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10 Tweets You Shouldn’t Send (and Why)

“You’re boring. That’s why people are ignoring you.”
— Seth Godin, marketing guru

If you’re at all familiar with Twitter, then you know its users have struggled with one basic problem ever since the service was launched: mundane and trivial tweets. Things have improved recently, and now it’s much less common to hear someone tweet about how much cheese they ate at lunch or how long the line was at Starbucks this morning. Seriously…Who cares?

“Please tell all the credit unions trying out Twitter: If every tweet you post is an ad or a marketing piece, YOU’RE DOIN’ IT WRONG.”
— Comment from Purina Credit Union on Twitter

But you still see financial institutions talk about dull and boring things all the time. Take a look at the list below and you’ll probably see many familiar-looking tweets. While none were directly copied-and-pasted from Twitter (all of them are fictional), they are similar to the tweets sent by more than just one or two financial institutions.

If there’s one thing anyone on Twitter — anyone, not just financial institutions — should keep in mind when crafting their tweets, it is to:

Be Interesting.

All of us are starved for time. No one wants to waste their life sifting through mountains of worthless crap trying to unearth the occasional peanut. That’s why when people scan their incoming tweets, they are looking for:

  • something with personal relevance
  • something entertaining
  • something that gives them insight or advice
  • something with value
  • something that helps them, or solves a problem

If your tweets don’t meet one or more of these criteria, they won’t get read, you won’t get retweeted (only 1.4% of all tweets are interesting enough to share with others), and people will swiftly move on to the next item in their list.

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#1 – “New to Twitter. Trying to figure this out.”

This tweet isn’t necessary, nor is its immediate offspring: “Trying to find people to follow.” While these tweets may be honest, transparent and personal, anyone stopping by will assume you’re a clueless marketer who must have just read some article about Twitter. If you need to “figure Twitter out,” do it with a personal experimental account before activating your corporate account. You should know what you’re going to tweet before you get started.

#2 – “Check out our rates at”

Many on Twitter would say this is spam. Even if it isn’t, there is nothing special or noteworthy about the information provided. You are a financial institution — of course you have a website… and rates. So what? A special, limited-time offer may be something interesting or of value, but your average, everyday rates are not.

#3 – “Go green. Sign up for e-statements!”

Despite being “eco-conscious,” this tweet is still borderline spammy. You are asking people to sign up for one of your services, which basically makes it an ad. Instead of telling prospects what they should do, talk about what your customers have done/saved/accomplished: “Just sent out our 1 millionth e-statement. That’s 80 trees saved so far and counting. Every bit helps!”

#4 – “Acme Bank – The Friendly, Personal Place to Bank!”

Why would anyone care to hear your slogan? This kind of tweet doesn’t help anyone. It isn’t entertaining. It doesn’t solve any problem. It isn’t conversational or personal. It’s mono-directional marketing, nothing more.

#5 – “We’re thinking about ways to better serve you.”

Great… Get back to us when you’ve come up with something. (This flavor of tweet pops up more than you might think.)

#6 – “Become a fan at our Facebook page”

Why? What value is there in doing so? What can someone do, find or accomplish there? If you’re not saying anything interesting on Twitter, why would anyone double-down by friending you at Facebook too?

#7 – “Stop by and say hi to the staff at Acme Bank’s Springfield branch: 234 Main Street, Springfield, MA 01103”

There are way too many tweets from financial institutions that give people information they could easily find on their own. If someone on Twitter wants to find your branch locations, they can probably do it within three clicks: one click to your Twitter profile, one click to your website, one click to your locations.

#8 – “Good morning everyone!”

This is certainly polite, but it’s not interesting, entertaining or valuable. It’s fluff, space filler. How can you tell people don’t care about this kind of tweet? Because no one ever says “good morning” back. If you’re going to bother saying “good morning,” why not make it interesting? “Happy Thursday to all of you. FM radio made its debut on this day 74 years ago, and golfer Geoff Ogilvy turns 32

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#9 – “Can you believe this rain today?”

Dump all the small talk on Twitter. With dozens (or hundreds) of inbound tweets, most people don’t have time for lite conversation. As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t tweet about the weather. The same thing goes for a tweets like, “Traffic was brutal today.” It’s more small talk. If you insist on talking about things like the weather, avoid stating the obvious. If it’s raining, people can probably figure that out for themselves. Tell people something they don’t know already: “Today is the 12th straight day of rain in Seattle. The record is 33 days, back in 1953,” or “Don’t forget: Road work on I-5 in Seattle tomorrow between 9A-5P. Traffic will be bad, so try to leave early.”

#10 – “Starting a blog. What should it be about? Need suggestions.”

This sounds like market research, but really it’s a cop-out. If you don’t know what your blog should be about, then you probably don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish on Twitter either. There is a time and place to “engage your audience” and request suggestions, but handing over your social media strategy to the general public isn’t a good idea. If you know what your brand stands for, you should have all the answers you need already.

