If you're looking for the largest possible following on Twitter, this column isn't for you. But if you want to enhance your business and develop your personal brand by building a substantial, high-quality following, perhaps I can help.
I've been using Twitter for five years, and I recently topped 10,000 followers. Lots of folks have more followers than I do, but the quality of my following is what’s important to me. Most of my followers are people who share my interests in the Internet, media, and digital marketing. They're responsive, supportive, and helpful, and we have a great time together.
Over the years, I've learned a few basic tactics for building a quality following. Perhaps you'll find them useful. Note that these tactics apply to using Twitter for business. If you want to build a cult of personality or just run up your numbers, there are better ways to do it.
I've posted an average of just four tweets per day for the last five years, which is far fewer than the output of many other Twitter users. That's because I limit most of my tweets to the professional topics that interest me or that others may find useful. I share little information about my personal life. People don't care what I had for dinner, but if the restaurant is a place I'd recommend to others, I'll frame a comment in that context. When people see my name in their tweet stream, I want them to know they're likely to find something there that interests them.
Share your handle everywhere.
Of course, your Twitter handle should be in your e-mail signature line. But consider the other ways people might find you. I include my Twitter name (@pgillin) in my letterhead, as well as on every slide in my presentations. Don't forget to post your presentations to SlideShare, where your PowerPoints can get many more views than they ever do in front of an audience. Add your Twitter handle to your LinkedIn profile, and if you're ever featured as a speaker, make sure the promotion page features your Twitter name, as well.
Usefulness is the gold standard of business communications, so I try to make sure the vast majority of my communications are potentially useful to others. Nearly all include links to sources of additional information. Part of succeeding on Twitter is acknowledging the good work of others.
I’ve made it easy to share content that interests me. The Bit.ly toolbar button is a quick and easy way to share with just a couple of clicks. I also bookmark stuff I want to keep for later, and I use the dlvr.it automatic syndication service to tweet any item I tag “share.”
These days, there's no reason not to share information that interests you. But don't overdo it. That leads to my next recommendation.
Don't give people reasons not to follow you.
Excuse the double negative, but the point is not to give people stuff that may bore or alienate them. I never tweet about politics or religion. The most polarizing issue I permit myself is boosterism for my favorite sports teams. I also choose not to share many details of humdrum daily life or most of my Foursquare check-ins. People just aren't interested in that stuff.
No one likes a jerk, so why act like one? Always be respectful and constructive, even when disagreeing. There is no upside to insulting or antagonizing people. None.
Give to get.
The unwritten code of blogging and tweeting is that sharing begets sharing. When people retweet your messages, thank them (I'll sometimes thank a week's worth of retweeters with a couple of #FollowFriday messages). If those people interest you, follow them. When people ask you a question, answer it. The more helpful you are, the more people pay it back with their attention and citations.
Mention others whenever possible.
When you mention people in tweets, invest the additional 10 seconds to find out if they have a Twitter account. By including their Twitter handle, you increase the likelihood that they will notice you and repay the favor with a follow.
One of the blessings of Twitter is that that it lets you share unexpected and remarkable events that might otherwise go unnoticed. I try to vary my tweet stream with flashes of strange and amusing scenes that others might enjoy. A bus I was riding once passed a park bench where a woman clad in a full bridal gown was sitting alone next to a suitcase. You don't see that every day, and I figured there had to be a story there, so I asked my Twitter followers to speculate. Dozens did, and in the 20 minutes that followed, we not only had a fast and fun brainstorm, but I added about 10 new followers.
Be the eyes and ears of your followers.
When you attend a conference, play reporter and tell your followers what you're witnessing. Share key points and memorable quotes. Use the conference hashtag, so that others will find you. You'd be amazed at the results. I've added as many as 50 followers in an hour doing this.
People who don't follow you may be following hashtags that matter to you. The best way to get into their tweet stream is to use those tags. Hashtags.org and What the Trend are good places to find the most popular ones.
I'm sure I've only scratched the surface, so please post your own tips as comments.
— Paul Gillin is a writer, speaker, and online marketing consultant. He specializes in social media and the application of personal publishing to brand awareness and business marketing. His latest book is Social Marketing to the Business Customer (co-authored with Eric Schwartzman, January 2011).
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Oh Twitter is great. I use it mainly for search purposes. You can find so much good content and material on Twitter very quickly just by searching for a topic. For example, when I need to find out the latest info on a tech topic, I hop on Twitter and do a search for it. The results are full of recent and worthy material that I would probably spend hours filtering through on Google. It's great!
Oh, you are absolutely right! Unfortunately for Google, G+ didn't work so well as expected. This may change, though. Who knows. It may be good for some people. We all don't have the same needs or choices in social media, just as everything else.
Skype works well for me. As you say, it's the default platform I use. Changing it to Hangouts, well, I haven't seen the point yet. And this said from someone who likes to adapt new things, but to adapt new things I have to see a good reason, too.
I hear you on that but if you already have a rapport with certain people, for most, isn't Skype already the default platform to use to communicate with them, especially en masse? What makes G+ the 'thing to use' now? That's what I don't get.
How about this... If FB buys a social video or live communication platform provider in the near future, expect G+ hangouts to disappear quickly.
I enjoy watching G+ activities grow with adoption. Android developer office hours have gone virtual, fledgling singer/song writer Daria Musk got a Grammy-winning director Chris Robinson to direct her first video (this happened earlier this afternoon), and Trey is the king of social HDR photographers.
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