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Are you looking to grow a larger and more relevant Twitter following?
This article will show you four actionable steps you can take to improve your Twitter experience.
Why Twitter Is Not Just a Numbers Game
Many brands, businesses and marketers have already discovered how powerful Twitter is for finding and engaging their audience.
Its low cost, immediacy and viral nature make it a favorite tool for everyone from news organizations to celebrities to small businesses.
Yet when marketers jump on Twitter for the first time, they wonder why they don’t get an overwhelming response to their initial tweet. Soon they learn that they must develop a following.
They see others with followings of 500, 5,000 or 50,000 and they want some of that. So they start to Google “how to get more followers on Twitter” or falling for tweets like this one:
Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s not too difficult to build a following on Twitter if you’re willing to partake in some shady, bad-karma tactics—from following and unfollowing people to creating hundreds of bogus accounts that follow you and retweet everything you say to buying followers on the black market.
But few if any of those followers will provide you any value for the time you put into Twitter.
So I’m also here to tell you that it’s not how many followers you have, but how many relevant followers you have. Having 20,000 followers who don’t respond to anything you share is equivalent to shouting from the top of the Empire State Building and claiming all of New York City as your audience.
Yes: more engaged followers are better than fewer engaged followers. So, let’s focus on getting more engaged followers.
Building a relevant Twitter following comes down to four core concepts:
- Find and follow relevant people.
- Tweet content that will be interesting to your target audience.
- Engage with your audience.
- Promote your Twitter account through other channels.
With that framework in place, here are some tips, tools and tactics to attract relevant followers on Twitter.
#1: Find and Follow Relevant People
Your audience is out there… Now, how to find them?
Start with a strong profile.
Because most people will check out your profile before following you, it’s important to put your house in order and present yourself in the most engaging way possible.
- Profile photo: Make sure you’re using a photo of your face for your personal account or a logo for your business account. Research has shown that people trust faces more that they’ve seen multiple times, which is why a photo of your smiling face works best.
- Detailed bio: You’ve got 160 characters, so get creative! Let people know why they should be following you.
- Location: Because so much of business is local these days, make sure you include your location as appropriate. It can be the make or break for follows.
Discover new people with third-party tools.
One of the first places to start your search for relevant people is at one of the many Twitter directories out there.
In a discussion around Twitter tools in Social Media Examiner’s Small Business Networking Club, everyone seemed to have a favorite tool or tip.
Karen James, a social media coach from the UK, likes Tweepi to check out people before she follows them. Karen Black, a digital marketer also from the UK, uses ManageFlitter to do bio searches, as well as keep an eye on her followers.
Use these tools to search for your own industry and the industries of your ideal customers.
Leverage other people’s Twitter lists.
A great source for new people to connect with is other people’s curated Twitter lists.
Twitter users often create lists or subscribe to other people’s lists to improve their
signal-to-noise ratio. As long as people make their lists public, you are free to subscribe to them, quickly getting access to dozens or hundreds of vetted Twitter users.
Use Twitter’s search functionality.
You can use Twitter’s search functionality to find relevant people and engage with them.
For example, let’s say you had a product or service for NASCAR fans. Start by doing a search on #nascar within Twitter.
You could then join the conversation by @ (mentioning) them, answering their questions and otherwise engaging them.
If your business is more local, like a restaurant, you can find out who’s hungry and in driving distance.
You could then reach out to those starving denizens on Twitter and offer them a discount or free drink if they come in now and mention “Twitter” as they place their order.
For more ideas on finding and following the right people, be sure to check out 7 Twitter Strategies for Growing a Great Following.
#2: Tweet Interesting Stuff
Easier said than done, right?
How do you find interesting content? Here are some ideas.
Use Google Alerts.
Set up Google Alerts (or a similar service) to get daily email updates about all of the things that are of interest to your audience—from “vegan recipes” to “grilling product reviews”—and share them through Twitter.
Photos and videos are a proven way to engage your audience. Use photos to share your activity or events so your business will get click-throughs and comments.
A real estate agent might share a video walkthrough of a new house and ask “what do you think?” A retail shop may share photos of some new additions to their display window. A travel agent might share pictures from a beach vacation and ask, “Are you ready for your getaway?”
Talk to people, not at them.
Chances are, what is of interest to your audience is what they’re already talking about! Rather than trying to get the ball rolling, why not keep it rolling? See what your audience is talking about and engage them in that conversation. Ask questions, answer them, retweet and respond.
For more ideas on how to create more interesting tweets, check out 26 Twitter Tips for Enhancing Your Tweets.
People on Twitter who don’t talk to other people are significantly less engaging and less likely to get followers.