Key Takeaways:

  • Focus on the quality of what you’re tweeting, not the quantity. If you don’t have anything interesting to tweet, don’t feel obligated to put something out there, especially something dull.
  • You have to provide useful information in a manner that’s interesting. This takes time, research and is harder than it sounds.
  • Just like at a cocktail party, no one wants to listen to someone who only talks about themselves.
  • Just because you can force something to be more interesting doesn’t mean you should. Sure you can add a contest or trivia fact to any tweet about anything, but no one wants to see Twitter devolve into a slideshow of pre-movie theater ads.
  • Just because you have information to share doesn’t mean others will find it interesting. Just because you have something to say does not mean you should say it, nor that others want to hear it.
  • Audit your own tweet stream frequently. Take a look at your last 20 tweets and ask yourself, “Are these really interesting? Would I want to follow this?” Be honest.

All content © 2017 by The Financial Brand and may not be reproduced by any means without permission.

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  1. Paul Stull says:

    Big believer in quality, not quantity. Its what you say, not how much you say! Although nearly every car dealer in America would disagree with this statement it doesn’t make them right. Never liked car dealers much any way.

    Believing that this information may solve a problem, is interesting, has value and meets several other requirements, I will post a link on Twitter right after I post this comment.

    This is a great take on style and message

  2. Thanks for putting into words what I’ve been thinking lately. I follow some credit unions on twitter and there are many that are borderline spammy and have no idea.

  3. Ron Shevlin says:

    Great list. What do you think they should be tweeting?

  4. Good question Ron. But maybe it should be re-worded. Why are they tweeting? If the answer to the question includes any of the 10 mentioned points above then this will be an interesting conversation.
    It seems most are trying to have there business emulate a person. You are putting your company’s brand into a minimal 140 characters. Sure a credit union could Tweet “Our WAIR is 325 basis points” as if that is going to make any sense. Now put the message’s delivery into proper perspective. With email you send me something I delete it. You send it again, and again and again. With Twitter if you send me something that I don’t like or want I end the messages by blocking you. This is a gigantic difference and one that everyone needs to remember, including businesses. I don’t know how it will eventually end up but it will get more interesting for sure.

  5. Ryan Shell says:

    Thanks so much for linking to my Twitter post. To be included in a post with Seth is a true honor. He is on another level!

    Ryan Shell

  6. We are just beginning to educate ourselves about Twitter at the California Credit Union League. I’m putting together a story for our credit unions to read based on this article. Indeed, it is killing me to see some credit unions posting absolute junk on Twitter. Gives everyone a bad name. Hopefully we’ll get things turned around throughout the industry. Thanks for writing the article.

  7. As I navigated to this post (from Twitter), I was thinking to myself that I probably wasn’t going to agree with some of your examples… but I am pleasantly surprised… and do agree with all.

    I was going to make the point, and still will, that if someone elects to follow a brand on Twitter… then that is the ultimate “opt in”. It means they want to be marketed to. A great limited time rate is of benefit to them. Grand opening specials are of benefit to them. The news of branch closings due to storms are of benefit to them. There is nothing wrong with with using Twitter as a communications tool for business and marketing related matters… in fact, it is ideal.

    It’s all the personal chatter (from a brand) that diminishes the relevancy. I don’t care about your song favorites, what your dog did this morning or your weather observations. Leave all of that for a personal Twitter account… where I will care, if I choose to follow you.

    Thanks for some great guidelines.


  8. @Ron – Your question is a good one: “What should financial institutions be tweeting?” The same level of tactical advice as “10 Things You Shouldn’t Tweet” can’t be given when it comes to what financial institutions should be tweeting. There is not “one right answer” nor a singular approach that every bank and credit union should adopt.

    A financial institution that wants to know what to tweet should be looking at their brand. If you know what your brand stands for, who you are targeting, with what messages and which products, you’re going to have a lot more clarity about your social media initiatives. If your brand doesn’t provide you any guidance or insight, then either (1) you don’t really have a brand strategy, and/or (2) you shouldn’t be tweeting.

    This points out one of the biggest problems plaguing the financial industry, and that is how few financial institutions have a real brand with any kind of focus at all. Most are undifferentiated, look the same, act the same and say the same things to the same people.

    If you pick any financial institution with a clear, strong, differentiated brand, I’d bet you can figure out what they should be tweeting. Take VanCity in Canada for instance. They aren’t obligated to be active on Twitter, but if they were, it seems pretty obvious that they would tweet about social activism and their “Change Everything” initiatives. Many people in their target audience would find such a tweet stream compelling. And for VanCity, it would be easy and seamless to work-in product messages and promotions relevant to their followers.

    When you have a brand focused on anything — even just an audience segment — it’s going to give you answers. That’s what SEG-focused credit unions (like @firemenscu) have going for them.

