Friday 6 July 2012

A season on Twitter - Tips to improve usage

Anyone looking at the gap in time between this post and my previous blog (back in Sep 2011) may wonder why I’m coming back after such a long time away.

The reason for the gap is that Swansea City gained promotion to the Premier League and my blogging exploits rather than involving marketing and data have been taking place at It is however a bit of a busman’s holiday in that the focus is still very much on the use of data, just in a different context.

As well as the website, I set up an accompanying Twitter account @we_r_pl. This blog details some of the things I’ve learnt over the course of the season using Twitter which hopefully provide a useful guide as to things to bear in mind when using a Twitter account to give added exposure to your business.

A good account name helps, but can always be changed
Twitter now has over 600m users so there’s a fair chance your first choice is already taken. With a little imagination it should be possible however to get close, examples can be adding a relevant suffix e.g., @danbmarketing

A lot of the time, users will be clicking on a link to get to your Twitter account so in that sense it could be anything but bear in mind someone who see’s one of your tweets second hand e.g., via a Retweet. Hopefully the content will encourage them to follow but a relevant name could also convince them to follow.

The other factor is length of name as if someone is replying to you or mentioning your account that is using up some of the 140 characters.

If at some point you want to change the account name e.g., going from a personal name to a company focused account then as long as the new name is available you can transfer your followers over rather than starting over.

Consider your tone of voice carefully
As with any kind of communication (email/Direct Marketing/Websites etc.,) it’s important that it fits within the context of your brand. Most businesses probably wish they had the carefree, relaxed attitude such as that displayed by Innocent but in reality that would be terrible for a lot of them.

This also relates to what to comment on, the easiest way to gauge it is to consider why people are following you. For my Swansea account it’d probably look strange for me to give my thoughts on Quantitative Easing or the new Spice Girls musical.

On the other hand, Twitter is best when it is a two-way conversation not just a place to drop a link to your latest press release and run away, it’s good to let your personality through as well. It’s also one of the hardest things to get your head around when you start; the analogy I use is that it’s like being in a pub where you can hear everyone’s conversations and where (generally) nobody gets annoyed if you butt in halfway through to give your own opinion.

When to Tweet/Direct Message/Email
This links in with the point above, your twitter feed should hopefully inform and/or entertain so a stream of tweets to various people discussing where you are going when you meet up at lunchtime isn’t likely to be of interest to most of your followers (although discussing where to go and opening it out to your followers may fit in well with your style).

Sometimes it’s better to send a Direct Message to that person or even interact outside of Twitter but it’s useful to remember the key to Twitter is that everyone who is following the person tweeting you will ‘see’ the message and some may then choose to follow you.

When someone clicks on your account name from someone's tweet they will see a summary of your account from which they will probably decide whether you are worth following, if the last 3 tweets are along the lines of 'See you later', 'Semi skimmed please' then this may not convince people to follow:

A summary profile has your last 3 tweets as well as your personal description (Bio) as well as details on number of Tweets you've made as well as how many you follow/follow you.  Will there be enough in here for someone to think you are worth following?
Don’t be afraid to post the same thing more than once
Although that tweet you make appears on the timeline of everyone who follows you, the proportion of people who actually see it will be far less.

It will depend on the number of people they are following but someone following 500+ accounts could easily only view tweets posted in the last few minutes before they have to tap to load extra tweets or scroll through a significant number of tweets to get to those posted earlier.

This means if the person who is ideal for your tweet wasn’t looking at Twitter within that small window of opportunity after you posted the tweet, then the message doesn’t get seen by them.

It may feel like spam to mention your new blog, promotion etc., several times over the course of a couple of days but that would only be the case if they were following just a handful of people.

If you want retweets, be eye-catching
If you want your message to spread it’s important for your tweet to be interesting not just any final content that you may be linking to. 

An example of this is one post I did looking at the Twitter following of Premier League clubs, I noticed that most of them had fewer followers than @anfieldcat (set up by a quick witted individual when a cat appeared on the pitch during a live Liverpool game, quickly reaching 60k followers – and now has over 75k).

My tweets about the blog generally get a few retweets but the one where I mentioned @anfieldcat got retweeted by @anfieldcat and overall retweeted 80 times (excluding any times the tweet would have been edited before retweeting).

As well as your own content look to others, but credit where it’s due
Any tweets you make should ideally provoke some sort of response, either directly back to you or in the form of others retweeting your content as it’s something they feel worth sharing.

Similarly when you find something of interest and want to share it, you have 3 options:
o   Straight retweet
o   Edited retweet with accreditation e.g., Great link on x here (via @we_r_pl)
o   Edited retweet with no accreditation.g., Great link for x here

For a straight Retweet, you users will see the original tweet as coming from the original source stating that it’s been retweeted by you.

If you edit a tweet and that then gets retweeted, then your name is still linked to the content where if someone straight retweets something you straight retweeted then you are not mentioned.

If you’re editing a tweet before retweeting as long as you’re adding value or context then that’s fine, where you’re just doing it to get the ‘credit’ is a different story and even more so if you don’t even mention where you originally got the information from.

A good example of the different types can be seen from the image below, where the tweet from @anfieldcat has been both straight retweeted and also edited.  There’s also every chance that the joke itself was lifted from elsewhere by @anfieldcat.
An example of a tweet spreading out from its original source 
I haven’t necessarily followed my own advice all the time, the biggest thing I’ve done wrong is avoiding getting involved too much in interacting with other users and the stream has been more like a broadcast than a conversation.

You don’t want to annoy people with constant messages but to go back to the pub analogy, if you just sit in the corner nursing your pint then people will pass you by and you’ll miss out.

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