Business users coming to Twitter receive some advice that may not help them in the long run. Here’s an alternative view.
I have now composed over 12,000 Tweets. Laid end to end, they’d make a decent-sized book. A really boring, intensely repetitive book about eating soup, last night’s TV and, from time to time, a little bit of copywriting.
When it comes to Tweeting, I’ve earned my stripes.
I’m not saying I’m a ‘social media expert’. But I do find that my experience clashes with some of the received wisdom about using Twitter for business. Here are five pinches of salt to go with some of the stuff you might read online.
Don’t chase followers
This advice is usually linked to the idea that you should build the quality of your network, rather than its size. I agree with that, but it needs to be qualified.
Firstly, a small network isn’t necessarily good, nor is a large one necessarily bad. Secondly, it’s important to remember that gaining (real) followers shows you’re doing something right – as does maintaining a positive follower/following ratio (i.e. you follow fewer people than follow you).
Specifically, it means you’re expanding your reach beyond your ‘expected’ network, which I think is well worth ‘chasing’ – particularly if it makes you think more deeply about the quality and appeal of your Tweets.
Write an informative bio
Again, this needs qualification. If you want to build your network in the way I’ve just described, go ahead and cram your cv into your bio, plus hashtags. Just be aware that this is a very orthodox route for professionals, so it won’t necessarily make you stand out from the crowd.
Three words: less is more. Instead of desperately stuffing your bio with content, aim for a single killer headline or slogan that will really hit home. That’s what many casual and/or anonymous users do, and they’re all the more interesting for it.
Remember, you’ve got a URL right beside your bio. The right balance of information and intrigue will make people more likely to click through and find out who you are – at which point you’ve got your whole homepage to show them why you’re worth following.
If you put all the goods in the bio, will anyone bother to click?
Don’t mix personal and professional
Behind every corporate Twitter account is a person. Sometimes, it’s obvious who that person is. If it’s a corporate account, it may have a logo-avatar and present itself as ‘the brand talking’, and it may not be clear who is actually Tweeting. (It may be one of several people.)
But if the account is being used in the right way (live, responsive, non-automated), each Tweet is composed by an individual – a human being with feelings, thoughts and opinions.
Brands are what people think about them, both inside and outside the business. For corporates, I believe that the right Twitter tone is the values of the brand expressed through the words of an individual. And it brings life to a brand when at least some corporate Tweets have a personal flavour.
It makes me intrigued about what lies behind that brand – how people relate to it, interpret it and integrate it into their working lives. And it’s equally as interesting for a one-person startup as it is for a major corporate.
You can always get attention by whipping the workshy. Blog every day! Tweet every hour! Build your brand!
If only social success really was just a matter of application. I don’t know about you, but I can tell from a mile away when a post has been written out of obligation rather than inspiration. That’s why I make a point of waiting until I have something worth saying before I hit the keyboard (hence my protracted absence from this blog *cough*).
Some days, my Twitter feed is a flurry of snappy comebacks, multi-RTd aperçus and rockin’ industry insight. Other days, I’m just too busy, distracted or tired to post anything decent. So I stay away.
Believe me, whatever followers you lose as a result of a few days’ inactivity weren’t worth having in the first place.
Don’t Tweet old links
One of my aims at my own blog is to build a body of work that can stand the test of time. I do write quickfire, reactive, current-issue posts, but I also try to create non-timebound content that will have lasting value: considered opinion pieces, detailed how-tos, in-depth analyses.
For me, it’s about having a blog that’s more like an encyclopedia and less like a box of old newspapers.
‘Eternal’ content requires more effort up front – I would estimate four or five times the time commitment for the same number of words. But it pays far richer dividends later on. It gets linked to long after publication, and people, including its author, can carry on Tweeting it too.
Personally, I would rather share (or indeed read) a high-quality older post than a mediocre newer one. You can flag it ‘from the archives’ or even ‘classic post’ if you’re nervous. But don’t be afraid to mine your content for all its minerals.