  9. @John – You are absolutely correct, Twitter’s “Follow” button represents the ultimate opt-in. Every time a consumer hits that button on a corporate brand’s Twitter page, they are saying, “I actually want to listen to you.”

    But precisely what are they expecting to hear? Is it marketing stuff? Perhaps, if that’s what your tweets were about at the time that person chose to follow you.

    A tweet stream represents an implicit promise. It says, “Expect more of this kind of stuff in the future.” When someone loads up your profile to determine whether or not they are going to follow you, they are asking themselves, “Do I want to see more of this?” If you are tweeting too much marketing stuff, you’ll probably get fewer followers.

    This is fairly subjective advice here, but the general guideline is that you should send no more than one purely self-serving tweet out of every five.

    One final point regarding the “opt-in” nature of Twitter, and that is if someone doesn’t like what you are saying, they don’t have to follow you and can instantly “opt-out.” Every aspect of Twitter is completely voluntary. No one is forced to follow, read, do, see or say anything.

  10. These points and the comments that follow are all great points.

    One of the great features of Twitter is the ease at which you can ‘opt-in’ or ‘opt-out’ of the conversation. While the tweet stream feature allows people to get a sense about the topics a company or person discusses on Twitter, it’s not a feature I use all the time. Because I know that I can opt-out of following someone, I may follow without looking at their past posts. If the posts are boring or irrelevant, I’m quick to un-follow.

    While some institutions may feel like it’s OK that people un-follow them, we need to keep in mind that they are likely doing so because they don’t like, or don’t care about what’s being said. Those impressions extend beyond Twitter – they contribute to that person’s overall perceptions of your company and your brand.

    As the saying goes, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Once people unfollow you on Twitter, it’s not likely that they’re going to come back. I hope marketers that use Twitter, or are considering using Twitter, really take these 10 points to heart.

    Thanks Jeffry, this is a great list.

  11. Ron Shevlin says:

    JP: With “what are they expecting to hear?” you nail it on the head. From what I’ve seen of many FI attempts at tweeting, it’s not really clear what they’re “promising” to tweet, and I’d bet that many of the people who follow are giving it a shot, without a lot of preconceived expectations.

    That can’t last, though. People did the same thing years ago with email. Signed up to get emails from lots of firms that they did business with — and stopped after getting absolutely no value from those emails.

    That’s why I like what Dell does: Separate Twitter IDs for different purposes (IdeaStorm, TechCenter, Outlet, etc.). If you happen to be in the market for a PC you might follow Outlet until you’ve made your purchase, and then unfollow THAT Twitter ID. (So the “unfollow” action isn’t necessarily a bad action. )

    While this might open the door to more blatant marketing tweets from FIs, I think it’s important to note that does NOT invalidate your #2 point. A tweet that says “Special rate on 6-month CDs until the end of the week” is very different (and arguably more valuable) than one that just tries to redirect the follower to a web site.

  12. Kasey Skala says:

    Very good article and it brings up a lot of great points. I think a lot of organizations (not just financial institutions) are rushing to sign up for social media simply because A) it’s the ‘hot’ thing B) their competitor is and C) they think of it as another way to sell their service. These are the reasons you SHOULD NOT participate in social media.

    Financial institutions are in a great position to utilize Twitter as a way of building a community. Use is as customer service like @BofA_help or use it like Wells Fargo does. They are doing it right (I’m sure others are, these are just two bigger banks doing it well). If you’re a smaller local community bank or credit union, tweet about upcoming events in your community. What are some hot topics right now in your community?

    Additionally, use it to monitor your name. What are people saying about your brand? Was their an article written incorrectly? Use it to clear things up and prevent crises.

    Whatever you decide to use it for, make sure you build a community, but also remember you are representing a business. Your followers are not your next door neighbor or best friend that you can joke around with. Keep it real, but also keep it professional.

  13. shalini says:

    Great insight and such a well written post. I guess the same facts also hold for any marketing information a company wants to give. So the basic takeaway is that a company has to use twitter as a proper marketing tool that can add value.
    Also it should not take on the quality of of a telemarketer which is oh so irritating.
    So the crux would be offer some value addition in every post

  14. I disagree with point number one. One of my personal pet peeves is that a CU (either a CU person or a person tweeting on behalf of their CU) starts following me, and has not made their first tweet yet. This makes it impossible for me to do a successful search for their account in Tweetdeck so I can follow them back and add them to my various lists. There has to be at least one tweet made within the past 30 days. So I’d rather have ANY tweet as their first tweet than silence.

    I think you nailed it on the head in your comments that there is no “right” way to use twitter.

  15. Tina Louise says:

    Great points and eg. tweets I have encountered and not responded to were mostly spot on. I only take issue with the ‘good morning’ & ‘heavy traffic’ …

    …I don’t mind the polite or mundane – it can enrich the mental picture I have of that person and what is occurring around their other tweets. Provided they usually give good-tweet (?), I am content with a little filler as accessory.

    Tina Louise

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