How Not to Use Twitter

Posted by: Jay Thompson on April 1st, 2009

The internet is all abuzz about Twitter.

Twitter is a “microblogging” platform that lets you send 140 character “Tweets” (sort of like instant messages). People “follow” you, and you “follow” others. It’s a social networking platform that is undergoing tremendous growth. (See this article from Nielsen Ratings for more info. And note the largest user demographic is those aged 35 – 49. That’s prime home buying selling age folks…)

Realtors tend to jump on anything that has even a hope of getting them business — and there is nothing wrong with that provided you investigate and understand what it is you are getting in to. And yes, Twitter can get you business. It is a wonderful tool for expanding your Sphere of Influence and for networking with other professionals in and out of the real estate industry.

While there are no “rules” for the proper use of a platform like Twitter, there are unquestionably some guidelines and generally acceptable etiquette practices that, used properly, will accelerate your business growth and used improperly may result in you never getting anything out of Twitter.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been gathering random Tweets from Realtors who are, in my opinion, “doing it wrong”. I’m leaving the names off as the intent is not to publicly humiliate anyone. The intent is to try to help educate those that want to use Twitter (or any social network for that matter) to expand their business.

I give you these little nuggets. Of note is the vast majority of these are brand new Twitter users (I have redacted some personal info like names, specific locations, brokerages, etc):

“I am a realtor looking for clients who are interested in buying a home or selling their home.” (users first, and only Tweet)

“Realtor. Have put properties under contract this week. Things are getting better with rates and inventory.” (users first, and only Tweet. At least it provides some useful info)

 “SOLD SOLD SOLD…another double end today for me @705K ….flying high! Is this a recession sure doesn’t feel like one too me!” (Not a new Twitter user. But please, no one likes to see someone gloating…)

“SOLD! 2nd 1/2 million double end of the year! I feel like I’m in Vegas I can hear the bells ringing!!” (from the same user above).

“Call if you live in the Illionois area and looking to buy or sell a home I am the Best Realtor in Illinois” and “Selling Homes working with buyers and sellers call me if you need the best Realtor” and “SELLING HOMES” (users only three Tweets. Ever)


“Are you looking for a good REALTOR in Las Vegas? I am here ready to help you. It’s a great time to buy right now. Let me show you” (users first Tweet)

And I could go on and on and on. There is stuff like this all over the “Twitterverse”.

How are Tweets like these perceived by Twitter users? Here are two actual examples:

“Dear God, please make it illegal for realtors to sell homes on Twitter”

“Yeah, some recent Realtor convention must have had “Twitter and Your Real Estate Business” as a panel.”

You see, in the world of Twitter and social media / networking, the “hard sell” doesn’t work. I’d even go so far as to say that in real life today, the hard sell doesn’t work. 

Here’s the deal. For Twitter to be useful, you need to ENGAGE with others. Broadcasting to the general public that YOU ARE A TOP PRODUCING REALTOR! does nothing. Do you walk into a cocktail party full of people you don’t know and shove a business card in their hand and ask them if you can help them buy or sell a home? Do you walk up to a complete stranger and say, “What recession? I’m double-ending deals right and left!” (Please say no. Please.)

Then why would you behave this way in an internet social network? 

You can put in your Twitter profile that you are a Realtor. Put a link in your profile to your blog or web site. But don’t jam your profession down people’s throats. It’s just not necessary, and in fact will be quite detrimental to your success on Twitter, or any other social network.

You can make your expertise known by responding to questions about real estate, sharing real estate news and blog links (NOT just your own!) and via the occasional (very occasional) Tweet about your day. 

Hopefully you’ve seen here how not to use Twitter. I threw in a little about how to use it but will offer much more in my next post (which will not be in three months like this one was…). In the meantime, if you want to learn how to use Twitter to improve your business, I suggest following a few and paying attention to what they are doing.

Try ones like @DruBloomfield, @Ines, @mikemueller (not an agent, but really understands social media) and @LindaDavis. There are more, many more.

You can follow me too! @PhxREguy.

See Jay’s follow up “How To Use Twitter!”


You can follow HomeGain on twitter @homegain



22 Comments on “How Not to Use Twitter”

Kathy Howe

Great advice! Even from me, a newbie to Twitter…and yes, I’m following you.

Jay Thompson

Kathy – did I follow you back? (I am WAY behind) What is your Twitter ID?

Ginifer Deming

Thanks for this info. I am new to twitter as well but I am truly more interested in what everyone else says that trying to promote me. I always feel like I don’t do enough of that, so thanks for your words of advice. I was getting it right after all!

Ashley Drake Gephart

Jay – I saw a comment from one of the locals who wished all the real estate agents would get off Twitter. It’s out of control the way some use it. There is an agent in my area who tweets nothing but her listing, blog link, and ustream over and over. I saw one of my local followers say she had blocked her over it. I try to keep a balance. Maybe 2 out of 20 at the most will be about real estate or a link to my blog. The rest is general conversation. It must be working as I add local new followers daily, have other locals send people my way and am planning a Tweet-Up with a good RSVP list. Why? Because they aren’t worried about the pushy agent trying to sell them. Yet, I get business off of Twitter. They know I sell real estate and will come to me when they are ready. (sorry for the long response!)

