Twitter is still the best social network, somehow. Despite its well-documented problems, it still remains the best place to reach people you don’t already know. This is of obvious import to anyone running a business, selling a product, or getting your creative work seen.
- That’s because Twitter is an open network. Its focus is the present and future.
- Contrast that with LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram. They are closed networks, representing the present and past.
For that reason, Twitter has my best channel – by a long shot. My core business is B2B, so LinkedIn is also important. Facebook is near-useless to me. I’ve had a good experience with TikTok – also an open network.
But pound for pound, Twitter is where I’ve built up my following. What’s right for me may not be right for you, but I thought I’d share with you how I’ve had success with it so that you can do the same. Observe in real time at twitter.com/mboezi.
Why Use Twitter?
I use Twitter for two reasons:
- To make connections with people, and;
- To start the process of building trust with my audience.
As an open network, it’s a really fertile environment for finding and making new connections. Building trust is the harder part. I don’t have expectations beyond the platform’s capabilities. I think of it as a merely the starting point of a relationship.
Notice that I didn’t say that I use Twitter to promote my work. Twitter is not a promotional engine. If your only goal is to try to drive awareness – and you do that without building relationships – you will fail. Twitter is a social space, and like any other social space, it requires give and take. You wouldn’t walk into a gathering or Zoom call and just start spouting stuff about yourself (and if you do, you won’t be very well-received). Just like meeting new people at a party, you need to show an interest in others in order for them to be interested in you.
This is the biggest mistake that most people make in social spaces. They treat it as if it’s a broadcast mechanism, and start spraying self-serving, “look at me” content. No one’s interested in that. Not in the real world, and not online either.
Under the New Rules of digital, you create connections by providing value up front. You build trust by being a good citizen, a good actor. As I say all the time, the burden is on you to provide value first. That’s your ticket in. If you don’t act first – with a genuine intent – you will not be accepted into the community. You will always be on the outskirts, yelling about yourself while no one’s listening. Not a good look.
My Twitter Methodology
Here is my philosophy on using Twitter effectively. There’s a lot of nuance in between the lines here, but here are some of the overarching principles of a sound Twitter strategy:
Create original content
Connection can’t happen without content, so you have to start there. I’m a writer, so I have no shortage of content. You are probably the same. So for instance, I’ll take this blog post and extract quotable, shareable phrases that I think my audience will like. I’ll queue those with a tool like Hootsuite (Buffer or Tweetdeck are good too). They will often offer a link back to my blog post, but sometimes not. I don’t want to appear self-serving – I want to offer something useful to you.
Curate valuable content
Not even my most loyal, active supporters want to hear from me only. My audience expects that I will help them find other useful articles as well. I use tools such as Feedly and Medium to keep on top of all that’s happening in my realm, and I check in frequently with my own audience/influencers using Twitter lists (see more on this below), LinkedIn, Substack, amd email subscriptions, etc. There are many opinions on what percentage of your stream should be curated content, but my rule of thumb is to share as much as you think will be truly valuable to your audience. It’s about them, not you.
Curated content is not “less than.” To the recipient, curation can be just as valuable as creation.
Follow back as a show of good faith
If you’re producing good content, you are going to get shares, and you are going to earn new followers. Everyone who follows me, I follow back. Well, with a couple of exceptions. I do a quick check of what you tweet, and if it’s good content in general, I will follow you. If it’s low value content or promotional stuff, I don’t follow back. I try to be a good actor in social spaces, and I expect you to do the same. Of course, it helps if you share the same interests as me, but I think of that has secondary. Each audience is made up of readers who share similar interests, but it’s also made up of influencers or micro-influencers who may tell other people about you. For this reason, it doesn’t really make sense to turn anyone away.
Follow first as an invitation
Of course, I’m also reaching out to new people. The easiest way to do this is to follow someone. They get a notification, so in effect, it is an invitation to connect. When I follow you, it’s an offer to follow me back. If you think that you don’t have to reciprocate, let me show you how I handle this. Twitter is a social space, and social requires a two-way connection. I may like your content, but I’m not your fan. I’m here to make connections and find some useful content. To learn from you – what you share and what you do. In reality, you don’t want me to be a fan – you want me to be an advocate. I’m not going to do that to fawn over you; I’m going to do that to be associated with you and your good content. It’s up to creatives to support other creatives, and there is a hierarchy to be sure, but it has to go both ways. So when I follow you and you don’t follow back within about two weeks, I’ll unfollow you. If you don’t want to interact, then I don’t either. Goodbye.
Don’t us direct messages
Don’t send me a direct message unless we have a relationship. I think of DMs as “email lite.” So if you don’t have permission to send me an email, you don’t have permission to DM me. Yes, you can use automation tools to help manage your social stream. But it should never be a stand-in for making real connections. If I follow you and get an immediate DM promoting your stuff, I’m going to think less of you. Trust me, others are having the same reaction, too. The only thing that makes this practice even worse is when you have your robot send me a DM but don’t follow me back – so there’s no way for me to even reply to you! Tell me how that’s building our relationship. Hint: It’s not.
Use lists to help you organize
Once you get above 2,000 followers, there’s no possible way to keep up with your feed. It’s a spray that will become meaningless unless you use Twitter lists to help you organize it. That way, you have “buckets” based on users and their interests, and you can now check in with a much smaller group depending on what you want/need to know that day. Here’s how I do it: I have private lists (such as “prospective clients”) that only I can see, but I also use public lists that anyone can see. Why? It provides value to my followers. For example, check out my public list: Consistently Good Content. If my audience trusts me, think of how valuable this curated list is to them. What a great tool to help others—with no extra effort required!
Those are the basics – at least for me. But just because I build an audience on Twitter doesn’t mean that you’ll have the same goals. Your strategy may differ – and your tactics, too. For instance, if you use Twitter as a newsfeed, that would completely change your follow back strategy, for instance. But no matter what your strategy, the big thing to remember is:
It’s a social space, not a broadcast space.
This simple statement should inform everything you do on Twitter. This is why it’s all about your content and its intent. If it is written and shared with the genuine intent to help someone, then it will be seen as generous. You’re not inviting them to see an ad – you’re trying to provide them with real value. Once you’ve done that – and done it consistently – then you’ve started a conversation. Soon it may become a relationship, and who knows where it can go from there!
If you want specific help with your content strategy, contact me here. The first “orienting” session is always free.
Photo credit: “Twitter Bird Logo Sketch” by Shawn Campbell is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Changed from original: Added text overlays.
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