100 awesome hashtags for writers, journalists, photographers

100 awesome hashtags for writers, journalists, photographersBy Paula Wethington / @WethingtonPaula

Let’s say you’re spending way too much time on Pinterest (waving hand…) and randomly come across a treasure trove of social media inspiration: pins pointing to collections of recommended hashtags for use on Instagram, Twitter, etc.

Let’s assume further that some of those lists were curated specifically for niche topics and interests such as entrepreneurs or photographers.

Wow! That’s gold for the right audience.

With that inspiration, here’s a list of 100 hashtags that I’ve collected by poking around on Instagram and on Twitter on the theme of Awesome Hashtags for Writers, Journalists, Photographers. I included hashtags for my broadcast friends in this collection even though my career is on the print and digital side.

Many of these hashtags are now saved in a notes file on my iPhone for quick reference. After all, I work in a newsroom. #newsroomlife

  1. #abovethefold (did you know this old school phrase is now website design jargon?)
  2. #behindthescenes
  3. #caffeinateandconquer
  4. #camerabag
  5. #cameracrew
  6. #cameragear
  7. #cameralove
  8. #cameraman
  9. #cameraporn
  10. #ClarkKent
  11. #coffeebreak
  12. #coffeegram
  13. #coffeeoftheday
  14. #columnist
  15. #comics
  16. #comicstrip
  17. #copyeditorproblems
  18. #digitaljournalism
  19. #digitalmagazine
  20. #digitalmedia
  21. #editors
  22. #electionnight
  23. #electionnightpizza
  24. #fakenews (this one is way too timely to ignore)
  25. #firstamendment
  26. #fourthestate
  27. #fourfreedoms – or if you prefer, #fivefreedoms (First Amendment phrasing)
  28. #freelancerlife
  29. #frontpage
  30. #headlines
  31. #journalism
  32. #journalismlife
  33. #journalist
  34. #journalista
  35. #journalistlife
  36. #journoproblems
  37. #newsanchor
  38. #news
  39. #newsflash
  40. #newspage
  41. #newspaper
  42. #newspaperart
  43. #newspaperbag
  44. #newspaperbox
  45. #newspaperarticle
  46. #newspaperclipping
  47. #newspaperdesign
  48. #newspaperfeature
  49. #newspaperhat
  50. #newspapering
  51. #newspaperpic
  52. #newsprint
  53. #newsreporter
  54. #newsroom
  55. #newsroomcoffee
  56. #newsroomfun
  57. #newsroomlife
  58. #newsroompizza
  59. #newsroompokemon
  60. #newsroomproblems
  61. #newsstand
  62. #onlinemagazine
  63. #onlineradio
  64. #onmydesk
  65. #ontheblog
  66. #pagedesign
  67. #partylikeajournalist (this one will get the attention of @journalistslike)
  68. #photobomb
  69. #photogram
  70. #photography
  71. #photographer
  72. #photojournalism
  73. #photojournalist
  74. #photooftheday
  75. #photostudio
  76. #picoftheday
  77. #presshat
  78. #pressrun
  79. #presspass
  80. #presspassmemories
  81. #producerproblems
  82. #radio
  83. #radioboss
  84. #radioonline
  85. #radioproblems
  86. #radioshow
  87. #radiostation
  88. #radioweb
  89. #reporterlife
  90. #reporterproblems
  91. #SundayFunnies
  92. #SundayPaper
  93. #TVproblems
  94. #video
  95. #videogram
  96. #videooftheday
  97. #visualcrush
  98. #writersblock
  99. #writerlife
  100. #writersofinstagram

You can find me on Instagram at @paulawethington where my hashtags have included #ClarkKent #partylikeajournalist and #newsroompokemon.

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How to pick out Twitter bots from Twitter newbies

How to pick out Twitter bots from Twitter newbiesBy Paula Wethington @WethingtonPaula

If you follow back too fast on Twitter, or rely too much on automated searches when seeking out your fan base, you might very well be missing the newest and most likely fans to follow you back while following more spammers than you intended.

This is why I go through a pretty detailed process when sifting out bots from real people.

I don’t just look at the photo, the location line or the profile description. I look over the entire profile, about three to four tweets and sometimes also who they are following.

