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updated 4/8/2013 11:18:06 AM ET 2013-04-08T15:18:06

In his book Ultimate Guide to Twitter for Business, online marketing expert Ted Prodromou offers an easy-to-understand guide to using Twitter that will help small-business owners generate leads and connect with customers. In this edited excerpt, the author offers tips on the topics and tactics you should avoid when Tweeting.

Now that you have some ideas what you can say on Twitter, let's talk about what you shouldn't say. We've all put our foot in our mouth and said the wrong thing to someone. I'm sure it was embarrassing and you may have heard about it from a few people who overheard your misspoken comment. It probably went no further than the few people who were in the room when you made your embarrassing remark.

When you say the wrong thing on social media, it's not only visible to millions of people, it stays online for a long time. You need to think twice before you press the Tweet button if you're responding to someone who has upset you. Take a few deep breaths, count to ten, and ask yourself if you want the entire world to read what you're about to Tweet.

Never respond in a negative way when someone says something on social media that has upset you. If you do respond, do it in a diplomatic way, because the Twitterverse is watching. Responding in a professional way has a positive effect on your reputation, while responding in a negative way will make you look immature and will have a negative effect on your business. Many of you have your Twitter account connected to your Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. Do you want your negative Tweet to appear on LinkedIn, where your customers and prospects can see it?

When considering using social media for your business, you should keep three important things in mind:

Related: What to Say on Twitter

1. Have a purpose.
Start thinking about why you're using social media for your business. Is it to generate leads, monitor your brand, provide support to your customers, or to expand your professional network? If you're just starting out with Twitter, "listen" to other conversations until you get comfortable with the way conversations flow. Don't Tweet anything you wouldn't say to someone in person.

2. It isn't all about you.
Don't send an endless stream of Tweets about you and your company. Twitter works best when you engage others in conversation, just like when you meet people in person.

Twitter works exactly the same way as in-person networking. The secret is to be more interested in learning about others than you are in telling them all about you. People will instantly connect with you if you show interest in them and ask them questions about where they work, what they do for a living, or what they love to do in their spare time. Ask them a question and listen to their answer. Ask them another question and just listen. Let them do 80 percent of the talking, and they will walk away telling their friends that you're the most interesting person they've met in a long time. Do the same on Twitter. Ask someone a question and listen to their answer.

Related: 10 Tips for Using Twitter Like a Pro

3. Remember your clients and your mother.
I see this tip frequently in social media guides. Don't post anything you wouldn't want your mother, grandmother, clients, or employees to read and associate with you. Word travels fast on the internet, and your posts can be ReTweeted and forwarded to millions in seconds.

Here are some additional tips for topics you should avoid Tweeting about. I know these may seem obvious to you, but every day people Tweet about them and they reflect negatively on their business:

  • Don't say negative things about your competition.
  • Don't engage your competition in negative conversations.
  • Don't get into fights with angry customers online. Engage them by asking them how you can help them and invite them to email you or call you for assistance.
  • Don't Tweet about your sex life.
  • Don't Tweet about wild nights out, and definitely don't Tweet pictures of your wild night out.
  • Don't Tweet about politics.
  • Don't Tweet about religion.

Remember, you're using Twitter to promote your business, so you want to be professional at all times. It's OK to engage others in conversation, but don't get into controversial topics that can polarize your customers and prospects.

Related: The 5 Biggest Twitter Marketing Fails of 2012

Copyright © 2013 Entrepreneur.com, Inc.

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