That social media are essential in online media campaigns has become a truism. But how do you combine your Twitter strategy with your search engine marketing campaign, and how do you generate enough followers for Twitter to make a difference?
Why should you use Twitter in your online marketing?
There are at least three answers to this question:
1. Given that tweeps (those that use Twitter) often refer to sites, posts and articles in their tweets, Twitter may generate traffic directly to your site. If these tweets are retweeted by other Twitter users, the traffic may become significant.
Note that many bloggers and journalists use Twitter to find stuff to write about. A link found in Twitter may lead them to your site. They may refer to it in their writing, generating a link that can be very valuable search engine optimization wise.
2. Search engines are using social traffic as one of the factors in their search engine algorithm. Links from Twitter to your pages may boost your rankings in the search engines.
To what extent Google make use of Twitter data is unclear, as Google no longer has access to Twitter raw data (which is one of the reasons they are trying so hard to promote Google+ as an alternative), but tweets may find their way into other sites that are indexable by Google (like Delicious, Posterous and Reddit), so this effect may still be important.
3. If you can build a standing as a useful and reliable source of information in Twitter, your are essentially strengthening your personal “brand” or the brand of your service or company.
If tweeps find your tweets being repeatedly retweeted by others, they will interpret that as a sign of your trustworthiness, which makes it much more likely that they will follow the link to your site.
The importance of building a Twitter following
We have seen online marketing “experts” that recommends that you put up a lot of twitter accounts and then send messages or tweets to a large number of people enticing them to go to your site.
This may work for affiliate scams and for the distribution of malware, but this tactic will ruin your reputation and any chance you have of being considered a serious and trustworthy provider of information, services or goods.
There is only one way to Twitter marketing success and that is the hard one.
You have to build a sufficient number of followers in your area of expertise, i.e. people who are likely to find your tweets interesting and who are likely to retweet them.
The retweeting part is important, not only because it leads to more direct visits to your site, but because retweets will expose your profile to a larger number of people, helping you generate more followers. That is the virtous circle you want get into.
The number of followers required may vary, from industry to industry and from language group to language group. If you are promoting a bicycle repair shop in Oslo, Norway, that will require fewer followers to have an effect, than — for instance — if you want to promote soft drinks on the global market.
How to get more followers
To build a sufficient number of followers takes time. In the beginning progress will normally be slow. Ultimately, however, you will reach “critical mass”, where the number of followers start to accellerate. This tipping point is reached because an increasing number of followers start promoting your tweets and your profile through retweets and comments.
If you continue to push good content and interact actively with your followers this tipping point may be reached when you get some 1500 to 2000 followers.
Before you get to that point, there are a few tactics that might be of help:
Identify influential Twitter users
Identify tweeps that should be interested in your topic or knowledge and follow them. A simple way of finding such people is to go to the most influential tweeps in your field and look at the people who they follow and who follow them. You may also find their Twitter identity on web sites and business cards.
There are also Twitter directories and — of course — Twitter’s own Who to follow feature, which becomes more useful the more followers you have.
The 2000 restriction
Twitter has put in place a 2000 followers restriction. That is: before you yourself has reached 2000 followers, you are not allowed to follow more than 2000 people. Remember also that seasoned tweeps will look at your following to follower ration to determine whether you are a serious actor. If you follow 1999 and have only 10 followers, you are most likely a spammer, and they will not follow for your tweets.
Because of this you need to prune your follower list from time to time, to remove those that do not follow you back.
That is extremely hard work using the normal Twitter interface, but there are — fortunately — tools out there that makes this easier. You can for instance use Social Bro to identify tweeps who are passive (who do not tweet themselves) or who do not follow your back.
By all means: Do keep the tweeps that provide you with good info!
Promote your Twitter acount
Make sure to promote your Twitter account outside of Twitter.
Sign your blog posts with your @name. If this is a company account, include the name in newsletters, magazines, letter heads, business cards, and posters. Add the @name to other social media accounts like Facebook, Linkedin, Pinterest and Google+.
You would obviously like to use your Twitter account to promote your own services. Adding a tweet regarding your latest promotion is OK and necessary, but remember that people are not normally going to follow your account because of those promotions.
Thet are only going to follow you if you:
1. Entertain them with funny and provoking tweets.
2. Engage in interesting and meaningful conversation.
3. Tweet stories and links that will interest them.
Tactic No. 1 is highly effective, but also very demanding and risky, as humor may be misread and lead to antagonism.
Tactic No. 2 is very efficient. Replying to and commenting on the tweets of others is an efficient way of generating interest and followers. Most experts in the field will tell you that this is the way to go. But it is extremely time consuming.
Remember that Twitter is alive 24/7 and if you are planning to develop the services or good you are planning to promote, you cannot spend more than some 30 minutes a day on Twitter. So, unless you have the money to hire two or three full time tweeps, full and real time surveillance is out of the question.
Because of this most social media marketers stick to checking on the “Interactions” and “Mentions” with regular intervals, and comment and retween when possible and necessary.
Find rare and useful content
Tactic No. 3 is essential and doable. You need to produce a steady stream of tweets that will be of interest to your audience. This means that you have to go beyond tweeting about your own store, company or organisation (unless you are the Queen of Great Britain or the President of the Unites States, that is).
If you have a bicycle repair shop, tweet bicycle news. Give infomaltion about new bikes, biking travel desitinations, maintenance tips and so on.
Try to find news sources that are not covered by others. In the field of social media and search engines, everybody tweets the latest Search Engine Land or Mashable article. If you can find valuable information from less known sites, you will be considered a more valuable curator of search and social media news.
Do also retweet tweets you find interesting and useful. Preferably use the old fashioned way of retweeting (RT @susanneanette), as this means that the tweet will be clearly marked with your image/avatar in Twitter. That photo or logo should be an important part of your Twitter branding!
By retweeting informative tweets you also please the original tweep, making her or him more aware of you and your online work. Your followers will also appreciate the fact that you reward other Twitter users in this way. In other words: This kind of retweeting adds to your social standing, which is a good thing.
Spread your tweets
If you spend 30 minutes a day curating content and tweeting about it, you will soon end up tweeting 10 to 20 tweets in a very shot time. Sending out several tweets in one go may actually be efficient as it makes your profile more visible in the Twitter stream. But if there are too many of them, many Twitter users will get annoyed and suspect you of spamming.
You therefore need to schedule your tweets for a more even distribution throughout the day. There are several tools that let you do this. Take, for instance, a look at HootSuite or Social Oomph.
What not to do
If you establish a Twitter account, make sure you follow up. You do not have to send out 10 tweets a day, but you do have to keep the account alive. Finding a “dead” Twitter account reflects badly on your brand. As an absolute minimum, tweet once or twice a week, so that Twitter users find it worth while to become a follower.
If you want to build an interested and efficient following, however, you must to much more than that!
One more thing: If you have managed to generate an enthusiastic and engaged following on Twitter, do not waste it by linking to crap content on your own site! All of this is worth close to nothing if your own site is of a bad quality.
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