Businesses are snapping up accounts at every social media platform on the market like a hipster at a record store clearance sale.

I'll take this one and this one and this one and ... hmm, never heard of this one but I'll take it too.

Now what?

If they're like a lot of businesses, they proceed to post a stream of spam asking people to purchase their product or service. And they're talking to a brick wall.

how-businesses-use-twitter.jpg

Twitter, especially, is a platform that businesses seem to struggle with. So let's talk about how to break down that brick wall and start connecting with your audience.

It's not a place to just post and walk away. There is no hierarchy of publishers and audience like on TV or magazines or Facebook Pages. Everyone is on an even plane. Businesses who treat it like a publishing platform or content distribution platform will learn that the audience quickly disappears when you have such a one-directional (not the boy band) approach.

Twitter is a conversation platform that needs to be used as a place to participate in dialogue. That means that, unlike Facebook and Instagram, it is at least as important how you engage with the audience on their own content, compared to just sharing your own stuff.

You need to start thinking about your Twitter activity as one of two types:

  • outgoing tweets (starting new conversations)
  • engagement tweets (participating in existing conversations)

And you need to be doing both of these. Most businesses (and individuals, for that matter) are just focusing on the first type. But the second type is where the majority of your effort needs to go.


Outgoing Tweets

These are tweets that are tweeted publicly from your account. They're like the start of a new conversation. Everyone can see them, and you're hoping people will find them compelling enough to take some kind of action, whether it be to click a link, like, reply, or retweet.

This is where most businesses focus their attention, and they're using Twitter as just another place to share content. This is still important. So here's a few tips on how to make these tweets more effective:

twitter-tip-1.png

Keep the Text Short and Simple

Twitter made the mistake (IMHO) of extending the character limit from 140 to 280 near the end of 2017. So now your tweets can be longer. But like in all things (eating a whole watermelon in one sitting), just because you can doesn't mean you should.

You will gain higher levels of engagement when tweets are easier to consume, which means not presenting your followers with a block of text. Keep it short and simple, like your passing interest in learning the ukulele.

twitter-tips-3.png

Use No More Than Two or Three Relevant Hashtags

For the same reason you should keep text short and simple, you also shouldn't include a long list of hashtags: Because it looks like a big block of text! Twitter users can get hashtag fatigue when they see a bunch of them in a tweet. They'll quickly scroll past to something a little more appealing to look at.

Use a couple of hashtags, but make them relevant. If they're too general and popular, you'll quickly get lost in the rapid-fire pace of tweets being published with the same hashtag. If they're too specific and rarely searched, they won't help you become discovered.

twitter-tips-5.png

Be Responsive to Your Community

Whether your community is a group of people who share an interest, a need, or a location, pay attention to what they're currently talking about. If the cycling customers of your sporting goods store are passionately tweeting about some new bike lanes, listen to that conversation and participate in it!

twitter-tip-2.png

Use Visuals to Make Tweets More Appealing

Twitter is really the only social media platform where a post with nothing but text is still acceptable and can still perform well. Don't do it on Facebook. You can't do it on Instagram. The jury's still out on LinkedIn.

However, adding an image can make your tweet more appealing. Humans are visual creatures; give us something worthy of stopping us in our scroll! Just keep in mind that Twitter will crop your images. It's best just to make your images in 2:1 dimensions so they fit the platform.

twitter-tips-4.png

Ask Questions and Run Polls

Twitter is a place for dialogue. Asking your followers a question can be a good way to spark engagement, and Twitter polls are generally a great way to be interactive too. Get creative with them!

twitter-tips-6.png

Tag Relevant Influencers

Getting a retweet from someone with a large following is like being gifted a huge boost in reach. So look for opportunities to get these retweets. The best way is to make content specifically about them. So maybe you could review a vendor's new product and tag them.

What you don't want to do is tag out of your league. Know your weight class. If you're relatively unknown, you're not going to get a response from Elon Musk with his 22 million followers. But you might from someone with 50,000 followers.

Together, these tips will help you get a lot more impact out of your outgoing tweets. You'll start getting more interaction and broader reach. But this is only half (or less) of how to win on Twitter.


Engagement Tweets

Now here's the part that many businesses are missing. It's the most important part and it's what's unique to Twitter.

Engagement tweets are the tweets that are in response to tweets from other users, either as direct replies or quote-retweets. With these, you're jumping into an existing conversation and contributing to the dialogue, rather than starting your own.

You know that friend (we all have one) who only listens in conversations to wait until you finish talking so they can steer the topic toward what they want to talk about? Don't be that person on Twitter.

Listen, engage with the existing conversation, contribute, help the dialogue move forward. Don't hijack the conversation. Don't only start your own conversations.

