Twitter is deceptively simple – all you have to do is create a tweet with fewer than 140 characters, throw in a few hash-tags, and post it – right? Well maybe not. Judging from the amount of articles written on Twitter best practices it seems that people might be having a harder time than it appears creating posts that really engage people and incite them to act; ahem, re-tweet.
Having been a tweeter for some time now, I’ve observed a number of best practices that really do make a difference between somebody just hanging out and posting randomly, and someone taking their Twitter strategy to the next level. Here are a few:
Who’s following whom?
When first starting out on Twitter, people will typically follow a large number of people in the hope that they will get followed back. This, however, sets them up for a misperception of value. For example, if you’re following 100+ people but only 20 are following you, it sends a message that you’re really not providing content or tweets of value. On the flip side, if you have 500 people following you but you are only following four or five, that sends an ego-centric message that you perceive your value to be far greater than perhaps it really is. And who likes a snob?
The golden rule of any social media effort is to engage people in a collaborative way. The best practice here is to follow a balanced ratio of people based on how many people are following you. As an example, if you have 500 people following you, you might follow 200 or so. If you’re just starting out then follow a handful of people that you really want to engage with and enlarge the group as you build your followership via great content.
Populate a good profile – really.
Regardless of whether you’re tweeting for a corporate entity or yourself, the value of a good profile cannot be underestimated. Your profile tells people what your interests and focus are, as well as gives them clues as to the type of personality or tweeting style you represent. Think of it as your calling card – if it’s weak, then people will be more inclined to bypass or dismiss you quickly. A profile with a unique approach and some depth is a lot more intriguing. Here are a few examples of some good ones:
Are you on hash-tag overload?
Hash-tags are enormously valuable – until they clutter up your tweets to the extent that someone needs a cipher to break the code:
Yikes! Not only self-serving, but impossible to tell what it’s about other than a chat session. Pick your hash-tags carefully and incorporate only those that will keep your tweet in a particular conversation thread. Typically one or two hash-tags per tweet will suffice.
And, if you’re one of those that populates a random hash-tag to insert your tweet into a popular stream – that’s even worse. Hash-tags serve a valuable purpose, but don’t be an abuser please! You might win short-term by getting your tweet in front of more people, but ultimately you won’t gain much. No one wants to read self-serving content that isn’t related to what they’re interested in.
Speaking of content – it really is king.
Twitter’s recent announcement of refinements to its’ Discover tab, which makes it easy for people to find information without following other accounts, is yet another step up in the content game. With the addition of enhanced personalization Twitter will now surface stories and tweets that are popular among those you follow, and those they follow as well, making the reach of content published on Twitter that much greater.
The goal of anyone generating content is to get it in front of as many people as possible, and tools like this make it even easier. But, you’ve got to generate great content that is relevant and compelling to people. Without that key piece, your best efforts are likely to be in vain as tools like Twitter’s Discover tab are based on connections – meaning a ranking of the content based on how many people shared it.
This goes hand-in-hand with the ultimate goal so many people have of generating a huge following. To date, the best way to do this is to consistently share great content and actively interact with people. This also means doing away with self-serving posts that do little more than pontificate about how great you or your company is or where your next lunch is taking place.
Are you an update maniac?
If you like to post a lot of tweets all at once, it’s time to step away from your computer. Seriously, posting a laundry list of tweets is just bad form. Some of you may argue that it’s just convenient to push out those great tweets you’ve been dreaming up all at once, but if you’re publishing more than a couple in one instance you’re setting yourself up to be un-followed, and fast.
Still not convinced? Consider this – with more than 150 million (yes million) Tweets being published each day, it can be pretty hard to keep up with the flow. When presented with a list of tweets back to back from the same person, it’s highly unlikely that someone is going to take the time to digest your litany. Never mind the effort you took to create them – they’re probably not even getting read at all. Take the time to space out your tweets. Great content, plus a steady, spaced out flow of tweets will keep you top of mind.