Tips for small businesses on Twitter
If you want to gain Twitter followers, there are no Bjg Magic Secrets. It takes lots of small, savvy actions that are steady over time.
I recently came across a Twitter account for a small business in the wedding sector that had a grand total of two followers. (I became their third.) They had posted some pretty good tweets (informative, witty, good visuals) but so far as I could tell that was the only thing they were doing. They hadn’t followed anyone, and hadn’t retweeted, replied to or liked anyone’s tweets. I couldn’t see any activity other than their tweets. Even with top-notch tweets, that’s not going to grow much of a Twitter presence.
To gain Twitter followers, you must achieve two things:
- get noticed by well-targeted people
- make a good impression when you do
The business I described above needs a plan for both of those, but especially the first. Unless you’re already famous, few followers will find you on their own. It’s up to you to get in front of them.
Building your presence on Twitter isn’t a project where you can do some work and you’re done. It takes a multitude of small actions over time, and the results grow over time.
Define your goals.
Begin by defining your goals. You need a plan and a focus. Maybe something like this: “I want to become known as a widget expert, with the end goal of selling more widgets. To advance this I will 1) connect with people who are interested in widgets, and 2) share some of my expertise as a widget specialist.” Or maybe what you want is to connect with anyone you can find who lives within a certain distance of your store.
Your goals will guide your activities. Your focus and your skill at targeting will determine the degree to which your Twitter presence becomes a true business asset.
Polish your profile.
The next thing to do is polish your profile so it’s attractive, informative, and makes clear what your business is about.
- Choose a user name that is relevant to your company. If the “handle” you want is already taken, do the best you can.
- Make sure the display name identifies your company clearly and accurately.
- Fill in the bio, location info and website link. Include industry keywords if you can do so gracefully. Make it clear who you are and what you do.
- Use an icon image that will be easy to recognize when it appears beside your tweets at small sizes.
- Choose a header image that’s relevant and attractive.
- Customize your colors. To the extent that you can, your website and your social profiles should have similar visual branding. Aim for a clear family resemblance!
- Use your pinned tweet to extend your bio.
Polishing your profile is the only Twitter task that could ever be considered “done”. Maybe!
Even before you have followers, post some quality tweets (and retweets) so your account has some substance when people start checking you out.
Continue tweeting. Post quality content, whatever that would mean for your niche. Be consistent and set a pace you can maintain. Don’t post 22 tweets today before twelve and none for the rest of the month! You’ll get better visibility by spreading your tweets out rather than posting in bursts. Also, be aware that flooding people’s timelines with too many tweets is one of the top reasons for unfollows. Get to know the best times for your target audience. A scheduling tool can be a big help.
Stay close to your focus.
Stay close to your focus. Resist the urge to retweet political rants or babble about personal stuff. Post an occasional personal tweet if you have something to celebrate, but keep the majority of your tweets and other activities strongly relevant to your business focus. Keep your attitude positive (mostly) and your language clean (always). Aim to be useful.
A note of caution: being too sales-y may repel more people than it attracts. Share knowledge to establish your expertise but keep a light touch about direct self-promotion.
Some studies have found that the factor correlating most strongly with growth wasn’t tweeting more often (although that helps to a point), but rather how often one’s tweets were retweeted. That’s a moment of free visibility! It takes a quality tweet, well on-target for your audience, and sometimes a bit of luck. Being retweeted helps your account grow, and in turn it will happen more often as you grow.
Build your visibility.
There is no one Big Magic Secret that will build your visibility and gain Twitter followers; it takes lots of small, targeted actions. For a new account, one of the easiest places to begin is to follow some relevant people. When you do, some will follow back. So following interesting people is a key growth strategy … as well as fun! Keep an eye out for accounts that would be good to follow.
If you follow someone, and they haven’t followed back within a few days, unfollow them if you wish, and follow someone else. Repeat.
There are many ways to find people to follow.
Search by keyword to find people in Twitter search. Locate tweets relevant to your focus, and check out the tweet author and anyone who liked, retweeted or replied. See who follows your competitors. Check who your competitors follow. See who they’ve included in their lists. Watch your Twitter feed and note who is getting retweeted.
Twitter often suggests accounts to follow but be cautious. It’s easy to accept a suggestion but before you do, check to see if that person has been active recently, and things like where they’re located, what language they tweet in, and so on. There’s little to gain by following someone who hasn’t been active for ages or who tweets in a language you can’t read. I also don’t recommend following the sort of hyperactive account that has tweets by the ten-thousands and followers by the dozen. That’s not usually a sign of quality.
Try to follow someone new every day, but be aware that Twitter has limits about follow activity. The main limit to know is that new accounts may only follow up to 400 per day. As you grow and prove your quality, the following limit becomes more generous. Read more here: https://help.twitter.com/en/using-twitter/twitter-follow-limit
I can’t prove this but I’m convinced that Twitter is more forgiving if it’s clear that your targeting is good when you follow people. Not everyone will follow back, but some will if they think you look interesting. If no one ever follows back, your targeting is off. Aim for relevance, relevance, relevance.
Value … quality … useful … relevant … are you picking up some themes here?
Engage with other people’s content.
At the same time as you work on the points above, you need to engage with other people’s content. Start with some searches to locate recent, relevant tweets that you could like, retweet or reply to. Then … you guessed it … like, retweet or reply as appropriate. Repeat.
When you engage with someone’s content you’ll show up in their notifications, and others may see it in their feeds. As well, Twitter sends emails with notes about recent activity in people’s networks. Being mentioned there is a bonus.
Some of the people who notice you will check your profile, and some may decide you’d be interesting to follow. One by one, your following will grow … if your targeting is good.
Get to know Twitter’s advanced search.
Get to know Twitter’s advanced search. Even better, get to know the search operators here: https://developer.twitter.com/en/docs/twitter-api/v1/rules-and-filtering/search-operators . Build your own specialized searches by combining operators, including negatives. Learn how to specify the location of the tweet author, to connect with people who live in the region(s) that your business serves.
Bookmark your best searches so they’re just one click away. A collection of well-crafted custom searches will make it faster and easier to work on your Twitter account.
These searches are especially worth noting:
- keyword ?
- “keyword phrase” ?
Note that the question mark is part of the query, Those will turn up tweets with questions that mention your keyword. While not all will be suitable, some will provide a natural opening to say something useful. Good questions don’t turn up every day but they’re valuable when they do.
Twitter growth is nourished by activity.
Keep doing all of the above, steadily over time. Try to do something every day even if you only have a few minutes. Growth is nourished by activity. You’ll continue to gain Twitter followers as long as you are active in a well-targeted way.
There’s much more that could be said. A small business that wants to gain Twitter followers should also learn about things like how to use #hashtags, @mentions, lists, Twitter chats, automation, paid promotions inside Twitter, promoting from outside Twitter, analytics, Twitter cards and more.
Many of these concepts would apply to other social media besides Twitter.
Lots to think about!
— Elisabeth Archambault
An earlier version of this article was posted on Webmaster World, where my handle is “BuckWorks”. https://www.webmasterworld.com/twitter/4942275.htm