“Oh, I hate Twitter. I don’t understand it at all.”
This is the usual response I receive whenever Twitter comes up in conversation. I believe this is unfortunate, because when harnessed to its full potential, Twitter is a powerful marketing and networking tool that is also enjoyable to use.
Now, I understand the frustration. When I first started using Twitter several years ago I felt the same way. I’d post something and nothing would happen. Fickle followers would follow me and then seem to suddenly unfollow me out of nowhere. It seemed impossible to grow a following and the lack of engagement was pretty discouraging.
Twitter is not a platform where results are always as immediate as some others. One weakness of Twitter is that the feed is not great at organizing users’ posts. It’s a steady stream of content, which can sometimes feel like an overwhelming information overload that makes it hard to gain visibility. This has led many people to give up on Twitter over the past couple years, and as a result, it has declined and become less a part of the mainstream, reserved more for early adopters, hipsters, techies, journalists, celebrities, and most famously, the President of the United States.
However, if you demonstrate a little bit of patience (not something many of us have these days) and are willing to put in the work, Twitter can be an excellent vehicle for developing your brand, advancing your career, or simply connecting with like-minded people. For those willing to learn, Twitter presents numerous opportunities.
Here are a few tips I learned from steadily growing my own Twitter following over the past year (as well as the accounts of others) from less than 100 unengaged followers to over 700 followers without the use of bots or ads:
1. Tweet every day.
In addition to being one of the most social of social networks, it’s also one of the most time consuming. To truly make progress on Twitter, you need to tweet every day, or at least Monday through Friday and at the right times. The recommendation, according to general best practices is approximately 2-3 times per day or 10-15 times per week (not including replies or retweets).
2. Tweet one-to-one.
Because it’s very difficult to gain visibility in the Twitter feed and your tweets will quickly get crowded out and covered over by others’ tweets, you need to tweet directly @ people’s handles to ensure the right people see your content. Twitter is a friendly space where it’s perfectly normal and cool to talk to strangers, so lose the fear! Tweet directly at individuals (tweets that begin with @) or mention influencers or followers by including their handles in your tweets.
3. Use strategic hashtags.
Do some keyword research or use the Twitter search bar to find hashtags that are not too broad and competitive (used by too many people) or too narrow (used by too few people). This well help you find a good sweet spot where your tweets will get more visibility by people who are interested in the content. The general recommendation is to use no more than 1-2 hashtags on Twitter. More than that can make you appear spammy.
4. Use the Direct Message (DM) feature.
If someone is already your follower, you have the ability to send them a direct message, but be careful with this one. You don’t want to spam. Twitter’s DM is a fantastic way to reach out to people one-on-one, but make sure that your messages offer something of value rather than simply ask for something. Also, try not to use a cheese-y auto-respond DM. It’s not a real social interaction and people know it. Including a joke in it like: “Yes this is an automated message…” doesn’t make you sound cooler. Frankly, it’s irritating and inauthentic. Try to send actual messages to people whenever possible.
5. Utilize quote retweet.
The quote retweet option allows you to provide your own two cents or caption about a tweet in an additional 116 characters. This is a great opportunity to curate content created by others while still including your own unique perspective, POV, or voice, and personality.
Reply to people’s tweets that interest you. Leave a comment that’s friendly or helpful. Be a good citizen. Engage in real conversation and be social. Don’t just self promote. Answer people’s questions. This is a great way to attract like-minded followers.
7. Learn the rules of ‘Twittiquette’
Like all social media platforms, Twitter has its own nuances. Learn the language of Twitter or proper Twitter etiquette so that you don’t make embarrassing faux pas or unintentionally piss people off. There are certain social norms and expected ways of communicating on Twitter. Like a tourist in a foreign land, some behaviors can make you come off as an idiot to the natives. Therefore, try to adapt to the local culture.
8. Shorten links.
Use tools like Bitly, Hootsuite, or Buffer to shorten your URLs so that your links can fit neatly into the 140-character word limit on tweets.
9. Do not auto-tweet from other platforms.
As stated above, each social network has its own nuances and preferences. You need to be actively involved and demonstrate that you are a real person who is actually there participating if you wish to be accepted on Twitter. So, don’t simply auto-share links to photos from Instagram or posts from Facebook. That’s a quick way to show people you’re not really present.
10. Share quality content.
Probably the most important rule on this list. Use the Twitter search bar and search relevant hashtags or topics to find out what your intended audience is talking about. Reply to people talking about your area of interest and communicate in an authentic manner. Answer questions, provide feedback, or share items they’d be interested in. Social media influencer and entrepreneur, Gary Vaynerchuk grew his New Jersey wine business by finding and chatting with people who were talking about wine on Twitter for 10 hours a day. Look at what hashtags are trending on Twitter (left-hand side on home page) or search Google Trends and include these hashtags along with a relevant tweet. This is a fast way to gain impressions and jump into the national or global conversation. In your two-three daily tweets feature helpful or entertaining articles, blog posts, infographics, videos, and podcasts that your audience will appreciate. Even if the content is not original content created by you e.g. a great article about small business in Forbes, it will still attract engagement and followers.
Whereas platforms like Facebook or Instagram more easily allow you to gloat, promote, and showcase your best self, Twitter is truly the most “social” of all social media networks. It’s where the conversation happens. Twitter is essentially the cocktail party of the Internet or the world’s water cooler where our culture goes to chatter and keep up with the latest news. Even if Twitter were to go out of business, as some think it will, there will always be a need for something like Twitter to exist.
Go give Twitter another shot and use the tips I listed above. I promise that your time spent on Twitter will be a much more rewarding experience.
Have any other tips you’d like to add to this list? Feel free to leave them in the comments below!
Follow me on Twitter @ZevGotkin for more social media marketing tips!