Twitter Basics; Part Three

It’s time to talk about follower strategies and tips for building a solid following. I spoke about this briefly in Part Two, but I’m diving into detail here.

My goal with twitter is to discover new content and new expertise. I also want to share my own content through twitter, so I have tried to build a following of people who will be interested in what I write about. This means I look for people with interesting expertise in the fields I work in and follow them.

Six Ways to Gain and Maintain Followers

1 Follow People You Know

Twitter has been around since 2006, and now has 330 million users, so you do know people who are already there. People who already know you through work or professional connections are most likely to follow you back.

Search using the full name that they usually use, if someone is using twitter professionally they want to be found and their name will come up in the search results. Only one person can have the handle @JohnSmith, but an unlimited number can use the name in their profile and a search will find them all.

Click on “People” in the top bar to list accounts using that name. Twitter lists anything close to your spelling, which means that when I searched for John Smith, I got also got Nick Smith. You can refine your search with more terms, John Smith digital for example. But Twitter search engine seems to only look in profiles, so unless John Smith has added digital to his profile it won’t help.

2 Ask People to Follow You

You’ve probably already got an account on LinkedIn in or on Facebook, ask your friends, colleagues and connections to join you on Twitter.

Create a short post telling people you’re on Twitter, include your twitter handle, and invite them to follow you.

3 Follow the Followed

Search for industry experts or thought leaders in your field, follow them for their great content and then check who they follow. When you’re starting out look for people with followers in the hundreds or thousands rather than the hundreds of thousands – they’re more likely to follow back.

4 Hashtags

Search for a topic of interest and find relevant hashtags. If you’re interested in social media use by companies for example then #socbiz is a relevant hashtag, if you’re working on building leadership skills then #leadershipmatters has thoughtful content. Look for the hashtags associated with events, the Digital Workplace conference coming up in June will use #DW18 for conference related tweets.

By searching on the hashtag you can see who is actively tweeting on these subjects/events, and follow them.

5 Publish Your Twitter Handle

Include your twitter handle on your LinkedIn profile, you add it under your contact and personal info. Add it to your profile on your blog or website if you have one. Include it in any posts you publish, it’s common to see twitter handles included in footers on LinkedIn or Medium, sometimes as the author’s preferred method of contact.

6 Follow Back

This is so important to maintain a following, if someone follows you, follow them back.

I’ll follow anyone back on twitter who is vaguely relevant to my themes of digital, communication, innovation and leadership.

Follower Limits

Twitter has put in place some limits around follower numbers in an effort to stop “spammy” behaviour.

You can follow up to 5000 accounts, although only 1000 per day. After that you can only follow more accounts if your own following/follower ratio is close to 1 (the actual acceptable ratio is not published). If you want to follow every politician in the world (for example) you would hit the limit pretty quickly, but there is a way around it by using lists (more in the next post).

I regularly search for new people to follow, and unfollow inactive accounts, but only perhaps 20 at a time. On Twitter aggressively following and unfollowing behaviour on twitter can also result in a ban.

These limits are put in place to limit spamming, and in a normal management of your account you probably won’t encounter them but it’s good to know they exist.


Your third assignment is all about followers

1: Publish twitter handle

Add your twitter handle to your LinkedIn profile (under the contact information section). If your Facebook page is somewhat professional you can add it there as well. 

2: Hashtags

Search for hashtags in your field, just pick the keywords associated with your job and look for relevant content. Then see who is tweeting that content and follow them.

3: Follow the followed

Search for 10 people who absolute leaders in your field; influencers, thought leaders, and innovators who are active on twitter. Then look at who they follow, check the profile to find people whose interests match yours, and check their twitter account to make sure they’re active.

Aim to add 40-70 new people in total from tasks 2 and 3.


Image: Twitter via pixabay  |  CC0 1.0

Twitter Basics; Part Two

Last week I wrote about 4 Twitter Basics, this week I want to take a look at some slightly more advanced ways to get going with Twitter.

