By Paula Wethington / @WethingtonPaula
Are you ready to give up on Twitter as a communications and marketing opportunity because followers and conversations don’t seem to happen?
Don’t! It’s easier than you might think to build a sizeable and targeted audience on Twitter. After you have an established community on that network, you have a starting point to move those contacts to an email list or your other social networks.
The challenge is you can’t grow an account too fast or Twitter will take note. Twitter’s rules include this statement: “We do monitor how aggressively users follow other users.”
And yes, those policies are enforced. I remember hitting the initial follow ceiling when it was set at 2,000 (it’s now 5,000) and needing to drop who I followed in response until I was eligible for a bump. I also saw a friend’s account get a warning from Twitter one day because the bots took notice of a spurt in follows. The following activity was legit, it was just too fast for Twitter.
The point is: with a slow, steady and consistent effort to build your Twitter account, you can pick up up enough followers to send traffic to your site, run a poll, promote newsletter subscriptions, get a response to your photos, host a chat, etc.
Follow these slow but steady steps for best results:
1. Fill out your Twitter profile.
Do not follow anyone on Twitter before you have account setups done. It’s like introducing yourself at a party when you’re not dressed for the occasion.
Even spambots are programmed to appear at first glance to be a real person before they launch following sprees and spew nonsense into the stream.
You’re far more real than a spambot. Act like it.
In social media jargon, tweaking your profile setups is called “optimization” or “branding.” It means making sure that at one glance, someone can understand who you are or what you represent – and what you are most likely to post about.
Here’s what to do on Twitter:
- Pick a user name and handle that represent you, your company or your project.
- Fill out the profile line.
- Add a location that makes sense to people who might find you or search for you.
- Add a profile photo. Choose a person’s face or a business / brand logo.
- Add a cover photo. Use this space to feature a mood, scenic or group photo; portray a campaign or project; even promote an event. Pro tip: Use the free tools in Canva to create a Twitter cover that can include text while being sized correctly.
2. Decide who you would like to follow you.
The followers you want might include friends, family members, current and potential customers, active / chatty people who are likely to retweet your content, colleagues and competitors; perhaps news media who report on your community or favorite topics.
Now that you have your profile set up, make a list of Twitter accounts you know about and go follow them. A trick for finding official accounts: go to your favorite websites to see if there are links to their social media.
Follow 10 to 50 accounts and call it a day. Continue this effort gradually during the next few days if there are more accounts you want to follow.
Remember: Twitter will not like it if you follow too many people too fast.
3. Plan what you will tweet about.
One advantage to Twitter is that promotional messages are seen by your audience in real time just as if they were other topics of the day. There is not a complicated formula skewing potential views as is done by Facebook.
But to attract followers and keep them, you must focus on high-interest content that isn’t consistently “sales” oriented. You will run into trial and error as to what conversations, trending topics, news events, retweets, links and topics get the best response.
You might also find demographics of your followers on Twitter affects the timing or content choices. That’s fine. As your account grows and there is content to review, you can study the analytics and adjust your plan.
Even when you wish to focus on a theme or concept, Twitter allows a range of creative opportunities. For example, trending topics often include puns from brands and celebrities who noticed a conversation and decided to jump in. A news outlet can run a sports fan poll in addition to the headlines of the day. “Real-time” tweeting of historical events is a tactic that National Weather Service accounts have used for special projects.
The more significant problem is posting no content at all. An account that is inactive for 30 days or more is at high risk of being unfollowed. Third-party apps can help people identify too-quiet accounts and unfollow them. This is why an inactive account eventually WILL be dropped by people who actively manage their Twitter accounts.
4. Create Twitter lists.
In my opinion, the best – and most overlooked – feature on Twitter is Twitter lists. This helps you organize accounts as you follow their conversations. Lists also provide clues to people that your account is actively managed and what topics you are interested in.
You can designate a list as public or private. Accounts you add to a public list will be notified just as they get a notification when they are followed. You also don’t need to follow someone to add them to a list.
The advantages and applications:
- Add an account to an appropriate Twitter list after adding them to make sure they know you noticed them.
- Create awesome names for your Twitter lists so these notifications stand out.
- Create a list to showcase project team members or co-workers.
- Create a widget for your blog or website with on a Twitter list.
- Create lists of accounts you want to watch for content ideas or retweets.
- Monitor a competitor via private list without giving them a public follow.
5. Look up other Twitter lists.
Now that you understand how Twitter lists work, look at accounts you follow or are followed by to see what lists they created or have been placed on. See if there are accounts on those lists you also would like to follow – either for their content or in hopes of getting follow backs.
Caution! Finding a highly curated list of active accounts on a favorite topic will feel like hitting a gold mine on Twitter. You cannot follow new accounts too fast or Twitter will think you are a spambot. Pick 10 to 50 to start with, then wait another day or two before you follow more. Pro tip: “Subscribe” to a gold mine list until you have pulled the potential contacts into your public follows or created your own list.
By following these tips, you’ll pick up relevant follows and follow backs and have a Twitter fan base worth bragging about.
If you’re interested in this topic, take a look at my Twitter Tips board on Pinterest!
This post was written in February 2017 and updated May 2017.