Master Twitter in two easy steps

Startups, small business, entrepreneurs and bloggers can all benefit greatly from using twitter. But it takes a bit of practice and know-how to get the most from this popular social network.

Using Drupal 6, I set up my blog (SME Pals) to automatically tweet blog post headlines to twitter.

I figured that would allow my readers to quickly browse through my latest post heading and click through to any they were interested in reading. A nice idea, but far too passive to succeed.

Needless to say, the benefit SME Pals derived from twitter was negligible because only people who already visited the blog knew about the tweets. Apart from a few visitors who took the time to "follow" SME Pals, not much happened.

During the writing of my latest title "Internet marketing with WordPress", I resolved to fix this embarrassing shortcoming in my own online marketing strategy.

There were two main twitter strategies I used (that worked) to build my twitter following and make valuable contacts...

1. Follow the right people on twitter

Most small businesses and entrepreneurs make the mistake of only outputting tweets and not reading tweets by other people, competitors and businesses.

Sending out volumes of tweets is not really effective at getting lots of people interested in what you have to say. People on twitter like to know that other people on twitter find you interesting and informative.

They look at who the people they follow are following to see if there are any interesting people to follow there too.

You can't really engage people on twitter unless you go out there and interact with them. This means following them, finding out what they have to say, and responding and contributing with valuable insight, information, humor, or anything else that's appropriate.

Because you can't respond to tweets you have no interest in, it makes life a lot easier for you to follow people who are relevant to your business, industry and niche, and who themselves offer valuable information.

The better the quality of tweets you have in your stream, the easier it is for you to become involved socially with these people.

The more engaged you are with a relevant tribe of tweeters, the more likely you are to gain followers from that tribe. The more followers you have, the more likely you are to encourage more people interested in your niche to follow you.

By ensuring that your incoming stream of tweets is relevant and of high quality, you give yourself a platform to engage with quality people and show yourself off to a wide audience.

2. Provide quality twitter contributions

Do you copy and paste article titles with URLs into your tweets and leave it at that? It's time to start being slightly more creative about the way you present your twitter information.

For a start, simply copying article headings doesn't categorize your content. Content that is not categorized won't be found by people who aren't already following you.

It's absolutely critical that you give context to your tweets by using hash tags. You can implement hash tags by simply adding the pound sign (#) before any keywords in your tweet. If I was tweeting about my latest marketing book, for example, I might tweet "#internet #marketing with #WordPress".

This means that the millions of people who regularly monitor the tweet streams in those categories (#internet, #marketing, #WordPress) have a chance of seeing the post and reading it, or following. Hash tags, are effectively free marketing and you must use them.

Just be careful not to overdo them as it makes your tweets difficult to read and look spammy.

In the same way, you should provide context to your retweets by explaining why you found that particular content valuable. It gives your opinion a presence in the reader's mind because they are going to that content on the personalized recommendation you are making.

Finally, your replies (to other people's tweets) should also be relevant and meaningful. Don't simply reply with a spammy link or self-promotion. The idea is to get people interested in what you have to say.

The faster you can encourage people to start following you using these techniques, the faster more people will follow you because... more people are following you. Get it? It's a snowball effect that really starts driving trust, authority, traffic and conversions to your website one its built up some momentum.

SME Pals went from gaining 1 twitter follower every few days, to more than twenty new followers every day, overnight. That number is growing quickly and you can join in by following on twitter too.

If you have other techniques that have worked for your business website or blog, let us know in the comments.

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