12 Days of Digital Marketing: Day 4

Four Calling Birds, or Four Thousand Twitter Followers

Despite its simplicity, Twitter is one of the least understood platforms for small business digital marketing. 9 times out of 10, when a client tells me they have a Twitter account, it’s completely dead. At some point, they set up the account, tried a Tweet or two, and gave up. Not only is this fallow account hurting rather than helping their online reputation, they’re missing an opportunity to reach possibly thousands of eyes with far better targeting—for free—than you can accomplish on Facebook.Twitter_logo_blue

It shouldn’t need to be said, but let’s make this one point very clear: Twitter is not Facebook. In my experience, many people sign up for Twitter expecting to be able to use it just as they use Facebook, but that’s not how it works. Twitter reaches a completely different target demographic: younger, more tech-savvy, very commercial folks. Its posts work very differently. Engagement works differently. But if you’re willing to take the time to learn it, you’ll find it’s pretty easy to reach far more potential clients than you presently can on Facebook. Twitter is good for business to customer engagement, but it’s super if you use it for business to business outreach.

On the Fourth Day of Digital Marketing, D. Cohn said to me, Twitter isn’t all that scary.

Here’s how to get started with Twitter for business.

  1. Set up a new account. I strongly suggest you set up an account just for your business and minimize personal posts. Choose a user name that accurately and succinctly represents your business and resist the urge to be cutesy. You want to brand your business here. Fill out the entire profile. Choose a profile photo that matches your branding, and an appropriate cover photo that’s attention-getting. Make sure you link to your website, and put a link to your Twitter account on your home page.
  2. Follow other relevant accounts. Use the search function and choose some keywords which are relevant to your business. Who is your target customer? What are their interests? Search those keywords and follow accounts that are influential and responsive. How do you evaluate accounts? Look for active users (they’ve posted in the past couple of days and they’ve posted many times.) Follow known industry leaders. Twitter will suggest some for you. Also, look for users with lots of followers, but be aware that accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers aren’t going to be very interactive. They may post frequently, but they’re less likely to interact with you. Those users are more interested in collecting followers than developing relationships. If it’s relevant, follow influential users in your geographic area. Follow your friends and colleagues. Understand that just because you follow a user, there is no guarantee that they will follow you back. Nonetheless, that is quite common. They more accounts you follow, the more followers you will acquire yourself. In short, follow the people you want to see Tweets from, and follow the people you want to follow you back.
  3. Twitter moves very quickly. Depending on the number of users you follow, you can see hundreds of posts per hour. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t keep up. If there are key users you want to be sure to see Tweets from, make a list or two and add users who Tweet about topics you care about.
  4. Create Tweets. The 140 character limit baffles many users who are new to Twitter. One key consideration is that you should actually keep your Tweets to 100-120 characters tops. Why? Because when your Tweets are Retweeted, your user handle is added to the Tweet. If that happens and the Tweet goes over 140 characters, it will be truncated. So practice being VERY succinct in your Tweets. It makes more sense to Tweet several times than to try and cram way too much info into one Tweet. No one expects full, grammatically correct sentences on Twitter. Watch how others do it, and emulate their style.
  5. Retweet and Favorite Tweets from your network. Retweeting and Favoriting get Tweets in front of more eyes. There’s also a “you scratch my back…” ethic on Twitter. Consistently help promote another user’s Tweets, and they’re more likely to do the same for you.
  6. Another tip: use a link shortener. Bitly.com and Owly.com are free link shorteners available on the web. Sign up for an account, and you can track how many times your shortened links are clicked. Use only shortened links in a Tweet and they take up far fewer characters. Alternatively, if you use a CMS like Hootsuite, a link shortener is integrated into the posting box.
  7. twitter birdUse Hashtags. I know. Everyone hates the confusing hashtag. A hashtag is a word preceded by the pound sign, like this: #Twitter. A hashtag is a search tool. It helps Twitter organize Tweets into topics. (Incidentally, hashtags originated on Twitter, but are now integrated into most social platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.) Click on a hashtag, and you will see Tweets exclusively about that topic. This is also a great way to find users with similar interests. One caveat about hashtags – research them first to see who else is using them. You don’t want to accidentally use a hashtag that is being used for far different purposes than your intention.
  8. It is possible, and common, to create promotional campaigns using hashtags. Encourage your followers to Tweet and use your hashtag. But be careful. If your campaign isn’t well researched and crafted, you can end up with some virally bad PR. Here are some examples of good and bad hashtag campaigns.
  9. Twitter does have data tracking tools. Once you’ve been Tweeting for a month or so, check out the tracking dashboard at http://analytics.twitter.com. It can tell you quite a lot about your followers and which of your tweets are getting the most attention. You’ll see that if your Tweets are Favorited or Retweeted, especially by users with large follower counts, your Tweets can reach hundreds or thousands of people and you don’t have to pay a dime.
  10. That said, it is possible to pay to Promote accounts and Tweets on Twitter. For relatively little money, you can ensure that many people see your Tweets. Have something important to share? Consider Promoting your Tweet.

There’s more tricks and tips of course. Check out Twitter’s advice for Businesses page to get more in-depth information. My advice – think about the audience you want to reach, their potential interest in your business, and create tweets that those followers will enjoy. Network, network, network. It’ll take a little while to build momentum, but if you’re willing to put in the time, Twitter is a powerful social networking platform and totally worth it.