Adrian Salgado

There’s one very useful button in TweetDeck for these types of twitterers that reads “unfollow”. I’m just saying.


Louis Cammarosano

Excellent point ashley. As a consumer I don’t think I would want my agent tweeting all day long about their personal life, my business or anything!
I’d want them working for me.
While you can get business from twitter- there is a reason they call it “social media”

Rajeev Sajja


Great post. On Social media (or in real life) build trust first, then chances of doing business will present themselves. The 1 in 10 rule works quite well. They can have a soft promo about their business in 1 out of 10 messages. (Going to an open house type of message). The rest 9 should be devoted to engaging in conversations and adding value to others.

Thanks for doing this…

Matt Dollinger


You hit the nail directly on the head. As we talked about at the Leading RE conference, Twitter (IMHO) is to be used as such:
1. A learning tool (learn from those you follow and from what you’re interested in via
2. A communication tool (Where else can you get a chance to work and talk with people like @robhahn @1000wattmarc @homepartner and @aleciahuck?)
3. A collaboration tool (Hey, I’ve been working on XXX, would love some thoughts at

You are 100% correct Jay. Welcome to the world of Martyrdom (we saved you a seat!)

MAtt Dollinger

Eric Blackwell

Jay- Great post and thanks for saying it. I was going to do a post about a plumber and have every third word be something about pipe, leaks, toilets and everything plumber…just to make a point. ;-)

The folks who use these tools to their ultimate efficientcy use them to connect and build REAL relationships online.

I had a REALTOR in our office ask me how much that they could get away with on twitter. Ummmmm…if you are askin’….it’s too much, IMO ;-)


Linda Davis

Good job! I see a series of “what not to do” on certain social networking sites. Like on Facebook, to the webinar creators: please stop. They announce a webinar, invite me to the webinar, remind me the webinar is tomorrow and then send a link to it if I missed it. Arghhhh.

Carol Mathews

I love your blog – you have inspired me to learn more about blogging, websites, twitter, etc. With your great example it does not seem quite so overwhelming.

Lane Bailey

I’m terrible… Most of what goes to Twitter is my post notices… at least they aren’t all real estate. I try to block out time to answer @ and have some conversations. I’m better about it over on FaceBook.

I think my only saving grace is that most of the people I follow or that follow me on Twitter know me away from Twitter…

At some point in the near future I will be going through my Twitter followers and sending each of them a message just responding to something they have said or trying to draw them out if they are only lurking. And that is something I would do at a party or IRL gathering anyway.

Magness, Blaser and Yoakum Realty Group

We are now getting a new follower just about every other day on Twitter, so one thing we started doing is to read the profile, website, and updates of our new followers before we decide to follow them. This seems to make those only looking for followers go away, as we usually wont follow anyone who is not putting up useful, relevant or interesting tweets. @MBYRealtygroup

Sam Chapman

The same can be said about Facebook. I can’t stand seeing agents post about their listings. It is an online cocktail party, not a marketing site.

Jim Near

Good post, I am going to pass it on to the rest of the agents in our office.

Joseph Ferrara.Sellsius

The cocktail party analogy is a good one. As you say, just put a link to your blog or website and folks who think you are the tweetest will ask themselves, “Who is this genius using Twitter?” and find out.
I also agree with Matt Dollinger’s comment about good uses for twitter– adding that it is also good for keyword alerts (Tweetbeep).

Question for everyone– is giving something away for free on Twitter (discount or free shipping code, free e-book) acceptable marketing? (assuming that’s not all you tweet)

Kristal Kraft

So right! I cringe every time I see Realtor Tweets who think they are the center of the universe and everyone else is sitting around waiting for them to post a listing. How unique! It’s time they are RETRAINED we aren’t in social networking to broadcast one-way all the time.

It’s about making connections, give and take, like a two way street.


Elaine Reese

Add LinkedIn to the places where listings shouldn’t be added. Some groups have told the agents to STOP IT but they must be slow-learners.

Derec Shuler

It’s unfortunate that tools like Postlets let REALTORS post directly to their Facecbook profile now. I just shake my head when I see a profile that has listings all down it and no other social interactions.

How do you make people “get it?” Then again, like Jay said, these are the same ones that will shove a business card in your hand at a wedding asking you to contact them if you’re looking to buy or sell.

Then again, there’s been this type of user with every medium.


Portland Real Estate

Great post. I could not agree more, I tend to see spam posts a couple of times a day and from my own colleagues too. I am trying to think of a nice way to let a friend know that he is spamming his Facebook and Twitter friends far too much and he risks losing his audience.

Missy Caulk

I saw a tweet last night by Andy Beal, he said the thing that will kill twitter is not the celebrities tweeting but the older twitters moving on because OF the celebrities tweeting.

Last I heard Twitter is still permission based, just don’t follow them.

I haven’t sold a home from Twitter but have made great local contacts w/ people I would not have known or been able to connect with.

Used properly it is a fun venue to connect with people on. I suspect those that only post listings will not stay around, or will be like the herd that says, “I don’t get twitter.”

Kathy Howe

I’m a bit late responding… Don’t know if you are following me or not: SedonaKathy Happy if you did.

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