Next week is Solar Power International in Vegas, and I’ve been watching the Twittersphere for how solar manufacturers are communicating about their SPI plans and promotions, and I’m seeing several common mistakes that can be quickly fixed. Here they are:

Mistake #1: You’re not even Tweeting about SPI. Oops… Many solar manufacturers still don’t have a Twitter account, or if they do, they’re barely using it, and that alone is a mistake because there are many, many, solar conversations are going on about SPI and the solar industry every day, and you’re staying out of that international conversation.

You may not get Twitter, but for whatever reason, Twitter remains a huge (and free!) communications and PR platform for the solar industry. Companies and solar advocacy organizations are constantly pumping out solar PR and webinars every day, plus there’s a constant stream of solar news with installers (customers!) interacting about that news.

So, if your company is too shy to engage with your own customers, then you can at least silently view all of the conversations about the solar news, spy on your competitors, and much more….

The Fix: Get social on Twitter and start engaging for SPI and from now on.

Mistake #2: You’re using the wrong hash tag (#)

First, some Twitter basics. A hash tag (#) is a symbol that you put in front of a word. Doing so, it magically becomes clickable and allows everyone on Twitter to see everything being said about a specific topic. That topic could be simply #solar, or in the case of SPI, the official hash tag is #SPIcon, NOT just #SPI or #SPI2014.

So a valid generic Tweet would be something like:

Come see our wonderful new solar widgets at #SPIcon Booth XXXX!

If you’d used any other hash tag than #SPICon, then you’d be having a different Twitter conversation, something about religion, from what I can gather. Take a look at these non-solar conversations using “#SPI:”

SPI example


As you can see, not solar related, and the same for SPI2014, although several companies are including that just in case.

The Fix: Use the correct “#SPIcon” hash tag, and then all solar Twitter users can be on the same page and see all of your Tweets related to Solar Power International, like so:


Mistake #3: You’re using @SPIconvention or @SEIA or @UtilitySolar instead of #SPIcon

Using the same generic example, you might have mistakenly Tweeted:

Come see our wonderful new solar widgets at @SPIconvention Booth XXX!”

“@SPIconvention” “@SEIA,” and “@UtilitySolar” are the Twitter names, respectively, for the organization running SPI, SEIA, and SEPA. And while it’s great to have a 1 on 1 conversation with those organizations on Twitter, you’re probably wanting to just use the #SPICon hashtag for the reasons mentioned in Mistake #3.

So, you’re essentially just mentioning a single entity, and only people who read your stream or who check on @SPIconvention’s Twitter mentions will see that message.

The Fix: Once again, just use the #SPIcon hash tag.

Mistake #4: You’re starting your Tweet with your Twitter name.

For example, you’ve Tweeted:

 @SolarWidgets will be at #SPIcon Booth XXX. Drop by and say hello.

All of that looks pretty good, except there’s a small but important Twitter syntax mistake. By starting your conversation with your Twitter name, Twitter thinks you just want this to be shared with your followers, not visible to everyone in the Twitterverse.

It’s a subtle and yet complicated distinction that I’ve explained in this previous blog post. It’s even more complicated when another Twitter name is mentioned. Bottom line, starting your Tweet with your name limits your Twitter reach unnecessarily, and you want your Tweets to go far and wide, right? Right. So:

The Fix: To get the most people to see your Tweets, whether or not they follow you, either start your Tweet with something else that isn’t your name, or simply place a punctuation mark, such as a comma or period, before your Twitter name. That tells Twitter you want this shared with everyone. Thus, the correct Tweet would be:

.@SolarWidgets will be at #SPIcon Booth XXX. Drop by and say hello!


Going to #SPIcon? @SolarWidgets will be at Booth XXX. Drop by and say hello!

Mistake #5: You’re not using images or links.

Twitter has enabled visual previews of links, so don’t just say, “Drop by Booth XXX” and not include an attached image or a link with an image that should get automatically fed into your Tweet. These days, you can even feed in videos, as with this Tweet:

SPI image

The Fix: Upload a photo of the product that you’ll be featuring or include a link to a landing page or blog post that includes an image that should automatically feed into Twitter if you’ve set up your blog correctly.

Twitter is a great solar PR, marketing, and listening tool for SPI, Intersolar, and all solar gatherings, but it works less well when you make these common mistakes. The good news is that you can correct them all now, and then start to… UnThink Solar. See you at the show and at the #SPIcon Tweetup!

Tor Valenza a.k.a. “Solar Fred” is the founder and CMO of UnThink Solar, and the author of Solar Fred’s Guide to Solar Guerrilla Marketing. For more solar marketing info, sign up for the UnThink Solar newsletter or follow @SolarFred on Twitter.