Just because someone didn’t immediately follow you back doesn’t mean that you can’t engage them. Check out their conversations and see if you can jump in with relevant comments, or retweet some of their links.
Also, being part of conversations will get you in front of more people, increasing your chances of being followed.
Get involved with #chats.
Anyone can start a chat on Twitter by using a hashtag. You can find a long list of chats in this Google doc, along with days and times.
By joining the conversation at appropriate chats, you can quickly build your relevant followers… Assuming you have something valuable to add!
Schedule chats to reach a wider audience.
While there are many marketers who hate scheduled tweets—I’m looking at you, Unmarketer—many others embrace the tactic.
Using a tool like HootSuite or Buffer, you can schedule out a day’s, week’s or month’s worth of tweets. I would recommend you use a scheduling tool to supplement your regular tweets rather than replacing them.
If you’re going to schedule your tweets, try to be aware of when people respond to anything you share. When people respond to your tweets and you’re not there to respond to them, they’re less likely to engage you in the future.
#4: Promote Your Twitter Account Through Other Channels
Leverage the following you’ve built elsewhere by promoting your Twitter account.
Talk up Twitter at your website, blog and through email.
At flyte, we include our Twitter handles—with clickable links—next to all of our bios. We also include links to our Twitter handles from all appropriate blog posts.
You can also include a “follow me on Twitter” call to action in your email signature file, email newsletter and all other correspondence.
Leverage your social media outposts.
Likewise, include links (and calls to action) on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube.
Certain platforms may not be as “chatty” as Twitter, and if we’re already connected on LinkedIn and you’re syncing all of your tweets and LinkedIn updates, what’s the value of getting the same content on Twitter?
Get more visibility with a Paper.li newspaper.
Paper.li is a free service that allows you to create “newspapers” out of your Twitter feed (as well as some integration of Facebook and Google+).
Your daily paper.li can pull from the people you follow, your lists, or specific keywords or hashtags you include. Paper.li can also tweet out your daily paper, including which people contributed your “top stories.”
I’ve found that these tweets often get retweets from the people mentioned, and suddenly they’re sharing your content with their network, elevating your brand.
In this video you can see how to create your own paper.li daily:
One caveat: I no longer recommend including hashtags to pull in new people to your paper.li. Turns out some disreputable people might be using the same hashtags, populating your paper.li with spam.
So how do you bring in fresh content from new people to your paper.li daily? Here’s what I did: find people you respect and look at the targeted lists they’ve created. Then you can include their curated lists to help round out your paper.
Now It’s Your Turn!
What do you think? What tips, tools or tactics have you been using to build your own relevant Twitter following? Share something in the comments box below and include your Twitter handle and you’ll be sure to pick up a few new followers!
No matter what you sell or what industry you’re in, you’re going to experience negative word of mouth.
You know, those customers who are expressing their complaints on social media.
It just happens.
Things break, problems come up and employees have bad days. But it’s how you handle it that separates you from everyone else.
Remember: Negative word of mouth is an opportunity.
A great response strategy can convert angry and upset customers into loyal, raving fans. The rule of thumb is that while unhappy customers talk to 5 people, formerly unhappy customers you win back talk to 10.
So get out there and embrace the negativity. Start responding. Here are 10 steps you can take to stop the negative, earn new fans and generate a ton of respect.
#1: You Can’t Respond to Conversations You Don’t See
Great response starts with great listening.
- Set up Google Alerts for your brand and industry keywords.
- Keep a close eye on your Facebook page.
- Listen on Twitter.
- Depending on the type of business you have, read reviews on sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor and Zagat.
- Make a list of any forums or communities where your customers congregate and regularly check in on them.
Whether you’re paying attention or not, the conversations are happening. But a great listening program makes it easier for you to catch negative buzz and spot issues before they build momentum and become much harder to turn around.
#2: Determine if it’s Worth a Response
Not all negative comments are worth a response, and not all critics are worth trying to win over. Sometimes, as hard as it can be, it’s best just to move on.
Avoid these situations:
- The criticism is on a really small blog or forum, and your response will only bring attention and credibility to an issue nobody saw in the first place.
- It’s a blatant attack that’s clearly rude and outrageous—and anyone who reads it can see the critic has a personal problem.
- A known crackpot who is only looking to pick a fight.
There’s just no way to win in these scenarios. So stay out, move on, keep your head up and focus on the wrongs you can right.
#3: Act Quickly
When you’re facing negative word of mouth, time is not on your side. The longer you wait to respond, the angrier the customer will get—and the more likely others will pick up on the issue and spread the negative buzz.
At the very least, say this:
“Hi, my name is ____ and I hear you. We’re looking into it now, and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. If you have any questions, contact me directly at _____.”
