I read tweets for a living.
As CEO of KloboMedia, I lead a team that helps our clients expand their brand in social media. For people in the public eye, that means keeping a close watch on Twitter, which we’ve found is the best place to build reputation and authority as a subject expert.
Most of our clients work in the media – and it works great because that’s the industry I worked in — both in front of the camera and behind the scenes — before social media became the force it is today. I left local television four years ago and since then, I’ve been conducting research into what works (and doesn’t) on Twitter, Facebook and the rest. In February, 2015, my partners and I started product development on TheSocReports. It’s a weekly social media insights report for personal brands. (The ‘soc’ is pronounced like ‘social’ and has nothing to do with foot apparel.) We analyze a person’s social behavior, primarily on Twitter and offer advice on how to improve. Whether your goal is to grow followers, get better engagement or boost blog traffic, it all boils down to best practices.
Getting started on the right foot
So you have a Twitter user name. You uploaded a profile picture, replacing the ubiquitous egg. Then you owe it to yourself to create a strategy. First and foremost, avoid these common Twitter mistakes:
1. Not active enough
A strong social footprint doesn’t happen by accident. Even Kim Kardashian with 38 million followers tweets many times each day. You might debate whether it’s all compelling content, but beauty is in the eye of the Twitter follower. If you aren’t posting at least 50 times a week (excluding things you retweet), you probably won’t get too far in growing your personal brand.
2. Too promotional
No one is on social media to receive advertising. Yes, we all get it anyway because the platforms have to make money somehow, but the last thing people want is a barrage of promotional messages from and about you, you, you. A good rule of thumb is the promote what you do or sell less than 5% of the time. That means, at most, one tweet out of 20 should feel like advertising. The risk of using social media as a pure marketing play is that not only will you not gain followers, you will probably lose who you have.
3. Images are an afterthought
Photos and videos are no longer the icing on the social cake. They ARE the cake, especially on Instagram. People mistake Twitter as a text messaging platform and obsess on the need to fit what they say into 140 characters. Remember the old saying that a picture is worth 1,000 words. Not only will you communicate more, but your post is guaranteed to be seen by more people through retweets.
Of the millions of tweets we’ve tracked via TheSocReports, a handful (maybe one in 500) receive more than 20 retweets. Of those most successful tweets, images are present 66% of the time. Uploading a visual is the single most important action you can take in the social space.
4. Too much retweeted content
Think of a retweet as a strong recommendation of the content. You may not endorse the point of view – but when you retweet, you’re suggesting to your followers that it’s worth their time to check out. A retweet should signal “I think this is exceptional.” But some people don’t think they have a lot to say, so they use Twitter to share and share and share things that are mildly interesting – at best. They forget their followers. No one cares to see a ton of retweets flooding their timeline.
5. Auto-posting from Facebook, Instagram
This is the equivalent of using smoke and mirrors to make it look like you are everywhere when you’re not. The fact is no one is able to post 24/7 to every platform, so Facebook and Instagram (notably) encourage users to copy whatever they create for those channels onto Twitter with a link sending traffic back to the ‘source.’ This functionality is set up for the sole purpose of growing traffic back to Facebook and Instagram – not to make a great Twitter experience. The content is nearly always too long and screams that you’ve surrendered your timeline.
Thanks to all my treasured friends and fam who took time to wish me happy bday. I had red velvet cake and got an… https://t.co/ptQc8IDpIw
— Carol Fowler (@carolfowler) January 4, 2016
Links to Instagram make even less sense. Twitter doesn’t even display a thumbnail of the image — when, of course, the photo or video is the whole point. We’ve seen evidence that this sort of posting actually decreases engagement with your Twitter account overall. If you are active on Facebook and Instagram, do your Twitter followers a favor and unplug the auto-post in your settings. Your brand on Twitter is worth taking the extra time to create a custom post and upload an original image.
6. Hash tags
Hash tags help get your content noticed. Like uploading media, it’s one of those best practices that when used correctly propels your post to center stage of a global audience searching for the #(topic). Using hash tags that don’t serve this specific purpose are a waste of 140 characters and mark you as #amateur. Hash tags come and go. On the Monday as I write this, Twitter tells me that #backtowork is trending in Chicago. Tomorrow, likely not.
Research the hash tags that other people are actually using. It’s easy. Just start typing in the Twitter search bar. I manage the Twitter account for TheSocReports. Before sending it out, I looked to see that #Happy2016 was actually being used for the purpose one would assume it would be. Hash tags can be hijacked – and it always pays to plug it into the search bar and see if you want to be associated with what everyone else is using that hash tag for.
— TheSocReports (@TheSocReports) January 1, 2016
7. Overlooking your bio
Hash tags aren’t just for tweets. They’re for profiles too. It takes 15 minutes tops to set up your Twitter profile for success by using the hash tags most closely associated with your brand and where you live. You’ll gain followers worldwide who are interested in what you post about. I write about social media, so #SocialMedia is front and center in the description of who I am. Also #Chicago. And sure enough, most of my new followers these days are people who are in the social media and digital marketing fields.
8. No personality
If you’re a humorless, boring person without an opinion, you will have to fight that tendency in social media. Fight it with every ounce of energy you can muster. Because there’s nothing worse than a social media account that’s vanilla bland.
Think of social media like you would a dinner party. The most interesting guests are outgoing, well read, witty and often funny. Why does TheEllenShow have 52 million followers? Because the tweets are guaranteed to make you laugh.
You thought they were loafers. Turns out they're tiny kitten sleeping bags. pic.twitter.com/SJ2rsbnj15
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) January 1, 2016
If you never meet a stranger and love telling personal stories, social media fits like hand in glove. For the rest of us, it takes a bit of work. But the investment is worth it. Introverts are self-conscious by nature. We tell our clients to experiment with sharing just a bit more than you feel comfortable talking about. Chances are it will be about right. Personality is one reason sports news and opinion rocks Twitter.
9. Follow too many people, everyone who follows you
Only follow those users whose content you enjoy reading and might consider sharing. It’s becoming more common for people to follow accounts just to see who will follow them back. It’s a much easier way to grow a fan base than creating content that’s interesting. That’s hard work and takes talent. These Twitter trolls are not interested in what you’re posting, and you shouldn’t bother with them. Once you’re following more than 500 accounts, it becomes challenging to see the posts and interact with the accounts you follow in a meaningful way. So be picky. As a general rule, you want to follow accounts that are similar to your own in terms of content choices and size of fan base. That means you’ll be viewing tweets and conversations that your own followers might find interesting too.
One other thing. If a user has all the appearances of a spam account (“We supply quality followers for a fee….”), block and report the account to Twitter. You’ll be doing the whole community a service.
10. Failure to put brand at the heart
What is it that you do best? What is your passion? Whatever that is … your career, your hobby, your startup, your philanthropy … that becomes your identity. Twitter can be enormously powerful in building professional reputations. The fact that you ordered a PSL at Starbucks takes a back seat to what you can say and share about your field of expertise. In fact, at least 70% of your tweets should contain interesting and/or helpful information that you are uniquely in the position to show or tell. Devote the next 25% of your tweets to thanks and replies to your audience and others, leaving no more than 5% for promotional purposes. It a winning formula for our clients, who see an average 1-5% month-over-month growth in followers.
Make new friends and keep the old. One is silver, and the other’s gold.