I’ll cover how to construct a “perfect” tweet, what content to think about in your tweets, when to tweet and building a following. I’m posting here based on several years of tweeting for myself and for (former) employers.

I encourage you to get in and try twitter, the more you practise the more you’ll learn.

1 Constructing a Perfect Tweet

Tweets can be 280 characters long; spaces, punctuation and emoticons count towards this total. Hashtags, handles and links do not.

I tweet about digital subjects and I construct my tweets with text + link + hashtags. The text is why this content is interesting, the link is from a relevant reputable source, and I had two or three hashtags to help the search function. The preview is automatically generated by twitter and picks up an image from the article (if there isn’t an image you can add one separately).

constructing a tweet

2 Your Tweets

I try to balance my content between commenting on things I’ve found on the internet, publishing my own content and interacting with other people. I am probably tweeting most prolifically at conferences and events. I’ve also used it to comment on television programmes (Apprentice and Dragon’s Den in particular). Increasingly I use it to interact with brands – sometimes to to thank them, but more often to get support. Here’s my ‘how to’ for all of these content types.

Your own content – I write this blog and connect it to my twitter account, meaning that every post is publicised on twitter the moment it’s published. This has an advantage because wordpress lets you schedule posts, meaning your tweet goes at the same time.

I’ll also post personal observations, as I’m often in random locations to write there tends to be a coffee theme.

Events – I tweet a lot at conferences and other events, my twitter feed often becomes my “notes” after the event. It’s also a good way to find other people who tweet relevant content, and conversely a good way for other people to find you.

Other people’s content
Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 19.41.37– As well as using twitter I see a lot of articles, blogs and videos online every day. If I’m sharing a tweet I tend retweet it to give the source credit.

If I find content some other way I will make a new tweet with my own comment. I try to credit the source so if I know a relevant twitter handle I will add it, as shown in the tweet at right.

I want people to credit me when they share my content so it’s only fair I do the same.

Second Screen – There’s a phenomenon going on where people watch TV, while interacting via a social media platform. I sometimes do this, mostly during the BBC shows “Apprentice” and “Dragon’s Den”. It’s fun, and a great opportunity to snark.

Chat sessions – Twitter chats are a way to have an open discussion on twitter, at a specific time and usually structured via a series of questions.

I’ve been involved in the #ESNchat, about enterprise social networks, but they cover every subject from architecture to yoga, from cakes to veganism. I’ve found a twitter chat schedule, with the appropriate hashtag, of course you can also start your own.

Interaction with others – Don’t be shy – twitter become more useful and more fun the more you interact. Just use the @someone function, or reply to their tweets. Most often the person responds. Sometimes good stuff comes from it.

Interaction with brands – Many brands offer a service channel via twitter (or facebook), and customers expectations have grown regarding the responsiveness and the content of the response.

I’ve had mostly good experiences when I’ve used these channels, and companies are increasingly using Twitter as a service channel.

3 Building a following

Only people following you will see your content (unless you use the @someone function to address a person specifically), so if you’re sharing content you need to build a following of people to share it with and to interact with. Of course if you’re just using twitter to discover information then this isn’t so important, you can just focus on finding people to follow.

Most people will follow you back, unless they’re in the stratosphere of the twitterati, where the follow back rate is typically less than one percent (of the top ten on twitter by number of followers no one follows more than 1% back). I tell you this to manage expectations.

So the best thing you can do is follow people you find relevant and interesting. If you do this slowly and steadily your follower number will grow.

DO NOT follow hundreds and hundreds of people each day, ( and do not unfollow hundreds and hundreds of people at once). You will look like an “aggressive follower” to twitter’s algorithm, which would then consider your account as likely to be spam. You also look less credible to potential followers, even humans think high follow to follower ratio looks spammy.

DO NOT buy followers, it goes against the twitter rules and it doesn’t really add anything to your account. You won’t see better content, and you won’t have a bigger real audience. All that happens is a bit of PR kudos for having so many followers – until someone looks closer and figures out millions of those followers are fake – then the PR turns negative.

