The wrong place for a Twitter feed

I would guess at least 50 percent of the websites and blogs I come across feature a widget displaying a real-time Twitter feed. I think this is a mistake and I strongly caution my clients against doing it. Here’s why.

Done correctly, Twitter is lively, personal and human.  If you display your Twitter feed on your website, you’re displaying one side of a two-sided conversation. It’s conversation out of context. Why would you do this? What possible value could this create?

A couple years ago, a friend asked me to review his website. When I went to his landing page the thing that hit you right in the face was the word “PORNOGRAPHY” in the Twitter stream. In context, he was making a funny comment in response to a friend. On a website it sends the wrong message.

Everything communicates. Everything you say, and everything you don’t say, reflects on your brand. “LOL!!!! You rock Tony!” and “Delayed in Dallas for the second time this week” are appropriate for a Twitter stream but is that the right business communications you want to display on your company website?

Of course if your Twitter stream is simply company links and press releases you’re safe. But you’re also probably not too successful on Twitter.

The only possible value there could be is some symbol of social validation, like “Hey everybody, look at us! We’re on Twitter.” That just seems kind of desperate.  If you provide value on your blog or website, why wouldn’t a person want to follow your social stream any way?

Meanwhile, this widget is taking up valuable real estate that could be better used to create a call to action, promote a product or service, or offer something legitimately helpful.

I know there are a lot of Twitter-on-the-webpage-lovers out there that are going to tee-off on me today so hit me with your best shot! WHat do you think?

Illustration courtesy of

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  • April Line

    Wow.  I’ve been kind of uncomfortable about having my twitter feed on my website, but was–as I am wont to do–following the advice of bloggers more successful than I…  This post makes a ton of sense to me, though, and I often think about the things I post on Twitter hanging out over on my website, contextless, and especially on days when I’m experimenting with post scheduling and haven’t engaged on twitter, there’ll be three of the same tweet in a row… So thanks for the permission to get rid of that, and for additional affirmation that I should listen to myself more.  🙂

  • I love you, Mark, but I’m going to have to disagree with you on this one. 🙂

    We have a widget on our site and I know that it has been one of the main factors responsible for us landing clients. Ours pulls in both sides of the conversation (what our staff and saying, as well as the responses from the people to which we are saying it.) Clients have told me before that they are impressed that we’re maintaining this level of transparency with the public. Also, they’ve mentioned that they enjoy knowing what we are up to in real time (since many are totally new to social, they are uncomfortable navigating Twitter native to figure that out.)

    Yes, I am totally sure that from time to time, the sampling of what a potential client sees in that feed is off-putting and may result in us not getting the gig. I’m okay with that, since the ones who do like it are much better suited to the “I’m going to give it to you straight” way that my firm does business.

    Also, we tweet a lot, and the feed is on multiple pages, so I’ve also been told that companies who are clicking around our site for awhile are surprised to see that the conversation is progressing in real time. For many, this is the first time they’ve actually seen a social conversation actually in motion across a screen. Basically, it makes social real for them.

    So, yes. It has pluses and minuses. And one should never just throw that sucker on a site simply because they think it looks cool. But for us, it was a strategic choice — one that has paid off handsomely.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Mark … what about feeds from Facebook?

  • Great, April. Glad it was helpful!

  • The dissent is much appreciated but I think the way you are managing it is the exception not the rule.  We’ll have to agree to disagree.  I don’t think many potential customers will make a business decision based on whether you have a Twitter feed on your site and the risk outweighs the benefits. But I am so happy you shared the opposite view. Many thanks Jen! 

  • If the feed shows the post and comments, maybe. If it just shows comments out of context, then what’s the point? It’s a gimmick at that point.

  • I could not agree with this more… That’s all I have to say on the matter.  Twitter stream is Twitter stream… Website is Website.

    The two shouldn’t mix unless you mean for them to.


  • Thanks for taking the time to add your opinion Ryan!

  • I suppose the case could be made that when a viewer sees a partial Twitter conversation involving something of interest, the very mystery of its context could spark curiosity of the user to click-through to connect with them on Twitter and read their full stream. 
    More likely is the confusion case as you mentioned – the exact reason I removed my stream from my sidebar about 6 months ago. The whole PORNOGRAPHY situation cracks me up – definitely no benefit to having that on your sidebar. Thanks for the post!

