You want to get started with Twitter? I’m going to trust you don’t need me to help you sign up. If you do, well, that’s just hard luck for you. First read this, then decide if you even need a Twitter account.
Sure, we’d all like to be Guy Kawasaki, who has a quarter of a million followers and the Twitter thing all worked out, but we can’t. Did that burst your little Twitter bubble? Sorry.
You should also know, that Twitter will only get traffic to you as part of a structured and planned marketing strategy. It can’t do it all by itself.
Follow the Leaders, Not the Bots
There are scams out there that promise to get you 10,000 followers on Twitter. Great — how do you know they’re real people? How do you know they’ll add value to your brand? How do you know that being followed by one of these people won’t hurt your brand?
Like any networking, you have to take some responsibility for who you associate with, and if that means growing your network a little slower, that’s how it has to be. you can make hundreds of thousands of matches from a single tree. You could also have your whole forest burned down by a single careless match. Got it?
To Have Presence, You Must Be Present
I guess the first question you’re asking is “What the heck is Twitter and why do I want to have a Twitter ‘presence?’
Good question. There’s a pretty good chance that a Twitter presence wouldn’t be very helpful to you. Depending on how you plan to use it. For most of us, a pressure washer wouldn’t be very helpful. Depending on how we plan to use it. Like any tool, you have to know how to use it. You have to know that it’s the right tool for the job you want it to do.
It’s not a miracle cure for your marketing problems. There is no quick and easy way to get a thousand followers unless you are a celebrity of some kind, or “famous” in your market sector.
Look at it this way: first there was drunk dialing, where you’d get drunk and call a friend at 2 a.m. to let them know how drunk you were.
Annoying rating: 10/10.
Then there was drunk texting, where you’d text a few of your friends to let them know you were getting your stomach pumped at the local emergency room.
Annoying rating: 7/10.
The natural progression is drunk tweeting, where you can tweet to the entire world, at any time, how you thought that the cop car was a taxi and that is why you tried to give the officer $20.
Annoying rating: 1/10.
Now imagine that you’re not drunk, but that you’re making calls to sell your product or service. Sure, Twitter is a much more passive way to get information out, but you can get it out to a lot of people with not much effort.
“Yeah,” I hear you say, “but how much can you really say with 140 characters?”
Anatomy of a Tweet
A lot. That’s how much you get for a text message on your phone. Also, look at this sample tweet from economist and author, Umair Haque:
RT @WorldBank: Live now: Launch of new @WorldBank #education strategy – focus on #learningforall http://bit.ly/lXTyml
It’s 116 characters, and here’s how to break the tweet down.
RT @WorldBank – Indicates this is a retweet of an original post by the user, worldbank. Using the username @worldbank ensures that the user, worldbank, gets copied on the message. @mentions are helpful for building your follower list, I’ll explain why in a moment.
Then comes the message itself:
Live now: Launch of new @WorldBank #education strategy – focus on #learningforall
#education and #learningforall are what tweeters call hashtags. A hashtag is simply a label that is searchable. For instance, if you search for #education, you’ll get a list of the tweets that use the hashtag #education. Hashtags are incredibly important in helping you establish yourself as a credible expert in a field.
Then there’s the shortened link: http://bit.ly/lXTyml (20 characters)
This actually points to the URL:
http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTEDUCATION/0,,contentMDK:22896219~menuPK:282428~pagePK:64020865~piPK:51164185~theSitePK:282386,00.html?cid=EXT_TWBN_D_EXT (171 characters)
You simply can’t fit that URL in your 140 characters. Link shorteners make Twitter possible. More on link shorteners in a moment, too.
Twitter is the billboard you use to get people into your store. It’s not your store. And sure, you’re only advertising to other people who use Twitter. But the guy outside your store twirling that sign is only advertising to the people driving past your store.
Now you know what Twitter is, here are some rules for you to think about:
1. Don’t follow everyone. The number of people you’re following should be LOWER than the number of tweets you’ve put out. You also shouldn’t follow more than about twice as many people as are following you.
2. Spread your tweets out through the day. If you have regular marketing messages, use something like Hootsuite to schedule them. Sending all your tweets in a five minute spell just gets you lost in the tweet streams of your followers. Or worse, your followers think you’re spamming them.
3. Hashtag EVERY message. Using hashtags will get your tweets out in front of more than just your followers, and will generate more followers if your content is compelling. If you tweet good quality content out about a specific subject, and you do it with consistency and regularity, you’ll fast become an expert around that subject’s hastag. And experts find themselves getting retweeted often.
4. Don’t follow users who don’t tweet regularly. Don’t follow people who only tweet self-serving marketing. The well-known rule of thumb is that for every self-serving tweet you put out, you should be putting out four informative tweets. Start by following a couple of magazines in your sector, and a couple of well known or interesting users. To begin with, only follow users who participate and who tweet regularly. Avoid users who have very few tweets, or are following a disproportionately high number of users compared to how many followers they have. Don’t follow Guy Kawasaki expecting that he’ll tweet your content. He won’t (most likely.) Follow users who you think might retweet you.
5. Retweet. This gets you on the rader of users you follow. Eventually, if you’re putting out original tweets, and not just retweeting the thoughts of other users, they’re likely to follow your tweets and retweet them. Making sure specific users get to see your tweets by giving them an @mention is a good way to let them know you exist. Just make sure what you’re giving them is something that they might be interested in, and not just spam.
6. Link shorteners. There are dozens of them. Use one. Your 140 characters are precious, don’t waste them. Link shorteners also make it easy to track your clicks. For most of them, paste the link into the address bar and add + to the end to get click statistics. For example, http://goo.gl/xJRNL is the link, http://goo.gl/xJRNL+ is the statistics for the link. Really, it couldn’t be easier.
7. Get listed in the right lists. It’s just as important as getting specific followers. Use hashtags to become an expert in a subject — users following that hashtag will add you to their list of experts, and are more likely to retweet and share your updates. There really isn’t an easy way to get listed, other than by posting links to great content and being retweeted. It’s about reputation.
8. Analytics. Know which of your tweets get the most clicks. See what content resonates with your followers. Also, go to klout.com and register. It’s free, but it gives good metrics about how your network is interacting with you and the world, and vice versa.
9. It’s okay to grow slowly. Don’t stress out about getting hundreds or thousands of followers immediately. Certainly don’t follow hundreds of people right away. Remember that it’s an information exchange community — if you’re consuming more than you’re putting in, you’ll find it hard to get followers.
10. Know what to tweet. In a sample of 10 tweets, you probably want a breakdown that looks something like:
1 – Public reply @usertweet
2 – Marketing tweets
3 – Retweets
4 – Original thoughts/links to interesting content
And really, that’s about all you need to know about Twitter to get started using it effectively. I know, it’s a lot to take in, but if you don’t have your expectations set too high you’ll find that it’s a useful tool for getting traffic to your site.
Ultimately the name of the game, as with your site, is compelling and unique content. Anyone can retweet, but exciting news is going to get clicks, and clicks translate into traffic. And that’s where your sales team begins.