By Kristi Hines
While Twitter may not be as big as Facebook in terms of traffic, it has several advantages over Facebook. Not only is it easier to gain followers on Twitter, but you can engage with people before they become your friend on a personal profile or your fan on a business page.
The following is a guide to help you setup your Twitter profile and implement a successful Twitter marketing strategy. It gives suggestions and tips for those who are new to Twitter or are just looking for some new ideas.
Researching the Competition
If you’re just starting out on Twitter and need a few examples to follow, why not start by doing a little research on what your competition (or colleagues, if you prefer) are doing in the Twitterverse.
I can *almost* guarantee that there is a similar blogger, freelancer, entrepreneur, local business, or any-sized business already out there taking advantage of Twitter. You can find them by visiting their websites or using directories such as Twellow and Wefollow to search for Twitter users in a specific industry.
Be sure to find the best examples to follow – if you’re a local bakery, and your competition down the road isn’t on Twitter (or only has 3 followers), then try broadening your searching for a local bakery in a larger city. Once you’ve found them, follow them and see what they do. Note what seems to get a good response and what doesn’t.
For more tips on researching the competition, I wrote a post here a few months back called 7 sneaky ways to use Twitter to spy on your competition. Be sure to check it out to see what you can learn from others in your field!
Essential Profile Elements
Again, if you’re just starting out, or if you’re not seeing a lot of success, one thing you will want to look at is your profile itself before you start going and searching for followers. Particularly, you will want to make sure you have the following:
Custom Background Design – When someone comes to your Twitter profile for the first time, they should see a great design that reflects your brand.
Concise and Descriptive Bio – You get a whopping 160 characters to describe yourself and what people will get when they follow you on Twitter. Make it interesting and convincing!
Profile Picture – No one wants to follow the generic Twitter icons. And not a lot of people want to follow a logo (unless it’s a well recognized one). What they do want to see is a person behind the profile. Social media is all about engagement, and people want to engage with other people, not just companies or bots.
Great Tweets – Last, but not least, when people are deciding to follow you, chances are they are going to do so based on your most recent tweets. If you visit your profile, you’ll see your last twenty tweets at the least. Make sure that these tweets reflect your engagement level with your audience – you should be sharing great content and responding to others MORE than you should be doing pitches and trying to make sales.
Finding Targeted Followers
Now that you have your profile setup, and some great tweets, your next on-going goal will be to gain followers. Sure, there are lots of ways to get just any followers, but the key is to get targeted followers who are interested in your industry.
So how do you find them? And how do you get them to follow you?
While everything shouldn’t always be about numbers, there is a certain thing to be said about someone coming to your profile and seeing that you have a good follower count. I usually like to start a new Twitter account out by finding people who have a follow back policy in place, usually implemented by an online application. Basically, you will be looking for people who have close to a 1:1 ratio of followers and following count.
Some great places to search include:
TwitterCounter Search – Enter in your keyword and you will see users with their following and follower count. Connect TwitterCounter with your Twitter account and follow those users directly from TwitterCounter’s search results.
Twitter Lists via Listorious – Search for Twitter lists compiled by other members on your industry. When you view these lists on Twitter, go to the following tab. Then click on each of the users. In the new Twitter layout, you will see their profile pop out on the right side of the screen so you can see their followers, following, and have the option to follow them.
Of course, there are many more ways to find followers. You can use the Twellow and Wefollow directories mentioned above. There are also applications out there that automate the following process, the most popular being Twitter Adder which finds and follows new users regularly based on your customized searches as well as unfollows people who do not follow you back within a specified timeline.
Getting Followers from Your Own Online Properties
Do you have a website, blog, email newsletter, or other way to share links with others online? Then be sure to add your Twitter link to everything, down to your email signature, forum signature, and even other social profiles (such as your Facebook). This way, people who are already connecting with you online can easily find you on Twitter.
One great way to get more followers, specifically from your blog, is to use Twitter’s retweet button. It allows you to put a retweet button on each of your blog posts to make it easier for visitors to share those posts with their followers. But the bonus is that when you create the button, you can put in a Twitter account to recommend after someone shares your post.
This way, people who are already interested in your content are invited to follow you, and likely will because it is so convenient.
Direct Messaging Best Practices
Now that you have followers, the next step is to start engaging with them! One way to connect with your followers is through direct messages. Twitter users have a love / hate relationship with direct messages, as many of the ones sent seem like spam.
As you follow others, you will see examples of good and bad direct messages. The bad ones are those that are pitching a product or service right off the bat and those trying to get you to opt-in to their mailing list (usually through the temptation of a free eBook).
Think of that first direct message as the first thing you say to someone you have just met and shook hands with. You don’t want to put them off immediately. Think of your direct messages as a way to go above and beyond to connect with a new follower. Simply thank them for following you, or ask them what they would like to learn from you on Twitter. The latter can be especially helpful in surveying your followers to see what kind of tweets will keep them engaged.
The best way to do direct messages is by personalizing each one to your new followers. But of course, when you start getting dozens of new followers daily, it becomes a bit of a productivity issue to do so. This is where automation comes in.