  • Mark, you make a great point. While you could address this with a combination of your twitter policy and widget settings (don’t tweet stupid stuff and don’t show your replies to other people in the widget), the question would then be “what’s the upside”?

    Theoretically, I see an upside here in being able to stream in links to content that you share on Twitter and illustrate that you are active, something a follow button or icon doesn’t do (and I won’t generally take the time to find out if that is all that is on the site). However, when balanced against the real estate (those widgets are large!)…

    Definitely an interesting perspective and a healthy reminder to not just blindly follow the crowd.

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  • Anonymous

    A number of good points arise from your post.  In summary be careful on what you say, where you say it and where you  display it.  That is (self) marketing 101 but it still deserves constant repetition.  I agree that Twitter feeds are not appropriate on every web page, but like anything in life it depends on context and what type of feed you provide.  For example you could display tweets that your or your company have “favorited” because they reflect your brand or provide depth to your communication. 

    A feed on all your tweets may not suit a web site/page but they may be very appropriate on blogs.  Twitter is not only a mini-blog but a network connector to blogs, those spaces that afford more than 140 characters to communicate and dialogue with others (like this one).

    It is possible to be twitter consciously and responsibly but your advice is sound though not necessarily applicable across the board.

  • … unless you’re in the business of course! 

  • Good points Eric. Thanks for the counter-point!

  • Solid advice and I agree. Thanks for taking the time to add to the discussion!

  • Mark,
    While I do not know the absolute right answer (is there ever really ONE right answer?), I can tell you that having my twitter feed on my blog page (not any of our main organizational web pages) has been very helpful. So many people in medicine are not on Twitter, and think it is “stupid”. Seeing the links that I post, or the comments that may pertain to some issue in the medical field, has actually helped people to understand that Twitter could have some value to them. In fact, a fair number of my readers have joined Twitter JUST TO BE ABLE TO FOLLOW ME THERE. Without the ability to see what a twitter feed looks like, they may not have made that leap. So, for me it’s working.

  • I don’t know if it’s the wrong place to put the feed, all conversations start somewhere right? 

    Should I take my phone number off of my website too? 

    Of course, knowing that a Twitter feed is located on a website would mean you’re ok with others joining your conversations on Twitter though.

  • Duncan Fawkes

    I think you make a good point but I think the point goes further. You have to be careful what you say to any of your audience. Even if that twitter feed isn’t on your website, people are following you there for a particular reason – and only your friends care for the ‘LOL Tony’s. I think this is where there’s something about dissecting your audience into business and personal, so you’re webpage twitter feed is a constantly evolving stream of interest.

    The downside with that tho is a) you’ve dissected your audience, b) it removes the personality that twitter brings and c) you have to keep changing accounts.

    I was certainly aware of this this morning when feeling the need to tweet about an invasion of our local high st by a global supermarket chain, but the following I’ve built looking for photography info really don’t care!

  • Cool. Thanks for the alternative perspective kind doctor.

  • Comparing Twitter feed versus phone number is a stretch. I’ve never seen an embarrassing phone number! I’m glad it works for you but I don’t agree. nevertheless it means a lot to me that you took your valuable time to comment Joseph. Thank you very much!

  • Well said Duncan. great addition to the conversation!

  • I agree with the article. That’s partly why I don’t post a Twitter feed on any of my sites. Encouraging people to follow me is one thing; risking a bunch of irrelevant tweets on my site is another.

    I do wonder whether a lot of companies do it just because it’s a “cool new doodad” that they’ve seen on other sites.

  • The main reason for the “stretch” in comparing a phone number to Twitter feed showing up on a website is a phone number also represents the starting point for a conversation.

    I admit, perhaps it is a stretch.

    What someone puts in a Twitter feed shouldn’t be “embarrassing”… right?  It should represent real conversation, and in a real conversation we try hard not to embarrass ourselves (although sometimes it does happen).

    I guess my main point, which I delivered poorly, is it isn’t “wrong” to put a Twitter feed on a website IMO.

  • Very simple solution: You disable the live twitter feed from showing any tweets that start with “@.” If they are part of an out-of-context conversation, of course they should not be displayed. 

  • @a1da924f4788c9fb781103b5c6797aaf:disqus  Sounds like a good solution! Especially if you don’t make random tweets outside of conversations.
    If you’re using WordPress, this plugin can help with the filtering (see “Other Notes”):

  • Lea Milligan

    I don’t even think the risk factor should detour you. Just stop putting twitter feeds on your site!

