10-Step guide to start with Twitter and efficiently manage its growth

I have seen plenty of articles describing how twitter works ans how to use it, but it takes quite a lot of time to get your head around the cheer amount of articles explaining different aspects of twitter. This article will hopefully save twitter newbies a little bit of time and I will share here what worked for me since I started using twitter.

1 – Setting up your twitter account. Make sure you have a proper bio on your profile

The first thing to do is to setup your twitter account and as part of this you have to define your profile. Initially your profile is your only face to the rest of the community. When deciding to follow somebody it is either because the person is famous already, because you came across a few interesting tweets from that person or because the profile seems to match similar interests as your own. The decision to follow or not to follow  is often taken in a split second, or at least very rapidly. The first thing people will look at is your profile, so that is where you can already attract a few followers. People will often follow others that share the same interests, and that decision is usually taken by have a quick look at the other persons profile.

So how do we define a good twitter profile? The profile has to include a few keywords that identify you as person or as a professional. Think through about which keywords or hashtags to use. A good way to find what keywords to use is to make an actual search on similar keywords first. To optimize your profile you can also include a hashtag in front of the most important keywords, but beware using too many hashtags in your profile will make it look like spam. I would include 2, max 3 hashtags in the profile.

If you plan to use twitter professionally make sure your profile explains clearly what your business is about and what your interest areas are. Use a profile picture, since nobody wants to talk to an egg (the default picture).

Some people also recommend to change the profile on a regular basis. This could be a way to attract new users. You might want to include new “hot” hashtags, add a tag line for a special event or promotion or change the background image to give key a clue on your current location.

JL-Twitter

2 – Who to follow? Start with people that will provide you good feeds…

Now that your profile is setup, you will want get interesting feeds and for that the question is who should you follow? That is a tricky question, but I think the best way to start especially if you want to use twitter professionally is to identify the influencers and shapers in the community that you want to join. These people will provide you with good information sources and their followers can in turn also be interesting persons for you to follow. Each industry has also specialized magazines which typically tweet about  latest news, articles and blogs, this is a good starting point as well.

3 – Get started tweeting

Tweeting to share your views and opinions is important to engage your community, but equally important is to continuously engage that same community. Going quiet for a longer period could lead to loosing followers. This is actually a criteria I use myself as well. When people tweet less than once or twice a week, I might just unfollow them, and there are tools than can help you do just that, but more about this later.

If are a blogger, and can generate enough content, then you might want to use twitter primarily to attract followers to your blog. Even if you do, you might have a day job that does not allow you to write articles everyday, so you need to find other ways to engage your community.

Retweeting  other people’s tweets or news  is a good way to stay visible and shows that you actively follow what is happening in your community, but don’t abuse from it, since that would dilute your personal brand value.  Retweeting might also get your new followers, since a person is  likely to follow somebody that has shown interest in his tweets.

Equally important is to actively engage with your interest community, that means not only retweeting, but also replying to tweets and commenting on tweets and articles.

4 – Rapidly setup lists to sort tweets for different categories of people you follow.

As you grow the number of people you follow  feeds will become increasingly cluttered with tweets that you might be less interested in. Twitter does not provide any good built-in mechanim to filter tweets, the only built-in mechanism you have is to start creating lists. You can actually share these lists with all of twitter users by making them public or you can keep them private, if you don’t want your competitors to see who you are following.

I have created my own lists for Tech News and Magazine, BigData Community, Middle East Telcos, Healthcare and Internet of Things. Define lists that help you filter people you follow.

5 – Search for more followers.

As you go you will want to grow your number of followers. Using a keyword search in twitter is a way to  start finding people with similar interest as yours, but as you go along you will find this process increasingly cumbersome. Why? Simply because you will get the latest tweets about  that keyword. You will still have to check people’s profiles one by one and decide whether you want to follow that person or not.

A better way would be to subscribe to lists somebody with similar interests has already made. Doing search on useful twitter lists is probably a good first step.

In any case, things become increasingly difficult to manage by hand, especially as you want to refine your search criteria and you become more restrictive on who to follow.

Sooner or later you will have to go over to tools that will make your life easier. To give you an example when following new persons you might want to look for a new number of criteria; Things I would be looking for before deciding to follow a person and after having done an initial keyword search are: current number of followers of that person, number of tweets per week, ratio between following and followers. This will give me two or three decision points: whether the person is active, whether he or she is likely to follow-back and whether he or she can also generate more followers through his or her own followers.

6  – Manage you twitter account – Get the right tools

As you grow your number of followers, and once you pass a few hundred, you will probably have to start looking at tools that can help you in the process or managing your followers, finding new followers and unfollowing people in a controlled way. There are many tools out there and I would recommend you check one of the specialized tools articles out there.  Personally I have been trying out three: JustUnfollow, SocialBro and Hootsuite.  I would recommend you try out a few to see what fits you best.

All of them have different advantages and disadvantages, and most of them offer free trials.  The screenshot below is from SocialBro and shows my stats in the dashboard view

socialbroo-dashboard

The interesting with tools like socialbro is that it allows you to rapidly filter users that you follow, people that are not following back, and people that are good candidate to follow. Twitter user profiles are presented in a user friendly grid and you can rapidly hoover over a profile to see more details for that user and decide whether to follow or to unfollow.

7  – Dealing with time zones and a global audience

When using twitter your users might be spread across the globe, which means that they will be in different in timezones and will be following tweeter feeds at different time of the day.

Tools like SocialBro will give you a nice visual graph of when is the best time to target your followers.

SocialBro-timetotweet

What you need then is a scheduler that sends your tweets at these specific time slots.

8 – Start regularly unfollow/followback

Your followers will often expect you to followback unless you are famous one way or the way. So regular housekeeping is needed. When people follow you they probably expect you to follow back. There are tools to do automatic follow-back, but to be honest I haven’t explored that possibility yet. I still prefer scanning the profile of the persons first, to make sure I am not following a spammer account.  There might be tools out there that provide more intelligence, but I haven’t come that far.

9 – Don’t even thing about buying followers!

If you have some extra cash put it in the tool to manage your community effectively. That is you need at least tools that can provide you dashboard views about following/followers easy profile review and tweet scheduling so that you reach out to your community with maximum impact.

There are plenty offers to buy followers, but what is the value of that? Not sure, the risk is more likely that you get a lot of unwanted twitter feeds and messages, so better forget about that.

10 – Finally Engage and focus on your content

Now that you got the basics in place to manage twitter, you can focus on your content. What will help you grow your reach is by producing content that will engage the community at a broader level. Use blogs to develop your ideas and use twitter to broadcast the hashtags that will attract people to your blog.

Make sure you continue engaging via twitter once people comment your tweet feeds or blog entries.

If you follow these simple steps you can turn twitter into a rewarding experience.

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