Over 50% of the people who try Twitter for the first time leave the service within a week. I bet the drop-off comes a lot sooner. These days if you use a social media tool or website, it’s because it serves a purpose. Facebook is the “friends connection” service. Instagram is the photo-sharing network. And Snapchat, the platform of choice for all people under 30, is text with pictures. Those are easy, but what is Twitter? Sure, it’s where President Trump unloads his random thoughts, but what purpose does Twitter serve in your life? If the answer is “I don’t know,” or “I’m not sure,” chances are you’re not going to stick with it for very long.
Twitter has several problems right out of the gate.
- DISCOVERY: How do you find people, friends, to follow? Sure, it’s easy to follow the suggested celebrities and media channel’s twitter accounts, but after that who do you follow?
- RELEVANCE: If I tweet and nobody is following me, does it even matter?
- OVERWHELM: The flow of information on Twitter.com is out of control and makes no sense.
- INFLUENCE: Why don’t people follow me? And should I follow those “I’ll follow you back” people who keep popping up?
- FAKE: What about all the fake or porn accounts on Twitter?
But the biggest hurdle to using Twitter is what to use it for. What good is a Twitter account if I’m being followed by 50 people? Why would I keep tweeting?
So what is Twitter good for?
What started out as a “status” app to let friends, family, and followers know what was happening in your life has transitioned into a broadcast network. Twitter is for promoting your content online. And, yes, it is hard work to build up a following, but the efforts do pay off past the 1,000-follower mark. If you are trying to use content marketing, or social media marketing to let people know about your business you have a limited number of options. Twitter is the only option that allows you to repeatedly promote and post your promotional links for free, without coming across as a spammer. Sure Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and SnapChat have ways for you to broadcast your promo, but there is a limit to the number of times you can repost.
And in content marketing reach is everything. And today’s social networks have squeezed the free reach out of their platforms in favor of paid advertising. Instead of seeing all of your friend’s posts, you are being fed about 2% of those posts, based on an algorithm that is designed to keep you engaged, and addicted, to the network. If you were to post the same promotion on Facebook 10 times, you might reach 20% of your friends, except the overlap is not exact and you’d be spamming many of your most loyal followers. So you don’t do it.
Twitter is different. Twitter is temporary and fast. While I don’t suggest auto-spamming Twitter with repeated tweets, you can comfortably retweet information about an upcoming event or service several times a day without alerting any spam police. Sure you have to change up the wording a little bit, as Twitter does not allow for duplicate tweets within a 24-hour period, but it’s still very easy to set up and promote your content repeatedly on Twitter, over time, and reach many more of your potential followers and friends.
The other day on LinkedIn I read some expert talking about how bad the link follow-through was on Twitter, and how he didn’t recommend Twitter for building an audience or momentum in social media. I was astounded. I can’t think of any other non-paid way to reach thousands (depending on your following) of interested users.
Here are a few things that will help you if you decide to take on Twitter as a promotional channel for your work.
- Follow everyone in your industry. (sure they are competitors, sure they will follow you back and see what you Tweet, but it’s all about reaching the maximum number of people.) You can only learn by reading, listening, and being part of your industry’s tweetstream.
- Find hashtags that are used in your industry.
- Find and follow events that you are interested in, within your industry. Find and use their hashtags when appropriate.
- Find mentor accounts within your industry or within Twitter at large that give you ideas about what to Tweet.
- Occasionally check out who is following you and if they are legitimate accounts, follow them back.
- Go follow a lot of accounts. Stay focused on accounts that would be interesting to you, or would be a likely audience for your goods or services.
- And stay focused on your main topic with your Twitter account. If you’ve got several businesses, resist the temptation to tweet everything from that one account. People are following to learn or engage about a specific topic, when you range wildly from that topic you are likely to get unfollowed.
- Use the “Notifications” tab on Twitter.com to see who has liked or reshared your Tweets.
- Thank EVERYONE who retweets your content. All the time. Just do it. It will pay off.
- Don’t just post about your own promos. Retweet others, retweet people who you want to have follow you. Tweet interesting news or perspectives.
- Try and use (tweet, retweet, like) Twitter every day. Get in the habit of checking Twitter before you check Facebook.
- Don’t get discouraged. Building a following takes time. But it will pay off in spades when you have amassed a group of followers who genuinely care about your topic. Stay true to that topic and they will continue to follow you and click on your links.
Twitter is hard to figure out. Most people will give up and discourage you from using Twitter. But it is still the most relevant social network for building and generating influence online.
John McElhenney — let’s connect online
@jmacofearth & Facebook & LinkedIn & The Whole Parent
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PLEASE READ: Letters to a Young Artist in the Digital Age from John Oakley McElhenney