I recently came across a Twitter account for a small business that had a grand total of two followers. (I became their third.) They had posted some pretty good tweets (informative, witty, good visuals) but so far as I could tell that was the only thing they were doing. They hadn't followed anyone, and hadn't retweeted, replied to or liked anyone's tweets. I couldn't see any activity other than their tweets. Even with top-notch tweets, that's not how to grow a Twitter presence.
To gain followers, you must achieve two things:
- get noticed by well-targeted people
- make a good impression when you do
The business I'm describing needs a plan for both of those, but especially the first. Unless you're already famous, few followers will find you on their own. It's up to you to get in front of them.
Building your presence on Twitter isn't a project where you can do some work and you're done. It takes a multitude of small actions and the results grow over time.
Begin by defining your goals. You need a plan and a focus. Maybe something like this: "I want to become known as a widget expert, with the end goal of selling more widgets. To advance this I will 1) connect with people who are interested in widgets, and 2) share some of my expertise as a widget specialist." Or maybe what you want is to connect with anyone you can find who lives within a certain distance of your store.
Your goals will guide your activities. Your focus and your skill at targeting will determine the degree to which your Twitter presence becomes a true business asset.
The first thing to do is polish your profile so it's attractive, informative, and makes clear what you're about.
- Make sure your display name identifies you accurately.
- Fill in your bio, location info and website link. Include industry keywords if you can do so gracefully.
- Use an icon image that will be easy to recognize when it appears beside your tweets at small sizes.
- Choose a header image that's relevant and attractive.
- Customize your colors. To the extent that you can, your social profiles and your website should have similar visual branding. A family resemblance!
- Use your pinned tweet to extend your bio.
Polishing your profile is the only Twitter task that could ever be considered "done". Maybe!
Start tweeting. Even before you have followers, post some quality tweets (and retweets) so your account has some substance when people start checking you out.
Continue tweeting. Deliver quality content, whatever that would mean for your niche. Be consistent and set a pace you can maintain. Don't post 22 tweets today before twelve and none for the rest of the week! You'll get better visibility by spreading your tweets throughout the day and week than by posting in bursts. Get to know the best times for your target audience. Be aware that flooding people's timelines with too many tweets too fast is one of the top reasons for unfollows. A scheduling tool can be a big help.
Stay close to your focus. Resist the urge to retweet political rants or babble about personal stuff. Post an occasional personal tweet if you have something to celebrate, but keep the majority of your tweets and other activities strongly relevant to your focus. Keep your attitude positive (mostly) and your language clean (always). Aim to be useful.
A note of caution: being too sales-y may repel more people than it attracts. Share knowledge to establish your expertise but keep a light touch about direct self-promotion.
Some studies have found that the factor correlating most strongly with growth wasn't tweeting more often (although that helps to a point), but rather how often one's tweets were retweeted. That's a moment of free visibility! It takes a quality tweet, well on-target for your audience, and sometimes a bit of luck. Being retweeted helps your account grow, and in turn it will happen more often as you grow.
Build your visibility. There is no one hack that will achieve this; it takes lots of small, targeted actions. For a new account, probably the most effective activity is to follow people. When you do, some will follow back. So following interesting, relevant people is a key growth strategy ... as well as fun! Keep a constant eye out for people who would be good to follow.
If you follow someone, and they haven't followed back within a few days, unfollow them if you wish, and follow someone else. Repeat.
There are many ways to find people to follow. Search by keyword to find people. See who follows your competitors. See who your competitors are following. See who they've included in their lists. Watch your Twitter feed and note who is getting retweeted. Locate tweets relevant to your focus, and check out the tweet author and anyone who liked, retweeted or replied.
Twitter often suggests accounts to follow. It's easy to accept a suggestion but before you do, check to see if that person has been active recently, and things like where they're located, what language they tweet in, and so on. There's little to gain by following someone who isn't currently active or who tweets in a language you can't read. On the other hand I don't recommend following the sort of hyperactive account that has tweets by the ten-thousands and followers by the dozen. That's not usually a sign of quality.
Try to follow someone new every day, but be aware that Twitter has limits about follow activity. The main limit to know is that new accounts may only follow up to 400 per day. As you grow and prove your quality, the limit becomes more generous. Read more here: [help.twitter.com
I can't prove this but I'm convinced that Twitter is more forgiving if it's clear that your targeting is good when you follow people. Not everyone will follow back, but some will if they think you look interesting. If no one follows back, your targeting is off. Aim for relevance, relevance, relevance.
Value ... quality ... useful ... relevant ... are you picking up some themes here?
At the same time as all of the above, you need to engage with other people's content.
Start with some searches to locate recent, relevant tweets that you could like, retweet or reply to. Then ... you guessed it ... like, retweet or reply as appropriate. Repeat.
When you engage with someone's content you'll show up in their notifications, and others may see it in their feeds. As well, Twitter sends emails with notes about recent activity in people's networks. Being mentioned there is a bonus.
Some of the people who notice you will check your profile, and some may decide you'd be interesting to follow. One by one, your following will grow ... if your targeting is good.
Get to know Twitter's advanced search. Even better, get to know the search operators here: [developer.twitter.com
...] Build your own specialized searches by combining operators, including negatives.
Bookmark your best searches. A collection of well-crafted custom searches will save a lot of time.
These searches are especially worth noting:
- keyword ?
- "keyword phrase" ?
Those will turn up tweets with questions, and while not all will be suitable, some will provide a natural opening to say something useful.
Keep doing all of the above. Try to do something every day even if you only have a few minutes. Twitter growth is nourished by activity. You'll continue to gain followers as long as you are active.
There's much, much more that could be said. Please chime in with insights about things like #hashtags, @mentions, lists, Twitter chats, automation, paid promotions inside Twitter, promoting from outside Twitter, analytics, Twitter cards and more.
What advice would you give to a small business who wants to build their presence on Twitter?