Free services such as Social Oomph lets you register your Twitter account and send your new followers a direct message automatically. My biggest suggestion on this one is to remember not to pitch your new followers off the bat and ALWAYS try to reply personally to them if they respond to your message.
Something that can come in handy is to keep track of who direct messages you personally, past the initial welcome message. For example, do have people who direct message you asking you to promote their blog content? Then the next time you have some content you really want to push, you can feel good about direct messaging them for a favor.
What Can Be Automated and What Needs to Be Personal
Automation can be a dirty word when it comes to social media, because there is no bigger turn-off on Twitter than realizing an account is nothing but an automated bot. But there are some forms of automation that can be helpful to incorporate for both yourself (to save time) and for your followers.
There are two automation services I use that usually get a great response from followers. The first is TwitterFeed. This service allows you to connect your Twitter account and publish tweets whenever your favorite blog adds a new post to their site using the blog’s RSS feed.
By using the advanced settings to add on the blog’s Twitter account in the Post Prefix or Post Suffix, you will be letting them know with every tweet that you are a loyal follower of their blog and sharing their content, which may lead to connecting with the blog owner for guest posts, cross promotions, and more.
Why is TwitterFeed so great? If you choose blogs which fit your industry that your followers will like, they will appreciate your willingness to share relevant content with them and likely will retweet those items to their followers as well.
The second automation plugin works specifically with WordPress blogs – Tweet Old Posts. This plugin will tweet posts in your blog archives to your followers, this way new followers can see content that they may have missed out on.
The best part of both plugins is that they will keep your Twitter account active when you can’t be actively updating it. But it is important to remember that these cannot be the only sources of tweets for your account.
The most important updates you can do are the ones where you directly engage with the Twitter community – not only your followers, but also the influencers in your industry.
Having a higher instance of conversations where you are directly @username replying to someone is key to showing your current and potential followers that you are more than just a bot but an actual human who wants to communicate directly with others. This means that you need to not just be tweeting, but also be listening.
Listening on Twitter through Searches and Lists
One of the best Twitter management tools that I highly recommend for setting up your listening strategy on Twitter is HootSuite. This tool allows you to setup multiple tabs with 10 columns to help you monitor your mentions, direct messages, searches and Twitter lists.
Twitter searches are very powerful in the sense that you can monitor any tweets including a particular keyword. For example, if you sell auto accessories, you can setup a Twitter search in HootSuite with the keywords best muffler? to see when anyone is tweeting a question related to finding the best muffler. If you run a food blog, you can setup a search for cookie recipe? to see when anyone is asking for a cookie recipe.
In both cases, you can @username reply to the person and share a link to your website where you have information that answers their question. I have tried this with my blog using searches related to WordPress, blogging, etc. and have only received thank-yous in return.
You can also use the advanced Twitter search to get even more detailed with your searches, such as finding out who has been tweeting a specific keyword within 15 miles of a particular area code.
Twitter lists allow you to add people (up to 500) to particular lists to help you monitor those users. This is a great way to monitor thought leaders in your industry. You can create lists easily in HootSuite by adding a new column to one of your tabs, creating a new list, and adding users to it. Follow them to learn what topics are most important in your industry, retweet their posts, and respond to them when they have questions to get on their radar.
Another way to use Twitter lists is to properly segment your Twitter following. A new online service called Formulists automatically creates new Twitter lists for you based on your followers’ location, keywords in their bio, latest updates, and so on.
You can also create lists to help you expand your following that cross reference people that your followers interact with that you are not yet following. Check out the lists that you can create (currently 15 types with tons of options) to see what can benefit you the most.
Monitoring Your Business and Brand
Another great listening / online reputation management strategy that you can implement via Twitter through HootSuite is monitoring mentions of your business, brand, website, blog, or products by creating keyword searches for those names. This way, you can thank those who are praising you as well as respond quickly to those who might have customer service issues or other negative commentary.
Handling it on a public platform will also show other users (and possible potential clients) that your number one focus is their satisfaction, which will lead to stronger positive sentiment towards your brand as a whole.
Trending Topics and Hashtags
This one may not apply to every industry, but one way to spread your Twitter message beyond your own followers is to attach it to a currently popular hashtag (#keyword) or topic. The top 10 most popular hashtags are listed on the right sidebar of your Twitter homepage. You can change it to show worldwide trends or trends specific to a particular country.
If there is a trend or hashtag that you can jump on board with, your tweet will be seen by anyone following the topic. This is a great way to promote relevant blog posts and content that will drive new traffic to your website and possibly new followers to your Twitter account as well.
Finally, a great way to get involved with the Twitter community is by participating in relevant Twitter chats. There is a great schedule of regular Twitter chats that can be found in this Google spreadsheet. Joining in these chats regularly usually leads to an increase in targeted followers, as well as a great way to increase new traffic to your website, assuming you have content that directly ties in with the topic of the chat.
Your Thoughts on Twitter Marketing
I hope that this post has given you a great start on ways to take advantage of Twitter for both engaging with your community as well as for online marketing. What other tips and suggestions do you have to make the best of your Twitter marketing strategy?
About the Author: Kristi Hines is a freelance writer, blogger, and social media enthusiast. Her blog Kikolani focuses on blog marketing, including social networking strategies and blogging tips.