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Sometimes when it comes to social marketing it really is about the numbers. You can’t market your business if nobody is listening, so you’re going to have to put some time and effort into growing a following.
Gaining a Twitter following is not that difficult. In fact, it’s as easy as paying a few cents for thousands of followers or becoming a minion of #teamfollowback.
However, growing a meaningful Twitter following – one that will be useful when you want to market your business – is another thing entirely.
Whether you’re just starting out, have already started and aren’t seeing the response you want, or have been around enough blocks to start wondering if Twitter is really for you, give these ideas a shot and see if they can help you build a better following, make better connections and ultimately market your business successfully.
Make Your Profile Count
The first few followers are exciting. The first few hundred are exhilarating. The first few thousand are like a bit of fairy dust sprinkled on a chocolate cupcake.
But after a while you start to zone out a bit. How do you consistently decide who to seek out, who to follow back, who to engage?
For me, a five-second glance at a profile makes the decision and I bet I’m not alone. It’s possible I’m missing some great people but my brain only has so much processing power and as far as I can tell, there’s no upgrade chip yet.
So for the sake of making sure you get noticed in a giant ocean of churning noise, think long and hard about what you want your profile to say about you.
Do make it interesting. Stating your job position and degrees is better left for a résumé. You can convey your credentials and your personality if you try a little harder.
Do include relevant terms or concepts that are meaningful to the people who you want to follow you. Spend some time thinking like your audience. What will catch their attention? What will compel them to follow you?
Do add a location. Sometimes people like to connect locally. I do! Depending on your business type, it can be more of an incentive for people to follow you.
Do use good grammar (and check your spelling!) That includes punctuation, so a string of words like “marketing,social,web,design” so you can stuff more in by avoiding spaces is not allowed.
Do use a good profile photo. That means one that is crisp, clean and representative of you or your business. Seriously, figure out how to use a camera and a photo editing program, or have someone do it for you. Conversely…
Don’t use a blurry, tiny photo, or a bit of clipart, or one of your cat or kids, or something equally not-you. And if you’re not in high school, you don’t get to use your high school photo no matter how cute you look.
Don’t – good heavens, please! – leave the default egghead photo. That just screams “Hello, I am a spambot”. Then again, even spambots use halfway decent photos these days.
Don’t cram everything into a hashtag or URL. Your website is sufficient, and if the general rule of thumb for tweets is no more than two hashtags at once, then that should be the maximum for your profile, too. More is simply distracting.
Don’t – by any means – leave it blank!
Seek And Organize Followers
It’s all about being proactive here. If you wait for people to find you, then wait for them to engage you, you’re going to get a lot of practice waiting.
Go out and find people instead. And when you do find them, organize them so you don’t lose them in the flotsam of the never-ending Twitter stream.
Do get clear on who your audience is. Keep in mind that you want to find people who will make good customers – not necessarily people in your industry. If you’re a writer and you follow a bunch of writers, you may have some really great conversations but probably not a whole lot of customers.
Do follow people who are following your competitors. Go to a competitor’s Twitter page and see who their followers are. Usurp a few. Using the writer example, if you write romance and find another romance novelist who has a thousand happy fans, those fans are probably in the market for romance novels! I’ve done this for many clients to great success. It just takes a bit of patience and active looking.
Do search for hashtags that are related to your business and follow along with the conversations happening around them. Follow people who are interested in relevant topics. While you’re at it, jump into conversations with a helpful comment, link, idea or question. Remember, it’s still about relationships!
Do use search tools to find people with relevant keywords or locations in their profiles. It takes a bit of creative thinking and manual effort, but we’re aiming for quality here, right? Try a tool like tweepz.com for regular folks, or twiends.com for big names and businesses. Remember my tip about following the followers of your competitors? Same goes for followers of big names in your industry. Twellow.com is a good one for finding local people. While you’re at it, add your account to these services so you can be discoverable, too.
