With Twitter, Leaders are Also Followers
Apparently, there are quite a few PR Insider readers who know they should be building a following on social networks, but aren’t sure how to get started. Last week’s how-to on Facebook got lots of requests for more.
So this week, let’s jump platforms and talk Twitter. That’s the social network, along with Facebook, credited with helping launch the Arab Spring of protests in Africa and the Middle East last year. If Tweets can topple long-standing dictatorships in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, imagine what they can do for you!
On Twitter, people share their thoughts, observations, calls to action, complaints, photos – anything that can be passed along in messages, called Tweets, of 140 characters or less, including web links. By best estimates, Twitter has about 500 million users. And, like Facebook and other social networks, users don’t build followings by “advertising” themselves and pitching their products, services or books. Rather, they gain and keep followers by sharing interesting, useful and otherwise engaging content.
So how do you get launched? Once again, I turned to our Social Media Campaign Manager, Jeni Hinojosa, to share some basic instructions and tips about using Twitter to build your brand and credibility.
It’s easy to get up and running on Twitter. Just go to Twitter.com, enter your real name, email address, create a password and click “sign up for Twitter.” On the next page, you’ll be asked for a user name. Give some thought to this. You may want a user name that reflects your brand. For instance, our wonderfully creative, Creative Director, Penny Carnathan, has a gardening blog called Diggin’ Florida Dirt that she works on when she’s not working at the EMSI offices. Penny chose DigginPenny as her user name. A business owner might choose the name of his or her company, e.g. EMSI.
Next, fill out your profile page. Make sure to use your real name here and upload a photo of yourself, so people can put a face to your user name. Businesses may choose to use a company logo. Take care when filling out your bio: The information should share your passion and expertise in conversational fashion and, of course, it should relate to the brand you’re trying to build.
Your bio must be 160 characters, including spaces, or less, so feel free to use Internet shorthand, such as ampersands for “and.”
For example, DigginPenny wrote, “Garden writer for the Tampa Bay Times, former garden writer for The Tampa Tribune (The Dirt), and avid suburban gardener sharing news & tips for Central Fla.”
Next, look for people to follow – people whose Tweets will show up on your home page. This is important; you won’t get followers without taking this step. You can look for people you know by searching for them by name in the “people search.” Better yet, click #Discover – “hashtag Discover” – at the top of your home page.
The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It’s a way to categorize messages. Users include hashtag terms in their Tweets, like #bargains or #travel, to help people searching for this specific information. Penny searched for #gardening to find users to follow. She looked at the Tweets that popped up and clicked on users’ profile pictures to see their bios and decide whether their content would interest her. Then she clicked “follow” to subscribe to their posts.
She could also look for people Tweeting about other topics that interest her – #birds and #sustainable would likely turn up a diverse array of folks who also like gardening.
Once you’re following people, check your home page a few times a day to read their Tweets. If you find one useful or entertaining, click “Retweet” to pass it along. The person who originally posted it will probably thank you – and follow you! And start composing your own Tweets. Depending on your topic, you might share helpful tips; news of upcoming events; links to helpful articles; even personal insights like, “Great day for the beach!”
What you shouldn’t share are pleas to buy, or overt pitches of, your product, book or services. Twitter and other networks are social media – not on-line billboards. You wouldn’t go to a party with a stack of books or business cards and set up a sales booth by the door, right? Instead, you’d circulate, try to be friendly and engaging and, when people ask what you do, you can say, “Funny you should ask! I just published a novel.”
Don’t be afraid to get started – Tweeting might just change your world!
Now that you’ve had a crash course in Twitter, I hope you’ll feel more comfortable about giving it a whirl. It’s really very straightforward and the potential audience is enormous. The best thing about it? It doesn’t take much to come up with a 140-character message.