Most small businesses won’t reach those numbers, but they certainly can aim high. A large Twitter following can translate into a long list of potential clients; with hundreds or thousands of followers, a mere tweet can serve as major public relations and marketing -- all in less than 140 characters.
But amassing followers isn’t simply typing in some new business news or announcing a new product or sale, then clicking update. Check out some tips from well-followed Tweeters.
1. Create a solid profile. Include a recognizable background image and a link to your website, and write up a sharp bio describing your company. This is your business card. Tweeters using third-party clients like Tweetdeck may only see a thumbnail image of your business when deciding to follow or not.
“You want to communicate something relevant about your business,” says Kate Farber (@KateFarber) of RF Binder. “We speak to [our followers] as friends, not customers. [On Twitter, we] don't solicit or advertise our product.”
2. Expand the reach of your Twitter handle. Along with your name and other contact information, add a link to your Twitter profile onto your company homepage, email signature and any other online profiles.
3. Tweet often. Bryce Gruber (@BryceGruber) of The Luxury Spot tweets anywhere from three to ten times a day. This frequency has given her followers a chance to know the personality of her products and services.
“When your followers grow to know you and feel personally invested in you, they're more likely to retweet your posts to their followers.” Gruber has amassed over 1,500 followers since beginning to regularly updated on Twitter four months ago.
4. But tweet within reason. Stephen Bender (@StephenBender) of Bender Media is wary of over-tweeting for fear of overexposure. “Just like email campaigns, flyers and commercials, [Tweeting] too often is a negative if your message is tuned out.”
Also, keep your following to follower ratio balanced, adds Farber.
5. The reciprocity of the tweet: the retweet (RT). This is the simplest and least aggressive way to join the conversation. Retweeting is a stamp of approval. Observe how others tweet then decide what your business likes and agrees with; tweets worthy of retweeting typically use popular keywords and have original and pithy content.
“With each tweet, we are actually building more connections,” says John Cascarano of Lock and Mane (@lockandmane). “A single RT by someone with 500 followers gives your brand exposure to 500 new people. Those are also 500 people who are interested in the kinds of products or services you are offering.” A typical @lockandmane tweet: Tell us your winter hair emergency. We can help.
6. Use Twitter tools:
· JournalistTweets and Twitterati follow popular journalists and bloggers.
· The Twitter search option keeps up on any mentions of your Twitter handle, your business, and your industry.
Joao Rodrigues, @riocvb, uses the “LTG” model. “First I listen to what is happening that may be relevant to my followers or that they may not already know, then I tweet about it.” Rodrigues' tweets almost always then give back with a link to a shortened URL including news or an image to support a tweet.
7. Use hashtags. #FollowFridays (#FF) and #TrendingTopic (#TT) are two of the more popular hashtags. Replying to and reposting hashtag topics then acknowledging them on #TT and #FF exposes tweets to a much larger audience. Lev Ekster, owner of mobile cupcake truck @CupcakeStop, uses #FF and Twitpics to highlight specials. He also tweets with hashtags to discuss topics around the business without promoting the business directly.
“Hashtagging everyday words and brands like "#coffee" "#toyota" or "#homework" will help gain popularity,” says Gruber. “If you tweet: "I just bought a new #toyota #hybrid, too bad its part of the #recall," any of those items are active searches for Twitter users right now. When someone searches #toyota, your tweet will come up. If they like it, they'll follow you.”
8. Think virally. The Internet is chock full of news, entertainment, and humor. Mix in your own personality and spin and people may follow. Gruber pastes links from CNN.com and PerezHilton.com and suggests headlines like "'Tom Cruise: Arrested for Cocaine’ or anything else that would really grab someone's attention.” Keep celebrity follows at a minimum so as not to cyberstalk, says Bender. “If you are able to engage a celebrity or anyone with a huge following, getting them to reply or retweet you will amp up numbers big time.”
9. Reveal exclusive information just to followers. For Farber, that’s providing “unique insights and exclusive content about your company and sharing sneak peaks.” Farber asks followers for input on new products or services, and uses Twitter to resolve customer service issues. Cascarano's followers who find themselves in a hair emergency “can literally tweet us a question and we'll give an answer. Want Mary J's Grammy hair? We can tell you in real time.”
Most importantly, remember that Twitter isn’t the online destination for a sales pitch. These tactics are all meant to indirectly market yourself -- overt tweet pitching will typically get you unfollowed.