3 mistakes that hold back your Twitter efforts

By Paula Wethington

When a Twitter account isn’t doing much for the business, organization or personal brand, I can generally pin the problem down to one of three issues: Formatting, Timing or Content.

FORMATTING

Where I live (southeast Michigan), it is a common practice to autofeed a Facebook page account to a Twitter account.

While I did help a friend figure out how to set a Facebook to Twitter link because she probably would not have a Twitter without it, I don’t recommend that strategy. Here’s why: I learned by analyzing Twitter analytics on multiple accounts that more click-throughs will result when a tweet can stand on its own or if a link is to a website than with links that are to Facebook.

Here’s how bad the autofeed formatting can get: this is actual text on Twitter from another account that neither my friend nor I manage.

  • I posted a new photo to Facbook. (Facebook link)
  • I posted a new photo to Facebook. (Facebook link)
  • I posted a new photo to Facebook. (Facebook link)
  • I posted 3 photos on Facebook in the album … (Facebook link)

You can’t see the picture on Twitter. You don’t even know what’s there to decide whether to follow the link or not. And yet, based what I know about the Twitter audience on that account (I’ve looked over their followers), those photos probably should be getting likes and retweets.

There other possibilities for autofeeding to Twitter:

  • If you have a YouTube account, it can be linked to Twitter. Based on my experience, this picks up the name of the video. You want to write the video title with search-engine friendly keywords anyway, it works just as well in this application.
  • Set up an “If This Than That” account to experiment which recipes (IFFT’s name for formulas)  provide content that Twitter users can understand at a glance. My favorite IFFT recipe is an Instagram to Twitter that also makes the the photo appear in the Twitter feed.
  • For a long time, two Twitter accounts I manage had RSS feeds of article headlines from the company’s website to Twitter. One advantage is that the content on the website or blog is already scheduled to when you want it to be seen.  Another advantage is that most headlines are short enough to fit into a tweet.

But here’s what many social media professionals do: They set up a Hootsuite, Post Planner or another third party social media management service account so that posting or formatting content to multiple networks is fast and easy. Many of these services have a subscription cost; but I couldn’t send content to nearly 10 company and personal brand accounts as efficiently as I do without third party tools.

TIMING

Twitter is a fantastic real-time conversation. Sports fans send out cheers on the college football touchdowns; fashion magazines discuss red carpet styles as the stars arrive for awards shows, and political pundits dissect the presidential debates while they are in progress.

But that means Tweets are fast moving and short-lived in the news feed. Therefore, timing is critical for the audience to see what you post.

I’ve saved quite a few infographics in my Digital World Pinterest board about best timing for various social media networks. As Post Planner explained in a recent blog post, the best clues come from the Twitter Analytics on your own account

Here’s an example of knowing your audience: if high school and college students are among your Twitter fans, and you have content they might like to see, then tweet right after class is dismissed. The students probably checking their phones at that time.

You can also use Twitter’s short shelf life to your advantage.

Let’s say you have determined there are multiple bursts of online traffic during the day among your fans; and furthermore, you have content that remains of interest during more than one of those time slots. Post that content or link during each of those times, ideally with an ICYMI (In Case You Missed It) introduction or a different lead on the repeat so it seems fresh and not automated.

You now have pushed that content in front of a new audience.

CONTENT

You probably launched your account with a huge list of ideas of what to post. But what happens if you run out of steam, or face what journalists call “a slow news day”?

The “how to” solution is a content calendar. Some social media managers set up themes of the day, week or month. Even if you don’t “theme” your content to that detail, plan ahead for any special events, holidays or seasons that matter to your company or audience.  Ask your marketing department if they are scheduling paid campaigns where they would like social media content support. Create Twitter lists of accounts that you can monitor for retweets or follow up conversations. In addition, have a bookmark list or file of evergreen content such as a Pinterest board that consistently does well among your audience.

Then fill in the gaps – and, if necessary, pull topics out of scheduling queues – based on trending topics of the day.

If you don’t already use a social media tool that can schedule content on Twitter, learn how to use TweetDeck. It’s free.

But the underlying premise is that you focus on topics that are of interest to your intended audience. If you have marketing department that can provide demographic and interest research about your target audience, that’s a huge advantage.

But the other method – and it’s free – is to poke around Twitter analytics to learn as much as you can about your audience.

Pro tips on researching those analytics for clues:

  • Block spammers such as “not safe for work” accounts as soon as you discover them following you. You don’t want their ahem, “interests,” mixed in with your real audience’s interests.
  • If you retweet something from another account, include a comment. Ordinary retweets are not tracked in analytics, the ones with comments are.
  • If you are tagging another account, get the mention in the middle of the tweet rather than at the start. Any tags that start a tweet are considered replies and are not tracked in analytics.
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Author: Paula Wethington

Paula has over 10 years experience working in a variety of digital and social media formats on behalf of a newsroom; and over 25 years total working as a reporter at newspapers in Ohio and Michigan.

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