The half-billion search engine results for “how to start using Twitter for business” tell a heck of a story: small- and medium-sized business owners understand (rightly) that it’s not too late to get in the game. The query leads to a digital treasure-trove of information on how SMBs can leverage Twitter to get ahead of their competitors, even those with an established social media presence. But in the rush to learn how-to, it’s easy to forget a potentially more important question.

How not to.

Sure, there are legitimate disasters (let’s call them Twitastrophes) that can totally damage a brand. Then there are those little pernickety things that SMBs tend to forget in their attempt to dominate the micro-blogging forum. Let’s look at some common pitfalls businesses should be careful to avoid.

Tweeting Too Much—Or Too Little

Because tweeting is so quick and easy, some companies make it a point to tweet all day long. Others, however, miss the opportunity for engagement by not tweeting nearly enough. The “economy of tweets” is an important consideration for a company looking for maximal engagement. Studies have shown that engagement tends to decrease after the third tweet.

But really, it varies entirely by industry and audience and myriad other factors particular to the SMB’s brand. Your mileage may vary. Fast Company’s Social Media Frequency Guide is an amazing tool to help business owners avoid over- or under-tweeting (among other social media faux pas).

Spamming Your Target Audience

Overly promotional or commercial tweets, clunky calls to action like “BUY THIS!” (yes, this actually happens), or tweeting only links to your product pages won’t do your business any favors. Your client base is on Twitter for engagement, not for constant sales pitches.

Posting company updates and promotions and nothing else is a really great way to lose followers.

This isn’t to say that you can’t promote your products and services, but there are ways of doing so that are more elegant, more effective, and far less annoying. Spend the lion’s share of your time on Twitter engaging your audience, developing that trust and brand loyalty that will lead to conversions once they’re ready to buy.

Managing Time Ineffectively

Twitter’s a great marketing tool for the budget-savvy SMB owner. An account doesn’t cost a dime. Or does it?

Spending too much time on Twitter can hurt your business in the long run because it takes valuable time away from other work that might yield better results. While you should continue to engage, retweet, and respond, fight the urge to respond to every single tweet directed at your business as soon as it pops up. You can get to those at the end of the day and take care of them in one fell swoop.

Finally, don’t scroll endlessly for something relevant to share. Budgeting your time is just as important as managing your actual marketing budget.

Abusing, Misusing, or Ignoring Hashtags

According to a recent study, Facebook hashtag overuse can damage a brand’s reputation. It stands to reason that the same is probably true for Twitter. Ten times out of ten quality beats quantity on social media.

Of course, hashtag overuse seems like a pretty easy mistake to avoid. It’s those other, kind-of-seems-creative hashtag ideas that tend to get out of control. For instance, #ExtraLongHashtagsAreHardToRead, and they’re also a lot less likely to trend. Some businesses have taken to using a trending hashtag—even one that’s totally irrelevant to their products and services—to try and force attention to an unrelated tweet.

No, no, and no.

On the flip-side of the coin is under-using or ignoring hashtags. If there’s a trending hashtag, by all means use it! If there’s a creative hashtag you think will create a buzz among your followers, give it a try! Hashtags are extremely useful when utilized properly, just as they’re damaging when used poorly.

Not Giving Your Audience Its Due

If your audience is on Twitter, and if they’re following you, they want to hear from you. As obvious as this may seem, many brands forget it. It can be easy to get a sort of tunnel-vision wherein you’re only focusing on tweets about your brand or your industry. Unfortunately this can tend to send your audience the message that they’re an afterthought, when in fact they’re the very reason you’re on Twitter in the first place.

Reward  them for following you. For instance, respond to a tweet or two of theirs even if it’s not related to your business. (Especially if it’s a picture of their kid or puppy.) Every time you get an @mention, you should respond. Your audience may prefer communicating with you on Twitter, asking you questions or even complimenting your products and services. Not responding will lose any brand loyalty you’ve generated.

Common sense goes a really long way.  Observe other brands on Twitter and see what makes them successful and engaging. Alternatively, see which ones annoy or offend you. You’ll learn pretty quickly how not to tweet.