Mario Armstrong is a digital lifestyle expert, the tech correspondent for the TODAY show and CNN, and the host of a daily tech talk radio show on SiriusXM. An entrepreneur by nature, Mario made his passion his career by quitting his day job and founding Mario Armstrong Media. Follow Mario at @MarioArmstrong. AT&T has sponsored the following blog post.
Some might point out that I don’t have the largest Twitter following amongst tech geeks, but with just shy of 10,000 followers today and growing by more than 500 a month, my Twitter base is strong. More importantly, they’re engaged. Numbers are good, but they’re only one metric of your success on the platform. Others would be: how many retweets do your posts get? Replies? And which of those are from top influencers and not, say, from Joe down the street with 45 followers?
I’d argue that numbers should your last concern when it comes to Twitter. Sure, they look good and visitors to your Twitter page are of course looking at those numbers to determine how “big” you are. But when it comes down to what’s most important, which is the value you’re getting out of twitter and the value you’re delivering to your followers, it doesn’t matter if you have 100,000 followers if you’re not engaging with them.
I don’t know it all, but I do have some tips I can share about how I use Twitter and where I consistently find the most value.
1. Build relationships, not numbers
Here’s why I’m telling you to ignore the numbers: the relationships you cultivate on Twitter will make or break your account. It’s not just about posting your content and getting the biggest audience, it’s about finding people to connect with—and then CONNECTING with them!
Sure, a huge audience may click on tons of links, but an engaged audience will join conversations and debates, really sell your content to their own followers, and feel like they’re interacting with more than a static brand. I can’t reply to every message people send to me, nor can I keep up with every conversation in my Twitter feed. But each day I make it a point to respond and participate in as much conversation as possible.
First, I reach out and interact with people who I’m building a relationship—either sending specific people links to content I think they’ll appreciate or responding to replies on my own posts. Then I try and take some time to reach out to people I’ve never heard of, no matter how big or small their following. I want people to know I’m personally reading their tweets and having genuine reactions to them, because the worst thing that can happen is that your followers assume you’ve been replaced with some kind of rabid, link-sharing robot.
2. Build a community
So you’re building relationships on Twitter, then what? The next step is to rally a real community around your ideas and thoughts. One way to do this is with hashtags—by creating your own hashtags around certain events or ideas, you can get into the discourse. When I went to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) last month, I created my own hashtag for my posts—#marioCES.
By the end of CES, my followers were using my hashtag when talking about stuff they heard or saw that I shared from the CES show floor. Other times, maybe you’re watching a live event like the Super Bowl. A quarterback throws an interception and you throw a #ManningLosingIt on your post. Maybe your followers will pick up on it, and you’ve now created a mini-meme amongst your fans.
3. Stop spamming
If you’re using a service that sends a DM to every new follower introducing yourself or sharing a link, STOP RIGHT NOW. You’re the online equivalent of a snake oil salesman, going door to door scamming people into buying things they don’t need or want.
When I make a first impression, I like to make eye contact, smile, shake a hand. I don’t push my product down people’s throats right away, because that makes a terrible first impression. So why do you want your first impression on Twitter to be spamming their inbox? It’s completely unprofessional, and for the few clicks on your website you’re getting you’re telling everyone who follows you that you’re just using them for numbers, not treating them like people. So cut it out.
4. Share great content
Maybe you’re trying to promote your own blog, product, or service. So every day you dutifully go to Twitter and post a link to your website. After several months of doing this, you decide to do some analytics and see how many clicks you’re getting. You’re shocked! Only a few people click these links you’re sending out. What’s the deal? If you’re on Twitter and you’re sharing great content, people will click on your links, guaranteed.
But if you’re only sharing your own content, you’re giving out a one-way street, not a multi-lane highway. Share great content from all over the web, not just the content you produce, and you’ll find that people will be much more receptive to clicking your links. Plus, they’ll start to associate your blog or product with the other great blogs and products you’re sharing. It’s a win-win scenario.
5. Be generous
Your twitter followers reply, retweet, and help spread your message and thoughts to their own friends. Do not take this for granted! Identify the people who engage the most with you, even if they’re complete strangers, and learn who they are. Visit their Twitter page, clicks on their links, reply to their content and leave comments on their sites.
These are the people who are doing the most for you, and you owe it to them to reciprocate. A social media friendship is not one-sided, and nobody wants to feel like they’re retweeting your content but never being noticed. So pay attention, find your hard-core fans, and be sure to let them know that you care. It can be as simple as retweeting something they’ve said, or simply replying with an encouraging comment to something they’ve posted.
No matter what you do, all of my rules revolve around remembering one simple thing: your followers on twitter are people, often people with influence, and it’s important to remember that when interacting with them. Twitter isn’t some game that can be won with a magic formula, it’s all about building the relationships and then figuring out how to get the most out of them.