    What does it really add? As long as you can offer people the oppertunity to follow, the rest of your site should be dedicate to getting the core message across

  • Hi Mark, You make a lot of solid points. I am taking my Twitter feed off of my sidebar. I don’t have too many posts like the ones you describe, but I don’t think I really need the clutter on my blog.

    I’m thinking the only upside of having the Twitter feed on the sidebar is if people come to the blog not understanding Twitter, they might understand it a bit better seeing the feed. But unless I hear complaints, my Twitter feed is gone.

    Thanks for the advice, Mark!

  • I hear you. 

    It’s hard to see the value of a Twitter feed on a corporate website with some exceptions. For example, a customer support twitter feed on a customer support page may be worthwhile.

    Twitter feeds on websites or blogs that are built around a personality make sense. On every page? I don’t know about that…

    Mostly, I see the problematic your speaking to… a consequence of poor (or lack of) design skills and/or think.

  • I really think it depends on what your subject is and what you are trying to achieve. some people do want the shock value so they don’t care. 

  • Even worse (IMHO) is the twitter feed highlight on television – especially news!

  • Julie Blakley

    There are also products out there that allow you to bring in Tweets that only contain media behind them – links, photos or videos- AND allow you to moderate (if you choose) which tweets appear in the widget on your webpage. This solves the problem, and still allows you to bring a social element to your website.

    You can see an example here: 

  • I’m going to hit aesthetics here… I actually had, but removed, the Twitter feed from my personal sites mainly because it took up too much room. Then I looked again and removed the FB feed. I have the buttons on the site already.. why do I need the big box that gives redundant info. I would like to hope that the average visitor would be able to put 2 and 2 together that if they click the T and F buttons they’d be able to see the exact same thing as a feed… 

  • I talked about this back in January so don’t need to reiterate what took a post to say ( however generally speaking I don’t see a reason to keep a twitter feed, or any feed (such as FB, etc.) on your blog.

    If people want to visit you on those sites provide the links for sure, but past that it’s taking up space.

  • Before he got canned by CNN Rick Sanchez used to say “let’s see what the people on Twitter” are saying. They had some very carefully curated tweets. Still…

  • Becca Seo

    Twitter is a great place to reach target market. If you execute it properly and offer
    something valuable and useful. I enjoy reading your psot.

  • Mark W Schaefer

    Yup. The shiny red ball!

  • Excellent point.  I do have this on my blog.  However, I only show Favorited tweets.  These tweets are usually someone complimenting me.  So, I’m using is as a social validation feature.  Will ponder some more. Thanks for the important input.

  • J LynNewell

    I have a twitter feed on my website of tweets that I hand select from people that I regularly interact with. This is good for me because the goal of my website is to build up my professional network. No, I’m not twitter famous but that’s not my goal in using social media.

    The goal is connection and for those that go to my site I intentionally want to create an environment that says- hey I’m a real live person you can talk to.

    Is there anything more valuable than that to have on a biz website?

  • So much insight and experience from the comments here further demonstrates social media is indeed an individual choice in manner of use. My worry, when one has to parse comments on the twitter feed it becomes no more than a promotional feed as an advertisement and defeats the purpose of honest interaction.  Difficult choices indeed. Thank you.

  • Exactly. Is it really adding to the story. I think it just comes across as a gimmick.

  • So what about the people you don’t hand-select?  A whole new problem? Thanks for adding your perspective.

  • Bill Salvin

    I like your point of view because it’s all about the audience. Without an audience, we’re all just talking to ourselves. Twitter is a useful tool but it does have to have an impact on the audience. I think your counsel is to be aware of the potential unintended impact. Nice post. 

  • Hi Mark. You’ve made some very interesting points in your article! I see both sides. 

    Live Twitter feeds embedded into a company website can help tell a brand story, if both the company blog and Twitter feed compliment one another. 

