Top tips for Twitter: common pitfalls

By @Ha_Tanya, Associate at Science in Public

imgresTwitter is great for building your networks, sharing resources and stories, peer support and keeping your finger on the pulse of a particular field or topic. It’s also a potentially powerful tool for disseminating science.


Used without insight and discipline, it can consume a lot of time for little outcome. And, occasionally, social media can get you into trouble!

Here is Part 2 of our series of stories with practical tips for Twitter, this time focusing on how to avoid the mistakes most commonly made and get the most out of your social media use.

Read Part 1 – Top tips for Twitter: getting started

  • Have a plan (and stick to it) – Just as there’s a difference between communication and strategic communication, there’s a difference between random, reflexive tweeting and a more deliberate approach. Understand why you’re on Twitter, who your intended audience is and what you hope to achieve, and have a plan to achieve this.
  • Don’t let Twitter eat too much of your work day (or lunch hour) – There’s a fine line between ‘social networking’ and ‘social NOT-working’. Twitter can be a huge time waster if not well managed. Plan how you can efficiently use Twitter, allocate time for it and stick to your plan.
  • Don’t start with a handle – If you start a tweet with a Twitter user’s handle – for example, @ChemFreeBear – then Twitter’s clever algorithms will think you’re replying to @ChemFreeBear and that this is part of a conversation. The only people who will be able to see the tweet will be you, @ChemfreeBear and people who follow both of you. If you want your tweet to be widely visible, put other text before the handle, even if it’s only a period (.).


  • Beware the auto post – Some social media platforms give you the option to automatically cross post the same text, picture and/or alert to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and/or Instagram all at once. You might think it’s efficient, but it can look lazy or confusing. For example, people who use only Facebook might be confused by the hashtags and other Twitter and Instagram shortcuts and jargon. Facebook posts, allowing for more text, might get cut off abruptly. And auto-alerts, such as “I just shared a new video on YouTube [link]” don’t give you the opportunity to put more meaningful information into the tweet content. It can give the appearance that you don’t care enough to tailor the message to the medium you’re using.
  • Don’t tweet too much… – Too many tweets, with little interesting content, is viewed as spam on the Twittersphere. Choose quality over quantity.
  • … or too little – However, a Twitter account with infrequent activity suggests a user that’s out-of-touch, less connected and of less value. You’re less likely to gain followers, and build an audience and influence.
  • Don’t tweet in the heat (of the moment) – One of the dangers of Twitter is that it’s immediate. Try not to tweet when you’re angry, or in retaliation to a perceived slight. With its 140 character limit, Twitter unfortunately lends itself to misunderstandings. Only tweet when you’re calm and rational to avoid tweeting something you might regret later.
  • Managing multiple accounts? Make sure you’ve got the right one – Make sure you don’t get your personal, organisational and/or client Twitter accounts mixed up, especially when using Twitter on a smartphone. For example, “Woohoo, Friday night! It’s time to PARTAY!!!” is probably not appropriate to tweet from a work or client account.
  • #Use #hashtags #in #moderation, #please –Tweets with nearly every word hashtagged are really hard to read. And irritating. However, hashtags are useful when used well. Just put key words with hashtags at the end of the tweet or, if you’re running short on characters, tag a single key word or two in the body of the tweet.
  • Don’t follow and un-follow to collect followers – Some people follow an account, knowing the user will receive an alert and hoping the user will follow them back. Don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t follow you back. They don’t have to. Repeated following and unfollowing someone to try to get them to follow you is the height of dagginess on Twitter.
  • Protect your privacy and security – Get familiar with the privacy settings on Twitter and, as per Facebook and the broader internet, don’t divulge personal or private information. You can also turn location services for Twitter off on mobile devices, so that your tweets aren’t geolocated.
  • Don’t feed the trolls – Because Twitter allows anonymity, it can provide an outlet for the worst of human nature. For whatever reason, people can get nasty on Twitter. It’s also a place where scientific debates can turn into pointless shouting matches. If you end up on the receiving end of abusive tweets, remember that you are not obliged to respond to them. You can also block that user. Useful articles:
  • Do get in and tweet – Despite the negative flavour of these tips, Twitter can be a lot of fun. Twitter is best learnt by experience. You’ll learn what works and what resonates with your audience by tweeting and reading other people’s tweets.

Good luck and happy tweeting!

1 comment on “Top tips for Twitter: common pitfalls”

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