For a long time Twitter was my favourite social media platform. It was the easiest to start a conversation, find the people you really want to be connecting with and it used to be the second biggest social referrer to my blog (after Pinterest). Well, that was until it became a really noisy place to be. I won’t lie, sometimes all of the links on Twitter stress me out and it can be a challenging place, especially with quick access to what’s going on around the world. But that being said, it’s completely possible to use it purposefully and in a healthy way which, along with our audience being on there, is why it remains a part of the SP strategy and for many of our clients too.
I’ve been an active user of Twitter since 2009 and it hasn’t changed too much since then. It now has double the character limit (280 per tweet) and GIFs but generally the features haven’t evolved - at least nowhere near the likes of Facebook and Instagram. I’ve seen brands and individuals leave the network altogether, and I’ve seen those who continue to thrive on it. Depending on your industry, it can be a great place to be, especially for building a community and for customer service. After all, there are 330 million active monthly users still on there.
The average life of a tweet is just 18 minutes, meaning that for businesses, it’s a hard platform to be seen and heard on when publishing tweets. However, the potential for strengthening relationships with influencers, customers, potential clients, brands, journalists et al is huge. It feels natural to approach this myriad of people and is often at a deeper level than the one-time comment you would leave on their Instagram post. With no rules, it’s more open than a Facebook group too.
In today’s post I want to share some of the most effective ways to use Twitter for business in 2018 and beyond.
SET OBJECTIVES FOR YOUR TWITTER STRATEGY
Every marketing strategy needs objectives – a reason for doing what you’re doing. Start with identifying the short and long-term aims, followed by planning out an editorial calendar and marking whether each post is for Engagement, Awareness or Conversion. Make every objective actionable, measurable and intentional - how will you know if you have achieved this? Key performance indicators (KPIs) are a great way to mark these once you’ve gathered some initial data. Remember, there’s no point saying you want 10,000 followers or 100,000 followers if you don’t know what that will do for your business. Or that you want a 9% engagement rate if you know you won’t be publishing posts regularly that are focused on that core objective.
With my content marketing strategy clients, we not only look at the objectives but the journey the audience will take and the actions we want them to do along the way. Mapping this out helps you to work backwards and understand what you need to be publishing on Twitter or any other platform to get the results you want, rather than a stab in the dark.
The key with Twitter is to be personable - to humanise your brand and not just be publishing constantly without making the time for the conversation. So also set objectives for your community management - how much of your resources can you dedicate to speaking to your audience, getting in front of the right people and evaluating the performance too?
HAVE AN OPTIMAL TIMING SCHEDULE FOR TWITTER
Like with all social media platforms now, Twitter has an algorithm based on a number of factors. Often this comes down to two primary ones - timeliness and relationship. The latter being how often you engage with each other and how well Twitter thinks you know each other. Timeliness, however, is about posting when your audience are online. This helps you to get initial traction and increase the reach of your tweets - if Twitter thinks your content is relevant, interesting and popular, more people will come across it. Have you seen tweets popping up that people you follow have liked or that at the top of your feed isn’t always people you engage with regularly but content from people you follow that has been effective in the past 24 hours? This is generally how it works.
Keeping up with posting a tweet every 18 minutes is incredibly difficult, so instead prioritise your optimal times and tweet then. By limiting what we share rather than trying to hit this life span marker, our followers can see that we are sharing purposeful tweets that we have taken the time to create and give enough value to share with them. Usually this results in 3 created tweets per day with additional retweets, less structured created tweets and individual responses during our community management time.
While there are guidelines for the optimal times to post on Twitter like this data from Mentionlytics and Falcon, I often find that our results lie well outside of these. Having your own results is far more beneficial as you are able to really get a feel for your audience’s habits on the platform, so I highly recommend using tools based on your own data like Tweriod and Audiense. Using these, alongside the Coschedule Social Media Timeline and an editorial calendar enables me to plan my client’s content for when their audience is most active.
USE IMAGES, GIFs, VIDEOS AND CARDS ON TWITTER
Tweets with images are 150% more likely to get retweeted than those which are just text-based. But that being said, with the availability of free stock photos I see a lot being used for the sake of it. As with all social media, images need to evoke an emotion as much as the copy does. We are so used to scrolling through endless posts of average imagery we really do stop and spend time when something stands out.
When publishing blog posts and articles, I love the use of Large Summary Twitter Cards (over on Facebook these are known as preview links). These pull information from the webpage including an image, excerpt and the title, essentially leaving your 280 characters free to add your own comments, hashtags and call to action. There are different types of Twitter cards you set up by implementing code on your website, but these are a great way to draw attention to the link you are posting but avoid adding an image that isn’t relevant.
