How to Dominate with Twitter – The Social Networking Experiment
This is the first part of The Social Networking Experiment series, where I’m going to examine a wide variety of social networking sites, evaluate their ability to help you succeed with your muse or business, and show you how to use them effectively. Click here to read the introduction post for The Social Networking Experiment.
Twitter is massively popular “micro-blogging” platform that took the internet by storm in 2006. In its early days, many people (myself included) were baffled by its purpose – after all, your Twitter messages (“tweets”) have a limit of 140 characters. Today, you’re hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t own a Twitter account, from your 10 year-old little sister, to famous celebrities and U.S. President Barack Obama.
When something is this popular on the internet, you cannot afford to ignore it (no matter how ridiculous you might think it is).
This article assumes that you understand the basic functionality of Twitter. To learn more about the basics of using Twitter, read this.
The Benefits of Using Twitter
Connect with an Audience
In my mind, the whole point of social networking is to allow your readers/customers/potential customers to see that you are real. Granted, having a Twitter account can still be a far cry from being “real” (do you think President Obama writes his own tweets?), but it’s one way to connect with your audience on a more personal level.
Based on what I’ve read and experienced myself, it’s extremely important to make sure you respond to anyone who talks @you. It’s the same reason why businesses hold focus groups for their products and why I try to respond to every comment on this blog:
- It shows that you care about your audience.
- It allows you to gain valuable feedback, which will help you improve your business.
- You form a bond with your audience, which will cause them to come back to your website or blog, buy products from you, and/or continue to read what you write.
If you think Twitter is a one-way conversation, you’re not using it correctly. If you look around at successful bloggers, businesses, etc., you’ll notice that they are actively engaged in conversation on Twitter (even if the dialogue is short and sweet).
Create a “Viral” Effect
You won’t find many people who don’t do this today in the blogosphere, but it’s almost criminal to produce killer content and not give your readers the option to “retweet” it. You’ll notice all of my posts have a retweet button, and this exists for a couple good reasons:
1) If someone likes a post that I write, my hope is that they retweet it to their followers. I don’t need to tell you how this could spread under ideal circumstances (but I will anyway). I write a post, someone retweets it to 1,000 followers. Of those 1,000 followers, 20 people click the link in Twitter to read the blog post. 5 of those people retweet it. This continues, and you could potentially have a massive influx of traffic to a single blog post all because you wrote exceptional content and gave your readers a means to share it with their network. Granted, this is more of an ideal example, but it does happen across the internet, every second of every day.
2) Give your readers social proof. Not only can readers “retweet” an article, but you’ll notice the retweet button I use also displays the number of times a post is retweeted. This isn’t just for the author’s ego, although it’s a rather nice boost. Showing your readers that a particular blog post has been retweeted 50 times says, “Hey! Read me, I’m popular.” Your content needs to be exceptional for people to benefit from it, however more people will give it a chance if they know it’s popular. Just like the popular guy in high school got invited to all of the parties (trust me, I was not the popular guy), the popular blog post will show its face all over the internet. If something appears popular, people want to be involved with it.
If you want to use the retweet plugin that I use for my WordPress blog at My4HWW, you can download it here for free.
Learn About Your Followers
Dominating Twitter isn’t only about what you are saying to others – it’s also about listening and absorbing the constant flow of information. Yes, too much information becomes more noise than anything, but sometimes you need to stop and just listen to what people are saying tweeting, and maybe you’ll learn a thing or two.
If you want to gain feedback about something, ask for it. Twitter is a great polling tool, and can be effectively used as such if you have a large number of followers (or a smaller group of responsive followers).
How to Build a Great Following
Like everything else “social,” there’s a snowball effect in play when it comes to building your list of followers on Twitter. At first, you’ll gain followers very slowly, but with each additional follower you gain, it gets exponentially easier. Here are some ways to build your list of followers:
1) Provide an alternate source of excellent content. Typically, this “alternate source” would be your blog or website. This is by far the most difficult, yet most powerful way to gain Twitter followers. Think about it – if you showcase incredible content on your blog, there’s a good chance people will want to hear what you have to say, everywhere (which of course includes Twitter).
2) Ask for people to follow you. This is perhaps the simplest suggestion I can offer you. It’s been known for ages by marketers that a “call to action” is one of the most effective ways to, well, produce an action. All you have to do is say “follow me on Twitter” and that will be enough to catch some people. If you subscribe to my RSS feed or newsletter, you’ll notice that I always include “Follow me on Twitter!” at the end.
3) Make sure it’s easy to follow you. This is another simple one. When you’re not asking people to follow you, make sure it’s still very easy to do it. On the main page of my blog, you’ll see I have a Twitter “follow me” button, clearly visible. If you hide it, most people won’t find it. It’s really that simple.
4) Engage in conversation. I wrote above that you should connect with your audience, but I didn’t mention how it impacts your followers. The more people you tweet with, the more “@yourname” will be visible on Twitter. For example, if I tweet at one of my followers who has 5,000 followers, and he responds @My4HWW, all 5,000 of his followers will see it. Furthermore, if we’re actually discussing something interesting, you better believe that some of those 5,000 people will click on the @My4HWW link to see both sides of the conversation.
5) Follow other people. Many people will follow you back when you follow them, so this is a fairly quick way to gain followers, especially when you’re just getting started on Twitter.
6) Include your Twitter link everywhere. Aside from your blog, you should have a link on your Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, etc. profiles. If you participate on any forums, include the link in your signature so that people see it whenever you write a post.
7) Buy Twitter followers. I’ve never done this, nor do I ever plan to. However, if Twitter is a major part of your business’s marketing strategy and you think that gaining a massive number of followers in a short period of time is crucial to your success, you might consider this. I don’t have a particular service to recommend, so you can Google “purchase Twitter followers” and find a service that fits your needs.
