23 July 2013 By Northern Lights
We run a number of Twitter accounts on behalf of clients. It is great to see so many organisations now getting on board with the idea of Twitter as a strategic business tool. Twitter offers a fantastic opportunity to engage directly with key industry influencers, and its immediacy and brevity are great for busy business leaders.
But for those not already using Twitter, how do you make a start?
It is said to take between one and three years to build an active online community, so taking the first step can feel daunting. But it’s never too late – and the sooner you start, the sooner you can reap the benefits (and not get left behind).
We have recently set up Twitter accounts from scratch for clients, and coached them in how to develop active profiles for business engagement. I thought it would be useful to share what we’ve learned.
What I won’t do here is give step-by-step instructions on the actual account set-up – you can find them here. This blog is about how to get results quickly from a new Twitter for business account.
Before you begin committing your valuable time to Twitter, be clear about what you want to achieve. Objectives might be “to be featured in [key industry magazine]” or “to be invited as a speaker at X conference”. Your content and followers strategy should be focused around achieving these long-term goals. It’s easy to get distracted on Twitter and it can quickly take up lots of time if you let it run away with you. Stay focused on your goals at all times and keep reminding yourself why you’re there.
2 Account set-up, name and bio
Think carefully about your Twitter name and bio. Don’t restrict yourself with your name. When I set my personal account up many years ago now, I included ‘Leeds’ in the title, as I was promoting Leeds events. Now I work with clients across various cities, so I’m regretting my choice of name! Your bio should contain all the phrases that you want people to search (and find you) on. Use #hashtags. And get a good photo of you dressed in work attire that clearly shows your face. Here is a good example
Principal Lecturer Property & Facilities Management #SheffieldHallamBusinessSchool #FM Speaker #WomeninManagement Research Careers Property & FM #HR #FM
3 Prepare to monitor conversations and measure Success
Set up on Klout to measure your “influence” score; Bit.ly to measure response to your links; and Hootsuite to schedule tweets and track keyword searches and #hashtags.
While tech blogger Amrik Virdi advocates following lots of people as your first step, I would advise caution. People will notice when you follow them and look at your profile. If they find you following 1000 with only a handful of followers yourself and no content, they are likely to disregard you as a valuable person to follow. This is a missed opportunity you won’t get back. My advice is to concentrate on generating useful content first.
Ideally, you should set up a blog and generate your own content. Not convinced? Read this. Twitter is a great way to promote your blog. See our advice on setting up an editorial calendar.
Search for other blogs and bloggers; share links. Sharing is often reciprocated, which benefits you, but is also a way of showing you are both generous and up-to-date on industry debate. But don’t just hit retweet – add your own comments. Use positive phrases like “A thought provoking/inspiring blog by…” “Great debate going on here about…” and “Surprising announcement by….” alongside your own opinions like “I totally agree about…” or “X should be considered too” etc to display your knowledge and invite further discussion.
Make use of relevant industry and event #hashtags and join in with things like #followFriday and #Yorkshirehour (or equivalent).
Share content at various times of the day and on different days. Use Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to set up scheduled tweets. (See 6-week plan below for more content ideas). Once you’re up and running, use Tweriod or another Twitter monitoring tool to find out when your followers are most active on Twitter and schedule tweets around then (Buffer is another tool that can help with this). We find that our Northern Lights followers are most active after work on Mondays and Fridays.
While you’re getting ‘up and running’ posting content and looking for interesting discussions to get involved in, begin compiling a list of key industry influencers on Twitter. I would actually recommend splitting this into: (1) Up to about 300 people or organisatons to follow initially for content ideas (following more than this straight away will give you a lot of catching up to do in terms gaining a similar number of followers – and accounts that follow lots of people with few following back doesn’t look good). And (2) a “VIP” list of around 20 people you want to target for business engagement. Hold off engaging with them for now until your account is more established, but regularly visit their accounts and make notes of the topics they discuss and respond to.
