Before we start, let’s establish our bona fides. @ArtFire has 38,000 followers and we add 250-300 new followers every week. No, we aren’t Charlie Sheen, but this is a business account. And unlike Sheen, we aren’t in the business of train wrecks.
These days, just about every business has a twitter account. Twitter users send out 95 million tweets per day and, despite the fact that twitter has played a critical role in empowering social change around the world in many countries, a huge portion of those 95 million tweets are essentially spam. If you run a business and you have a twitter account, you are probably spamming people.
“Company X launches Y check it out.”
“Just listed ‘title of product’!”
“Running a sale on XYZ right now!”
“Learn how to get your product for free/cheap/no money down/on sale!”
This account is a prime example: @Traffic_Success. Ironic, that a web traffic account has such a fundamentally flawed and poor understanding of how the channel works. This is just automated link after link of pushing the sales pitch pages of their various products. I would bet the 433 people following this account are also spammers. Or perhaps they’re just poor souls caught in auto-follow.
We’ve seen these kinds of tweets and most of us have done something similar (less spammy than @Traffic_Success, but not much). You might as well be running a bot that tweets real estate and cell phone deals. If you are tweeting like this, I have one word for you.
Really, this is a bad plan. It’s wasting your time and it isn’t helping your business. It’s not your fault. You are probably doing what others do or what you see happening on the accounts you follow. But now that you know, please, stop doing it. There is a better way.
Twitter Myth # 1 – You sell product to your followers with tweets.
Here is the truth of Twitter that most business owners do not understand. . . you are not trying to get your followers to buy your product. I can hear you thinking “But I want everyone to buy my product. What are you talking about?” The people who are following you are friends, fans, competitors, loyal customers, interested customers and a variety of non-customer chaff. If they are following you they either love you already, want to get ideas, or are looking for people to spam themselves. Converting this mix of audience to paying customers is either ridiculously easy or impossible (depending on who they are) without much “gray area” in between. The truth is, your tweets will have very little impact on whether they buy or not.
Your goal should not be in any way to sell anything to your followers. . . ever. That may happen as a side-effect of the strategy we’re going to discuss, but it is not your goal.
Twitter Myth # 2 – People care about what you are doing.
The Social Media Director at ArtFire had a marketing professor who really “got it”. During nearly every class, before any practical task of writing a marketing message, developing a campaign, or building an ad, the prof would have the whole class stand up and yell in unison “Hey! A$$ho$%! What’s in it for me?” This is the single most important aspect of marketing that one can ever learn. We also call it WIIFM (What’s in it for me?). The recipient (in this case your followers) does not care about you, your life, your struggle, your business, your dreams and aspirations. Okay, if your mom follows you, she might. But most of them do not. They follow your account if and only if there is something in it for them.
If, when thinking as a follower you can’t answer. . “Hey! A$$ho$%! What’s in it for me?”, then just step away from the phone/computer/iPad and try your hand at something else.
The Secret Wall Street Fat Cats Don’t Want You to Know (not really, I just wanted to type a silly title like that)
Twitter is about reaching beyond one degree of separation. The whole point of a twitter strategy is not to reach the people who already follow you. They probably fan your Facebook page, visit your business or see you at the gym anyway. Instead, you want to publish such great content that your followers share it with their followers. We’re going to do that by following WIIFM and using a couple of social engineering and marketing tactics. This really can be done in just 10 to 20 minutes per day once things are set up properly.
So, here we go. The step by step guide to boosting your twitter followers, reach and business impact:
1) Build the right audience.
Think of your target market like a group of magazine readers. Which magazine would they read? For ArtFire we landed on “like a tech savvy version of Cosmopolitan without the 100 sex tips”. Edgy might bring in followers, but fashion, health, food, beauty, culture and art bring in followers who might be interested in buying what we’re selling. More importantly, those kind of followers have the right group of friends.
Write a “magazine” mission statement. This will help you find the right content to share.
2) Setup CoTweet or some other scheduler tool.
You’re going to be scheduling 3-4 tweets per hour, and you don’t want to be running your life around Twitter.
3) Go get content.
Start searching link aggregation sites like Digg and Metafilter, or specialty blogs with lots of specialized content like techcrunch. Begin building a pool of smaller but frequently updated specialty blogs in an RSS feeder or follow people in your industry on twitter and Facebook who publish interesting stuff that you and your audience would want to share. You’re going to need to be able to schedule 25-30 tweets in the morning, so having a deep content pool to pull from is important.
4) Learn to write tweets that get read, clicked and re-tweeted.
This is about providing value to your followers. WIIFM! Good content is entertaining, informative, benefits the reader or helps them avoid problems and pitfalls (like this very blog post). Short tweets with a question, intriguing statement, or exclamation and a bit.ly link get shared and clicked more often. You want to train your followers to re-tweet and share because your content is always that interesting. This means you have to create the shareable link and language for them. “How messy would this Angry Birds Cake be at your party?” is a message that gets responded to and shared. “This cake is cool” is not.
5) Track re-tweets and clicks.
You might need some paid software for this. But the best way to learn how to build content that gets shared is to measure what is shared and analyze what works. This will be important because it is how we’re going to get both new followers and new buyers. Learn what works with your followers and do more of that.
6) Learn the magic equation.
Talk about your business only 1 out of 10 tweets. Let me be clear here, 90% of your tweets are NOT about you or your business. They are sharing targeted content that fits the culture, needs and interests of your followers. The 1 out of 10 needs to be shareable and re-tweetable using the data you learn from the other 90%. The whole point is to get people to share your business tweets because they are so used to sharing your non-business tweets. This equation builds up a bank of goodwill that you can withdraw exposure from when the chips are down. In the case where you need to push business more aggressively, you can up it to 2 or 4 out of 10 for a couple of days, but don’t do that constantly unless you have a really interesting and entertaining business… like Charlie Sheen.
7) Interact and be real.
This is building social debt. If someone asks you a question on twitter, answer it. If they comment on your content @reply them back with another comment. The people who take the time to interact with you deserve the respect of your interaction back and they WILL share your content, tweets and information because you are real to them.
Now, grasshopper, you are ready to take the pebble from my hand. Feel free to throw it at me. Twitter (like everything online) changes all the time. Strategies need to be reviewed and adopted and there is no room for dogmatism. I’m about as much of an “expert” as anyone else. . .which is to say, not much of one. Expertise takes time to build and these are relatively new technologies. The key here is that this method is proven to work for@ArtFire and it can work for others. This strategy relies on old ideas from traditional media (my background is in radio). So far, we’ve seen good results applying these old content concepts to new media.
I wish you the best and please do let @ArtFire know how things are working for you.