Here 10 clues that can lead you in the right direction:

  1. Does the name, profile, location, image and cover make sense as a whole package? If you have a good understanding of your target audience, you’ll know whether this adds up. I’ve seen some laughingly chaotic combinations on spambot accounts claiming to be from nearby towns.
  2. Who is this person following? If the account is following a lot of random celebrity accounts and I have no other clues that this is a real person, I pass. A real person in my target demo is probably following real people I already follow or know about.
  3. Are they posting clickbait headlines from a URL you don’t know? Yes, some legit Twitters autofeed blog content and headlines either as their sole content or to fill in the gaps throughout the day. But clickbait titles give a clue as to what you’ll find on those sites.
  4. Is the content Not Safe For Work? Block those accounts immediately; and if you are so inclined, report and then block.
  5. Does the cover art promote buying followers? Using the cover art and profile link to send people to a spammy website has been quite a popular tactic. It doesn’t matter a whole lot what content is posted; they’re trying to get you to click on the link in profile.
  6. Does the content match the hashtag they are using? It’s a popular spammer strategy to hashtag their way into an unrelated trending topic. That being said, the tactic is against the Twitter Rules.
  7. Are they following way more people than they follow back? I’m not worried about a 10 or 20 percent difference because it’s rather easy for small or growing accounts to skew off balance. I’m talking about a 50 or more percent lag in people who follow back.
  8. Are they following way fewer people than they follow back? This is the other extreme; and is sometimes a sign of a quick turnaround “follow / unfollow” strategy. There are very few accounts where I will accept a small percentage of follow backs on Twitter as a legitimate approach.
  9. Does the account profile include favorites and lists? Not everyone uses these features; and newbies or inactive people are less likely to understand them. But someone who has set up those features is more likely to be a real Twitter user than a spambot.
  10. If this is a business or organization, can you find their website independently to check the account name? Most, although not all, organizations include links to their official social media on their websites. This bit of research can help you verify the authenticity of a particular account in the absence of a verified check. And unfortunately, it’s been harder than some brand and business users would like to get that verified check.

Would you like more Twitter tips? Check out my Pinterest board on that topic!

This post was made March 18, 2017; and updated May 19, 2017.

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Checklist: How to be a Twitter rock star

By Paula Wethington / @WethingtonPaula

twitter rock starAre 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.

Here’s how to set the Twitter lists up.

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.

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6 steps to build your social media audience

By Paula Wethington

Six steps to build your social media audience

The first (and sometimes only) task  people think of when it comes to running social media accounts is posting content.

But that’s just one piece. The real work happens in making sure that content is seen by the people you want to reach! And for that, you need to build an audience.

The bottom line is: Social media requires a comprehensive strategy for best results.

Here are six steps I recommend for building an audience, listed in a sequence in which they will work most effectively.

And here is the discussion of those steps:

Define your audience

Who are you writing for?

In the marketing world, this question and the answer is called building a persona or avatar. You can research this in a number of ways that include collecting U.S. Census data on a particular city, hosting focus groups and pulling up audience demographics  via the Facebook ad manager dashboard.

Don’t ignore it, or you won’t have a direction to aim toward.

Here is a case study: When I was a personal finance blogger (I have a page on this site about the Monroe on a Budget project), I didn’t tackle every possible money topic.  Instead, I wrote for families who lived in southeast Michigan who were middle to low income; and as a result, living paycheck to paycheck more frequently than they would like. I thought their concerns and questions were overlooked by most national personal finance articles.

The recession hit shortly after I started that project. The demographic I had chosen as a niche audience was affected seriously. Any helpful content in an accessible format was of high interest. That specific combination of time / place / circumstances gave me plenty of angles to consider, research and discuss.

My question before writing anything for that project was always “Does this apply to my audience?”

As a result, it was a hugely successful site in terms of page views.

Create and curate content for that audience

You have messages you’d like to get out on specific dates or times. But you’ll need to find more content to choose from than just what you want to say.

Here’s a case study: One of the organizations I belong to is my high school music alumni foundation.

