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

Instagram Stories

By now you’ve got Instagram stories on your Instagram account.

I’ve been playing with it and the results are fun, so far I’ve created a “documentary” of a Dutch summer (5 seconds of sunshine on my living room floor), and a progress report of a cup of coffee. Here are the basics on using Instagram stories.

My personal tips to add.

(1) Text is always white, so if your photo is very light it won’t show up, you can get around this by adding a bar of colour in the background. The pen function is always added behind the text, so you can add it before or after typing.

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 17.09.08

(2) Stories disappear from the story bar after 24 hours, but if you share them to your Instagram timeline (or Facebook etc), they’ll stay in your feed forever.

(3) If you share video create in Stories to Instagram it will be cropped as a square in the middle of the screen. So if you’re planning to share make sure the action and any additions you’ve made are in the centre the screen.

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 17.04.59

(4) You can upload photos, existing video, Boomerangs and Hyperlapses to Stories, just swipe down on your screen to reveal a gallery of content. Note it will only allow you to select content added in the last 24 hours, you can “trick” it into allowing older images by taking a screenshot of an old photo (for example).

(5) Engagement on Instagram Stories is pretty hard to measure. While the Story is live you can see comments (and respond), and see who has viewed it by clicking on the tally of viewers at the bottom of the screen.

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 10.55.04

Once the story disappears so do the comments, and so do the view numbers. If you need this data you’ll need to collect it manually BEFORE the story disappears.

If you share the Story to Instagram you will see the number of video views, but likes are not collected. You can look back through the feed under the heart button to count them, but that seems laborious.

(6) Audience is only your followers, and anyone who looks at your profile. Stories only works within the mobile app, there’s no search and no hashtag discovery. You could exploit this with a “follow us for exclusive stories” to build your audience.

Businesses Are Telling Stories

So far the stories I’ve seen have mostly been from individuals often  playing with adding stickers, text and drawing to the image. They’re playful, which makes sense given the ephemeral nature Instagram stories. Most brands aren’t active on Instagram stories, only one of Hubspot’s 16 best brands on Instagram boasts a Story on their account. Similarly only one of the 12 Best Brands on Snapchat (according to FastCompany) has taken to Instagram Stories so far.

But brands are getting into stories, from my Instagram feed it seems to be mostly travel brands but others have entered the fray;

  • GE, already used to snapchat, came up with a series on Volcanos, and another on cloud computing and transportation (see screen grabs below).
  • Wholefoods is making special offers on Instagram Stories
  • E!News uses Instagram Stories to promote, well, news stories

I’m looking forward to seeing what brands do with this new tool. What’s the best you’ve seen? What’s your story?

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 10.06.42

Images: Story  |  Rossyyume  |   CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Instagram of aquarium by MrMarttin, used with his kind permission