The learning curve for twitter is steep. Especially if, like me, you’re not naturally savvy with social media (even though I worked in digital for three years!).
There’s a big jump between starting your twitter account and actually gaining more than a couple of hundred followers – or so it seems.
And if you’re a solopreneur, small business owner or startup founder, you probably can’t afford to shell out for a professional marketing agency to grow your account.
The truth is, you can reach moderate success on Twitter, like me, very easily. I have 1.5 thousand followers after setting up the account five months ago, and I don’t spend that much time building my account.
Still, I struggled for a long time, frustrated with lots of superficial advice, until I finally struck gold.
Of all the articles I’ve ever read about twitter, this one by Josue Valles on Social Quant is by far the best. Check it out if you want some really easy, actionable tips for growing your twitter account, fast.
I would like to build on Josue’s fantastic advice and talk about how the single most important step of finding success on twitter is defining your brand.
Why you need a brand
The sheer amount of information available on twitter is so overwhelming that people need a way to focus their attention. This same fact is true for branding on other platforms and ‘IRL’.
The most popular twitter accounts are the ones that target a niche, and target it well.
Think about why you want to use twitter. Who will be your target audience?
If you just want to build your personal twitter account and get more followers, you still need a certain niche that you can target.
How to define your brand
So, you’ve defined your brand and decided that you want to be a superhero comic geek brand. Everything you tweet is going to be about superhero comics, but, even better, it’s going to be a feminist-themed account.
The reason I’ve combined these two niches is because’s it’s still fairly unusual and a lot of people are passionate about girl geeks.
Geekdom, as in many areas of life, is historically male-dominated, so any account that’s cutting edge is going to attract followers more easily. It also makes tweeting more fun!
You’re going to need to do your research or be socially switched on to pick a good niche.
Try to think about what you like, and what you could sustain tweeting about. If you already have a business with an existing brand, you will still need to focus your tweets in a certain area and try to be a little bit interesting.
Whatever you do, don’t just broadcast self-serving messages. Provide value for your followers first and foremost.
10 twitter steps
Here are 10 actionable steps to get you well on your way to becoming a twitter hero:
- Tweet every day, at least once an hour during the day if you can. Active accounts gain more followers.
- Use hashtags. Find popular hashtags used in your niche by checking out similar accounts to see which ones they use. Experiment with a few hashtags until you find ones that stick. Only use one to two hashtags per tweet for best effect. If you don’t use hashtags, this makes it hard to easily identify what ‘category’ your tweet is in, and it will risk seemingly meaningless. Remember what I said about overwhelm? My most-used hashtag has got to be #womenintech, because lots of my target audience use this hashtag.
- Use a good profile picture. Depending on the style of your account, a profile photo of you is best because people want to follow other people. Try to get a good quality headshot of you looking right at the camera.
- Fill out your bio and use hashtags. This is where you give people a little bit more information about you and confidence them to follow you. Writing summaries are hard but you can edit it as many times as you need before you find something you feel happy with. I go for describing my key interests (as related to my tweets) and encouraging people to get in touch with me. Giving people a call-to-action really helps your marketing strategy because it lets them know directly what you want them to do.
- Don’t be afraid to talk to other people on twitter. Just do it in a casual way, using the ‘howdy neighbor’ technique described by Mike. If they don’t reply, don’t worry. People with thousands of followers get so many notifications that it’s hard to respond to each one individually, or maybe they just didn’t check Twitter.
- Share lots of relevant links that aren’t just from your own website or blog. Know your industry. Since I tweet in the B2B tech industry as a freelance blogger, I share lots of tips relating to that niche, such as telling people how to improve their copywriting, or articles that I find interesting.
- Follow lots of other accounts! I hate it when people hardly follow anyone – it seems so arrogant. However, a caveat: try to follow other accounts within your niche, because you want them to follow you back. If you follow 20 accounts, you will get a fair few followers in return. Also, you can find other accounts that are similar to your brand and follow their followers. These people are very likely to follow you back as they’ve already shown an interest in your niche.
- Retweet other tweets but not too many. If other people follow you, you don’t want to fill up their feeds with lots of random tweets. Make every tweet count. When you identify your top hashtags, create a feed using free social media management software such as Tweetdeck so you can instantly see when someone has used that hashtag.
- Link to your profile from your website. It sounds basic, but if you’re posting blogs or driving people to your website through some other means, they will click through to your twitter if you provide them with the logo and link. If they like your brand or your content, they will want to follow you to stay in the loop.
- Talk to others on twitter. Josue calls this the ‘Howdy neighbour’ technique, which I love. If someone shares something you post, don’t be afraid to thank them. Send tweets asking questions and sometimes people will reply. Or, if you see a tweet you think is interesting, hit reply! Don’t worry about how famous the person is you’re talking to, because that’s the beauty of twitter – you can talk to anyone! If they don’t reply, forget about it and move on.
Finally, give it time. In my case, it took a couple of months for people to start regularly following me and even longer for people to properly interact with my tweets. You’re not going to get thousands of followers overnight if you’ve just started your account. It will take time for people to figure out what you do.
Put in more effort at the beginning to build a great account, and then you’ll put far less into maintaining it later down the line.
The aim with twitter is to add value and people will start to follow you. The key is to be very active rather than a passive lurker, and develop an online ‘persona’.
If you’re anything like me, this will be difficult at first, but you can strike a balance between authenticity and also being appealing on social media. That’s why you need to figure out who your audience is.
Decide on your brand and the people you’d like to target. Keep it focused, try to only tweet things you would like to read, and use hashtags in every tweet!
If you follow these steps, even just a few of them, your account will grow. You’ll gain more followers for your business, or just yourself.
Once I understood the basic principles, I just started applying them regularly and watched my account grow.
Now, my number of followers isn’t embarrassing, and it’s a good way for me to network with people in my industry – and also find freelance clients. Having a popular, active twitter account is a great way to generate social proof for the quality of your brand, and shows consistency as a freelancer.
Finally, if you have quality followers, eventually you can softly market products and services to them, in the same way I send out the occasional tweet saying I am in the market for freelance blogging clients. And it works!
Many people don’t want to spend much time in twitter and of course they don’t find success with it. It’s the same with anything – you get out what you put in.
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