Twitter – You’re doing it wrong.

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.

Attribution Some rights reserved by Rob Boudon

Spamming my followers is my Twitter strategy.

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 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.

25 Responses to “Twitter – You’re doing it wrong.”

  1. Jim Juris March 6, 2011 at 11:10 am #

    Thank you very much for this post Tony. I need to improve my Twitter marketing.

    You are correct. People don’t want to be sold. Before someone buys from you they ask themselves what is in it for me. If the peerson can see how they will benefit from using your product or service then they will buy from you. If they can’t see the benefit of that product or service they won’t buy.

  2. Giani March 6, 2011 at 11:15 am #

    Wow, it was nice to see that, right out of the gate, I do some of this stuff already, and the rest was already working its way into my business plan. Thanks for showing me I was on the right track!

  3. Wooleycreek March 6, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

    Looks like this old dogs is going to have to learn some new tricks!! Thanks so much for posting this! Now I will need to rethink my strategy.

    Artfire simply ROCKS as always!

  4. CanadianRockiesArt March 6, 2011 at 12:12 pm #

    This absolutely needs to be printed in big bold letters, framed and hanging on every seller’s wall (by their computer).

    Thank you very much for this eye opeener Sensei Tony!

  5. CanadianRockiesArt March 6, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

    opener, not opeener ;)

  6. FurPetsCreations March 6, 2011 at 12:19 pm #

    Thank you for this very informative article. It always helps to have instruction from someone who knows what they are doing! Thanks Tony! As always, I feel smarter after reading instructions from you…… ;)

  7. Beads2string March 6, 2011 at 12:35 pm #

    Tony another amazing post as always. Great tips to keep Twitter spam low and build up followers. This should be a Twitter101 post when you sign up.

  8. gayle hardman March 6, 2011 at 1:46 pm #

    Thanks for a very well articulated and informational article!
    You could sell this article with no problemo,Tony,so thanks for offering it for free… : )


  9. Julie Clark March 6, 2011 at 1:50 pm #

    Thanks for the post, Tony. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Vegans (including those, like me, who are transitioning to it) don’t like spam – on a plate, or anywhere else. :)

  10. zippityduda March 6, 2011 at 2:13 pm #

    Being new to the Tweet world, this was GREAT info for me. Thanks for sharing it!

  11. SerendipDesignsJewelry March 6, 2011 at 3:51 pm #

    Thank you so much, Tony! This comes at the right time for me, when I’m just starting to use Twitter. It does seem like a spam feed and I was looking for a way to make it more real. Thanks for giving me some tools to work with.

  12. Maura March 6, 2011 at 5:05 pm #

    Thanks for explaining how to use twitter. Will work on implementing your advice!

  13. Linda Landig March 6, 2011 at 10:26 pm #

    Thank you Tony. I’m a Twitter newbie and it did seem very spam-y to me. This really helps me know how to use this tool more effectively. This was a very timely article for me. I’ve learned so much on AF!

  14. john March 7, 2011 at 9:28 am #

    What a hypocrite, plain and simple.. go look at and read the tweets, new & old.

    spam much?
    Spread the word out about ArtFire and you could win a full year of Pro membership!

    Have you Shared the Love yet? Win a Canon DSLR Camera from ArtFire!

    • Tony March 7, 2011 at 10:42 am #

      The equation I mention still holds and we do follow it. We have experimented with as many as 5 tweets per hour and usually settle around 4.

      While we normally try to limit a self-promotional post to 1 every 2 hours or so ( about 1 in 10 perhaps 2 in ten at times), when giving away prizes like $500 cameras, the WIIFM is pretty well determined. These are not selling tweets. The contests are free to enter, and the prizes are very well received.

      We are in business, as are all business twitter account managers. The method of creating content streams on twitter is to build the habit of clicking and sharing so that you can talk about your business some of the time. Otherwise, the work to share all that content has no ROI.

      Also, when one reaches a certain level of followers (perhaps 15,000 +) the equations start to change as the twitter stream moves faster and you have less overall face time on any tweet. This requires more advanced measurement and testing.

      In order to bump up the ratio of tweets mentioning your business you need to really dial in tracking of follows, unfollows, clicks, shares and re-tweets. This allows you to optimize business impact in real time. However, for most small businesses the resources for that level of monitoring and strategy aren’t always available. It is better to stick with the straight equation to get started.

      If you are ready for that level of monitoring I encourage you to test. As I said in the post, there is no room for dogmatism in this space. But, I can confirm that just a long run of self-promotional spammy tweets won’t build much of a following and won’t show any significant ROI.

  15. Mapleseed Gallery March 7, 2011 at 10:19 am #

    Great article. I am still relatively new to Twitter and this will certainly help me format (or reformat) my marketing strategy. Thanks!!

    • Suzanne Allison March 7, 2011 at 10:53 am #

      Hi Tony – thanks for this. I’ve been trying to understand the point of Twitter and this has helped. Funny enough, I have been doing something similiar with my Featured Likes on my FB page ie adding local businesses, industry magazines, pages that i think my fans will be interested in. I guess in a way you need to think in the same way as a blog – as you dont tend to sell directly in them either.

      Thanks again

  16. Sacred_Sparks March 8, 2011 at 6:21 am #

    WOW! Really needed that great wake up call! Thank you so much! Been getting bored with Twitter, and wondering what the heck good it is…. Well… now we see the LIGHT. Change can come in the twinkling of an eye, and our eye-lids are really flittering… whoops… fluttering… but perhaps that really means twittering! Thanks for this great wisdom Tony. You are just the best! Starting our day right, with ArtFire!

  17. averilpam March 8, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

    Thank you so much for this Tony. It has reinforced and validated my decision not to join Twitter.
    I truly don’t have the energy or stamina to do it properly as you describe and would be wasting my time doing it otherwise. I will stick to my blogs and Facebook which I can barely keep up with and still be able to make anything!

  18. Margaret March 8, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

    Having so much to learn I have Tweeted this to let everybody know there is always more to learn and promoting. Especially for those of us that have trouble with social media. Thanks Tony!


  19. Margaret March 8, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

    WOW Tony! This has really opened my eyes. I have always had a Twitter account and have tweeted my items as I add them; the end. I never considered the fact to retweet my items especially considering there just laying dormant in my studio. You have really given me some insight about Twitter and most of all how I can promote. Thanks Again, Tony. I have to say that I’m computer illiterate in a lot of things and reading your posts always help. I feel blessed that I found ArtFire and became a member. ArtFire is the place to be as far as I’m concerned for any artisan!


  20. KOjewellery March 10, 2011 at 12:12 pm #

    We are really new to Twitter and the like, so find the advice you’ve given really useful – thank you so much.
    Kevin & Olga xxx

  21. Maureen March 15, 2011 at 4:51 pm #

    I just knew there had to be more than selling your products to this Twitter thing. Thank You Tony.

    This is why I love Art Fire!


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