Just Showing Up Won’t Do on Twitter

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Woody Allen famously said, “80 percent of life is showing up.” But on Twitter, just showing up isn’t enough. Using Twitter successfully requires finding the right contacts and building relationships with them, according to Heather Ratcliff, a social media and content strategist.

Heather blogs at howtoreachpeople.com and partners with me on social media projects.

She and I recently had this discussion about how organizations can communicate strategically using Twitter:

Q:  How do organizations gain the Twitter followers they need?


Heather Ratcliff

A:  They need to know from the start that Twitter is just a tool. There is no magic involved in it at all. It’s really all about building relationships, and that’s just going to take time and effort. It takes a lot of trial and error, too.

But the first step is to put together a strategy. For example, you don’t want to just post a fundraiser today and then share an article tomorrow. You want to figure out exactly what your goals are, and then come up with a plan to accomplish them.

Q:  How much time is needed to make Twitter productive for outreach?

A:  You need a few weeks of research and experimentation to figure out which people or organizations will be crucial. After that, communicate for at least six months with those contacts on Twitter before requesting that they do something like make a purchase, volunteer or donate. It’s also about authenticity. Always be true to yourself and develop genuine relationships.

The amount of time you should spend on Twitter each day or each week all depends on your goals. If you’re a small business doing this yourself, you could spend an hour a day or more. But your priority should be following a strategy.

Q:  How can organizations find the people that belong in their Twitter audiences? 

A:  They need to do thorough research. For an issue campaign or fundraising, the first step is to identify thought leaders and other key players on the issue. If you can reach them, they will reach others. 

For a business, the first step is defining who fits the ideal client’s profile, and additional research continues from there.  

You can use Twitter for this research, searching by hashtags and Twitter handles. You can also find vital contacts on Twitter chats that draw people interested in a given topic.

The next stage is using Twitter’s built-in list function to keep your contacts together. Twitter automatically compiles tweets from everyone you place on your Twitter lists. Monitor them by scanning these posts every few days. Then do broader research on the players and the issues. YouTube, Google or the news media are good resources for that.

Q:  Once you know who to follow, how do you get them to follow you?

A: Remember it’s about building relationships, so you’ve got to engage them. Tweet about or retweet their comments, pose questions, or share articles, for example. 

Choose only content that you know will be valuable to the recipient. Devote 80 percent of your tweets to sharing, responding and retweeting, and 20 percent to your own original content, including calls to action. 

Try to engage with a different person on your target list each day. After connecting several times with each person or group, your chances of getting noticed will increase.

On a separate spreadsheet, make notes about what key contacts say on Twitter. If someone comments on an industry trend, for instance, engage them in further conversation about that trend later.

Before Twitter, organizations built the relationships needed through networking, membership groups, direct mail and events. The same spade work needed then is needed now for Twitter, which does much of what these traditional approaches did, reaches even further and moves even faster.

What challenges is your organization facing with Twitter?

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