Whether you use Twitter cards, find your signature style and brand your assets, get more creative with your own GIFs and short videos, or simply use what’s out there but ask yourself “would this catch my eye / would I engage with this?”, use the fact that visuals are extremely powerful for supporting your objective(s).
USE THE SECRET TO WRITING A GOOD TWEET FORMULA.
Yes I have a formula (and no it’s not that complicated). Each tweet is carefully thought out but it comes naturally after a while…
Every curated tweet should have the author/creator’s Twitter handle, fact. Ok maybe not fact but it’s really really good for your Twitter strategy, and shows that you give credit where it’s due. Establishing yourself on Twitter is about building connections with your target audience, target publications, target influencers etc and I’m guessing that if you’re sharing something with your audience, it’s from someone who shares a similar audience. I always prioritise including a handle over a hashtag. Now some of you may disagree, but I believe that you’ll build a stronger, longer-lasting relationship with the author/creator than you will with any of the potential people who discover your tweet via a hashtag. Remember, when you’re curating content you’re actually sending people away from your feed to check out that article or video that you’ve discovered. They’re probably not going to come back to check out more from you because they’ll be engrossed in what they’ve found. It’s different when you’re sharing your own content – you want people to discover it via a hashtag because that means more traffic for your website. So focus on how you can keep in touch with the person who created what you’ve just shared.
So let’s bring it back to why and how to use hashtags. Hashtags group together tweets of a similar nature. They help you to navigate with ease, but you know how it’s annoying if someone uses too many hashtags? Well it actually does their content no favours. Buddy Media found that tweets with 1-2 hashtags saw an increase in engagement of 21% whereas tweets with more than 2 saw a drop in engagement of 17%. Keep your hashtags to a minimum and spend some time researching the best ones. Avoid generic, saturated ones and switch them up with every tweet you share. This doesn’t mean having an endless list, but instead honing in on variations based on the different aspects you cover so they are most relevant to what you are sharing in that moment.
Now I said there was a formula and there is. In fact there’s 10 Copywriting Formulas for Social Media. I wish I could say that I came up with them because they’re that awesome. You may have to refer back to them for a while, but that’s okay. Soon they’ll come naturally and you’ll have the key to writing a good tweet. Each of these formulas show thought, effort, value and grab the reader’s attention through psychology.
TAKE PART IN TWITTER CHATS (YES EVEN IN 2018)
Being part of a Twitter chat is the quickest and easiest way to connect with your audience and see results from it. And yes, they still exist in 2018. Chats are the way I see tons of notifications in a 60-minute period which continue into conversations way past the end, how I gain more followers, how I’m added to more and more lists, sometimes how I find potential clients and how I’m able to direct a person in need to a post I’ve written without being overly promotional. It’s great for your strategy if you regularly participate as you become memorable as an active tweeter.
At one point, so many Twitter chats would be happening at the same time people wouldn’t know which to get involved with. Now there are fewer happening which actually make them more effective. While the volumes aren’t as high, the people involved are more likely to be your people. As I’ve said throughout this post, it’s about those relationships. If your community manager can get involved in one, engaging with just a few people at a time, this can be the most effective part of their work that week/month.
You also learn a lot from hosting your own Twitter chat. While it is a lot of work and quite nerve-wracking initially, it’s a great experience for anyone wanting to build a community on Twitter and works especially well when you team up with other industry experts or influencers.
MAKE USE OF TWITTER’S OTHER FEATURES
Lists - Lists are the one feature that can take Twitter from overwhelm to manageable in a short space of time. You can create private or public lists of users even if you’re not following them, allowing you to group people and scroll through their tweets with ease. Lists can be used to keep track of competitors, journalists, influencers, local businesses, chat hosts, customers, potential clients, family and friends and more. Whatever you use them for, they’re an extremely easy feature that provides organisation at the click of a button.
Advanced Search - Another way of keeping track of competitors, influencers, journalists etc is to use the advanced search feature. By saving searches you make it easy on yourself to see what others are saying about them and how they’re responding to those tweets. I use this for all mentions of SP by inputting the URL, “Sparked Passion” and any common misspellings to ensure I’m able to quickly respond to any shares or discussions. I also use Mention and Google Alerts for this, tracking every mention of my brand and my client’s across the web and allowing me to reply directly from the dashboard or by visiting the webpage.
Trending Topics - It’s easy to jump on a trending topic but it’s always important to reflect on whether doing so is the right fit for your brand. In some instances, it could be the perfect opportunity for you to share your thoughts and provide expert comment, whereas in some it could be deemed insensitive. There have been so many PR nightmares from brands like McDonalds, Starbucks and American Apparel that if you’re unsure of whether you should get involved, it’s best to avoid it until something more suitable is being discussed.
