By Paula Wethington
Twitter has been part of social media for so long that it’s easy to take for granted how to use it.
But many small business and brand account managers still struggle in learning how to use Twitter effectively. Even some business accounts I admire in terms of content ideas have small fan counts because they haven’t moved past the initial circle of colleagues and friends to find and communicate with their target audience.
I’ve been able to break past that hurdle. The fastest-growing audiences on the social media accounts I manage included Twitter – and the jump is clearly connected to my efforts in finding and following target audiences.
If you are just getting started on Twitter, or have become frustrated, here’s a step by step strategy on how you can launch or refocus a Twitter account to the best impact for business and professional purposes:
1: Understand that a business Twitter is different than a personal account.
Many people set up a Twitter as a news feed where they follow friends, news accounts, favorite sports teams and celebrities. There’s nothing wrong with using Twitter that way. In fact, you may want a “just for fun” account for this purpose.
But if you wish to use Twitter to promote your business, professional work, campaign or non-profit group; you need to make it easy for people to find you, verify who you are and what you will be tweeting about.
2: Fill out a complete profile on the Twitter account.
If your goal is to have people follow you, don’t blast your feed with “please follow me” while your avatar is still an egg and there’s no explanation of who is behind that screen name. That’s a hugely common rookie mistake.
Here’s what to do first:
- Use the link in the profile to post your company’s website, blog, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat or whatever you want to promote as another place that you or the brand are on the web.
- Use the “location” to provide your city, metro area or state. That information helps confirm who you are should you have a common name. It is also critical information should you wish to introduce yourself to potential customers or clients.
- Use the profile to relate the topics you will talk about. You can also include a mention to another Twitter account.
- Use a profile image that shows a clear view of your face or logo. That little square isn’t large enough for two heads, much less a group photo.
- Use the cover image as the space to represent your business or organization, interests, location products or services. This is also where you can post a group photo. The easy-to-use features in Canva or Snappa will allow you create designs that include text over images. One of the best examples I’ve seen for a Twitter cover involved a racing team that used the space as a place to list and thank their sponsors.
- Use the “pinned tweet” option to give information about you or the brand you represent, link to FAQ page or provide a link to a marketing campaign page on your website. A reminder: Keep this pin fresh. Even if it is the content is not time-sensitive, others can see the posting date. A pin from a year or so ago seems out of place.
- Set any profile you intend to use for business or professional purposes to “public.” A private account will limit not just who sees you, but who can retweet your content to their audience.
3: Provide a consistent stream of content.
There is much debate on content formatting and strategy for Twitter such as photos vs. text, automated feeds/ scheduling vs. manual tweeting, hashtag relevance and how to re-use archived content.
But clearly, the key to succeeding at Twitter is frequency and consistency. Whether your game plan involves promoting and hosting a weekly tweet chat, posting one tweet a day or tweeting once an hour, your name and profile needs to regularly show up in the stream of conversations.
Don’t tell me, as friend once did, “I’m on Twitter” when you haven’t tweeted in over a month. Here’s why: The default trigger on third-party apps for “inactive” accounts is generally 30 days, and expert Twitter users do use those services to clear out their follows. In fact, I was ready to unfollow my friend because I thought he had abandoned the account after a couple of months of no new content.
The point is: a quiet Twitter does you no good in building an audience.
Set up your favorite news feeds, competitor and customer groups on lists (I’ll explain that in a minute), and jump into the Twitterverse with your own tweets, photos, mentions and retweets.
4: Promote the Twitter.
The most effective way for someone to find you on Twitter is for them to see and find you on Twitter. But it will help pull in a few people and verify who you are if you also take the following steps:
- Add the Twitter button or link to your website, blog or other social media accounts.
- Include the screen name on your traditional marketing materials.
- Add it to the signature line on your business email.
5: Find people to follow.
Twitter will give suggestions on who to follow when you set up a new account.
But to a certain extent, you have to “teach” Twitter what you are interested in. You’ll get a good start with these account follows:
- Find and follow your friends, co-workers or colleagues.
- Find and follow those who are known as experts, leaders or influencers in your field.
- Find and follow the regional and national news outlets who cover topics of interest to your audience.
- Watch who follows you and consider giving them a follow back.
To take your follows to the next level:
- Look to see who is following or is followed by the people you already follow. For example, I’ve had huge success finding students and staff at the high schools in my newspaper’s circulation area by looking up who is following the student cheer section and athletic department Twitters.
- For better results on “friends of friends” searches, look up the lists those people have created or are following. The casual Twitter user with a small account might not have a list set up; but experienced brand managers and bigger accounts typically use this feature.
- Use Twitter’s Advanced Search to find tweets that contain phrases or keywords you are interested in. You can set the search to tweets within a specific geographic area. Advanced Search is free; and it’s worth checking out a couple times a month. An example for a potential use is to find people in your community who are tweeting about baseball on or around Opening Day.
- Use ManageFlitter to do profile searches by keyword or location as the account has it entered. While I had quite a bit of trial and error on the search parameters, ManageFlitter gave me a huge jump start in finding accounts from our target geographic area. You can do quite a bit of cleanup and searches even with a free account, and come back another day after you hit your quota.
6: Use the list feature.
I referenced finding people by lists created by other accounts. But you also should create your own Twitter lists.
Lists are a way to make sure that accounts you really want to pay attention to don’t get lost in a huge Twitter stream of consciousness. There are two settings: a private list is seen only by you, a public list can be seen and followed by anybody.
Now consider the possibilities of using lists to curate or read tweets from your staff, the competition, favorite news media, a prospective employer or employee, campaign donors or public officials.
A public list that you personally created or vetted also can be embedded as a widget on your website or blog. That’s worth considering as an alternative to a widget created for a hashtag as spammers sometimes abuse hashtags.
7: Block the spammers
When you see someone following you that you don’t want to follow, but it seems to be an normal account, it’s fine to ignore it. If the goal is only to get follow backs, they’ll eventually go away. If they like what you are tweeting, they’ll usually stay.
But you need to take a strong stance against deliberate hoaxers, spammers, trolls and “not safe for work” accounts.
Very often, these accounts will be set up to appear at first glance or to a spam filter to be normal tweeters. I’ve seen numerous such accounts with impossibly fake profiles attached to small town locations with a pleasant-looking face on the photo. It’s the ad on the cover photo or a suspicious-looking link in the profile that shows what is going on.
The strategy of the spammers is boost their follow back numbers so they can follow even more people. The ultimate goal is to get as many people as possible to click on the spammy links in their profile or in their Twitter stream.
This is what you need to do: When you see a spammy account following you, block them. This prevents them from finding more potential victims among your friends. When you block an account, they can’t follow the trail of who you are following or are followed by.
Another reason to block spammers is that the off-target followers will mess up your Twitter analytics. If you haven’t discovered that feature yet, log in to Twitter on desktop, then look for it in the drop down menu where you find your settings. The analytics data is meant to assist those who are scheduling paid campaigns on Twitter, but I’ve found it useful for content strategy and review even without taking that step.
You won’t understand what content topics resonate with your real fans unless the analytics are based on their data instead of junk data.
You can find my tweets at @WethingtonPaula and a huge collection of social media tips and tricks on my Pinterest account.
This post was written in January 2016 and updated in May 2017.