Ways to Drive Traffic with Twitter
If you have a blog or website, you’re probably reading this post because you want to know how you can effectively use Twitter to drive traffic. While I still have yet to figure out the best way to get traffic from Twitter (it’s not currently one of my top traffic sources), I do have some tips that I know will work for you.
1) Get followers. As described above, this is a priority. You could tweet the most amazing, inspiring tweets with links to your blog, but if you have no followers, you’re wasting your time.
2) Tweet your blog posts. You’ve probably seen a lot of people do this (myself included), and it’s for a good reason. Some of your followers may read your blog regularly and subscribe to your RSS feed, but many of them don’t. Here’s your opportunity to pull them back to your blog.
3) Don’t only tweet your blog posts. Yes, I sneakily half-contradicted myself. If your followers find that you’re only tweeting blog post links, they’ll eventually become “blind” to your tweets, much like you become blind to many ads on websites that you frequently visit. Be interesting, be real, and show people that you’re a valuable person to follow on Twitter. That way, when you DO post a link to your blog, they’ll read it and will be more likely to click on it.
4) Stand out. Aside from being interesting (which is difficult to tell someone how to do), stand out on Twitter. Use a unique and visually appealing avatar, especially one that relates to your blog. You’ll notice my avatar is the same palm tree that I use in the My4HWW logo. Also, don’t use a default background for your personal Twitter page (i.e. www.twitter.com/yourname). You can create (or pay someone to create) a professional, unique looking background, or you can temporarily just upload a background image that fits with your theme (which is what I currently have).
How to Make Money with Twitter
In my opinion, making money with Twitter directly shouldn’t be your main focus until you have enough followers to really think of Twitter as a medium to monetize. With that said, I don’t think this article would be complete without at least mentioning a few ways to make money with Twitter.
2) RevTwt – Similar to MyLikes in that you get paid based on clicks on links within ads that you tweet.
3) Sponsored Tweets – This service is actually pretty cool, and would probably be my top pick if you want to make money with your tweets. Upon signing up as a “Tweeter” and allowing the service to link to your Twitter account, it tells you how much you could expect, on average, to be paid for a tweet based on your following. Right now, mine says I’d be paid about $0.43 per tweet. It’s actually fascinating to see some of the celebrities who are part of the service and what they charge per tweet. For example, Lindsay Lohan charges $2,985.80 per tweet. Yikes.
How I Use Twitter
Twitter was an easy social networking site for me to pick as the first part of my social networking experiment, because I already actively use it. For me, Twitter is a means to not only connect with my audience (feel free to send a message @My4HWW – I will always reply), but also give people updates on blog posts. Not everyone is subscribed to my RSS feed and not everyone will visit the site daily, so this is another way for me to show my readers when I’ve posted something new.
In addition to updates and replies, I also use Twitter to write random thoughts on my mind, or to ask questions to my followers such as, “What inspires you?” As I mentioned before, Twitter is a great polling tool, when you have responsive followers.
I have a great tip for getting followers within your niche (it’s not too big of a secret), but because it’s one of topics of a newsletter you’ll receive when you subscribe to “Muse News” (it’s free), I won’t write about it here. (Yes, this is a shameless plug for my newsletter).
I’ve been asked the question before – “Why do you follow so many people?” If you look at my Twitter page right now, you will see I do in fact follow a lot more people than the number who follow me (hopefully this will change in time). From a reader’s perspective, I use Twitter to get a taste of what’s going on in the world at this moment. If something big is happening, I’ll read about it. I enjoy the constant stream of incoming tweets that I can read whenever I desire. If someone wants to reach me directly, they know they can write @My4HWW, so I know I won’t miss anything important that’s directed toward me.
Also, I have a personal Twitter account for my friends and family, so I do keep the two separate (although now I pretty much write exclusively on @My4HWW and not my personal Twitter account). It’s something I recommend if you’re also going to use Twitter for your personal life, but you can certainly use one Twitter account for both.
I plan to continue to grow my use of Twitter, but for me to get there, you need to follow me!
My Criticism of Twitter
It’s should come as no surprise that there’s a lot of garbage on Twitter. You’ll find people who follow you hoping you’ll follow them back – and when you do, they will spam you with direct messages.
Even when you ignore spam, there’s an awful lot of noise when you’re following a lot of people. Among the interesting tweets, most tweets contain links, and many of those links direct you to a product for sale or an opt-in to capture your e-mail address.
This is a problem inherent with a micro-blogging platform, something I don’t think can be solved aside from manually unfollowing Twitter users who appear to only tweet spam. Maybe one day Twitter will allow you to install add-on applications, one of which could be a spam filter (I wouldn’t be surprised if this already exists and I just don’t know about it).
Other Twitter Tools & Applications
These tools don’t necessarily fit in the above headings, but I think they could be useful to you.
Twitscoop - Explore a tag cloud that changes in real-time and shows you what’s currently hot on Twitter right now. Not only will this highlight the popular current events in the world, but it may help you identify trends and uncover a niche that’s about to get hot.
Twittervision - This interesting, yet mostly useless, application allows you to watch tweets as they happen around the world. Open it up, sit back, and watch as you bounce around on a Google world map and monitor tweets from every location.
TwitterFeed – I haven’t used this yet, but it’s perfect if you want to automate some of your tweeting. Basically, it pulls new posts as they appear in your RSS feed and tweets the links for you on your Twitter account.
What Twitter tips do you have? This may be a long article, but I know I didn’t cover everything. Please share your thoughts and tips in the comments!
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