4 Twitter Ettiquette

If you post something on Twitter it’s public, and permanent.

Don’t be the guy who tweets about his pay, don’t the sport’s fan that abuses players online, don’t threaten other twitter members,  think before you make a questionable joke. Check the public shaming site for more examples.

Twitter has moved to make reporting abusive behaviour on twitter easier, but there are still plenty of jerks around. Don’t be one.

Next Week; Twitter Tools (followed by companies on twitter)


Your second assignment is in three parts

1: A perfect tweet
Publish a tweet in the format shown, include your text, a link, and 2-5 hashtags.

2: Find followers
Find five people in your field who are active on twitter and follow them.

3: Build Followers
Ask your friends or contacts to follow you, you can make this request via other platforms, ask your friends on Facebook or Linkedin to follow you, you can explain that you’re new to twitter and want to build a following. 


Image: Twitter via pixabay  |  CC0 1.0

Twitter Basics; Part One

A friend asked me a question about using twitter, and the first thing I explained was that if you don’t use twitter the way to explain that is “I’m not active on twitter”, not “I don’t do the twitter”. I decided to update and republish a 5 part guide I wrote in 2012.

Twitter is a micro-blogging service available online or via various apps. It was created in 2006, but real growth in user numbers didn’t start until early 2009 which is about when I joined, a year later I started a company account which I ran for about two years. There are now about 330 Million users on Twitter.

I use my personal account (@changememe) to find new content, to post my own content (I will be tweeting this blog post), interact in regular chats and to share things I’ve found online. I’ve met new people, solved service issues, and been invited to speak at a conference via twitter. For me it’s been a positive experience and I use twitter every day. Here’s the basics to get started.

1 Your profile

There are a few things you need to figure out when setting up  your profile, think about what you want to be called on twitter, what image of yourself you want to present and what background image you would use.

Your twitter handle – essentially what are you going to call yourself. The maximum length is 15 characters, but you can use up to 50 characters for your name. You can only use letters, numbers and the underscore (_), you can change your name at any time. With millions of users a lot of the “obvious” twitter names are already in use so you will have to come up with something new; there’s a tool to help you with that.

If you are a company and someone has the twitter handle of your company name you may need to come up with a creative version of your company name. Exceptions are when the account is being used as a spam account, or when the account is inactive.

Your avatar – the picture beside your name. Twitter recommends an image size of 400px x 400px, this means it will look good on your profile page and be resized for all other uses. I suggest checking how it looks after upload though – you still want it to look good in the 73px x 73px as it appears in the stream. If you are using Twitter as part of your professional branding use a recent high-quality headshot.

Not uploading an avatar means you’ll get an anonymous silhouette image, some people won’t follow accounts that have not bothered to upload an avatar.

Header image – the large image appearing at the top of your profile page. The dimensions for this are 1500px x 500px, but it’s trickier than that because twitter places your image over the lower left of it and repositions the image slightly as it resizes the screen, this guide takes you through how to set up your header image.

Describe yourself – you can add your real name, location and a website link. You can also describe yourself in 160 characters or less, you can use hashtags in this space as well if you want to link to a theme of content.

For personal accounts there seems to be a trend to mix the professional, the personal and the humorous or surprising, as exemplified on Madeleine Albright‘s current twitter profile. Some companies try to follow this pattern, oreo manages to add humour to their profile.

twitter profile

2 Conventions for tweeting

Once you’ve got your profile set up it’s time to take a deep breath and start tweeting. Here’s a few things you need to know to get started.

@someone – beginning a tweet with someone’s user name means your tweet is brought to that person’s attention. So if you send a tweet with @changememe in it, I will see it in my notifications. This is important because I don’t watch my twitter stream all the time and if you don’t use this method I probably won’t see your tweet.

Hashtags – these are ways of adding a subject to your tweet, simply put “#” in front of the word you want to connect to. Twitter users use hashtags to find relevant information, to have conversations and to add humour to a tweet. They’ve also been used for political effect, as the #MeToo movement has shown.

