Twitter is easily one of the more intimidating social medium. It moves so fast, all the symbols are confusing, interaction is very different from Facebook… it takes work to be successful!
Fortunately there are some tricks to make things easier. But first, a quick lesson on terminology:
• Twitter handle: @YourName. This is the profile name and how you talk to people. To send a direct tweet, use the @ symbol (i.e. @TeamMegaphone great article about Twitter!).
• Hashtags (#): A # is a form of grouping. When I tweet “So many blisters from my long run today! #runnerprobs #runchat” I’m grouping my tweet with others that include those hashtags. You can search for a tag in Twitter to see every one with that hashtag, even if you don’t follow all the tweeters. For example, during the presidential debates, most people used #debate in their tweets about it. I sat on Twitter with that tag in my search while watching; seriously made the debates far more interesting, and I learned a lot more as well.
Tip: use hashtags.org to search for tags people are already using; #amwriting is one I see from a lot of authors.
Warning: do NOT over use hashtags. Please. No really, pretty please. I stick to 3 max per tweet. More tags make tweets 1) hard to read, and 2) look like you’re trying way too hard to be interesting.
1. Actively follow.
Set a goal to follow 5–10 people every day. Start by following people of similar size or within a couple hundred follows larger, as they are more likely to follow you back. As a general rule, though, I make sure the number of people I follow never exceeds 100 more than the number of followers I have. When I see someone follows 3,000 people but has only 300 followers, that tells me their tweets are not worth the space on my feed.
Of course, there are always that handful of “big” people you’ll want to follow. For me, this means a handful of premier running bloggers. For you, they could be authors within your genre or that you admire; people of influence within your field. These people are not likely to follow you back at this point, but they tend to be agenda setters, so you need to know what they talk about to be part of the overall conversation.
2. Actively un-follow.
Yes, you read that right. That person following 3,000 but only 300 following back? That’s because he or she isn’t ditching follows. I use who.unfollowed.me to manage my Twitter. It’s a clunky tool, but it works (and doesn’t require tweeting follow stats like just.unfollow). I can see who isn’t following me back, who I’m not following back and who has unfollowed me.
When I was actively building my Twitter, I went in to who.unfollowed.me about once a week and viciously un-followed accounts who hadn’t returned the follow – which were plenty, since I was following 100+ accounts per week. Unless I really care about that person’s tweets (like the “bigs,” some news sites or advocacy groups I care about), they received a little wave and an un-follow click. I still use it regularly to see who’s un-followed me. Then guess what I do.
3. Thank new followers.
People like to be acknowledged and like to feel valued. I still thank every person – or hopefully everyone – who follows me. If you follow Megaphone on Twitter, you’ve probably seen this, too. I do group tweets, so I’ll thank 5 or 6 people in each one. I get behind, for sure, and occasionally flood your feeds with several in a row. Why thank? Well, because people like to be acknowledged and feel valued. Enough said. But…. it also helps me. Those thank you’s often get retweeted, which in turn brings me new follows. What goes around comes around in the Twitter–verse.
4. Follow back.
If I want an account to keep following me, I follow back. If I don’t care whether they remain and I don’t care about their tweets, I don’t. One example is businesses – some I like, plenty I don’t. Another is accounts who’s tweets are just annoying to me (I can manage only so many pictures of you working out with your shirt off before you get an unceremonious goodbye). But for the most part, it’s common courtesy in the Twitter world. They are building their community just like me.
5. Use lists.
But what happens when you follow hundreds or thousands of accounts? If I follow rule #3 my feed will get overwhelming real fast.
Harness the power of lists. When you follow someone, click the little person button and add to a list:
Lists can be public, which are follow–able, but they can also be private. I have a private list for [real–life] friends and family.
Now, lists are great for an OCD person like me who wants life organized. But the real beauty of lists is that you control what you see. I can go into my lists and just see one group, such as my private list called Fitness Influencers. If I’m looking for a good article to retweet, this is where I start. It means I look through tweets from 50 of my favorites rather than from 900+ accounts.
6. Tweet regularly – schedule them!
What? You’re not attached to Twitter all day long? News flash: most accounts aren’t either.
I use Buffer to schedule my tweets. It integrates directly with your Twitter account and you set the times it sends out your daily tweets. Photos, videos and links work perfectly (i.e. blog posts). Bonus: it integrates with Facebook, too. The free version has annoying popups, but hey, it’s free.
I also love that it gives me analytics. Twitter is a tough one when it comes to good analytics, so Buffer has helped me a lot. Here’s an example of some tweets I sent last week:
Not every tweet at every time is going to do well. If you pay attention to these analytics, you start to get an idea what works. Does a question get more response? What about a strong statement that rocks a proverbial boat? Do your tweets do better in the morning or evening? If you’re spending the time, you might as well know what works.
I find my tweets perform better in the morning, at lunch time, at the end of the work day, and later in the evening. So if I’m only going to tweet four times in a day, that’s when it will happen.
7. Finally, have a conversation.
Let’s back up a bit. A Twitter pet peeve is accounts that are only sales pitches. If all you tweet is your blog posts or Amazon links to buy your book, I won’t stick around. Likewise, if you never respond to retweets or direct tweets, I’ll steer around you like a brick wall. Scheduling tweets so you have a regular Twitter presence is important, but you still have to log in, scan your feed, interact with people, reply to tweets, thank new followers, etc. Twitter is a conversation tool; it doesn’t work if you’re not participating.