We host a hall of fame awards banquet on an every other year schedule. That event gives us the following discussion points: how to nominate someone, who will be honored, how to get dinner tickets, photos from the event, who made donations and where the money goes. The annual marching band alumni night that we help promote for the high school also provides these discussion points: announcing the date, photos and videos from rehearsal, photos and videos from the event.

We clearly needed something to talk about off season. We wanted our page to bubble up in the news feed from time to time, so that our school’s alumni will be more likely to see and remember announcements of our events.

The consensus was to look for content from other pages and sites to include on our Facebook page. Curation is the social media phrase that applies to this concept. To give a direction of where to look and what to post, our alumni board decided that the theme would be “music in our schools.”

An obvious choice was photos, videos and announcements about our school district’s music department. For example, a “share” that did very well was a video clip of the marching band at an away football game that a newspaper photographer posted on her journalist page. We’ve also decided to post concert announcements from nearby schools and the local college; and also share funny memes about music that we found on other Facebook fan pages.

Are our Facebook page fan counts going up? No, but the engagement and reach to actual people is noticeably higher with the use of curation. And that’s a huge boost to our visibility as compared to two years ago. It’s working.

Research the best timing for that network

I scoffed at digital content timing when I was a personal finance blogger. Reason: I didn’t want to fret about deadlines as I must do on print media assignments. Digital media to me meant 24/7, freeflow posting whenever content was ready.

But I have since learned some content CAN and should be scheduled. Facebook in particular is very sensitive to timing. I have noticed even a half an hour’s difference on timing can be noticed in the reach count on our newspaper’s account.

How do you determine the best timing when you are growing a page, or have inherited an existing page where you don’t yet have a feel for the audience? Here are some suggestions:

  • Review three or four charts that can be found via Internet search (I have some  pinned on Pinterest) that show best timing / worst timing on social networks.
  • Look over the Facebook page insights section of your pages to find the chart that shows what times your audience is online. Don’t schedule new content when you know the audience isn’t as likely to see it. It’s just not going to work.
  • Run your pages through the free Likealyzer tool to get more specific analytics on Facebook timing.

Another resource is using a social media management tool such as Hootsuite that can suggest posting times. Just be sure to review the results in case you want to override the automation – a particular topic might be seen as too late for the slot Hootsuite picked.

Now that you understand the news cycle so to speak on your social accounts, designate which time slots are your “prime time slots” for each day of the week on your active pages. Schedule content that is most likely to get likes, comments or shares for those times.

Bonus timing trick: Do you manage more than one social media account where the audience and content choices overlap? Time the posts with similar keywords fairly close together. To explain: I’ve noticed my reporter page on Facebook gets higher reach when I post a story on it about 15 minutes after that same story goes live on the newsroom’s main Facebook page.

Participate in the social community

Content curation is the perfect prelude to participating in the social community. Here’s why: it forces you to accept the fact that you are not the only voice that deserves to be heard.

The detail that makes social media unique among communication genres is that it is  a conversation (two way) rather than broadcasting (one way). Your friends, fans, competitors and yes, even trolls, will give feedback through likes, reactions, shares and comments.

How and when you reply to the community members indicates that the social media account is run by a real person or a team of real people. This interaction between the business, organization or brand and their fans is called “community engagement” or “community management.”

This does not mean every consumer or business complaint needs to be handled publicly on Facebook. Encourage people to use private channels to relay specific concerns or issues to you.

But as you watch the conversations and trends, community management can help you fine-tune the content and timing choices you made at an earlier step.

Apply free / organic growth strategies

One of the most common tactics when launching a new Facebook page is to send invites to your friends.

This is a start, but will get you only so far. I’ve seen numerous pages launched by friends, family and co-workers that have stalled out at 250 fans or less. Two pages that I can think of from that list never hit 25!

Why is that? One reason is you won’t have a large enough pool of people to work with among your friends. The Pew Research Center has reported that half of all Facebook members have less than 200 fans. Then consider the fact your Facebook friends may have very different interests. Some might live in in another state; even another country.

Twitter has a similar challenge in that the average number of followers per account, according to a blogger whose topics includes collecting Twitter statistics, is only 208.

