Six Secrets of Successful Email Marketing Campaigns

Email marketing. Chances are you hate receiving it – and why? Because at any given moment you don’t want what they’re selling. And the rest of the time, the writing is so loaded with sales speak that you stop reading after the second sentence and drop the email in your spam folder.

But your own email marketing is important to you. You can use it to send people to your Web site, or to let them know about a new product launch (or a recall if you’re very unlucky), or even just stay in touch with them.

A successful email marketing campaign hinges on the idea that, and I can’t say this loud enough, you have to know what you want your customer to hear. You don’t have to know what you want to say, not when you’re in the planning stage of the campaign, but you have to know what you want your reader to take away.

Since most people don’t read more than a few sentences, you need to get the most engaging stuff out at the top. You need to give your customer a…

Reason to Keep Reading
At the start of this blog, I posed a question. I gave you a reason to read some more, even if it was only to disagree with my answer. You’ve seen this attention capturing technique before — just think of any commercial with a voice over: “Does your aching back keep you up at night?” “Are rodents ruining your lawn?” “Can a new set of tires give you better gas mileage?”
They work. They grab our attention, but to keep it, you need to be skilled at…

Telling a Good Story
Aesop and the Grimm brothers are great examples of how to tell a compelling story — they have a beginning, a middle, an end, and usually some kind of lesson. Goldilocks, Hansel and Gretel, the Hare and the Tortoise, Little Red Riding Hood, the Three Little Pigs — they all have lessons that are the point of the story. The story is just window-dressing for the message.

You can tell a story about two customers, one who used your company’s product, and one who used a cheaper alternative. Over the life of a project, the guy who used the cheaper alternative had to replace and/or repair his inferior product a few times, which ratcheted up the cost of the project and caused it to over-run. His company’s reputation took a costly hit, and his projected profit was slashed due to delays caused by the cheaper alternative.

The customer who put his money in your better quality product may have paid a higher price up-front, but his project came in ahead of schedule, and his customers intend to recommend him to other potential customers. As a bonus, the customer who bought your product for their project will tell people at his Chamber of Commerce about your product, and how it helped him realize a bigger profit than he had expected.

If you have testimonials that can provide actual numerical comparisons, or statistics to show how much money or time users can save that’s even better. A big red splash saying “SAVE 30%” is good, but…meaningless. Is that 30 percent on what you charged last year? Is this a sale? Show your customers the many advantages you offer compared to your competitors.

You shouldn’t lie in your stories, but if your customers sometimes experience extraordinary results, it’s okay if your message includes…

Claims of Extraordinary Results
…so long as you say they they’re not typical if they’re not typical.

In the story above, I claim that use of your product caused:

the project to come in ahead of schedule
positive word of mouth from your customer to other potential customers
larger project profit margins than were forecast

Are those typical results? Probably not, but you can bet that one or two of them are a consistent outcome for most of your customers. In most marketing campaigns, results and testimonials are not based on single-user experiences, but on the combined experience of multiple users, spliced together to tell a good story.

The point of all this is to interest and excite the reader so that they click, call, or email you. And if you don’t tell them to do it, they probably won’t. So you have to include a…

Call to Action
For your no-obligation 30-day free trial….
Call today to save 25%
Refer a friend and save 20% on your next order.
Join our mailing list to receive great deals in the future.

The entire purpose of marketing is to make people want to take that action. Usually you want that action to be a sales transaction, but in the age of digital marketing simply capturing name and contact information is valuable. Being able to deliver marketing materials electronically to your contact list reduces marketing costs substantially, so whatever else your call to action is, it MUST include a way to capture that information.

At any given time, most people will not be in the market for your product, and most won’t even open the email. Those are not the people you’re writing for. You have to…

Know who you’re writing for
You’re writing for the 3 percent who are thinking about making a buying decision now, or soon. You’re writing for the 10 percent who are considering this kind of investment in the future.

