The Four Biggest Mistakes Businesses Make on Twitter

Your business finally joined Twitter--great, right? You started strong, growing your followers quickly. You tweeted consistently, pushing out a handful of updates each day. But now things have slowed down --your followers have trailed off. Your retweets are few and far between. And--oops--it's been a few days since your last tweet.

So what went wrong?

Sherrie Madia, coauthor of The Social Media Survival Guide, says this scenario isn't unusual for businesses. Whichever your tactic for jumping into Twitter--whether you joined with gusto or approached it more timidly--many businesses, sooner or later, experience Twitter neglect.

"One study shows that 73 percent of the Fortune 100 have registered a total of 540 Twitter accounts, yet more than half of those accounts are stagnant," she says.

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So why does this happen and what can you do to ensure your business maintains a consistent and strong presence on Twitter? Start by recognizing these four common mistakes and reassessing your strategy, Madia says.

1. Failing to plan.

Jumping into Twitter without a plan is the first mistake most businesses make, Madia says. "Think hard about what you want to do in the space--it's not a set-it-and-forget-it tool," she says.

Madia recommends listening to what's going on in the space and researching. Where are your customers or your target groups? Are they even on Twitter? Are they talking about your brand? "If, after researching, you find they're in other spaces such as forums, the best strategy might be to find a way into these existing communities rather than starting a new one," Madia says.

2. "Starving the beast."

"Many businesses can be lost at the point of content," Madia says. "When we create online communities, we create the beast, and we have to feed it."

What kind of content will you create? How often will you create it? What's the mix you want to provide? Think about who's going to tweet too, Madia says, because people can caught up with other projects and that's when tweeting trails off. Determine whether you can maintain your account in-house or if you need a freelancer. "Remember that if you're not providing value, the initial spike in activity or followers will eventually trail off," she says.

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3. Expecting quick wins.

Twitter is an easy space for businesses to enter--sign up for an account and begin following users. Because of this, Madia says, businesses sometimes think they should be able to see results just as quickly. But that's not always the case.

"Some companies will see instant success, like viral videos do, but those are the outliers," she says. "It takes time to build a following. You need patience and perseverance."

As you cultivate a following on Twitter, Madia recommends tracking your progress. "The beauty of the Twitter space is that everything is measurable," Madia says. Use this to your advantage: track and gauge who you have driven to your site, how much time they're spending on it and note any major wins."

[For more on Twitter, check out CIO.com's Twitter Bible: Everything You Need to Know About Twitter.]

4. Pushing business-speak.

Your Twitter followers want you to be authentic and personal, Madia says, "but often, businesses hide behind a corporate wall." To find and secure a place on Twitter, businesses need to develop a unique yet personal voice, she says.

"Consumers want to be part of your story," she says. "To do this, you need to be engaging, authentic, credible and have a personality. Leave out corporate speak, and become a trusted advisor to your followers."

Kristin Burnham covers Consumer Technology, SaaS, Social Networking and Web 2.0 for CIO.com. Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline. Email Kristin at kburnham@cio.com.

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