It’s been a while since I posted “My Experiment with Twitter” . My number of followers has significantly grown during these past months: in May, I only had about 375 followers, and now I have 1,840.
More than the numbers, however, Twitter has brought significant exposure to our home-based business. We got an offer to produce a radio show covering home-based businesses, which unfortunately we had to turn down. Traffic brought by Twitter is also good, bringing in visitors who are engaged to our content. I’ve also found several of the entrepreneurs we’ve featured on WomenHomeBusiness.com from Twitter. More importantly, we got exposed to information from other people and learned a lot of tips to improve our business.
I’d like to share more lessons that I’ve learned on how to cultivate this immensely popular microblogging platform
1. Understand what Twitter is all about.
The key to long-term success on Twitter is to view this microblogging platform as a community. Sure, it is a great way to get exposure and even increase traffic to your web site. It can even allow you to generate more backlinks for your site, as your tweets can show up as backlinks all over the Web from people republishing real-time Twitter feeds.
However, first and foremost, Twitter is a community, and your success on this platform depends on how you engage your community, dialogue with them and how you make full use of this social networking platform. Twitter is just not about posting links to your site. You can use it to find people to network with, establish business relationships, collaborate on projects, or even to investigate what others in your niche (including your competition) are up to.
2. Set your goals.
Determine your objectives in what you want to accomplish in Twitter and how you want to use Twitter for your business. Some possible uses of Twitter include:
- Twitter can be your platform to showcase your knowledge and expertise.
- It can be a way to reach out to other people in your sector and connect with other people with similar interests.
- Twitter can also be a way to communicate with existing customers. In fact, harnessed correctly, Twitter can be an exceptional customer service tool.
- It can be used to generate traffic and backlinks to your site.
- For big businesses, Twitter can be an effective way to give a “human face” to their business.
- Twitter can also be a platform for your random thoughts.
3. Keep on target.
Once you’ve identified what your goals on Twitter are, focus on what you want to accomplish. If you want to demonstrate that you are an expert on eBay selling, be consistent and post only tips on how to use eBay. I don’t need to know that you are going to watch the vampire flick “New Moon” for the fifth time. It simply distracts from the message. Steer clear of random thoughts and keep on topic and true to your mission (unless of course your goal on Twitter is to showcase your wittiness and deep thinking.)
4. Plan what you are going to tweet.
My main struggle when I was starting was that I didn’t know what to tweet that will be of interest to others. From what I’ve seen from others as well as my own experience, here are some ideas on what to tweet:
- Articles or blog posts that you have written
- Articles, news items or blog posts that may be of interest to your followers
- New information about your business and product, including press releases, the announcement of events and product features
- Offers and discounts
- Customer service responses
- Post a question to your followers
- Comments on what other folks have posted, starting a dialogue with other users
5. Consider carefully what your Twitter ID will be.
Your Twitter ID is part of your brand. It is what you will be known for on Twitter. Your best choices typically are: (a) your name – which is a great approach if you want to establish yourself as an expert and start creating your personal brand; (b) name of your business – works well if this is a business account, and (c) keyword-rich Twitter ID – just look at the success in terms of the number of followers of those who use the keywords in your niche. If the name you want is already taken, find a similar name or add some other words or characters in the name you want.
6. Make sure people can find you when they search on Twitter.
Twitter users go to the search box to find people with common interests, goals, and professions. Your goal is to be visible in your sector when people click on Find People search box and look for people to follow. Study how the top results for your searches do it – look at the username, what keywords they use for their name and description. The key is to use the right keywords in either your username or name. Also, make sure that the right keywords are in your profile description.
7. Give value.
Like any business, success depends on how well you create value. Establish yourself as an authority in your field. If you must post an article or news item that 100 other Twitter users have already posted, tweet the main learning from the article, not just the title.
