Yesterday was my 4-year Twitterversay. Over four years ago, I opened Firefox, typed in “twitter.com”, and clicked “signup”.
I originally joined Twitter because my boss (at the time) told me that I needed to. Twitter was the hot new marketing tool, so he wanted me to create an account and aggregate over 500 followers in the next few months. Unlike most people who signed up for Twitter and started using it like, you know, regular people, I was taught how to carefully craft 140 character Tweets and to schedule my Tweets with Hootsuite so I was always Tweeting something. The tactic for me, back then (which is exactly what my boss did), was to open up Digg, BBC, and the Oregonian every day at 7am (or earlier) and schedule at least 12 tweets to automatically go out throughout the day. On the hour, every hour.
Wow. I’m glad I stopped doing that. To get my account off the ground, I followed big celebrity accounts that have been verified as “autofollows” and got my follower count to over 200. Then, by tweeting constantly, people just started following me. I can only assume the reasoning was something like, “Hey, this guy is active and already has some followers. Why not follow him?” I’d like to apologize for those people who followed me in the early days; I offered absolutely nothing unique. I was a human news hose. Eventually, my follower growth stalled and stayed around 400 for about a year.
Fun fact, my wife actually unfollowed me back then because my “feed is just spam.” #Truth
I think I kept that up for a year before I snapped out of it and finally realized that Twitter can be cool if you interact with people and share things that are a honest and unique. Sure, you can do that whole news-reporting thing, but I’ve found that I can now only Tweet links up to 20% of the time before I start to feel like a spammer.
Eventually, my career took me into doing SEO full-time and suddenly I had something I could speak to with some authority. As I improved my skillset and learned more about SEO, I start using Twitter to share my expertise and engage with a community of like-minded people. That’s when I actually started growing followers. I’d call this “organic growth” as opposed to the “forced growth” I was doing beforehand.
The cool thing was that the followers I attracted organically were actual people! People finally started to RT me and reply to things I shared. It was awesome. That’s when I found the real value of Twitter; being able to share and interact with a community of engaged people. Whether it’s for marketing or for something solely personal, that’s really what it amounts to, right?
So, without further ado, here are my top 5 takeaways from 4 years on Twitter.
1. Be yourself
If you’re not being yourself on Twitter, you may as well be a bot. Bots don’t provide value to everyday people. Be authentic and real if you want people to follow and engage with you.
2. If you tweet for marketing, only tweet what you’re proud of
Don’t flood Twitter with crap. I did it. I regret it. Example: If you’re Tweeting links to some infographic that you wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing with your IRL friends, why the hell would anyone else check it out, reshare it, or remember the site it was posted on?
3. Use lists
Following lots of people is nice, but it’s hard. Even though managing Twitter lists can be a huge annoyance (why can’t I manage lists from Twitter’s app, again?), they allow you to segment people you follow so you can check in on specific topics or groups. That allows you to interact with those people with ease. This is especially nice when running contests and promotions on social media, like one I did a while back called “Land in Oregon” which was a campaign to attract people to settle in the NW. Lists were essential in communicating with that sub-set of followers.
4. Use mobile and desktop apps
If Twitter isn’t the most real-time social network on the planet, I don’t know what is. That means it’s important to be connected to it. Using a Twitter mobile app on your phone and a desktop app on your computer allows you to get pop-up notifications when you’re mentioned, glance at your feed (and lists) whenever you want to, and send out Tweets in seconds. Highly recommended.
5. FollowFriday (#FF) is still cool
“FollowFriday is soooooo pre-2010. Amirite?”
No way! #FF is still cool. When people shoot out a #FF and include me, I’m super stoked. When I recommend people via #FF, they always appreciate it. It’s just one more way to build and strengthen relationships. Also, when you do decide to shoot out a #FF, group people together by topic and tell your followers what it is! Recommend that your users follow Twitter accounts that will provide value.