How do you get complete strangers interested in what you have to say, enough to the point that they also will “like” or follow your social media account and push your fan counts past 200?

This is why social media strategy needs to be understood in a building block format. Go back to the first step in which you defined your audience. Provide content those people would be interested in. Post it at the times when they are most likely to see it. Let them see there’s a real person running the account.

Now we are going to grow a social media audience beyond your initial reach with the following tactics:

  • Be consistent in screen name and profile photo choices along with choosing similar cover art for each social network you participate in. This approach, which is one of the first steps in branding a social media presence, will help people recognize you across the Internet.
  • Follow new people every week on Twitter. I’ve seen recommendations of anywhere of following 10 to 50 new accounts a day. You want slow and steady progress. Don’t try to add too many all too fast, or Twitter might temporarily lock the account. And yes, I saw that happen once on a friend’s account! This was handled quickly with a password reset, but oops!
  • To find new people, look over the active accounts you are following. Which accounts are they following, or are followed by, that are active and on your topic or interests?
  • Remember that your Twitter follow is more likely to be noticed when someone has only 500 follows or less as compared to someone who has 5,000 or more follows.
  • Unfollow inactive accounts after 30 days. This makes room in your Twitter limits for new accounts. As your list evolves, you are also teaching Twitter who and what you are interested in.
  • Learn how to find an account’s “Twitter lists,” which is a substream of Twitter accounts. Some are automatically created from hashtags and therefore full of spam or inactive accounts; but others will be a gold mine as you find people you could also follow.
  • Build your own Twitter lists. People who are placed on public lists will get a notification – it’s a great way to let them know you exist. The private lists are for your viewing only – it’s a great way to keep a closer watch on the competition.
  • Have your Facebook page follow other pages that are related by niche or community. Page follows are not as valuable to some social media managers as profile follows, but there is a valid reason. Pages don’t often interact with each other. Those inactive likes might skew analytics and the community engagement rate. If you seek out pages that post content you can like, share, tag and comment on as a friendly page, that’s helping to build community in both directions. Those page owners might follow you back, and some of their fans will too.
  • Review the analytics on posts you made on Facebook. Did you notice that there are people who have liked that post but have not yet liked that page? Send them a page invite. Here’s a how-to on that very successful and FREE strategy.
  • Page invites and follows are like saying “hello” to new people at a cocktail party. So while you are doing that, consider whether there is a photo, link, post or event that you can “pin” to the top of your Facebook and Twitter profiles to provide more information about who you are or a project you are working on. That pinned content is like giving someone your business card at a cocktail party after saying hello.
  • Finding your target audience on Instagram can be a challenge with so many people setting their accounts to private. On those accounts, you can’t see who they are following or are followed by. But I’ve found an Instagram audience grows organically with a clever and liberal use of hashtags. I brainstorm or look for three to five relevant hashtags on each Instagram post; other people add twice that number to their images.

Consider paid ads on the social network

There’s nothing wrong with using sponsored posts across social media. After all, this advertising support helps create and build the networks you are relying on  for marketing strategies.

But don’t waste your money! Study up on the best practices for paid content on that particular network.

Then go back to the first step of defining your audience. Decide who you can target  among that group, and what information or offer would get their interest. And consider when THAT group of people be MOST interested in seeing THAT promotion?

Your promoted content doesn’t have to be selling a huge purchase; and that  might come across as too pushy anyway. A perfectly valid use of paid social is a free download in exchange for an email address you can send information to later. Another practical use is to promote an event you are hosting in real life.

Or consider this example that would be of interest to a news organization: You just put a lot of time and resources into a special report. On your website, you have embedded referral links to background articles, photo galleries, video clips, a call to action, etc. so that you can easily pick up maybe five or ten page views and maybe even a paid customer on a typical read.

You just need to pull in that first view.

Answer: you can push that special project to a bigger audience via paid social.

If you’d like to see other social media strategies and tips that I’ve collected, check out my Twitter feed at @WethingtonPaula and a whole bunch of topics I’ve curated on Pinterest.

This post was updated May 18, 2017

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How to use a Twitter profile to tell people who you are

twitter-profile-tipsBy Paula Wethington

One of the biggest misses I see on Twitter is when people, organizations or businesses follow other accounts without completing a profile enough to portray who they are.