If you write for the 70 percent who won’t even open your email, you’ve failed. I know a guy in sales who lives by one simple rule: fish where the fish are. You probably wouldn’t email movie stars to try to get endorsements for your product, but you might be able to get local radio hosts or tv news anchors to do it. you have limited resources – both time and money – so invest it wisely. When it comes to that 70 percent, don’t write them off, but don’t write to try to persuade them.

Email marketing campaigns will always fail, though, if you fail to track your results and tweak as you go. For that reason, don’t think of sending the first email without having…

Tracking metrics
Listrak have a great white paper about tracking metrics for digital marketers. You should read it, but here are the highlights:

Delivery Rate: How many of your emails actually reach their intended recipient, and how many are delivered to a spam folder? How many are bounced by ISPs?

Unsubscribe and Abuse Report Rates: How many opt-in emails do you get tired of, and instead of unsubscribing you simply flag that sender as spam? If enough people do this to your email, it can cause problems like getting your domain black-listed by ISPs. If your subject line looks spammy, most subscribers will delete your email without looking at it. If you’re communicating too often, and not adding value to your subscribers’ business, you’ll find your readership shrinking as your audience unsubscribes. And that’s just bad for your marketing efforts.

Open Rate and Read Rate: Open rate is a misleading name — if you use an email client like Outlook or Entourage and have a preview pane, any email that appears in that pane will be listed as “opened.” Even if you glance at it and then delete it. Read rate is a more meaningful measure, since it tracks emails that were “open” for a more than a few seconds.

Click-thru Rate: It’s what it says it is. Did your reader click on the call to action? If they do this, your message worked.

Goal Conversion Rate: Once your reader clicks the call to action and is directed to your Web site, how many actually buy something, download something, interact with your Website in a way that is meaningful for your company?

Being successful with your email marketing isn’t about luck, it’s about writing compelling copy that persuades people to take action. It’s not magic, and it’s not really all that complicated. By paying attention to what you say and who you’re talking to, you can increase engagement with your audience and convert your email list into a powerful tool for increasing revenues and growing your brand.

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Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

5 Lessons Every Small Business Can Learn from…Fight Club

I am Jack’s self-aware sense of irony.

Yes, this is a blog post about how to make your business more successful, inspired by the movie, (and Chuck Palahniuk’s book it was based on) about destroying corporations. The first rule of this post is you talk about this post. The second rule of this post is…you talk about this post.

If you haven’t seen the movie or read the book, dig yourself out from under that rock, come out of the cave, and rent the DVD. If you’re really fancy, rent the Blu-Ray.

If you’re in your office right now, or on your schmanzy smartphone in an office supply store, go on over to the Avery mailing labels and check out the 1 1/2 inch labels (Avery Catalog #8293) or click this link – that’s the street address for the Paper Street Soap Company, as seen in the movie Fight Club. Now laugh as we find the business wisdom in the words of Tyler Durden and The Narrator (who we shall call Jack.)

Everything’s a copy of a copy of a copy

Your product or service is probably not unique. And I’m not using “unique” in the hackneyed way it’s being used in the 21st century. I don’t mean that your product isn’t interesting. I mean it’s probably not the only one of its kind on the market. Whatever you’re selling, chances are someone else is selling it, too. Or they tried in the past and failed.

Take all the Groupon copycats. Not an original idea, but there’s a new one springing up every other week, even though the model is demonstrably unprofitable.

Before you invest your life savings and your future in your business you should investigate your product thoroughly. Try to argue all the reasons that your business is a bad idea. Really. Make it stand outside your house for three days with no food or water, with you insulting it every few hours. If it’s still there after three days, it’s probably either impervious to logic, or a great idea.

So, you have a great idea. Now you have to market it. It’s important that you realize that there’s probably no new ways to market your product. Sure, you read “Guerilla Marketing,” and you know how to invest your marketing dollars. You may even have read Olivier Blanchard’s excellent “Social Media ROI” and you have an idea of how to measure your digital marketing campaigns. But your campaign is something we’ve seen before. Your hook is something we’ve seen before, and maybe we’ve even rejected it.

