As my Twitter following (@tonyrestell) approaches the 10,000 mark this week, I thought I’d stop to reflect on some lessons learnt about growing an engaged and relevant twitter following. Engagement is key – if people aren’t interacting with you, building a relationship and helping expand the reach of your tweets then your twitter following is just a number. Relevance is also key, time spent interacting with people who have no business relevance to you is unlikely to produce the results you aspire to.
Here's what I'd recommend doing to build your own engaged and relevant twitter following...
Twitter is all about the moment. It’s not like email where a reply weeks after initial contact can further a relationship. Opportunities to engage present themselves for a few fleeting hours and then often they are gone. So you need to be disciplined in setting yourself some time windows each day when you will be active on Twitter – and then stick to them!
Social networks can pull you in all sorts of directions if you allow them to. Twitter is certainly no different. If you don’t have a strategy to adhere to, you’ll find yourself doing all sorts of things on Twitter – and then not really know which activities have been most effective.
Depending on your reasons for being on Twitter, you may want to be someone who initiates ideas that spread; you may want to be someone who is followed because they help spread great ideas; or you may be someone who predominantly comments on the content created and spread by others. Figuring out where you sit on this twitter strategy spectrum will ensure everything else you do has the right focus.
As you use Twitter in your daily routine, you’ll find some things work really well for you and others do not. It’s not a question of one size fits all either – the way people interact and follow an individual’s twitter account differs significantly from how they engage with a branded corporate account. Twitter – and the tools available to users – are also constantly evolving, so what works today will not necessarily be effective a year from now. So continually test and refine your strategy – and don’t be fearful of changing your approach in the light of the results you're seeing.
For some readers this’ll mean creating lists on your twitter account so that you can turn your attention to different portions of your twitter following depending on your current priorities. For others this’ll mean creating twitter streams monitoring specific search strings relevant to you. The key is to figure out how you're going to laser-focus your attention on that minute part of the twitter stream that is really most valuable to you and your end goal.
If you’re not active on Twitter for any given period, people aren’t going to stumble across you in their twitter streams and aren’t going to be presented with opportunities to engage with you. So it’s critical that you develop a plan to ensure your twitter stream is consistently populated with relevant and engaging content. Tools like Buffer and Hootsuite make it easy to schedule content sending in a way that can still be personable; whilst maintaining a balance of the latest information and some evergreen content ensures you always have something valuable you could be saying to your twitter following. You can also opt to automatically share great content from sources like Social-Hire as a means of keeping your stream populated with insights of value to your followers.
There are loads of tools out there to help you identify which of your twitter interactions are most likely to be worth following up. Twitter tools can also be used to check who you are following and to propose accounts that are of little value (ie. never engage, tweet out only new content in a 100% automated manner, are no longer active users, etc). A few minutes a week devoted to using these tools will allow you to focus your attentions on the most valuable twitter relationships; and to cleaning out the dead wood from your twitter following to make way for other more valuable contacts.
Turning what you do into processes or schedules that you follow regularly can have a dramatic impact in terms of allowing you to get more done in less time.
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Whether you’re looking for a job, wanting to generate sales, needing to attract new hires… the temptation to push out promotional messages on your account can be overwhelming. The same is true of trying to lure people to come and read your own content rather than sending them liberally to go and check out other people’s content.
My overwhelming advice here is to focus your efforts on helping others and interacting with people personally whenever you can. Helping people – irrespective of the gain to yourself personally – will ultimately be what builds relationships and goodwill towards you and what you need to achieve with your twitter presence.
Personal interactions, meanwhile, are what solidify your twitter following and make people inclined to share your messages and recommend you. Try not to pass up the opportunity to personally thank people for their shares, respond to their comments, etc. Plus when retweeting, try to add your own thoughts to the tweet. It only takes seconds to do, but endears you to the person you’re retweeting far more than a simple RT.
My professional life has been enriched enormously by the community I've immersed myself in on Twitter. But I've also seen people who've tried it and given up not really knowing why they've not enjoyed the same results. As I head towards the 10,000 followers mark, I genuinely hope these pointers will help you to build an engaged and relevant twitter following for yourself.
Feel free to join me @tonyrestell and / or the Social-Hire team @social_hire and tweet us with your observations about this article (or use the comments field below). What's been most helpful to you here - and what other suggestions would you add to my list? Thanks for joining in the conversation!
Image source: JefferyTurner
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