5 More Mistakes You’re (Still) Making On Twitter

Time for another rant. My usual disclaimer applies.

Your Twitter Background Is Free And Off The Shelf

Here’s the thing – customised Twitter backgrounds are largely a waste of time. Until Twitter decides to make them interactive and allows us to add links and apps and other customisable options – which could perhaps let them compete with Facebook pages – unless you’re very important there’s really not a lot of point in spending a lot of time and effort on your background.

By and large, and because there’s not much to do once they get there, people only tend to visit your profile page directly (and thus see your background) a couple of times – once, when they’re deciding whether to follow you when you’re an unknown quantity, and possibly a second time when they’re trying to remember who the heck you are a few months later.

If you simply must have a background, you’re better off customising it yourself (perhaps utilising the services of your favourite designer pal), using a simple (and original) tile, or even one of Twitter’s options, than you are using a freebie service that proudly displays TWITTERBACKGROUND.ORG on the top-left of the page. Not only does that look lame, it is lame.

And even if your background is absolutely first class, remember that different monitor sizes and screen resolutions mean that all those email address, URLs and telephone numbers you carefully placed on the left sidebar can be completely invisible to those millions of people using netbooks and mobile handsets.

Unless you’re very skilled and/or can put together something absolutely incredible – that works on any screen size – it really isn’t worth going to too much trouble.

Your Avatar Is Animated

You do this because you think it makes you stand out, but believe me – it just makes your avatar annoying. Which makes you annoying. Which greatly increases the chances that you’re going to be unfollowed.

If you want to stand out, do it the right way. Not with an animated gif. Especially if it’s the sort of flashing horror that induces epilepsy.

You Flood Tweet

Lots of brands and power-users update their profiles using Twitterfeed, which allows them to feed their blog posts, Facebook updates, news releases and everything else to their profiles. Which means lots of brands and power-users end up throwing out huge blocks of tweets that get sent to our networks at the exact same time.

Even the BBC does this:

Four tweets that all went out at 12.10pm. And if you look at the BBC News account (@bbcnews), they do this all day long.

It might be convenient, but it’s a really crappy and totally impersonal way to manage a Twitter account. Seeing huge blocks of tweets arrive from the same profile all at once, smashing everybody else off of your screen, is really, really annoying.

You can almost excuse news feeds for doing this, but for individuals it’s really unforgivable. Auto-posting anything is a very dangerous practice at the best of times – what happens when your favourite blogger suddenly goes postal?

You Share Way Too Much

And I don’t just mean in the tweets-per-hour way, although that can also be an issue for many people. I mean tweets about what you ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner (and snacks in between), every little thing your toddler, cat or puppy does, comments on every single TV show that happens to be on at the same time you’re on Twitter, every fleeting thought you have – no matter how trivial, insignificant or redundant – and, in some cases, very detailed descriptions of your last visit to the bathroom.

But where this gets really clever is folks who use Twitter clients or apps that (consciously or otherwise) add their location data to every tweet, and after providing months of information that anyone with half a brain could put together to determine exactly where they live, then proudly announce they’re going on vacation for three weeks.

Be personable, not personal. It’s okay to share tidbits from your life, but do so sensibly and in moderation. Otherwise, you’ve only got yourself to blame when it all goes horribly wrong.

You Tick The ‘Send Updates To Twitter’ Box On Every Single Social Network, Game And App On The Planet

Please… don’t. Only people on Foursquare care about updates from people on Foursquare, and even then it’s a bit one-way. Sending those updates to Twitter verges somewhere between mad and pointless. So you’re at Starbucks. Again. For the third time today. Given that we live 5,000 miles apart, can you remind me why I should care? Or why anybody should?

And don’t get me started on things like Mafia Wars. Reality check: if anything on your Twitter profile is auto-posting for you, you’re doing it wrong.

All this talk about Microsoft, Facebook, Apple and Google having the potential for corporate evil – these guys are dream-dates compared to Zynga. Just look at what might happen:

The Zynga Funding Bill is passed. The system goes on-line August 4th, 2010. Human decisions are removed from strategic defense. Zynga begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th. In a panic, they try to pull the plug…

Yes – this will be your fault.

Do us all a favour – revisit every single social network, game and online application you use (and have ever used), go to your preferences, and turn Twitter off.

Especially if it was made by Zynga.

(If you enjoyed this post, please read “5 Mistakes You’re (Still) Making On Twitter“.)