Even a high school student might want his or her friends to know this really is so-and-so, and not the guy with the same name who goes to a rival school. (Awkward!)

So before you go on a following spree on Twitter in hopes of getting follow backs, follow up on these steps:

  • Choose an account name and user name that portrays who you are. In most cases, it should be the same name you use elsewhere on social media. Consistency in account names is critical for businesses and organizations that want name recognition; but it also is important to those who want to build a personal brand or professional reputation. If your Twitter name needs an update, you can easily change it in settings.
  • List your city and state in the location section. The alternatives include listing your state, the name of your school or a nickname for your neighborhood or community. You want to give a sense of place to add relevance and context to your tweets. There are tools to search by location name when trying to find potential connections on Twitter; so it is in your best interest for those searches to be accurate should someone try to find you.
  • Pick a profile photo that can be “read” as an icon on a small screen. This is generally a photo of your face. The alternatives include a business or organization logo, or an avatar or gamer tag. Two faces, much less a group photo, just can’t be seen clearly on mobile devices as a profile image. Do NOT leave the default “egg” as your profile, as that will discourage people from following you or following you back.
  • The cover image allows for much more creativity. This is where you can showcase a group photo with friends, an example of your artistic or photography skills, your business products, a shout out to a favorite sports team, even a photo of you with your dog. If you are a business or organization, be consistent in your cover images among Facebook, Twitter and Google +. If you feel creative, get on Canva.com or another photo design service to create a specially designed and correctly sized cover image that can include text overlays.
  • Use the bio section to explain who you are. Think in terms of keywords people might search for. It’s also helpful to note that hashtags, email addresses and mentions can be used in the bio section. A business, organization or brand should use the same profile description on all websites / online directories / social media. Personal or just for fun accounts can relate the topics or interests you’ll be tweeting about. If this is a professional account, you might want to list who you work for or have worked for.  (Just for fun: you can pick up random Twitter bio examples at http://twitterbiogenerator.com).
  • Don’t overlook the link field, as this can help validate who you are. This is the place to link to a blog, business portfolio, company or employer website. Your LinkedIn, Snapchat or Facebook accounts also are possibilities that are as applicable to personal use as they might be for business use.
  • Birthday field. From what I’ve seen, the most useful purpose is to help validate to Twitter who you are should you be eligible for verified account status. Therefore, this is a field you can ignore if you so choose.
  • Vine account synch. If you have a Vine account, you may as well link it up in that slot as the option exists. That allows your main link to be used to promote a different social media account or website.

I’ve been involved in digital media on a professional basis since 2006. You’ll find social media tips and tricks on my Twitter account – @WethingtonPaula and in the Digital World board on my Pinterest account.

7 steps to getting real followers on Twitter

7 steps to getting real followers on TwittBy 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.

Case study in social listening: When fans say you’re wrong

Case study on social media listening By Paula Wethington @WethingtonPaula

If you’re wrong about something, or your fans think you’re wrong, that audience can be quick to tell you on social media.

In a worst case scenario, this can become a public relations nightmare.

But in other cases, a quick answer with a sense of humor will smooth things over.

Apply the concept called “social listening” to your routine, through which you watch what your community says, and you’ll soon realize when and how to step in.

A quick case study: I run the twitter account for The Monroe News, a daily newspaper in southeast Michigan.

Our sports editor picked Whiteford High school over Summerfield High School in a football rivalry game Sept. 18, 2015. That night, I started getting Twitter messages tagging @monroenews that were calling out our sports editor and / or mentioning who won the game.

We don’t usually see social media reactions on the sports predictions, although those previews are hugely popular with our print audience. Because the sports reporters were still on deadline, it was up to me if there would be a response while the conversations were still taking place.Tweet to Summerfield High School students

I wrote one Tweet that got this point across: We see you. Thanks for reading.

The response was 13 reweets and 24 favorites on my “Hello Summerfield fans” tweet with an emoji football and an emoji paw print as a salute to the Summerfield Bulldogs.

That’s pretty good engagement for an account that had 12k followers at the time.

This post was written in January 2016, and updated in May 2017.