Quoting vs Retweeting - Wherever possible, I always advise using quoting over simply retweeting. Why? Well this gives people your opinion as a brand on top of what has just been retweeted. By retweeting alone, people could misinterpret whether you agree with what was written or whether you are sharing it to make people aware of something that has been published (e.g. if someone has posted something shocking and negative, and you want people to see it despite you not agreeing). When you are a brand, misinterpretation is more common and quickly it feels like all eyes are on you. You might find yourself needing to do some serious reputation mending which can be hard to bounce back from in a world where the internet sees and saves everything. Adding your own two cents inputs to the conversation, provides some background and gives the original creator a reason to engage with you too. Sometimes though, the retweet alone says it all.
Liking vs Bookmarking - I remember a time when if you wanted to save something for later, you would have to Like it. Then it would become mixed up in the things you actually did like, only to never be found again. Now we have the bookmarking feature, meaning you can store blog posts from fans, interesting articles you might like to curate later and others. This means you can get back to liking the tweets you actually do like rather than using it as a reading list!
Threads - It’s really easy to continue the conversation across multiple tweets with the use of threads on Twitter. Put simply, this means that each of the tweets are displayed underneath each other and are linked so users can see the conversation is ongoing. There aren’t many brands using this feature, often it’s individuals, and this could be because brands are still very wary of sticking to their approved content calendars and response guidelines. I believe that we can absolutely stay on-brand and in the tone of voice, despite sharing more detail from time to time.
Analytics and Tracking - As with everything, I always encourage my clients to look at their data in both Twitter Analytics and Google Analytics (in fact, for many I read and analyse this for them). While we always want to give any strategy time to work and gather enough data for us to understand what worked, what didn’t and what is continuing to work, checking in with these on a monthly basis starts to give you an idea of how your audience behaves on Twitter and where you need to focus your time e.g. creating vs conversing. For me, the most important data is always engagement-based - are people mentioning the brand, are they retweeting, are they clicking? But of course, focusing on the details that impact the algorithm and the reach of our tweets is important too. Wherever possible I recommend using UTM links (shortened with something like Bitly) in your tweets so you can see in the exact tweets any traffic to your website is coming from.
Scheduling Tweets - One thing Twitter did implement in 2018 is the inability to easily re-share the same tweets over and over in a bid to cut down the noise (which I’m all for). There were a lot of apps available which allowed you to create and schedule the content once which would then automatically keep pushing that same tweet out for you. Not only is this annoying for those who follow you, but also really ineffective for you as a brand. It encourages you to not look at your data and keep in fact impact your reputation by being known as the brand who keeps publishing the same thing despite your audience not be interested in it the first time around. Instead, make use of scheduling tweets to improve your consistency, but do this based on your optimal timings and content that connects.
Moments - Moments are collections of news or tweets on a topic and I’ve used them for a variety of things. For a beauty brand I’ve used it to collate blog reviews for individual products. For a marketing business I’ve used it to collate the best questions and answers from a Twitter chat. For a health brand I’ve used it to collate inspiring quotes as these are what resonate best with the audience. More brands look through Moments than create them themselves, so use this to your advantage and showcase the best of your own and others’ tweets.
Ads - Twitter Ads is the one social media advertising platform I have the least experience with. Give me Power Editor or Adwords Express any day! That being said, Twitter advertising is underused and could present a big opportunity for your brand at a lower bid than where competition is higher e.g. on Facebook. Twitter also introduced this year what’s called Promote Mode - a set monthly fee of $97 to promote any of the tweets you choose. With all advertising, it’s important to consider your objectives, your channels and your budget, and whether this is better spent securing your community manager or customer service team who are on the front line.
Following vs Followers - My final tip would be to follow users purposefully, even as a brand who might get requests from people wanting you to follow them back. While there are results to show that the more users you follow the more followers you get, I find that this makes Twitter extremely overwhelming and less of a valuable resource to your business.
I still really enjoy using Twitter for content marketing and community management, especially for multi-team brands. Like with all social media platforms, if your audience is using it, it’s definitely something to invest in. Creating for Twitter is simply about understanding the types of content that work best (news and spreading a message) and utilising it in your own tone of voice to show that you genuinely want to have conversations with the best people for your business. Sometimes it isn’t easy as it’s such an open platform that disgruntled customers can reach you minutes after they’ve encountered a bad experience with your brand, but at the same time, this is the perfect opportunity to show you care and demonstrate you are ready to help.