3 Functions on a Tweet

twitter functions

Beneath each tweet there are four functions, here’s how they work.

Reply; tweets a response to the original tweet that appears directly beneath it, and sends a notification to the account of the original tweet.

Retweet; re posts the tweet on your own twitter account. Twitter gives you the option to add a comment to the original tweet before you post. Twitter sends a notification to the account of the original tweet.

Like; this used to have a star and be called favourites, I’m never sure whether to call it like or favourites now. It will save the tweet under your list of likes on your account, so I tend to use it as a “read later” function. Twitter sends a notification to the account of the original tweet.

DM or direct message; opens up the twitter message function.

4 Who to follow?

When you first join twitter it seems weirdly empty, until you start following people. Here are some ways to find people to follow.

Search hashtags – search for hashtags relating to your interests or your company interests, when you see some tweets of interest follow whoever tweeted them. Conferences are a fertile ground for this as they will often use a specific hashtag making your search easier. In addition the audience has already identified themselves as being interested in that theme, and the posting frequency is high for the duration of the conference.

Find Experts – who are the leaders in your industry? who would be the most influential thinkers? look for their twitter accounts, you’ll have an instant stream of content if it happens to be Guy Kawasaki.

Follow people those experts follow – or the people who are interacting and retweeting their content a lot.

Follow people back – as you start adding content to twitter and interacting with others people will start to follow you, it’s polite to follow back.

5 Activity Notifications

You will receive a notification when someone

  • follows you
  • likes your tweet
  • comments on your tweet
  • replies to your tweet
  • sends you a direct message or DMs you

OK, that’s the basic “how to” next post; constructing a good tweet, building a following, tools for twitter use. Also fakers, trolls and scams.


Your first assignment is in two parts

1: Your Profile
Set up your profile with a header image, an avatar image and a short description. Add a link to your blog or your Linkedin profile.

2: Follow
Find five people in your field who are active on twitter and follow them.


Image: Twitter via pixabay  |  CC0 1.0

Engagement Ladder

Engagement Ladder

There’s a figure that gets quoted about engagement; 1, 9, 90. Which is a ratio representation of engagement.  For everyone person who contributes content, 9 might like it and 90 will see it. It’s a little simplistic, and there are more forms of engagement now so it’s helpful to think of the engagement ladder.

Engagement Ladder

Starting from the lowest rung of the ladder

Seen / Read

How many people saw your image, watched your video, read your content. This is the lowest level of engagement as it requires the least amount of effort from your visitor. It’s roughly equivalent to reach, although you might want to consider how much of your content was viewed or read.

It doesn’t tell you much about the person’s attitude to your brand, or their likelihood to purchase. We’ve all read stuff we don’t agree with, sometimes because we don’t agree with it. To compare this to a classic sales funnel it’s at least awareness.

Liked / Facebook Reaction

The next rung on the engagement ladder is a like, a G+, a Facebook reaction. It’s low commitment, a one click easy reaction, Facebook reactions tell you a more. Personally I’m pretty quick to like posts on Facebook or Instagram, much less likely to do so on Twitter.  As likes are visible to others this level of engagement does indicate that the visitor has a possible interest in your brand – but be careful. Facebook rates all reactions the same, but a thousand “angry” reactions won’t translate to sales for your company.

Commented

The third rung is comments, or reactions to your posts. If you’re posting on social issues, as Banana Republic did in the screenshot below, you’re likely to attract a lot of comments.

It takes more effort to comment on a post, positive comments are a public endorsement of your brand. It’s going to take some effort on your part to analyse the comments, or to parse the sentiment analysis provided by social listening tools.

facebook comments

Shared

If a person shares a post, retweets, embeds your video, they’re increasing your reach as your content is now (potentially) reaching a new audience.  They’ve also added your brand to their online reputation, this doesn’t map easily to a step in the sales process, but sits between evaluation and decision. They’ve added your company to a mental list for possible future purchases.

