Over the past few months, I have been aggressively trying to improve my social media prowess on Twitter. There are a lot of things that I’ve done to increase my knowledge about using Twitter, especially from a marketing prospective. I’ve read several books and blogs, subscribed to podcasts, and of course, practiced the dark art. I want to share my experiences in using Twitter, going from a pale-skinned lurker who barely used the program to a full-on Twitter machine-toting vigilante with a social media cause.
As I mentioned, there was a time when I didn’t really use Twitter all that much. I was a college student. I didn’t think I had much to say and wasn’t quite sure how to use it. I created my account (@chrisbrowning, if you want to follow), followed some people I thought were interesting, and generally forgot about it. What interested me, however, was that I continued to gain a few followers and mentions here and there, even though I seldom posted on the network. What was going on? Well, I looked into the users that were following me, and realized they thought I was the infamously abusive rap star, Chris Brown. Whoops! People were even using my username as a verb, “Gonna @chrisbrowning that sucka!” Which apparently means to slap another senseless. But, I am Chris Browning, and I didn’t want to change my username, so every now and again I get a random user who thinks I’m a rock star. I think they usually get the point when I tweet about LinkedIn, but it’s a funny story nonetheless.
It wasn’t until I checked out a fantastic documentary about Twitter called 140 Characters that was shown at a co-working space in Honolulu. It really opened my eyes to how Twitter can be effectively used, and for about a week afterwards, I made a concerted effort to tweet. But I fell off the bandwagon, as I didn’t have anything to tweet about and my interest thus waned. I had done a lot of tweeting for my social media internship at a local Hawaiian real estate company and for a class project involving a non-profit organization called travel2change, where I learned a lot of practical applications for Twitter. But I still couldn’t tweet on my own. What gives?
I think to be successful on Twitter there are a few things that you must have. I didn’t want to tweet because I didn’t have any followers. I didn’t have any followers because I didn’t tweet anything. I also didn’t know what to tweet. So this is what I’ve learned, and I’ve made it into an alliterative list!
- Focus: find your passion, topic, area of interest, focal point, whatever. Just find something.
- Follow people that tweet about the same thing, especially influencers and thought leaders.
- Find news sources outside of Twitter about this particular topic(s) that you enjoy.
- Formulate: Tweet about your topic. A lot.
When I found my focus, I found that I had something to talk about. I am very passionate about social media, and I wanted to share my thoughts on it as well as listen what others had to say. I began to follow the heavy, not-so-heavy, and featherweight Twitterers who talked about social media using Twitter’s search function. I didn’t stop there, though. I also created feeds for relevant fields, like technology, internet culture, and current news. I sorted all these sources into various lists, which helped me sort through the massive amounts of information that goes through Twitter.
I also scoured the internet for popular blogs run by the thought leaders in the field. People like Jeff Bulas, Kim Garst, and Steve Farnsworth. These are very knowledgeable people that others look to for their expertise. Other prominent sites included news aggregators like Mashable, Buzzfeed, and The Next Web, who post regularly and on a variety of topics (including social media). By setting up easy access to these sources I was able to have a constant stream of topics that I could talk about, comment on, or share. Some gave me blog post ideas, others made me laugh or angry. But they served a very important purpose: content.
With the content stream in place, all I had to from there was formulate my Tweets. New legislature regarding internet privacy being discussed? Tweeted it. Instagram competing with Vine? Tweeted it in 100 characters. Cats and dogs living together? Unthinkable!
Tweeting is an interesting form of writing. You’re confined to 140 characters or less. U sumtimes thnk u hav to cheat. Don’t. Tweets should be as grammatically sound as possible. Be concise, deliberate, and have something to offer or contribute. Use #hashtags to assign classifications to your tweets and link shorteners to compress your web links. You have to tweet a lot. Twitter is a firehose of information. If you don’t keep up, your voice will be swept away amongst all the others. The great thing about tweeting a lot is that you get better at it along the way.
But when I aggressively implemented these practices for my Twitter account, I noticed that I received a lot more followers and interactions through Twitter. By participating in or starting conversations, my network continued to grow. It was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed the connections and seeing my account grow. Although I’m still a very small fish in the pond, I was able to increase my follower account by regularly posting content from a meager 165 followers to almost 300 over the past few months. I still have a long ways to go, but as I become more comfortable and skilled in using Twitter, I realize more and more how useful it really is.