One of the hottest topics in our industry right now is how professionals and corporations can use Twitter.
First and foremost, it’s important to note that Twitter is not a blatant sales and self-promotional tool. Social networking on Twitter is a long-term strategy in which you must bring value to the community by publishing and sharing relevant information.
With the proper Website analytics, you certainly can (and should) track traffic, inbound links, leads and sales from Twitter, but like most social media participation, I would not suggest setting out to achieve specific measurable objectives.
Here are the 7 steps I’d recommend for beginners getting started on Twitter:
1) Secure your personal and/or brand name.
If you haven’t already, go to Twitter.com to reserve your personal name and brand name before someone else does.
For entrepreneurs and company executives unsure whether to tweet as yourself (@FullName) or the brand (@CompanyName), although there certainly are exceptions, in most cases it is more effective to go with @FullName.
2) Build your profile to be found.
You have 160 characters to describe yourself and pique the curiosity of potential followers. Mix in your personal and professional interests to connect with a larger base of tweeters.
- Be sure to put your full real name in the account settings section.
- Create a descriptive, keyword-rich bio. Think about the keywords that you would search to find yourself. It’s fine to be cute and creative, but make sure someone reading your profile understands who you are and what you do.
- Be sure to include a link to your Website or blog.
- Do NOT lock your updates, unless you are on Twitter strictly to connect with your existing network.
- Upload a good picture of yourself with a distinguishable face.
- Change the design to anything but the default setting.
3) Pick your applications.
In order to get the most out of Twitter, without getting overwhelmed, it’s important to download applications that make it easier to monitor and participate. Based on a great blog post from @chrisbrogan (who knows far more about this stuff than I do), I now use Tweetdeck for my Mac and Twittelator Pro for my iPhone.
Note that some tweeters will run into corporate roadblocks accessing twitter and downloading apps, so check with your IT department. Also, quick note to HR departments, if you don’t have a Twitter policy in place, it’s probably time to add one to your employee handbook.
4) Publish some relevant tweets.
I’d suggest posting 10 or so relevant tweets before you move on to step 5. At least for me, before I follow someone back I’ve never met, I glance at their bio to make sure we have something in common, and I scan the first page of their updates to see that they are making an effort to contribute something of value to the community. There are people who choose to auto-follow everyone, but it’s not what we advise our clients to do.
So what makes for good tweets?
- You read dozens (if not hundreds) of blog posts, articles and emails every day . . . start there. Share news alerts, industry trend posts, your own blogs posts, random relevant thoughts on your profession, predictions, etc. Just keep it non-promotional and useful.
- Re-tweet (RT) valuable information from your Friends.
- Direct message (DM) people who post especially strong tweets.
Some “Twitter Elite” can post a play-by-play of their entire day and still keep followers interested, but for most of us tweeting in moderation is recommended. I know that personally I have learned to skim by when I see the familiar face of some uber-tweeters.
It’s recommended to share personal information (i.e. interests, hobbies, travel, etc.) because it makes your participation more authentic and creates deeper connections, but we strongly advise clients not to get carried away with this kind of content.
5) Find friends and build followers.
- Start with people you already know on Twitter. Follow them, then see whom they follow and see if there’s anyone that would make for a good connection. Quick tip, when viewing friends and followers on Twitter.com, hover over someone’s name and their bio will pop up. You can click on their name and visit their Twitter page too.
- Next go to twitter.grader.com and search by keywords for people like you. Twitter Grader (@grader) pulls keywords from the bios of top tweeters, so you can scan their bios and then click over to their page to learn more or follow. Here are some sample keywords I’ve searched to find friends: CEO, entrepreneur, social media, inbound marketing, PR, public relations, golf, Cleveland and SEO.
- Another great place to find like-minded tweeters is search.twitter.com. Just enter keywords that interest you (i.e. “public relations”) and see who’s tweeting on the topic. Click on their name, check out their bio, and follow if it’s a good fit.
- Watch for @ replies from your friends and click on people that seem interesting. Follow them if you’d like.
- Add your Twitter name to your business cards, email signature and social network profiles (Facebook, LinkedIn).
- Include your Twitter name at the end of every blog post.
6) Establish a monitoring and participation system that works for you.
The more people you follow, the harder it is to keep track of everything that’s happening on Twitter. It’s amazing how much you can miss in an hour.
- Use “Groups” on Twittelator and Tweetdeck (or whatever apps you choose) to make sure you at least see the people that are most important to you and your business. Here are some sample groups to consider: your co-workers/employees, media, industry influentials, business partners, top bloggers, Twitter Elite, and local tweeters.
- Start tweeting at a frequency that fits your schedule. Twitter can be addictive, especially as you're getting started, and when you add it to your mobile phone. I usually check Twitter 6-10 times per day on average (first thing in the morning, at lunch, 1-2 times in the afternoon, end of the workday, and 1-2 times in the evening).
7) Connect, build relationships and have fun!
I’ve met some great people through Twitter, and even connected offline at face-to-face networking events. If you follow the steps in this post, you can quickly build up your follower base and make some valuable connections.
As the title suggests, this is an “Incomplete Guide,” so if you’ve got other ideas or tips, please share them in the comments, or suggest links for others to check out.
Paul Roetzer is founder and president of PR 20/20, a Cleveland-based inbound marketing agency and PR firm. He can be found on Twitter @PaulRoetzer