A message like this does two things:
- The ranter knows he or she has your attention—there’s much less incentive to keep spreading the anger and
- It makes a real person with real contact info available, so if the person is still angry, you’ve at least specified a place to vent other than online.
#4: Speak Like a Human
The only thing worse than ignoring upset customers is to respond with a canned corporate response. If you thought they were mad before, wait until you see how they react to an excerpt of your policy terms and fine print.
Show empathy, communicate in a friendly tone and use your real name. And if the forum supports it, it helps to include your actual photo.
It’s easy to yell and scream at an anonymous company. But when someone shows up and says, “Hi, this is Emily and I’m so sorry for the trouble…” it changes everything.
The critic now realizes he wasn’t yelling at a giant, faceless company. He was yelling at Emily. Quickly, the anger fades—and you’ll often get an apology.
Check out how Zappos replies to this fan. It’s human; it’s friendly. And even though they couldn’t immediately fix the problem, you can bet this fan will be back.
#5: Offer a Real Apology or Don’t Apologize
A strong, direct apology will always earn more respect than a flimsy, “kinda-sorta” apology.
Consider the difference between an apology like “We’re sorry you feel that way” to “Absolutely, positively unacceptable”—which was the headline to FedEx’s blog post after a delivery driver was caught throwing a package over a customer’s fence. The post included this straightforward video from Matthew Thornton, a senior vice president at the company:
And it doesn’t get much better or more direct than Jeff Bezos’ apology for how they handled pulling copies of 1984 and other novels off Kindles:
#6: Offer to Make it Right
Apologizing is part of turning around negative word of mouth, but to actually fix a problem is how you really win over critics.
We all make mistakes. It’s how we fix them that people remember.
At burrito chain California Tortilla, making it up to customers is part of every response they send when someone is upset. It’s this simple:
#7: Never Get into a Fight
Any time you win an argument online, you’re losing. All anyone really remembers is that you’re combative.
This doesn’t mean you can’t respond, explain your side of the story and start a conversation. You just need to be in the right mindset:
- Don’t get emotional.
- Remember, it’s a real person. Just as they see you as a faceless company, it’s easy to see them as just another complainer.
- The critic is actually doing you a favor. They’re helping you learn to be a better company. For every person who actually speaks up, many more walk away quietly, never to return.
For more on how to reply, check out this quick explanation from Jeff Diamond of Oakland’s Farmstead Cheeses and Wines:
#8: Keep the Discussion in the Open
When a negative issue comes up, a common gut reaction is to ask to move the conversation offline. But when you do this, the world can’t see all the effort you put into fixing the problem.
Nobody sees the private email where you give that sincere apology. We can’t search for that phone conversation where you politely explain why the situation happened in the first place.
But when you do it online, in public, you earn word of mouth. For the same effort and cost, thousands more people see that you actually care about customers. Plus, you save on all the people who now don’t need to call in (or write a similarly angry post) to find an answer to the same question.
Graco’s quick and transparent use of Twitter during a recall of more than 2 million strollers, for example, helped get an important message out much more quickly, showed customers how much they cared and it just might have saved some lives, too.
#9: Use Fans and Third-Party Sources to Help Tell the Story
What you say about yourself isn’t as powerful as what others say about you. It’s true when people are promoting you, and it’s true when people are calling you out.
When their brand was under attack from a competitor-led PR campaign, UPS’ Debbie Curtis-Magley and her team pointed to third-party content from news articles and industry experts to help explain the full story.
And even more powerful than experts can be the voice of your fans. You never want to put them in an uncomfortable situation, but it’s OK to ask for help sometimes.
For example, a blogger might share how he’s frustrated with a particular product feature. In which case, you might turn to your Facebook or Twitter fans with this message:
“Hey guys! Chris over at [blog name] is having trouble with [feature]. Can anyone share how they’re using it?”
#10: Involve Them in the Fix
If someone’s criticizing you, it’s often just a form of tough love. They’re doing it because they care. They see potential, and they want you to do better.
So instead of seeing them as critics, start looking at them as frustrated fans that might have some worthwhile ideas.
On one hand, Dell’s IdeaStorm is just a big list of things people think they’re doing wrong. But it’s actually a release valve—a proactive community that gives people with ideas, suggestions and complaints a place to share and vote on their favorites.
A platform like IdeaStorm isn’t right for everyone, but giving your biggest critics a way to get involved is. Try inviting yours to customer advisory boards, beta tests of new products and brainstorming sessions.
See! Negative word of mouth doesn’t have to be so bad after all.
How do you handle critics? How are you making the most of negative word of mouth? Leave your questions and comments in the box below.