So how do you get your foot in the door? You accept that you are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. Accept that all business ideas are based on an need not met by someone else’s idea. All marketing is based on bringing awareness to that need and how your product can fulfill it.

And now I suppose you want an answer to this prickly quandary. I can’t tell you how to be original, but what I can say is this: for all of us, there is comfort in the familiar. As consumers, we don’t want the challenge of understanding and assimilating a new idea. Give it to us straight, and if your message is perceived as honest, and your product meets a need that we have, we’ll probably buy. It’s really that simple.

On a long enough timeline the survival rate for everyone drops to zero

In his book, “Adapt: Why Success Always Starts With Failure,” Economist Andrew Harford shares a stunning statistic: of the top 100 companies in the world in 1912, over half had gone out of business by 1995. Harford says, “What happens when we look at survival rates in young, dynamic industries? The answer is that failure rates are even higher.”

The truth is that what we consume and how it’s delivered changes, sometimes rapidly. In 1970, this was the most advanced portable music player.

It’s a record player in a suitcase. You can use it as an airline carry-on. But only just.

Ten years later, the portable music player of choice was this.

It plays tapes. Ask a grown-up what “cassette tapes” are.

And now it’s this.

It’s smaller than a credit card, and holds your parents’ entire collection of records and cassettes.

Try buying either of the first two today.

And while 40 years might seem like a long time, consider that once we figured out how to fly, it took a scant 66 years to put a man on the moon. In 2077 I’ll be dead. Probably. But I know a breakthrough that happened today will be not only commonplace, but probably obsolete, by then.

There’s a reason that the US Marine Corps has the mantra “Adapt, Improvise, Overcome.” It works.

All businesses eventually fall prey to technical or cultural obsolescence, or a competitor that can run leaner. The companies that survive recessions and depressions know how to evolve their business model, they don’t buy into a long-term vendor contract when the market for that vendor’s product is peaking, and they understand the value of their human capital.

It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything

When you’re a kid, playing on the monkey bars, it’s only scary to fall the first time. Before we fall off we’re cautious, maybe even fearful. But when you hit the playground floor that first time, when you dust yourself off and realize that it wasn’t so bad, you figure out where you screwed up and why you fell…and you devise better, more successful ways to negotiate the monkey bars.

If you talk to serial entrepreneurs who’ve secured angel or VC funding on more than one occasion, you’ll find a common story. They failed in their first business ventures. They lost a ton of money for their investors, but their investors didn’t hesitate to give them more money the next time they came knocking.

Why, when an entrepreneur’s business fails, do investors want to risk more money? It’s simple really: investors do not invest in businesses. They invest in people.

If you have one good idea, it’s a fair bet that you’ll have another. Entrepreneurship takes a certain personality, like being a professional poker player. Entrepreneurs and pro poker players share a trait: they never stop learning. Every experience makes them better at what they do, more successful, far less likely to fail in the future.

Entrepreneurs who can’t take theit failures and turn them into something that makes them better are going to fail. Again and again. Investors look for people who can negotiate the monkey bars better next time.

No fear, no distractions — let that which does not matter truly slide

There’s a single-mindedness you need to develop as an entrepreneur. The Paper Street Soap Company works like a bee hive, and your business needs to adopt some of that mentality. Some of it, not all of it. If you adopt it all, your employees will never innovate, they’ll just wait around for your next instruction.

Goal-setting is one of the most important things you can do as a leader. If your team can see the end-game, the finished product, they can help find innovative ways to execute your plans. Daily re-focusing on the goal will reduce distractions. If your employees know how their work contributes to the final product, they’ll be more diligent, more innovative, and more engaged.

What your employees do need, and this will come from your leadership, is a belief that the work they are doing has value.

If you allow yourself to be distracted by trivia, rather than the tasks that help you achieve your goals, your employees won’t know where to focus their energies, and that will drive up costs, reduce productivity, and can lead to your final product being a costly experiment in how not to address a need.

