also re-arrange the sentence, it doesn’t matter: as long as the @username isn’t the first thing in the tweet, all my followers will see it.

It’s a simple thing, sure, but don’t feel bad if you didn’t know. It’s something the site never really explains to users, and now you know about it.

Overusing #Hashtags

Plenty of people new to Twitter know one thing: #people #love #hashtags.

Except, not really. #Filling #a #sentence with #nothing #but #hashtags is #infuriating. Don’t.

twitter-infuriating

Think of hashtags as a way of joining an improvised chat room. People who want to discuss a particular topic, in real time, use hashtags to find other people talking about the same thing. Here are a few ways this happens:

And a few wrong things to add:

  • Words that are clearly the first part of a longer idea, e.g. #the. Hashtags end after a space, which is why people don’t put spaces between the words in them.
  • Some #random word no one will ever search for. This is pointless.

If you’re still confused, read everything you need to know about hashtags #Clueless? Everything You Need To Know About Twitter Hashtags #Clueless? Everything You Need To Know About Twitter Hashtags Some people #use #them #for #every #freaking #word; others ignore them altogether. It might leave you wondering: what are hashtags even for? Am I using Twitter wrong if I don't use them? And are people... Read More . It goes over the history of the hashtag, and further explains how people use them. You can also read more about choosing the right hashtag for your tweet #RandomDoesntCutIt: How To Choose The Right Hashtag For Your Tweet #RandomDoesntCutIt: How To Choose The Right Hashtag For Your Tweet Hashtags have become something of an integral element in today's social media but so many people misuse, abuse them, or simply don't know how to choose the right one. Read More .

Over Following

Someone follows you. You follow back. Common courtesy, right?

Not necessarily. Unlike Facebook, which is based on two way “friendships”, Twitter is designed for broadcasting ideas. It works best if people follow only those they’re actually interested in, then make a point to read those people’s tweets.

twitter-firehose

It’s been said that trying to use Twitter casually is like trying to drink from a fire hose, but I think this is only the case if you follow too many people. So don’t. Only follow people you’re really, really interested in – and don’t feel bad if you’re not following people back. After all, if you never actually look at Twitter because of how overwhelming it is, you’re effectively following no one.

I’d even recommend regularly going through the list of people you follow and unfollowing people you no longer find interesting. You consume a lot of information Eating Only Dessert: Why Your Information Diet Is Probably Terrible [Feature] Eating Only Dessert: Why Your Information Diet Is Probably Terrible [Feature] Email. Social networks. Blogs. Online video. People today consume more information than ever before, and typically only consume the things they really, really like. Clay Johnson compares this to a bad diet. "If you only... Read More , and sometimes you need to cut back. Just because it’s only 140 characters doesn’t mean it can’t get overwhelming.

Which reminds me: don’t become the person someone else needs to unfollow. Make you tweets occasional and fascinating – not steady and uninteresting. Here are some more tips about writing tweets your followers will want to retweet How to Write Tweets That Your Followers Will Want To Retweet How to Write Tweets That Your Followers Will Want To Retweet If you do it right, you could go viral on Twitter. Twitter is one of the fastest ways you could go viral today. The key? Write compelling tweets that others will want to share. Read More .

Using An Autoresponder

You might be tempted, or even be told that it’s a good idea, to set up an auto responder that greets new followers. This is a temptation you must resist. It’s going to annoy people, and will probably get you unfollowed.

twitter-bot

People don’t want to talk to bots; they want to talk to you. Don’t act like a bot.

What Else?

Have you noticed any other mistakes people make on Twitter? Inform your fellow readers in the comments below, because odds are there’s things we all need to learn.

  1. Dvaid O.
    March 1, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    Now that was a great article. The one big pain for me is when a poster fills his post with hashtags.

  2. noss
    February 26, 2014 at 11:10 am

    @jhpot #amidoingitrightlolwut

    • Justin P
      February 26, 2014 at 2:58 pm

      Not sure, going to need more input from others to make a determination.

  3. Kelvin Thompson
    February 25, 2014 at 7:56 pm

    I get the hashtag advice. Generally agreed. However, used *sparingly* hashtagging a phrase (at least among folks I follow) becomes a bit of an inside joke as well. Ideally, such phrases will have some clickability but perhaps not. Just adding some nuance to the general advice. See an example at: https://twitter.com/kthompso/status/431140481897361408

  4. @KsbjA
    February 22, 2014 at 10:08 am

    Thanks for telling people how to properly use hashtags! I hope they will heed your advice. Too often I see Twitter users compressing the last sentence of their tweet into a pointless hashtag nobody will ever search for, which is incredibly annoying.

  5. Marjorie C
    February 21, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    I am one of those very unusual Tweeters who prefer to follow my daughter, news, weather, and interesting people, but I don't necessarily want everyone in the world to follow me, so I kept my profile "locked" (I don't know what they call it, I'm old, give me a break!). Then I learned that if I (very rarely) commented to someone I followed who had an outstanding tweet (such as a great cat picture, yes, I said I was old), they couldn't see it (?). So I opened my account and suddenly got dozens of people following me. Well, that's just great, all these people and companies I just don't care about would flood my account until I could never read all the tweets, and why would they care what a little old lady said?

    So I closed it again, still have about 15 followers who I'd like to tell to go find something else to do, but I don't know what I'm doing anymore. I'm sure I make mistakes all the time, but I just wanted a way to read instant news and gossip and be able to reach my daughter quickly, since she seems to check Twitter all day. What else am I doing wrong??!!

    • Justin P
      February 21, 2014 at 9:59 pm

      I've never had a protected Twitter account, so I'm not entirely sure how this works. But my understanding is that you need to approve followers before they can see anything of yours. I can't find any specific information about what happens when you switch between protected and unprotected, but my guess is that they can't see your tweets.

      Note that people following you doesn't affect what tweets you see at all, though: it only means that they see your tweets. You only see the tweets of people you follow. And if all you ever tweet is replies, your followers won't see it in any case, unless they follow both you and the person you replied to.

      So my advice: don't worry about it. It sounds like you haven't done anything wrong at all. :)

  6. Ulpi E
    February 21, 2014 at 1:48 am

    I didn't know the first one until now... Thanks... :D

  7. Tom W
    February 20, 2014 at 10:50 pm

    I think that listing dozens of people for Follow Friday is a bad idea. It turns Twitter into a wall of blue, and it doesn't let you express why you think these people are worth following.

    • Justin P
      February 20, 2014 at 10:54 pm

      Does anyone still do that, though? I thought that died out years ago...

    • Tom W
      February 21, 2014 at 3:23 pm

      I just checked my Twitter feed, 5 such tweets in 10 minutes, and America hasn't even properly woken up yet. Between now and the end of the day, it'll get steadily worse.

  8. Maarten D
    February 20, 2014 at 9:11 pm

    OOOPPSSS!
    :)

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