Twitter is the best online marketing tool of the last five years. Thanks to Twitter, you can engage in immediate conversations, receive immediate feedback and find new people who share your interests.
From a community building standpoint, you can use Twitter to find potential new members, make people aware of your community, build your reputation and introduce people to others.
Many businesses and websites don’t use Twitter correctly and wonder why their strategy fails. In this article, I want to help ensure you don’t make the same mistakes.
First, let’s bust a myth.
Huge value seems to be placed on the number of Twitter followers you have. This is a flawed metric – just as the number of ‘members’ your online community has shouldn’t be used to measure its success, the number of followers you have on Twitter doesn’t mean you’re popular or that people are interested in what you have to say.
What really counts is the number of conversations you’re having. Are people listening to you? Are people responding to what you’re saying? I’d rather have 100 followers that I communicate with on a regular basis than 10,000 followers who are strangers.
It’s about value and relationships
You should be using Twitter as an additional way of providing value. You should be giving more than you are receiving. If you give, you’ll naturally receive. Don’t be scared of using Twitter as a way of building your new online community. Don’t be scared of using it as a way of promoting an existing one – Twitter isn’t competition to your community. Just play by the rules.
A beginner’s guide to using Twitter
Let’s say you’re planning a brand new online community and you’re doing it the right way – you know that you don’t build the website before you’ve built relationships. Remember – you need to build relationships first to see how passionate people are about your idea and whether it’s something they’ll talk about. No conversation, no community.
You want to use Twitter to find and engage potential members. Here’s how you do it.
Signing up to Twitter
- Choose a Twitter username
I think it’s fine to use the name of your website/brand here – as long as you follow my next point. Keep your Twitter username short, snappy and memorable.
- Use your real name
The name you enter in the ‘Name’ field appears in the emails people receive when you follow them. The quickest way to be labelled as a spammer or bot is for this not to be a real name. Why hide your real name, anyway? Hardly the best way to build trust. People can’t build relationships with those that hide their identities.
You’ve already used your brand name in your username – you don’t need to use it again.
If you have an existing website, put it in the ‘Web’ field. This isn’t essential, though. People won’t frown on you if you leave this blank. If you’re building a new online community, I’d recommend putting up a basic webpage outlining what you’re trying to build/accomplish and link to that page (you could even put up a form for people to join a mailing/waiting list).
- Fill out the bio
The first thing any potential new follower does when they arrive at your Twitter page is read your bio. If it’s blank, they’ll move on. If it’s boring, or full of sales copy, they’ll move on.
Talk in plain English. Be honest, be genuine. This all sounds like common sense, but it obviously isn’t. Believe me.
- Don’t follow anyone – yet
Don’t start following people as soon as you sign up. You have nothing to offer yet. You won’t attract genuine followers if your Twitter feed is empty.
Provide content. Don’t start posting links to your website. Don’t start selling. Talk about your niche and provide value. Let’s say you want to build a community for photographers. Suggest starting aperture settings for specific scenes. Talk about the importance of light; share your expertise. Give, give, give.
- Share and promote (others)
If you find a good resource, post a link to it and mention why you’re sharing it. People want to hear your opinion – they don’t just want to see links. If someone else on Twitter gave good advice, give it a ReTweet.
Make yourself known as a resource of good information.
If someone gave good advice, thank them for it. Develop conversations with people by thanking them for the information they put out. Ask them questions. Get to know them. Relationship building should be done in just the same way you’d do it in your online community – the only difference is the medium (and shorter messages).
By now, you’ll have a good Twitter history. New visitors to your page will see that you give out a lot of useful, relevant information. They will see that you engage in conversations, and promote others on Twitter via the ReTweet feature.
Now is the time to start following others. Use the search facility to find mentions of keywords, phrases or brand names. When you find individual Tweets that are relevant, check out that person’s Twitter feed. You can’t figure someone out from just one Tweet, but you’ll get a better idea of their personality if you read more of their stream.
Check out their bio, and any link they include in the ‘Web’ box. If you think this person would be interested in the information you’re sharing, follow them.
- Return follow
If you’re doing a really good job, you’ll be getting notifications of people following you before you even start following others. I’d always recommend taking a look at the Twitter pages of those that follow you – make sure they’re real, and not connected to something you’d rather not be associated with – before deciding whether to follow them back.
Don’t feel as though you absolutely have to return follow everyone that follows you – but know that people who follow you will appreciate being followed back.
- Be wary of direct messages
When you’re following someone on Twitter and they are following you back, you can both communicate with each other via the direct messaging system. Be wary of this, though – some people do not like being sent direct messages; especially when they don’t know you particularly well. Don’t be afraid to use this feature – just make sure you don’t overuse it.
Twitter is built around sharing – only keep things private when you have to.
There are no hard and fast rules for the best way to use Twitter. Just be social, provide value, be genuine and have fun. You’ll get out of Twitter what you put into Twitter. Enjoy!
PS – Here is my Twitter page!