This does not belong to us, we are not special

When fight clubs and Project Mayhem start appearing in many cities — Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, New York, Jack demands to know what’s going on — and Tyler tells him “This does not belong to us.”

When anything “goes viral,” the creator has ownership of the original idea co-opted by others who will replicate it, expand on it, mutate it, and evolve it into something new or different.

Here’s a technical definition: what you want, ideally, is to spawn an Internet meme. For example, “The first rule of fight club is you don’t talk about fight club. The second rule…” That’s a meme. It’s out there, in our consciousness, unaltered from its original form.

When something “goes viral” it gets altered, people make their own versions, and those versions sink into our consciousness. You want an example?

In the summer of 2010, a video of a guy on a hike surfaced. He saw a “double rainbow” and raved about how wonderful it was. It was a huge youtube hit. It went viral, and was promptly co-opted by people who edited it, autotuned it, and performed it as a dramatic reading. They all went viral.

Do you remember the name of the “Double Rainbow” guy? Or the name of the guy that was interviewed for the news about a “Bedroom Intruder?” No. You know the viral video but not the source material. While it’s great to get your message out in front of millions of youtube visitors, if it’s being watered down, changed, mocked, or parodied, nobody will remember that it’s your message.

You want to be remembered? Focus less on “how can I go viral” and more on “how can I make this memorable?”

Posted in blog, branding, communications, development, entrepreneur | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Goal Setting — Smart Goals

I’ve talked a little bit about how important goals are as a starting point to achieving anything in business, because goals drive activity, and activity without goals is just busy-work and a waste of money. Knowing what you want to achieve allows you to create strategy, and strategy is where you determine how to achieve those goals.

But how do you set goals in the first place?

There’s an easy acronym for you: SMART. Your goals have to be SMART. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time Sensitive. SMART.

Specific

Your goals have to achieve something, and that achievement must be very specific. You want to improve call center response times, or transactions per day, or unique visitors per day to your Web site.

Measurable

That’s a good start, but there must be a finish line — improve call center response times by 20 percent, increase transactions per day from 1,200 to 1,450, increase unique Web site visitors from 8,500 to 11,000. Setting interim mileposts is important, too. It will make sure you’re on track to reach the goals you’ve set, and give you opportunities to correct tactics that aren’t effective.

Achievable

If your goal is to improve Web site unique visitors per day from 8,500 to 85,000 in the next quarter, you’re probably aiming too high. If you want to increase to 9,100, you’re probably aiming too low. Ideally your goals should be stretching, but achievable. Most of us operate at about 85 percent of what we could achieve in a day. And that’s nothing to be sneezed at. But if your business runs at the same efficiency, you can set your sights on that 8,500 visitors being stretched to 10,000. If you reach 10,000 that’s great — your next goal can be more stretching.

Realistic

Every goal has three key elements: scope, resources, and quality of finished product. If circumstances mean that you need to reduce the number of employees assigned to the task, while maintaining the quality of the finished work in the same amount of time…you’re probably going to have to reduce the scope of the work. If you demand better quality product with the same scope, you’ll likely need to also add resources (which may be allowing additional time.) It’s not a hard concept when you get used to it.

I say all this to illustrate that there are limits to what you can achieve with finite resources. And you do have finite resources. So your goals have to be stretching, but must be realistically achievable with the resources available to you.

Time Sensitive

Goals are pointless if you don’t have a finish line. You want to add 1,000 subscribers to your blog? Well, just keep going forever, you’ll get there eventually. You want to reduce your energy costs by 10 percent? Simple, just wait for your provider to reduce their charges by 10 percent. And you can wait and wait.

If you don’t put a time limit on your goals, you’re not going to be pressed into action. They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and it’s true. Many procrastinators confess to doing their best work right at deadline. The truth is that deadlines lead to innovation.

