How (Not) To Use Twitter

social media don'ts

In 2014, it is essential for every business to be on Twitter. The advantages are enormous, especially with a savvy marketer at the helm. You can connect with your customers, build relationships, create brand awareness, and market new products. You can also provide information, survey your audience and get feedback, monitor your competition, boost sales with special offers and discounts, and even go viral! But what happens when you don’t have a savvy marketer guiding you through the Twittersphere?

A college professor once told me that anything you put on social media has the potential to show up on the front page of the New York Times. That seems to be true now more than ever, as it did not take me long to find a bevy of Twitter blunders from some otherwise highly reputable businesses. We picked out a few particularly spectacular Twitter gaffes to show you how to avoid having your business commit Twitter hara-kiri. With our advice, you will (hopefully) never have to send out that dreaded apology tweet or worse, part with a member of your team.


EXAMPLE #1: Kenneth Cole’s Tone Deafness 

kenneth cole twitterThe Mistake: In the midst of the Arab Spring, clothing designer Kenneth Cole sent out an insensitive tweet seemingly making light of a serious situation in Egypt and using it as a marketing ploy. Even worse, Kenneth Cole himself wrote this tweet.

The Takeaway: If you have to think even for a moment if the tweet you are sending out is in poor taste, DON’T SEND OUT THE TWEET! Humor can be a great way to connect with your audience, but revolution is not a joking matter.


EXAMPLE #2: Chrysler’s Potty Mouth

chrysler twitter fail

The Mistake: An employee of New Media Strategies, the company that handles Chrysler’s social media efforts,  decided to drop the F-bomb on Chrysler’s twitter account.

The Takeaway: DON’T USE SWEAR WORDS ON SOCIAL MEDIA. A business must convey a certain image, and that image is diluted when a single employee decides to go all Bob Saget on the company Twitter account.


EXAMPLE #3: Beware of the Interns!


REDCROSSThe Mistake: Allowing inexperienced interns to manage Twitter accounts with a combined three million plus followers. In the first example, an intern at clothing designer Marc Jacobs uses the company Twitter account as a forum to vent about his displeasure with his boss. In the second example, an intern mistakes her personal Twitter account with that of the largest humanitarian aid non-profit in the country.

The Takeaway: Interns are usually young and therefore possess strong social media skills. However, interns are also mistake-prone. If you have an intern tweeting on your behalf, make sure they understand the stakes. One gaffe could not only be detrimental to the company, but it could also cost them their job.


EXAMPLE #4: Practice Safe Use of Hashtags



The Mistake: Irresponsible usage of hashtags. In the first example, furniture retailer Habitat spammed trending topics to boost traffic on their own account. Realize that their tweets had nothing to do with the hashtags! In the second example, McDonald’s used the hashtag #McDStories to get their followers talking about their restaurants. They didn’t realize that people would hijack #McDStories to talk about negative experiences with the fast-food behemoth.

The Takeaway: Practice safe usage of hashtags. We recommend using one or two per tweet at the most. Don’t spam trending topics to promote yourself. This ruins trust between you and your audience. If you want to start trending, make sure you have a well thought out campaign. Twitter can be unpredictable, and a poor tweet or hashtag can blow up in your face at a moment’s notice.

EXAMPLE #5: Damage Control


The Mistake: After being accused on Twitter of stealing designs from artists without credit, the clothing company Urban Outfitters responded on their own Twitter account with, “Hey guys, we see your tweets regarding the I Heart Destination necklace. Please know that our accessories buying team is looking into this.” Their audience did not see this as a sufficient response to the issue, and three hours after that initial tweet the company had lost 17,000 followers and #urbanoutfitters and #thieves were both trending.

The Takeaway: Like Dale Carnegie said, “If you are wrong, admit it.” There are so many different opinions and voices on Twitter that at some point, you are bound to rub somebody the wrong way. When this happens, it is best to bite the bullet and admit your mistake. If you don’t, Twitter will eat you alive. Everybody has a voice and they will use it to skewer you. Don’t make a bad situation worse, control the damage.



This is a tweet by the British Embassy from this past weekend commemorating the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 with a joke that was not taken the right way. It was taken down shortly after, and the embassy issued an apology. We hope you now understand the nature of the beast that is Twitter. The court of public opinion now lives on the internet, and it can make or break your business one tweet at a time. But if you are smart, sensitive, and responsible, you can navigate through the Twittersphere to marketing bliss.