Don’t overly concern yourself with how many followers you have. A Google search will shower you with a number of “quick win” options for increasing your number of followers, but gaining followers for the sake of it is just vanity. Much better to have a small number of highly engaged and relevant followers than a large number of junk ones that never engage. If you concentrate on making your profile valuable, the right followers will come in time.
Schedule in some time at least every couple of days to manage your account and search for or publish new content. It doesn’t have to be long. Being strict with your time will help keep you focused on your goal. Dedicate, say, 20 minutes, 3 times per week for this. 1 hour a week is completely manageable. Link your account to your mobile, so you get a message each time someone replies/posts @[you] – this means you can respond straight away and not miss out on any opportunities to engage.
Once your account is up and running, you have established some of your own followers and generated or shared lots of great (relevant) content, then it is time to begin engaging with your VIP list. Follow them, and look for one of their tweets that you can reply to or retweet with comments. Do this once every couple of weeks (more looks like stalking, less might get missed). As long as you’re posting lots of other content and joining in other discussions, your profile page shouldn’t look like a love letter just for them!
Hopefully, they will reply to you at some point. If they retweet one of your posts, remember to thank them. Once you “know” each other and have established common ground, look out for something they might be interested in and post something like “Did you see XXX – I totally agreed/disagreed, thought you might have an opinion too?”
Continue on these lines for as long as you feel comfortable before making a direct approach. Relationships take time to establish online, just as they do offline, and going straight in for your request can look overzealous or cheeky. Look out for opportunities they offer – offer to help them with something they ask for first before you make your request.
9 Seal the deal
At some point will come the right time to make your request. And if you’ve been dedicated to developing your Twitter account, you are likely to have become a really valuable source of knowledge for others in your industry in the meantime. This is the beginning of establishing yourself as one of those key industry influencers you first sought out when you started on your journey.
Below is a six-week starter plan we recently put together for a client. It isn’t meant to be prescriptive, but planning like this will remind you what you should be doing and when.
1) Set up account – choose name & write biog with link to website/blog & #hashtags
2) Follow all clients/customers and existing contact accounts
3) Compile a list of upcoming events and company news/blogs (for content ideas)
4) Research and put together list of 100 key people to follow (but don’t follow yet) – key bloggers, media, director-influencers, alumni, academics
5) Write 20 starter tweets to get account going – blog links, events etc
6) Identify 20 top VIP influencers to target and begin reading (but not following or engaging yet)
7) Choose 5 #topics to follow using Tweetdeck/Hootsuite and set up (for tweet ideas)
8) Set up on Klout
1) Schedule or post 1-3 tweets per day
2) Post one organic (unscheduled, responsive) tweet per day – comment on industry news or events
3) 30 mins on looking for key industry news x 3
4) Follow the 100 key people
5) Create lists – Top [industry] bloggers, speakers, media etc – add 10 to each list
6) Write 5 tweets that include @[account name] and seek responses
1) Schedule 1-3 tweets per day
2) 30 mins x 3 on looking for key industry news
3) Post one organic (unscheduled, responsive) tweet per day – comment on industry news or events
4) Follow 20 more key people each week
5) Measure Klout score
1) Schedule 1-3 tweets per day
2) Follow the top 20 VIP influencers
3) Light engagement (1 tweet only) with a different 5 of the top influencers per week – RT or share/comment on their blog/links etc
4) 30 mins x 3 on looking for key industry news
5) Post one organic (unscheduled, responsive) tweet per day – comment on industry news or events
6) Follow 20 more key people each week
7) Measure Klout score
8) Analyse which activities got the most RTs and replies and who was most responsive to engagement
9) Put longer term plan in place
Those who use Twitter for business – do you agree with the set-up process above, or not?
Have you recently set up Twitter for business purposes? What did you find most challenging? Have you seen real results yet?
Do you think Twitter training is useful or unnecessary?