(500 followers) A how to guide

(500 followers) A how to guide

by Richard Broughton – 25th April 2013

MTM is celebrating this week after we hit 500 organic followers on Twitter. Not the biggest number in the world we know but we’re proud to have created an engaged community of relevant followers, not just a bunch of random accounts linking to online pharmacies and unmanned twitter-bots.

The ability to buy Twitter followers, video views, Facebook likes, etcetera is a craze that has become popular with some in the online world. No one will admit to falling foul of boosting their social community numbers via paid for methods. Even pop prince Justin Bieber has reportedly resorted to buying YouTube views; obviously millions of hits just weren’t enough for him.

I struggle to see the benefit to be had from this scheme.  Firstly, I would have thought your real online community would notice your sudden increase in popularity. Secondly, there’s no sense of achievement by buying your social media credentials; you haven’t earned it by posting and engaging with genuine content. Most importantly, buying your community doesn’t help to organically grow your audience or expertise on social media. The scheme simply results in your online profile appearing fake, and out of kilter with your online activity, with a community that, lets face it, doesn’t care to engage with you: the main purpose of your social media activity.

Using Twitter as an example, this is a guide to organically growing your online community:

THE BASICS…

From a personal perspective, it highlights a lack of effort when a Twitter page design hasn’t been personalised. If I see that ‘blue sky and clouds’ background, my opinion and desire to follow the Tweeter drops. Why should I spend time engaging with your tweets, if you haven’t spent time on branding your own online presence? The design doesn’t have to be detailed and time consuming, as long as it allows your audience to recognise who you are and tell them something about you, and your activity online.

It’s important that your audience’s online journey is not limited to your Twitter page: include further sites they can navigate to. This could be your company’s website or other social media pages such as Facebook, LinkedIn etc. 140 characters is a difficult format to negotiate when talking about your brand, if options for more information are not made available. Using the “bio” section to feature all of the additional links, positions them at the top of the page, allowing individuals to easily locate them: increasing the chance of clicks to your website and engagement with your brand. Don’t make them browse your tweets to find out if you’re relevant to them. By displaying the correct information, the audience knows immediately who you are, and what you’re likely to be tweeting about. If an individual can see your relevance instantaneously, they are more likely to want to follow you.

 

THINKING ABOUT THE TWEETS…

The tweets that you send out should represent you and your brand. They’re an insight into the your opinions, work processes and industry relevant information. As an individual, you wouldn’t tweet about a subject matter that doesn’t interest you, or positively endorse a product that you dislike so make sure your business related tweets follow the same route. Each tweet must be relevant to you, whether it’s a news article, blog post, or general comment from the brand.

Use examples to back up your tweet using a link to a news article or blog post. Twitter is the place to share opinions across the online spectrum, but to boost the statement’s credibility it is useful to be able to link a tweet to relevant content elsewhere online. Perhaps make a general statement in 140 characters, with a link to a recent blog post of your own, to explain your stance in more detail. Simple one line tweets, with no links, work more effectively when a question is being asked that can spark debate or where a statement requires no further information to explain it.

Blog posts and news articles from over 48 hours ago are verging on old news. When checking Google for any recent activity, filter posts using the search tools menu, to ensure I’m only seeing updates from the past 24 hours. Twitter and social media thrive on information as it happens, requiring constant monitoring. Tweeting new or recently published information and opinions are key to impressing your potential audience on Twitter, showing them that you are on top of your social media, encouraging them to follow your page.

One hashtag per tweet is plenty, two at the most. Few things are more irritating and confusing than a tweet that, at a glance, appears to be in code due to the over powering use of a hash symbol. Use it to sum up the theme or reason for the tweet, and not in front of every word written.

Continuing with hashtags, it’s a mistake to use a “#” because it’s trending on Twitter, unless your tweet genuinely has some relevance to it. In doing this, the wider audience may see your tweet, but it will be the wrong audience. Those checking the tweets using the hashtag, won’t be interested in your subject matter, if it has nothing to do with trending “#.”

Now you’ve got your tweet content sorted, think about when to put them out to your audience. It seems rushed when brands publish tweets in bulk in the morning, and remain silent until the following day, only to repeat the process again: it doesn’t demonstrate the monitoring and effort that effective Twitter activity requires. This tactic doesn’t allow for the necessary community engagement such as retweeting, or for news stories and blog posts that appear throughout the day. Ideally, tweets should be intermittent, similarly to the ‘little but often’ theory. Applications such as Hootsuite can be used to schedule tweets so, if necessary, all posts can be created in one go, but shared one at a time, once an hour for example. In an ideal situation, blog posts and news articles should be monitored throughout the day, with relevant stories being linked to your Twitter page, as they appear online.

This ‘ideal’ can back fire however, if taken to an extreme. Your followers will begin ignoring and maybe un-following if they are always bombarded by your tweets. As always, relevance is the key. Only publish the content that best represents you, without being so ‘picky’ that very few posts make the cut.

There’s no harm in being able to test the quantity that’s right for your brand. Try different intervals and amounts of tweets, keeping note which combination gains you the bigger growth in followers. Note: it only counts if are able to sustain your number of followers!

BECOME AN AUDIENCE MEMBER TOO…

It’s all well and good, producing brilliant content, and abiding by all of the rules. But, if you’re not willing to be part of an audience, no one will desire to be part of yours. As well as your ‘bio”, an individual will look at your page ‘stats’ such as number of followers, number of tweets and number of “following.” Social media is a platform for engagement i.e. for you to engage with others as well as others engaging with you. If your “following” number is low compared with the amount of “followers”, many will be deterred from joining your community.

Having said this, don’t go mad and engage with everyone on Twitter. Follow those who have relevance to you and your brand. As with your content, those you follow should reflect your brand and its purpose.

Engage with content tweeted by those you follow. Clicking “favourite” tells the individual that you find their tweet relevant or interesting, and want it to appear on your profile, under the “favourites” menu. “Retweeting” or “quoting” a tweet, recites content that is of interest to you to your audience, allowing your additional comments when also “quoting” the tweet. This activity again highlights that you engage with your own online community, and are a valid member of others. It is possible to begin or join an online discussion surrounding a tweet via the “reply” option, allowing you to voice your opinion on a subject matter and encouraging feedback. This enables online relationships to form, and your online credibility to build, pulling a larger audience towards your Twitter page and created that engaged community that actually has the potential to have a positive impact on your business’ bottom line.