Twitter can be a challenge to navigate because on its surface it’s so simple and straightforward: post something with 140 characters or less and you’re done. Unlike Facebook where you have the ability to run contests, promotions and open a storefront… Twitter is still essentially about those 140 characters.
Even the Twitter profile page is pretty simple. Its recent move to be more Facebook-esque should look familiar: a cover photo and profile photo. There’s a small space for some bio information and that’s about it.
But aren’t the simplest things often the most deceptively difficult to master?
Sometimes mastering a tool or strategy is a matter of trial and error. Sometimes you get to benefit from other people’s trial and error. So assuming you’ve already decided that Twitter is the place for you and your business, here are some tips for improving your business’s Twitter engagement so you can start turning followers into leads and customers.
1. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
I bet you’ve heard this one before! But the truth is that the only way you can engage people in a positive way is if you know who you’re engaging in the first place. Long before you get to ‘try Twitter marketing’ on your to-do list, you should have a customer profile and know things about them like their age, gender and profession. And you should know things about them like what they want out of life and what bugs them on a regular basis.
Knowing your audience will help you craft your message. It will also to some extent help you figure out who you are or who you’re going to be online.
Now, there are people who will tell you to be true to yourself – the ‘authentic’ crowd, if you will. But if you’re doing business you need to be authentically business-oriented. Maybe you’re a riot at a party, but that may not translate to your online business audience.
When you know your audience you can choose your approach and decide what your Twitter ‘personality’ will be. Will you be helpful, geared toward answering questions and customer service? Will you be funny and entertaining, practical or inspirational?
Maybe some, all or none of the above! It’s up to you to decide how you want to approach Twitter and that will depend on who you’re addressing.
2. STOP THE SELLING
Sounds counterintuitive, after all you’re on Twitter to generate leads and sales. But to be successful at it, it has to seem as if you’re not actually doing that. I don’t mean be deceptive. I do mean share more than just post after post about your products and services.
I’ve followed those companies who do nothing but send out ‘buy me’ tweets. And I’ve unfollowed them, too. It’s annoying. It’s boring. It’s pushy.
To a large extent, if you want to succeed at any marketing you also have to be an entertainer. And I don’t know many people who are entertained by non-stop advertising.
Instead, improve your Twitter engagement by interspersing promotional tweets with content that will amuse, entertain, help, inspire and entice your audience. Curate content that will be useful or fun for them. Share links to news stories, events, photos or blogs (that aren’t your own!).
Yes, you can share your own blogs and company-related information even when you’re not ‘selling’. But make sure you’ve got a good ratio of ‘other’ content to ‘me’ content.
There’s no perfect ratio. Some people tell you to share 1 promotional tweet for every 10. Some tell you to follow the 80/20 percent rule. It really depends on your audience and how often you’re tweeting. Even if you start by aiming for 1 promotional tweet out of every 5, that will give you a starting point that you can test against.
3. START CONVERSATIONS
If you’re ‘doing social’ you’ve got to be social. Think of Twitter like a cocktail party (without the getting drunk and dancing naked on the piano part). If you walk into the room and you don’t know anybody, you could stand by the door and hope someone stops by and talks to you. Or you could walk in, listen to what’s happening at a nearby table and jump in.
Set up a keyword search so you can listen to what other people are saying about things related to your products, services and industry. When you hear something relevant or interesting, that’s your cue to make a comment, answer a question or even ask a follow up question.
Yes, this does require social skills! And you don’t have to limit yourself to conversing about related topics, either. If you’re listening to your followers and one of them mentions chocolate chip cookies and you love chocolate chip cookies, why not join in and share the cookie love?
The point is that you’re putting yourself and your business out there, getting noticed, being part of the conversation and building relationships. That may not get you a sale today but it will begin building opportunities for the future.
4. IF YOU’RE GOING TO AUTO DM, MAKE SURE IT’S AMAZING
I would prefer if every human being and business on the planet would think of the DM (direct message) more like a ‘private message’ to use only when one wants to converse personally and directly with another human being.
Alas, since that’s not going to happen any time soon, think of the auto DM as your first impression. Someone has invited you to their party by opening the door (following you) so what’s the first thing you’re going to do when you step inside?
- Scream, ‘Follow me on Facebook?’
- Start spouting about the amazing, FREE secret that you’re going to share?
- Try to sell them a watch? (from recent personal experience…)
For the sake of your social life, I hope not. So don’t similarly embarrass yourself in a DM. Better yet, don’t DM (automatically) at all, but if you must, then think long and hard about why you’re doing it and what you’re going to say. Asking someone to download your free app or sign up for your amazing webinar is just an advert and it turns a lot of people off.
5. PUT YOUR LINKS IN THE MIDDLE
Most of us add our links at the end of our tweets, sort of like punctuation. We make our comment then append the link ‘for more’. Whatever the psychology… whether we’re ok with the comment and don’t need the ‘more’, or we see the link tacked on as sort of spammy (mid-tweet links imply that more human thought has gone into it than just shooting off a link), links at the end of a tweet tend to get a lower clickthrough than links in the middle.
As if working with 140… no, 120… no, 100… characters was not challenging enough, now we’re compelled to split those up into even smaller chunks! When you can, follow this guideline: opening comment, link, closing comment. Track your clickthrough rate to see if one method works better for you.
6. VARY THE CONTENT
People respond better to variety. Some studies have shown that the clickthrough rate on links increase as their frequency decreases. That means that if you post 10 tweets in a row with links, you’re likely to end up with a lower clickthrough rate than if you had posted 3 tweets with links interspersed by 7 without. (And that’s just an example so no, you don’t have to follow those numbers!)
