Twitter is a peculiar platform when you stop and think about it. Not just because of the 140-character-limit thing, but because of the etiquette. Chuck Wendig wrote about this nigh on 4 years ago:
Self-promotion explains itself, but I want to add a note here: I generally stop following people who are only self-promoters. I don’t mind that you do it. I do it. It’s part of the point. I follow certain people because I want to see what they’re doing. Got a new book out? New blog post? New album? I want to know about it. That’s a good part of why I follow you. But if your Twitterstream is just an endless parade of masturbatory links, I may politely label your tweets “noise” rather than “signal.” Ding. Unfollowed.
So many people use Twitter as a means of self-promotion – and that’s fine, utilising new marketing tools is great and it’s wonderful that now we can talk with clients, friends, associates, customers and businesses so easily. The issue that self-promotion brings is when it goes overboard; there’s nothing more frustrating when viewing my Twitter stream than seeing post after post of ‘buy my new product’ ‘did you see my new review?’ and the like. Actually that’s not true, that would be the second most frustrating thing on Twitter. The first is hashtag overload. At least I can read self-promotion posts, but hashtag overload is almost impossible to decipher thanks in part to Twitter giving them a different colour font to the rest of the status. You know the ones I mean: “I #wrote a #new #book today, #freesample available on my #website. #design #writer #writing #omgyay #fun”, and so on. It’s like turning up to a party and having the host walk around with a megaphone to tell you he made the dips himself, showered twice that day, saved money on the ingredients and that his new car has leather seats. Oh, and he doesn’t bother to ask how you are. Chances are, you wouldn’t go to his next party. There’s a similar chance that if you act that way on Twitter, people won’t stay interested in what you have to say for long. Part of the great thing about Twitter is the opportunity to connect. If you use it only to promote yourself then you’ve missed the point. Popular writer and blogger John Soares (followed by 4,539 people on Twitter at this moment) wrote about the greatness of Twitter in October last year:
There are three good reasons: you can keep up on industry trends, learn about job leads, and, most significantly, make connections with clients that can hire you
A key point to each of those three reasons is that they require you to put effort in – use the search function, talk to people. Not do the virtual equivalent of stand on a corner shouting at people for attention, because, just as in real life, they’ll scuttle past – they certainly won’t be inclined to lend you an ear to persuade them to purchase your product. As with most things, there are good and bad ways to use hashtags. I’ve given an example of a bad way to use them, and I’m going to borrow from John again to explain good ways:
Hashtags are a very useful as a way to let other people know what your tweet is about. This can get you both new followers and potential readers of the link in your tweet (especially important if you’re referencing a post on your own website). Social media “experts” experienced and new debate this, but according to Twitter you shouldn’t use more than two hashtags in a tweet; I usually use only one or two.
Whatever your motivation for using Twitter is, the simple fact is you’ll get much more out of it if you take the time to engage with other people. Ceaseless self-promotion will yield the exact opposite effect of what you want, and overusing hashtags will quickly ostracise you as a Twitter spammer. Don’t be the host with the megaphone. Be the guy who gives his guests a beer and mingles.