The best part of a do's and don'ts list? The don'ts. We've already covered 5 Easy Ways that Restaurants Can Use Twitter Effectively, so let's cover what not to do. How do we know? As active Twitter users ourselves (@seriouseats), we've seen the following "worst practices" much too often.
Don't Use Auto-DMs
Think you're adding that personal touch by setting up third-party services to automatically send direct messages to new followers? That practice usually has the opposite effect. Most often the typical auto-DM message goes something like this:
"Thanks for the follow! Looking forward to connecting with you!"
If you don't already know the follower, it seems disingenuous and makes them wonder if you'll be using the DM for future spam. If you do know the follower, it sends them the signal that they're getting the same impersonal response that you give to everyone else.
Instead, do this: Turn off the auto-response. Now. If you're new to Twitter, take the time to explore and find out who the key influencers are in the food space. Twitter's own list of suggested Food & Drink tweeters is a good place to start. Follow those who interest you — with no expectations yet that they'll follow you back; they may eventually, if your tweet stream is interesting enough. Then look at who they're following and retweeting. Look for tweeters in your city and neighborhood and follow them. When people who you recognize follow you, there's no need to respond with a DM — but if you do, type it manually, and personalize it to let them know you're reading what they do.
Don't Spam Influencers with @mentions or DMs
OK, so you know who the "key influencers" are among food writers, bloggers, and tweeters nationwide and in your city (see above). These people can help amplify your message, right? Not if you annoy them. There is nothing that nudges these folks (and, yes, even @seriouseats) toward the "Unfollow" button faster than a barrage of @mentions, @replies, and DMs urging them to check out your restaurant or food product.
Instead, do this: Follow these folks, if you're not already. Retweet ("RT") them when you like what they've had to say. Don't retweet everything they tweet, though. That comes across as if you've set up auto-retweeting—it's like the person in class who says, "Um, what he said!" If there's room, add something of value to your RT of the influencer's update. Eventually, these folks will begin to see you as someone who adds value to the daily conversation in addition to your self-promotion.
Too Much Too Fast: Don't Over-Tweet
Just as you wouldn't send out soups, appetizers, entrees and desserts to a table all at once, so too with tweets. Don't share your thoughts, links, menu specials and promos all at once. It clogs up your followers' feeds and they'll come to see you as an annoyance—someone whose tweets they scroll past before finally unfollowing you.
Instead, do this: If you only have a bit of time each day between rushes or after hours (a busy restaurant is a good problem to have), consider using a third-party service to schedule your tweets. Among them, HootSuite, SocialOomph and CoTweet (and CoTweet allows you to add other people to your account while still maintaining overall control of it, which is good if you have a social-media-adept staffer who you can appoint to tweet for you).
Don't Ignore Twitter's Social Conventions
While some experienced tweeters scoff at #FollowFriday, the hashtag convention people use to suggest other followers, it's a useful way to engender goodwill among people you hope can spread your message. At the very least, it lets folks know you're out there, and at best they just might retweet your suggested-user list and/or follow you back.
Instead, do this: Pick a well-curated list of users whose tweets you find interesting and useful. It's most useful to your followers if these users fall within a theme — chefs, food writers, great food photographers, fun and interesting food blogs, for example.
Don't Repeat the Same Marketing Message Over and Over and ...
I wish we didn't have to mention this one, because it should be so obvious, but there is no value in signing up for Twitter and using it to blast out the same message each day.
Instead, do this: Read "5 Ways Restaurants Can Use Twitter Effectively".