It takes a bit more thought and creativity to come up with content that isn’t piggybacking on something else, but if you want your links to get more attention then make ‘em special.
7. TWEET OFTEN
Twitter is its own animal. While posting 4 or 5 times a day may irritate people who get your updates in their Facebook feed, it may render you nearly invisible to your Twitter audience. I split my Twitter followers carefully into lists so that I can keep track of everyone. But there are days when even that doesn’t slow down the barrage of information streaming through my feed. Ask my friends they’ll tell you how sometimes I don’t even respond to their tweets! (It’s because I never saw them).
Imagine when you have many thousands of people to track. If it’s easy to miss important tweets, it’s going to be very easy for your audience to miss the not so important ones… that’s right, yours. And mine. And every other business vying for views.
If you think that posting once or twice a day… forget once or twice a week!… is going to yield results then stick with Facebook. Otherwise put on your thinking cap and start being creative because you’re going to need a lot of content.
I find I get the best Twitter engagement when I post consistently, up to several times per hour. Come up with a schedule that includes at least a couple of tweets per day and then keep going.
8. REMEMBER THAT JUST BECAUSE YOU HAVE THE WEEKEND OFF DOESN’T MEAN TWITTER DOES, TOO
Remember how I said to post a few times per day? Yup, that means per day. Not per weekday. Social activity on many fronts spikes during the weekend. But many businesses take a 9-5 attitude about everything.
To succeed at social, break the 9-5 barrier and post every single day. In fact, I might go so far as to say vary your schedule so you can post more of your content on weekends and less on weekdays. This isn’t a rule that works for every industry, but try it out and see what happens.
This is where automation can come in handy because you’re probably not going to be sitting in front of your computer monitoring your social accounts all weekend. Unless you’re a big enough company that you can afford a 24/7 team, you’re just going to have to make do.
Schedule your posts ahead of time so you can consistently be in front of people and remember, if people do engage, you’re going to want to get back to them no later than Monday first thing!
9. DON’T USE UP ALL 140 CHARACTERS
Part of engagement comes in the form of retweets. If you want your tweets to be retweeted then you need to leave room for people to do so. Some Twitter apps append the retweeter’s handle to the tweet, taking up precious space. Sometimes people like to comment or add hashtags with their retweets.
For me personally, I’m not a huge fan of the generic retweet. I like to throw my opinion in, even if it’s just to say ‘great read!’ I can’t do that if all 140 characters have been used. And trust me, most people are not invested enough to make the effort of editing a tweet down to fit. If you want to improve your odds of being retweeted especially with a comment then aim for no more than 120 characters.
And as if that’s not putting a crimp in your grammar, some studies have shown that tweets at 100 characters or less get the best engagement rates. Remember, Twitter is a fast-moving hodgepodge of symbols, abbreviations, links and information. The quicker you can grab someone’s attention with the least demand on their mental faculties, the better off you’ll be.
10. USE HASHTAGS SPARINGLY
Hashtags can be a great way to highlight keywords or get in front of people who may not be your followers but who monitor those hashtags. But too many can make your tweet look like an unreadable mess. One hashtag is good. Two hashtags is ok. More than 2 is pretty much the kiss of death.
And whatever you do, never piggyback on a trending hashtag unless you know for absolute sure what it means or you may just end up being the next #Cairo backlash. Look it up.
11. ALWAYS SHARE THE LOVE
If you want people to engage with you then you’ve got to be engaging. One way to show love on Twitter is with the retweet. Twitter is a very ‘this for that’ ecosystem. Many people won’t follow you unless you follow them back. Others are only as generous with the retweets as you are toward them.
To show that you’re paying attention and to get attention in return, it helps to rewteet and mention your followers regularly. Yes, do be mindful of what you’re sharing. Stay on target by sharing content that’s relevant to your brand and purpose, not randomly choosing a ‘retweet of the day’.
You can also share others’ content, including things like blog posts. When you do, be sure to credit the author by adding via @mytwitterfollower at the end. That little word (via) with another tweeter’s handle can also increase clickthrough rates.
Give a little love, get a little back. With some attention you can begin to build your relationships and your social currency.
12. SHARE PERSONAL INFORMATION BUT DON’T GET PERSONAL
If you’re tweeting as a business, you’re probably using your business logo instead of a personal photo. That can distance you a bit from your audience. People like to do business with people, so be sure that you’re not hiding behind a corporate identity.
You can mitigate this by including ‘personal’ tidbits about your company and employees. No, not how long they just spent in the bathroom, but when someone is having a birthday. Or when someone has reached a special goal or accomplishment. Share achievements and fun moments.
If you integrate your Twitter account with your Instagram account then post links to photos from around your office, events you attended or other points of interest. Even though photos can’t be seen in your tweet itself, people love to click through to see them.
Keep it about your business and be mindful of posting content or photos that may be construed as embarrassing, inappropriate or offensive. If you wouldn’t post it on your website or blog then think twice about posting it anywhere else.
13. DON’T LISTEN TO ME
Twelve fabulous tips later I want you to forget everything I just told you and figure out how to raise your own engagement levels. That means start with something, test it, try something new and test again. If you post 5 times per day and hemorrhage followers then don’t listen to what I said about posting more often. If you follow a 1:2 promotion ratio and rake in the sales then forget what I said about staying away from promotional tweets.
The truth is, these are guidelines but there are no rules. Guidelines can help you get started but it’s through your own trial and error, testing and trying again that you’re going to find your sweet spot and turn Twitter into leads and sales.
Oh, and if you don’t? Then maybe Twitter just isn’t the place you need to be!