    As an online community manager, I’ve experienced both positive and negative reactions to live Twitter embeds such as the ones mentioned above. Here are more positive reasons to include a live Twitter feed into your site:

    – Share your knowledge with everyone, everywhere! If your Twitter feed(s) reflect your knowledge as an individual and/or company (hopefully it does), incorporate the live feed into your blog.
    – Sure, not all professional Twitter accounts have a perfect track record, but at the least your blog gives you a chance to show that you practice (or don’t practice) what you preach on Twitter! 
    – If your business is already in the public eye – flaunt it – when you can! Highlight key strengths as a business in your Twitter feed. This may call for some Twitter strategizing.
    – Using live, embedded tweets on a company blog, can – if done right – share important industry updates on your business and/or competition that your customers would’ve otherwise missed. 

    After all, your Twitter followers represent a large group of people clicking on your links, bringing them to your blog, yes? That’s how I found this article! 

    I hope this helps shed some light on the brighter side. 

    Thank you stirring up some important thoughts in my noggin, Mark! 

  • Mark,

    Initially I started dumping live twitter feed on my blog was because it was making the site slow. And Twitter is famous for it’s fail whales. So every time twitter widget doesn’t load properly, my site used to break. Now that you questioned the “value” it provides, I too have the same question in mind. It could be an indicator that you are active in twitter or if you run a blog about twitter 🙂

  • Cheryl

    as an instructional tech specialist, i’m assigned to 2 districts, so i’m all over the place.  i keep my twitter feed on my website so teachers can check in and see where i’m at and what projects i’m doing with my teachers.  i also share links with my teachers through twitter, as well.  it’s a way to communicate quickly, and embedding it makes it easy for them to view as they visit my site for flipcharts and other edtech resources…

    i think you’re right, though.  you have to be careful what you post…  🙂

  • Agreed. Thanks for the link Robert.

  • Interesting idea Gina. Thanks! 

  • Thanks for taking the time to comment Anneliz!

  • Good perspective Bill. Thanks! 

  • An interesting thing to consider: Does a Twitter feed tell a brand story?  I think if a Twitter feed were telling a brand story I would dis-connect from it. I mean, how long can you sustain a brand story?  That’s an ad, right?  Any way, something to think about.  Thanks for the excellent comment!

  • Very good points Adarsh.  Great addition to the discussion!  Thank you.

  • Why wouldn’t they just check your Twitter feed? : )   Point well taken though. An interesting use of the tool. 

  • I agree with the article but it does depend what you use twitter for. I use it to highlight events, articles and people, with links back to same on my site. As a “rolling billboard” it works great and my audience seems to respond well. I don’t use social media for personal stuff… Only business related

  • The coll thing about social media is that there are endless possibilities. But are you sure your audience is really enamored with a “rolling billboard?” Maybe you have discovered something new but that kind of sounds like an ad to me. Thanks very much Sue.

  • great points! What if you only put retweeted or Favorited tweets up? At least that would be more targeted to what you wanted your audience to see from your website.

  • Dustin Jennings

    Liked the post, Mark. I came across it looking for the correct way to put a twitter feed on my site, so I’m gonna have to rethink this one! The reason I wanted a feed was because I have a static ecommerce website. New products are occasionally added, but it’s pretty much where it should be product wise. I’ve heard from quite a few reputable sites that in terms of showing the site being updated with content, from an seo perspective having the feed is a good idea. We all know Google likes fresh content, but it’s not so easy when your site isn’t a topical blog. Any ideas?

  • Having performed financially quite well for nearly 21 years in my business w/o Twitter & other social networking sites, I’m still mystified by all the hoopla over it. Seems like such a waste of time. So much so, I am within inches of closing my twitter account completely. After spending several hours attempting to embed my twitter account on my website, and being quite unsuccessful, (oh happy day!) I ran across your commentary! Thank’s so much. Now, I know why I never thought it was a good idea in the first place. Just couldn’t put my finger on it.

    In fact, after finding an inordinate amount of material, in my opinion, wasn’t appropriate for my business, not to mention morally objectionable, my account’s by invitation only, and monitor Facebook and Twitter closely.

    As soon as I retire, I’m finished with this objectionable nonsense.

  • Nick

    IMHO, if someone goes to your site, and like most people, follow others in the same niche, then your prospective clients will also see your competitions tweets and may see a tweet that caught their eye… leaving your site to go check them out. Unless you’re a comedian(ne) I s’pose, leave it off your site

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  • Herb Silverman

    … and that is why I am so grateful of your advice tonight. Your article makes enormous sense; it’s almost like you don’t see it unless someone explains it step by step. Thanks for the tip.

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