CTA

Some of your content might included a specific Call To Action, or CTA. For many companies this is exactly how they sign up more customers or subscribers, you can see some examples of great CTAs in this article from HubSpot. (And I’ve just shared content from a brand I have never been a customer of, but I’m aware of them, and they remain a potential supplier if I’m ever in a purchase decision for their services in the future).

Your CTA might be a subscribe, follow, download, or purchase option.

Created Content

The ultimate brand accolade, when users generate their own content related to your brand. But it’s a tricky area, with brands needing to pay attention to copyright and privacy issues.

Spotify have taken the step of using the real titles of subscribers’ lists in their own ads, it’s a campaign strategy that is infinite since their users will always be creating new lists. It resonates with their audience really well – seeing your own list picked up for an ad is cool, or whatever the kids are calling it these days.

When your customers take the step of creating content around your brand and sharing it you can bet you’ve got the ultimate level of engagement.

Image: Ladder | Rich Bowen  |  CC BY 2.0

Response Matrix

Brands building a presence in social media have to manage the comments and responses. It can seem overwhelming, indeed if your company hits a crisis it may be overwhelming. A response matrix is a simple tool that can reduce the pain of responding to social media responses. It still relies on the expertise and good judgement of your social media or webcare team, but it guides them and simplifies training.

Step 1 Analyse Types of Responses

To create your own response matrix think about all the types of responses you might get across your social media channels. There are five generic types of responses you can use as a starting point.

response matrix step 1 analyse responses

  • Positive any thank you, or kind remark from one of your customers.
  • Question it’ll have a question mark on it
  • Error a statement about your products, service or company that is factually incorrect
  • Negative a complaint about your product, service, company etc
  • Troll someone who is posting in order to stimulate a reaction from you

Step 2 Define Your Response

For each type of comment or post you receive define the way in which to respond. I’ve given generic examples below.

response matrix step 2 define your response

  • Positive thank the contributor
  • Question answer the question, even if that means sourcing an answer from another part of the company – remember the customer does not care about your organisational structure
  • Error correct the facts, acknowledge any frustration
  • Negative solve the complaint if possible, explain if not possible
  • Troll monitor and do not respond

Step 3 Detailed Actions

You will need to go into more detail on the action steps for some posts. For example if a negative post is a product complaint you will need to detail the actions to be taken to correct the issue, and the actions may depend on whether the product is under warranty or what sort product it is.

In general customers expect a fast response on social media, KLM are responding within 7 minutes on twitter today. However there may be specific “hot” issues that your web care team need to refer to other teams. Work with those teams to make sure that quick responses are possible.

If there’s a common complaint you can even create a standard text. Many years ago I worked for a Dutch company whose legal name included the word “groep”, which is Dutch for “group”. Periodically we received comments from people stating that we had spelt group incorrectly – we had a standard text to use as a response for that, it began “thank you for being so observant…”

Response matrix step 3 detailed actions

Step 4 Combine into a Flow Chart

Your final response matrix should be a decision tree, a tool to help your web care teams act on customer posts on social media. This is a massively simplified generic version, but I’ve collected real versions published on the internet on a Pinterest board shown below.

Response matrix step four combine into a matrix

Step 5 Publish and Train

Publish your social media response matrix, itTrain your web care teams on your response matrix, they need to;

  • correctly and consistently evaluate the posts
  • use the defined process to respond
  • use a consistent tone of voice, which might be more informal than your usual corporate voice

Response matrix step 5 publish and train

I recommend a regular review of actual cases handled using the response matrix to ensure that it is covering all relevant issues – a tool that is not relevant will not be used. A quarterly review as a minimum, but you might want to use a higher frequency in the first phase.

Effective response relies on the web care teams using good judgement, the response matrix can’t replace that, you can never define every possible response.

Good luck creating your response matrix, and if you publish it online give me a shout, I would love to pin it.