Changing processes to be more efficient, finding new ways to increase customer satisfaction, or turn more eyeballs to your Web site all require out-of-the-box thinking. And out of the box thinking, for most of us, requires the desperation induced by a rapidly-approaching deadline.

Posted in blog, communications, development, entrepreneur, hr, human resources, marketing, message, product development, sales, social media, tips

Why Social Media Marketing Starts with Strategy

Let’s say that you want to figure out what people are saying about your company. Why? Why are your customers’ opinions important enough to spend your company’s time and money on listening to them, not to mention take resources away from other tasks that might be revenue-generating?

You might say something like:

  • You’ve heard it’s good to listen to what your customers are saying online
  • You think your competitors could be doing it
  • You don’t want to get left behind

Those are the reasons you’ll probably be tempted to use, but none of them can be related to your business activities, and therefore they can’t be related to anything that helps your company stay in business.

To properly formulate the case for social listening, you have to tie it to a business goal. If you are assigning a resource to this activity (and you will be) it will incur an expense. You should be able to show where that expense will be offset, either by:

  • generating revenue
  • reducing costs
  • positively supporting your brand identity

So change the question.

How can social listening activities support these goals?

To break that down further, you need to look at your company’s overall strategy for each of those items, and determine if social listening is a tool that will help you to be successful.  Will it help you be more successful than the next-best alternative?

It could be that your social listening will, in the end, support more than one — it might reduce the cost of your customer care function while building positive word-of-mouth about your brand.

Would you buy an expensive power-tool and then try to find projects around your home that you’d need to use it for? Or would you figure out that you have a project to complete and then decide if an expensive power-tool is the right tool for the job?

You can’t know if social listening will support your goals if you don’t have goals. The goals come first. Then strategy, then tactics and tools.

Goal: Reduce calls to the call center by 25 percent in the next 12 months.

Strategy: Provide alternative ways for customers to address their issues before they feel the need to call the call center.

Tactics: How-to guides on the Web site; Tip of the Day emails; How-to videos on the Web site; mail information to registered customers; post links to how-to guides on social media Web sites; monitor calls the call center and activity on social networks to determine which issues are the most frustrating for customers.

Some tactics will likely be more successful than others, and you can probably determine whether a specific tactic will be the right one for your company before you spend a lot of money on it. Tip of the Day emails, for example, have a very low open-rate; which is to say that less than about 20 percent of recipients will open the first one, and that number will dwindle with each new email. Unless you’re offering deals, like Groupon, diminishing returns on bulk emails is a fact of life. Mailing information using the Postal Service has an even lower success rate.

How-to videos can be costly, and may involve a re-design of your Web site or content management system, which is also true of text-based tutorials. However, as part of a longer-term strategy, the cost of these activities might represent good value in the long run.

For more immediate results, you might start by assigning someone to monitor Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks, and to provide answers to the questions posed on the company’s Facebook Wall or for any questions directed at your Twitter name or hashtagged with your company name. The significant drawback of this solution is that it means your employee might have to give the same information to dozens, or even hundreds, of customers with the same problem.

So maybe the most effective tactics to achieve the goal would be some hybrid of:

  • standard information that can be referenced quickly and easily distributed, like a Frequently Asked Questions section on your Web site, and
  •  someone monitoring call-types and social media conversations to determine which questions need to be answered by one-to-one interaction, and which can be directed to the FAQs page you’ve created.

You can probably see that, in this example, the social media activity is one of a number of natural solutions to help the company achieve its goal. If you try to reverse-engineer a goal from social media activity you’ll probably be wildly successful. The trouble is, you won’t have achieved very much, you won’t have learned anything about how to create social media marketing to achieve a goal, and so your success will be unrepeatable.

If you want to run social media marketing campaigns, you must learn how to use the various platforms and applications as tools to achieve goals, and not to adapt goals to justify your activities in social space.