8. Increase the visibility of your tweets.
You may only have 100 followers, but if one of your followers has 10,000, then you can potentially expand the reach of your tweets if that user retweets your post. Here are some ways you can expand the reach of your tweet:
- Use the hashtag # symbol. Exploit the power of hashtags. Hashtags are a “community-driven convention for adding additional context and metadata to your tweets. You create a hashtag simply by prefixing a word with a hash symbol: #hashtag.” Hashtags on Twitter help those who seek the content they are interested in finding the tweets on a particular topic. People interested in the topic – including those who are not following you, will then read your tweets. If they like your tweets enough, they may be inclined to retweet your post. For example, you can add #smallbusiness to your posts on Twitter to reach those interested users interested in small business topics, or participate in the #FollowFriday (or #ff) recommendations and shootouts. Hashtags are also used to live blog an event. Before the event, you can decide on the hashtag to use and inform interested parties or participants that this is the hashtag to be used. Doing so will allow participants in the event or conference to interact in real-time with those who are unable to attend. Hashtags can significantly increase the visibility of your tweets. However, be careful not to appear as a spammer by putting in irrelevant hashtags in your post. Use hashtags only when your tweet is of value and offers something to contribute to the topic. To find the best hashtags to use, check out Hashtag Tracker
- Ask for retweets. It may sometimes smack with desperation, but hey, asking other people nicely still works! Then make sure that you thank those who have retweeted your posts.
9. Your popularity depends on your popularity outside of Twitter.
An Oprah or CNN can amass millions of followers in a short period of time. These celebrities and big businesses are visible; they have high profile names constantly written or talked about in media (or they are the big media) and a lot of people are interested in what they have to say. Small business owners with limited exposure and no brand names to speak of do not have that clout. To get millions of followers, you must prove yourself highly adept in virtual networking using tools and techniques that can get you a huge number of followers. You need to prove that you have interesting things to say. I’m not saying that a small or home-based business owner can’t get millions in followers because it can be done — but it will not be as easy as how Oprah did it. You will need to work twice as hard.
10. It’s the quality, not the quantity.
Lest I be viewed as one solely focused on amassing a huge number of followers on Twitter, let me be clear that I’d rather have fewer followers who are responsive to my tweets rather than hundreds of thousands who are not interested in what I have to say. I routinely clean out and remove followers who only tweet about whitening teeth and those who tweet about discovering the greatest wealth-generating secret again and again. If your goal is to use Twitter as a platform to get traffic to your site, then you want people who are likely to click on your tweets.
11. You don’t need to follow people to get followers.
One of the easiest strategies for gaining followers is through searching for your people in your niche (e.g. In my case, searching for “small business” and following the people you find in this term) and then following them – hoping that they follow you back. It’s a strategy that works and used by many Twitter users including my own account @imisidro. For this account, I am following 1,441 people and have roughly about an equal number of followers at 1,840.
But you know what; you can gain followers without following an equal number of users. If people like what you tweet, they will follow you. Sure, it is a slower process but something you should consider. This is the approach in our @womenhomebiz account where we’ve got 997 followers but only following 90 users.
12. Watch your ratio of followers and following.
If you aggressively follow other people – and not many are choosing to follow you back – you run the risk of being viewed as a spammer. Twitter is known to close the accounts of those who aggressively follow people (I’m not sure of the threshold, but be careful not to follow 1,000 people in one day).
Also, note that your ratio of followers vis-à-vis following is also a signal for other users about the quality of your participation in Twitter. A huge discrepancy in your numbers – e.g. following 1,500 people with only 50 followers – may deter other users from following you because of the perception that you may be a spammer.
Don’t follow too many people at once. Follow a smaller number of people, say 100, and then post meaningful and relevant tweets while making sure you use hashtags to reach more people. If those you’ve followed like your tweets (as many check out the profile of those who follow them), then they may be enticed to follow you. Just keep posting good quality tweets, and you can start gaining more followers.
13. Adopt a strategy in choosing who to follow.
Depending on your goals and objectives, who do you want to follow? You can choose to follow those who appear in the search results of your target keywords. You can also the “big guns” in your industry or well-known companies. You can also check out who are the folks the industry leaders are following – and follow them as well.
If your goal is to get more followers, don’t follow folks who are “Twitter snobs” or those who follow only a very small number relative to their followers. They are unlikely to follow you back. However, my goal in Twitter is to learn so this does not deter me from following folks who I think I can learn a lot from even if chances are slim they’re going to follow me.
