Twitter thrives on the relationship between you and your followers. And yet many small businesses struggle to gain a following and end up abandoning their profiles due to fundamental errors in the way they manage them. This often boils down to a lack of understanding of Twitter as a social channel and an inability or unwillingness to invest the time to learn. But the secret to success is simple: put yourself in your followers’ shoes and consider what you’re adding to their lives. There are some common mistakes that I see again and again on Twitter, and encountering one or more of these on a profile significantly decreases the chances of me following and/or increases the chances of me unfollowing or blocking.

1. Incomplete Profile
Setting up a Twitter profile is so quick and easy that any time I encounter one without an avatar or with a non-existent biography it just says to me: I couldn’t be bothered. If I’m going to follow you I want to know a little about you both professionally and personally. Don’t be shy, we’re all friends here...

2. Selling on Your Profile
One of my personal bugbears is people who describe themselves as ‘guru’ or ‘expert’. Maybe you are, but please have some humility! I’ve also come to despise overly corporate or salesy custom backgrounds. By all means customise your background (in fact, I recommend it), but please don’t try to sell to me before I’ve even made contact.

3. Indiscriminate Follows
Several times a week I get followed by seemingly random people or organisations, and sometimes I don’t have the faintest idea where they’ve found me or why they’re following me. Generally, if I don’t follow back they unfollow me within a few days. So if I can’t even figure out why you’re following me in the first place, why would I follow you back?

4. Imbalanced Follower/Following Lists
It’s not that I have a problem with individuals following more people than follow them. But if you’re not relevant to me (see point 3) and you follow significantly more people than are following you, it suggests you use an automated follower tool and are after numbers. Unless your annual bonus is linked to follower numbers, there’s no point.

5. Automated Tweets
Let me be clear that I’m not talking about scheduling handwritten tweets using Hootsuite. I’m talking about an obviously automated stream from a news service or from a Facebook page. If I wanted an automated stream I’d sign up to your RSS feed or your Facebook page. On Twitter this is nothing but noise; it’s like someone screaming in your ear. And I don’t much like that.

6. Unbalanced Twitter Stream
The ideal Twitter profile should consist of about 30% conversational @replies, 30% retweets and 40% interesting broadcast tweets, hopefully with an opinion or link, of which only about 25% (10% of total tweets) are self-promotional. This tells me that a) you’re trying to add value, b) you’re reading others’ content, and c) you’re conversing and aren’t all “me, me, me”. It’s worth noting that all @reply conversation can be as bad as all broadcast, so try and stay balanced.

7. Automated Welcome Messages
So I think you seem cool and interesting and decide to follow you. It could be the shortest following in history if seconds later I receive an automated direct message that thanks me and directs me to your website/blog/Facebook page. Auto responses are from the dinosaur age of Twitter and, just like the T-Rex, should be extinct.

8. Repetitive Tweeting
Once I’ve been following someone a while, there are three main reasons I will unfollow or block someone. The first is if you keep broadcasting the same tweet or link repeatedly. A couple of times for a blog entry or something relevant/cool is fine, but any more than that on a regular basis looks like you’re trying to sell something. Unless you’ve discovered the cure for cancer, leave it be.

9. Packing ‘em In
The second unfollow golden rule is not send half a dozen tweets in 30 seconds and then nothing for four hours, and then another burst of six tweets. This is especially true when combined with point 8 above. Use a tool like Hootsuite to spread out your tweets across the day/week – you’ll touch more people anyway.

10. Please Add Value
I’m demanding, I admit it; this list is pretty challenging. But then most others on Twitter are demanding too. If I’m not providing you with interesting links or conversation or sharing your content, there’s no point in following me, right? The same goes for me and for others: make your Twitter stream relevant and focused and your follower numbers will grow and continue to grow.