Posted in communications, development, entrepreneur, influence, listen, marketing, message, public relations, ROI, social media, tips

5 Things You Need To Know About Social Listening

Social listening is the activity you’re engaged in when you pay attention to what consumers are saying about your company at any given time, and even what’s being said about your competitors, or your industry in general.

Listening is a relationship function, and social listening for a business isn’t terribly different from listening to your spouse or significant other. There are behaviors that will make you more successful, and some that will continuously throw roadblocks in your way and frustrate you.

1. Be open to whatever is being said, however critical. If someone is raising a concern with you, don’t dismiss it, even if it seems petty or unreasonable.

2. Learn to look at the situation from the customer’s perspective. Remember that they’re probably not aware of most of the solutions available to them, even if those solutions are on your web site. The customer doesn’t work for your company, and there are some things it’s not reasonable to expect your average customer to know.

3. They didn’t tell you they have a problem because they had some free time, so make sure you reassure them that their concerns are valid, even if the solution is simple.

4. Take a minute to research the customer’s issue before you respond, so you can provide the most educated response to their specific circumstances. If their comment was angry or upset, take care that you don’t respond to emotion with emotion. That’s like using a match to respond to a gas leak.

5. Don’t set up unrealistic expectations. Telling the customer what they want to hear will, only very rarely, resolve the issue, especially if you can’t provide that level of service consistently in the future for that customer.

Posted in communications, customer service, entrepreneur, influence, listen, marketing, public relations, social media, tips

How to Do #FollowFriday and Be A Real Twitter Influencer

Click here for my #FollowFriday list.

This post is about not doing #FF the same as everyone else. It’s about singling out the individuals whose tweets you seek out. It’s about finding new ways to bring value to the people you follow. You can call it paying it forward, or whatever you want — but it’s really about authentic engagement with your social media audience.

If you’re on twitter, it’s likely that you see #FF or #followfriday lists pop up as the weekend gets closer. Most likely they’ll look like this:

RandomUser #FF @myfriend @thisguyIknow @workplacebuddy @storeIlike @websiteIvisitedonce @dudewhoRTedMe Love your tweets!

Which is nice. I mean, it gets a little exposure for the people you mention, and that’s great. But let me ask you this question. When you see #FF lists in your stream, how many of the names in the list do you click on?

Yeah, I thought so, me too.

Have a Goal – Help a Brother (or Sister) Out

What’s your #FollowFriday goal? Is it to let your followers know who you know? Is it self-serving name-dropping (which never works, by the way)? Or is it to create new followers for the people you follow?

To persuade your followers to follow someone you are following, they need more than just a name and your tweet.

Most people are using Twitter as a social exposure tool. Most people also tend to follow users they’ll read, enjoy, and retweet — that kind of twitterati is much more appealing than someone who only consumes. Twitter is a conversation, and you have to let the other participants know that you value their input. So recommend people who will add value to your followers, either by retweeting or by posting retweetable messages. If they’ll add value, your followers will follow them.

Doing #FollowFriday the right way takes a little time. But taking the time shows your followers that you think these users are worth the effort — that they’ll add value to the tweet streams of anyone who follows them. These tips will show you how to use #FF to show that real value to the people you follow.

  1. Start #FF by telling Twitter “I will follow every user mentioned in any #FF list I’m in.” Being mentioned in a #FF list should be an honor, and the people mentioned with you are people whose posts you’ll probably enjoy. Do it, and watch how many #FF lists you get included in. Then follow them. All of them.
  2. Send an @mention to let the user who sent out the #FF list know that you followed all their recommendations and you’re looking forward to great tweets and great future #FF lists. They’ll thank you for it. And retweet the original list with a “Thanks for including me!” message.
  3. Get creative with how you make your #FF lists. Do them with a city theme, or maybe only people with blogs you read, or perhaps companies you do business, or people who inspire you, or experts in a particular field…it’s practically endless. If you do a themed list, hashtag it with the theme when you post it.
  4. Most people using Twitter are using it to get eyes on their blog or company Web site. Your #FF recommendations every week are great word of mouth. On top of that, SEO for sites is improved by the number of inbound links there are on external sites. Sure, it’s not a lot of SEO juice, but it’s some. Everyone appreciates link-backs from other sites, and sometimes you’ll get a link back to your site as a thank you. Creating a page on your blog that includes all these links can be a great way to add a little SEO value to the sites of the people you follow.