14. Don’t make it difficult for people to follow you.
If you are just trying to jumpstart your account, hold off signing on Twitter validation services such as TruTwit.com http://www.trutwit.com. This is a service that weeds out spam and robot followers for you by sending a DM to all those who request to follow you and requesting confirmation (passing their captcha test) before that person is accepted as a follower. This type of service can deter even legitimate followers (I for one hate this and just unfollow the people using it). Weed out the spam manually – go to your list of followers and look at their tweets — but don’t make interested users jump through another hoop just to follow you.
15. The question of reciprocity.
Some recommend that you unfollow people who don’t follow you back. Doing so can significantly lower the number of people you follow and allow you to better manage your ratio of followers and following. Note though that some people frown on this practice.
What I do is to go back to review those that I am following and see their last tweets. If they haven’t tweeted for more than six months, then I unfollow them. There’s really no point in following people who haven’t participated in the site for a long period of time.
16. Get yourself listed in Twitter directories.
They may not be as effective in bringing a huge number of followers, but they can be useful in getting targeted followers, or those who are specifically interested in your sector.
17. Use tools outside of Twitter to expand your reach and increase your followers.
Some ideas you can try are:
- Adding your Twitter username to your email signature
- Add a Twitter badge to your website or blog
- Adding Twitter to your social media widget that you use in your articles or blog posts. To the extent that you can configure the tool, make sure that the retweet is set to your username
- If you use other social media communities such as LinkedIn or Facebook, consider connecting your Twitter account so you can showcase your Twitter feed to your other social network contacts.
18. Avoid the get-5000-Twitter-followers-instantly tools.
This is like the free-for-all traffic exchanges where all you get are low quality Twitter followers who are not interested in what you have to say. Your number of followers may look impressive, but if nobody responds to your postings, then it feels like being in a sea of people who don’t even see you. Also, seriously consider whether you’d want to pay for a tool or service that promises to “exponentially expand” your Twitter followers.
19. Use DMs or direct messages – with caution.
DMs allow you to reach out to people and send them your marketing message. Just like welcome emails to new subscribers, you can send a DM (including automatic DMs through tools). However, if you are like me, I absolutely hate them especially since Twitter does not have a mass delete of all the DMs received. I just think that it is tacky, and yes, an act of spamming to send me a few minutes after I follow a marketing message. Here are some of the DMs I receive:
- Earn $1000s/mo from home. What are we made it easy? Real easy [URL link] (looks like the spam I get in my inbox everyday)
- Hey, what’s up! I want to show this site that is helping me make $12,000 a month online watch the video proof here [URL]
- Hey, I just added you to my Mafia family. You should accept my invitation. Click here [URL] – (why will I want to join a Mafia family?)
Some of the DMs I can tolerate are those that are
- Thanks for the follow. Our site is [URL] – (just straightforward without the spammy feel, though I don’t think I ever clicked on a single one)
- Thanks for the follow. Look forward to sharing thoughts and ideas with you (love this – no URL, just plain thanks)
The DMs I like to receive are those about business and personal connections, including collaborations on projects or media opportunities.
20. Take time to check how your tweets look like, especially if you automate your tweets.
There are tools that allow you to automate your tweets often through RSS feeds. The problem, however, is that these auto-tweets are not often grammatically sensible.
Take for example this tweet (not mine!), which is obviously auto-generated – note the cut-off words, even the wasted use of the 140 characters with the addition of the full date:
Business Risks Associated With IT – A Fifosys.com Opinion Piece: November 27, 2009 ( PowerHomeBiz.com ) – How m.. http://bit.ly/79XzMW
Make sure that your autotweet tool is tweaked to build grammatically correct and readable tweets like “New blog post: [post name] [post URL].” I know of a Twitter user with more than 30,000+ followers who said that his followers increased substantially when he turned off his autotweets and started manually crafting his tweets.
If you’ve got additional tips to share, post your comments! I hope the above tips can help you explore and succeed on Twitter.