Getting on Twitter is a bit like buying a scale to try and lose weight. Without the right effort, all you’re left with is a visual display of how little you’re actually achieving.
Twitter seems like it should be easy. After all, every tweet is just 140 characters. And according to Twitter, there are currently more than 255 million active Twitter users and 500 million tweets sent per day. Surely with that big of a platform (and that small of a writing requirement), it should be easy to find your slice of the pie, right?
Unfortunately, it rarely works that way. Instead, most small businesses that decide to try Twitter start with a few tweets—and quickly realize that no one seems to care what they have to say. So they give up. The good news is, all is not lost.
Key Twitter Do's and Don'ts
Most of the time, success on Twitter simply requires respecting the platform that you’re playing on. To help you do that, I've outlined the top four reasons why people and businesses fail miserably on Twitter, and what you can do to avoid these mistakes and find success.
1. You only talk about yourself. You probably jumped right in feet first and started tweeting about the things you know best: yourself and your business. Maybe you talked about your specials, or your company culture or your awesome social media photo contest—the list goes on and on. The result? You heard crickets. Why? Because most people, your customers included, care about themselves and their well being first and foremost. It takes people time to trust, like, respect and buy from you. To build that trust, focus first on how you can share information on topics that they care most about. In other words, provide utility before you promote yourself.
2. You aren’t remarkable. Don’t agree? Well, if you think your tweet is worth talking about, then try passing this litmus test: “Would you actually share your last tweet with your own friends and family?” If not, it’s time to head back to the drawing board. Being remarkable doesn’t mean becoming a superstar copywriter overnight. Instead, focus on sharing a point of view that is different from everyone else's out there.
Here’s an example from one of my most retweeted tweets. It was an observation I made when Michael Jackson passed away. It read: “MTV is officially irrelevant. Michael Jackson just died and they are showing a rerun of the reality show 18 and Pregnant.” Why did people share that? Because it was a unique point of view on a topic that everyone was talking about.
3. You have unrealistic expectations. Is there hype around social media marketing and its effectiveness in selling products and services? Definitely. The challenge for your small business is to avoid trying to recreate the big success stories you've heard, and find the right success metrics for you. First and foremost, be patient and realize that you may not see big spikes in audiences or shares for your content for months. Second, change your success metrics to focus on influencers instead of volume.
Several years ago when I was working on the social media strategy for a large health-care organization, we took a deep dive into its list of about 1,500 Twitter followers. We discovered that 20 percent of the followers included media that covered the industry, and more than 30 percent included health-care practitioners that fit the target audience. Despite the low number of followers, we realized that the people they did have following them were extremely high in value.
4. You don’t connect Twitter with real life. Twitter allows you to facilitate more connections than you ever could in person. On the flip side, physical human interaction facilitates much more powerful connections. At its core, Twitter is amazing for having conversations in real time about a current topic.
Rather than treating Twitter like an on-demand broadcasting platform, consider using it in a more timely way. Have conversations with people in the moment when those conversations matter. Integrate hashtags to join topical conversations. And use Twitter to follow up with those people you meet in real life just to deepen your relationship and stay connected in a new and easy way.
Don't Waste Time
Twitter can be an amazing tool for your business, but it's also easy to use ineffectively. You can waste a lot of time on 140 characters. Follow these Twitter rules to make sure the time you spend on Twitter is worth it—and generates more valuable connections for your business.
Rohit Bhargava is the founder of the Influential Marketing Group and bestselling author of five business books on how to bring more humanity back to business (including the bestselling Likeonomics). He has been on Twitter since 2007 and regularly tweets about marketing strategy, his love of beautiful luggage and his dislike of cauliflower. Follow him on Twitter at @rohitbhargava.
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