Why I Do It My Way

If you’ve clicked any of the links in #3, you’ve seen how I do my #FF — I create a page that I can post as a Twitter update and @mention the people on my list. This has the benefit for me that I’m getting clicks on my site as my #FF people check out what link they’ve been associated with, but also they re-tweet my link to their followers, and mostly they click around some of my other posts, which increases the possibility that they’ll tweet one of my posts.

There’s a traffic advantage to me for doing it this way, for sure, but there’s also the benefit to all the people in my #FF list – past and present. They get many more visitors looking at their Twitter bio, and a recent tweet to put them in context, in a way that might make visitors interested to follow them on Twitter.

Valuable reciprocity is the name of the game for #FF, so what are you really doing for the people on your #FF list?

Posted in blog, followers, followfriday, social media

How to Use Twitter Lists to Get Traffic for Your Web Site

Sheepdog herding sheepIf you’re hoping to monetize your blog, and nobody knows you’re posting great content there, you may as well not bother writing at all.

I don’t say that to be mean, but it is important to understand that, as the saying goes, a leader with no followers is just a guy out for a walk.

You need to know how to draw people to your blog. Some people call that driving traffic, others call it pulling in an audience. But whatever you call it, it’s the art of getting followers, subscribers, and a regular readership. If you’ve read my pieces about Twitter, you might have the impression that I think that getting followers is somehow dirty. It’s not, and I apologize if I made you think that. You need eyes on your work to get anyone to tweet about it or give you a Facebook “Like.” So how do you get the most eyes pointed your way?

What I will discourage up-front, and consistently, is using a piece of software to automate your following and engagement behavior. But with that said, here’s a simple five step process to increasing your followers…legitimately.

Let’s assume you have at least *some* followers, or that you’re following some thought leaders in your industry.

  1. Find an active Twitterati. Make it someone whose tweets you look forward to reading.
    Chances are, they’re listed by a bunch of people who also look forward to this person’s tweets. People like you, in fact.
  2. Pick a list,and when it comes up, click the “Following” tab. It should have the number of people who are being followed in this list.
  3. Now you just have to look down the profiles and add the people who you find interesting. Yes, it takes time, but you’re adding people who you’re probably going to enjoy reading and engaging with.
  4. Engage with the people you added. Give them some @mentions and retweet the great things they say. While they may have been unknown to you five minutes ago, you do have things in common with them, and you have a bunch of reasons to engage with them. Remember to tweet out original thoughts, and occasional links to your blog, but mostly you should engage with your new friends.
  5. Repeat. Some of these folks are going to autofollow you. Don’t worry about why they follow you, only why you’re following them. Others won’t follow you at all. Don’t worry about that, either — they’re going to appear in your Tweetstream and give you a ton of stuff to talk about and engage with them. If you’re genuine and engaging, they’ll eventually follow you.

See, it’s not difficult. If you follow a couple of big lists in a day, chances are you’ll see your followers sky-rocket. And when that happens, you’ll see more people @mentioning you, and retweeting your links and comments.

In time they’ll begin coming to your blog and tweeting links directly from your social sharing buttons.

Remember — this is different from using a follow-bot. You’re deliberately choosing each person you follow, based on mutual friends, and shared subject-matter interest.

Oh, one more thing…when you start following a lot of people, your tweet stream is going to get very very crowded. So you might want to make a list which includes the people whose tweets you absolutely positively have to pay attention to. A list of people you recommend on #FF is probably a good place to start. But you’re going to need to make some lists to make sense of the hurricane of tweets you’re about to see.

And now you should follow me, because I might say something useful. You never know…

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