Social Media Fails (again)

We’re all on social media all the time, and the social media platforms are stretching into new areas of our lives – Facebook now has an “at work” option called Workplace.  So how good are we at using it? Back in 2013 I looked at some Social Media fails (and one brilliant response), now I’m looking again. Are companies making the same sorts of mistakes? Have we got better at using social media?

Some of the same mistakes occurred.

Confuse private and public accounts

Justice Department tweet errorThis tweet came from the US Justice Department, clearly not something a US Justice Department employee should ever be saying, so what happened? The twitter app lets you switch easily between accounts, and many people use the app to access their personal and professional accounts. In this case the staffer’s access to the twitter account was revoked, the tweet deleted and an apology issued.

We’re still making this mistake. I advocated keeping accounts separate, or even using separate devices, but I think that this error has become so common that people understand the error and it doesn’t seem to result in lasting damage to the organisation. If this happens to you apologise, delete tweet and move on.

Misuse of  Sensitive Hashtag/Event

Cinnabon failed Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher died, and the internet mourned. Cinnabon tried to gate-crash the wake with this image, recycled from their May-the-fourth post. The geeks of the internet were not impressed, many pointing out that she was much more than Princess Leia, that she’d hated this hair style, and anyway it’s crass to use someone’s death to promote your product.

As a best practice do not comment on a celebrity death unless they had a direct tie with your company or organisation.  If there’s an emergency or an event where people are in danger only comment on the event in ways that are offering practical support.

Some Social Media Fails were more prominent in 2016.

Geography is Hard

Coca cola geography

Social media posts almost always have images now, and that opens up a whole new world of pain, as Coca Cola found out when they used a map of Russia in their Christmas promotion. They managed to annoy Russia by not including Crimea, and then Ukraine by adding it.

There are a surprising number of tricky borders around the world and a surprising number of sharp-eyed people ready to comment on it. You’re in a no-win situation, you’re bound to annoy someone so avoid maps of contested areas in your imagery if you can.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence got a bit hyped in 2016, if Microsoft’s experiment with “Tay Tweets” is anything to go by humans aren’t ready for it. In just 24 hours twitter taught Tay to be a racist bully.

Within days Microsoft ceased the experiment.

Social Media Amplifies Your Bad Decision

UN hires and then fires Wonder Woman

The UN has a whole organisation devoted to gender equality which states that “UN Women is the global champion for gender equality”. But the UN’s track record isn’t so convincing; just three of the 71 presidents of the UN General Assembly have been women, and all of the Secretaries General have been men.

So when they announced that the new Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls was a fictional character, specifically Wonder Woman, it didn’t go well.  There were protests within the UN, negative feedback in the mainstream media, and across social media.

This is a case of a bad decision being amplified in social media, and it seemed to lead to a change at the UN.

Racism Isn’t a Joke

Racism isn't a joke

Maybe the people running the MTV Australia twitter account on the night of the Golden Globes thought the humour would work since America Ferrera and Eva Longoria were making fun of how Latina actresses are often mistaken for each other. But it’s one thing to make a joke about your own race/nationality and very different for a company to make a joke about someone else’s. Just don’t.

On the same theme; know whom you’re talking about. Total Beauty confused Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah and Whoopi confused

Fake News

Fake news reached a whole new level in 2016, and is set to reach new depths in 2017. There are thousands of US examples out there but I’m going to choose a less contentious example from the UK.

The Grim Reaper was busy in 2016, and with Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds dying within days of each other we were primed for more bad news. So when Queen Elizabeth II stayed home from Church with a cold a fake BBC account reported that she had died and people fell for it.  The report was quickly debunked, leaving twitter embarrassed but relieved.

Which leads to a prediction for 2017; this will be the year we get smart about our news sources. Once I’m earning again I’ll be supporting one or two sources of good journalism.

So what’s changed?

I didn’t find examples of people jumping on trending hashtags any more, or of people sharing information that shouldn’t be made public, so we’ve got smarter. The errors now seem to be more in the area of content creation, social media managers need to understand how their promotional content might land in a global market.

We’ve got better, but the job has got tougher.