Do attend tweet chats. Search for chats relevant to your business and jump in. They’re most often scheduled at a specific time on a specific day of the week so if you find a great chat at 5PM on Tuesdays, add it to a regular slot on your calendar. Try tweetreports.com to start or just Google a chat for your industry. You can discover a lot of new people that way and also show your value by being part of the conversation. It’s a friendly atmosphere and people who you engage with are more likely to follow you.
Do create lists and organize your followers. After about ten people I guarantee you’re going to lose track of them! Lists help you sort people in a way that’s meaningful for you and actively keep track of them. You can build a schedule around checking in with certain lists at certain times, or make sure you’re paying equal attention to your prospects and fans. You can also keep colleagues separate from friends separate from customers, or cool leads separate from hot buyers.
Do follow people back. Let’s face it – unless you’re some major name in your space (in which case you probably wouldn’t be looking for followers anyway, because they’d find you) – you’re going to have to reciprocate. Unless it’s a bot, an egghead or some otherwise questionable account, go ahead and return the favor.
Don’t follow back indiscriminately. You don’t have to follow everyone back and you probably shouldn’t, either. That whole #teamfollowback thing is kind of silly when you think about it. Yes, Twitter is a numbers game – to an extent. But don’t let numbers rule you. Avoid spammers, scammers and porn (unless you sell adult toys, that just looks bad).
Don’t wait too long to follow back. People are impatient and sometimes if you don’t follow back they will unfollow you before you can say “hashtag”. You may think, “Good riddance. They didn’t care anyway.” But remember, it’s probably a numbers game for them, too. And if they can’t get your attention, they’re going to move on.
Make Sure You’re Worth Following
Building a Twitter following is nice but losing one isn’t as nice. And if all you do is tweet out mini-advertisements for your business or product, you’re going to lose people faster than you can say “hash…”
If you strategically and consistently provide good content then people are more likely to find you and you’ll be able to grow your following in a much more organic way.
Do have a schedule. If you tweet haphazardly you’re likely to miss opportunities, miss optimal times of the day and miss being noticed in the stream. You also risk tweeting too many times at once and irritating people. With a schedule you can space your tweets out throughout the day and check your analytics to see which times get you the best response rate. Remember, people aren’t just online from 9-5.
Do vary the type of content you post. If you know your audience then you can make some educated assessments about the types of content they would be most interested in. That might be quick tips, news or links to other helpful articles or websites. Vary the medium, too – that means links, photos and video. A mix of content will keep people interested and coming back for more.
Do retweet and mention other people. People like to be recognized and retweeting or sharing their content is a nice way of publicly recognizing someone. Of course, be sure that it’s content that aligns with your goals, but be on the lookout for a way to be an active part of the community you’re building.
Don’t share the same thing as everyone else. In my industry it’s pretty much a given that the second Mashable prints something, thousands of people will share it with their followings. Not me. I figure if I can find that news, everyone else can find it, too – especially since there is no shortage of people sharing it! Unless you have something to add to the conversation (a difference of opinion, perhaps) don’t just regurgitate the news of the day.
Don’t sell sell sell. Promotional tweets should be spaced well and far apart. If you can’t squeeze at least three non-promotional tweets in between the sell-sell-sell points, you’re probably not going to win too many hearts.
Don’t DM (direct message) someone unless there’s a really good reason to. That includes auto-DMs that shoot out whenever someone new follows you. If you can’t engage someone personally then don’t engage them at all. There’s a lot more value in taking a moment to glance at the profile of your new followers and connect with them personally than in a generic “thanks for following” message. By the way, I haven’t checked my DMs for about 6 months. At all. I bet I’m not alone.
Gaining a meaningful Twitter following does take a bit of effort. Like all marketing, you need to know what your goals are, who your target audience is and why on earth they would buy from or work with you.
But once you know that, the rest is mostly about logistics – choosing a schedule, knowing where to look and finding a couple of go-to tools to help you out.
Sound like something you can do? Have any questions about where to start? Or how about a tip to share for anyone looking to gain followers? Let me know in the comments!