Here's how to do it:

twitter-tips-7.png

Quote-Retweet Relevant Tweets

 I responded to a tweet by quoting it and adding more to his point, and inviting my following to jump in the conversation too.

I responded to a tweet by quoting it and adding more to his point, and inviting my following to jump in the conversation too.

When you see a tweet that would be relevant to your audience, it might be a candidate for a quote-retweet. But make sure you add something that pushes the conversation along, not just tries to steal the last word, otherwise that's just a type of outgoing tweet where you're sharing someone else's content.

Further the conversation. Your community will appreciate you for it. They'll see that you consider yourself one of their peers sitting in a virtual environment having a discussion. And the quote-retweet invites in more peers to join and enrich the conversation.

It's like the exercise improv actors use where they listen to something one person says and then continues with, "Yes, and..." to contribute to the direction of the conversation.

twitter-tips-8.png

Reply to Tweets

 Some amount of effort went into creating this graphic (cars lined up from the point referenced in the tweet all the way to the restaurant), and it's a direct response to one person. But that one person could share it much more broadly, and it makes a strong statement that a brand would take this much time to respond to one person.

Some amount of effort went into creating this graphic (cars lined up from the point referenced in the tweet all the way to the restaurant), and it's a direct response to one person. But that one person could share it much more broadly, and it makes a strong statement that a brand would take this much time to respond to one person.

It's also important to reply to tweets. I don't mean just when people tweet at you, because of course you should respond to those. I mean seeking out tweets and jumping in the conversation with a reply instead of a quote-retweet.

I'd recommend seeking out and replying to at least three tweets per day.

Far less people see these tweets. Only the people who read the conversation thread can see these replies — they aren't broadcast to all your followers. But because of this, these are even greater at building community and brand trust because the audience sees that you're just interested in having a dialogue, not trying to be heard by as many people as possible.

It feels more personal. It's more direct to the few people (or single person) in the conversation.

If you do it really well, you're likely to get retweeted or quote-retweeted to their followers and you will still get that broad reach, so it may be worth pinpointing people with more of a following.

From your perspective, it might seem like a lot of work for a small return if only a handful of people ever see the tweet, but the quality of the engagement from those who do is what really makes a business stand out on Twitter.

twitter-tips-9.png

Use Twitter Lists

If you got through the above two tips and you're still following along and you believe that it would make for great Twitter strategy, your next thought is like a big, "Yeah, but..."

Yeah, but where do we find these relevant tweets to quote-retweet and reply to?

Lists, my friend. Use the highly underutilized Twitter list. And better yet, use private lists.

 For this client (I've removed their profile image for anonymity) I've created a private list to find users to engage with every day. This brand has strict policies about who they can be seen following, so lists are very useful.

For this client (I've removed their profile image for anonymity) I've created a private list to find users to engage with every day. This brand has strict policies about who they can be seen following, so lists are very useful.

A list allows you to have a timeline of people you may want to engage with without having to follow them. And making it a private list means they won't know you've added them and others can't discover this list. If you don't make it private, users will get notified when you add them to a list.

To create private lists, go to your profile page in Twitter, click lists, and create a new list. Then you can add people who seem to be interested in topics relevant to your business, whether that's knitting or dirtbiking or astrology.

A good way to find relevant users is to look at the list of people who already follow you, or look at who follows other accounts similar to yours, and add them to your list.

You now have a shortcut way of finding tweets that are more likely to be of interest to you. Listen, monitor, and engage!

twitter-tips-10.png

Use Twitter Search

 Sell phone cases or screen protectors? I just found you 4 potential customers in 10 seconds. Go reply to them  without  a sales pitch. Just engage.

Sell phone cases or screen protectors? I just found you 4 potential customers in 10 seconds. Go reply to them without a sales pitch. Just engage.

The other method of finding tweets to engage with is to use Twitter's search function. You aren't limited to searching by hashtags. You can just search words and find all tweets with that word in them.

Type in "cracked screen" and find tweets from people who you can engage with if you're a phone repair company. Search for "hate yardwork" and you'll find tweets great for your lawncare company to engage with.

Find relevant tweets and send them a reply or quote-retweet them.

The trouble with this method is if you're a business that only serves local customers, it's very hard to localize your search. In some cases, you can add your city name plus a term. This would work for restaurants ("city eat") and Realtors ("city buy house") and other industries, but not all.


So unlike Facebook where your page doesn't really interact with other users outside of your own content, and Instagram where it's all about stunning visuals instead of dialogue, Twitter is a place where you need to be having conversations.

That doesn't mean just tweeting things that are conversation starters, though that is a valuable thing to do too. But you also need to be seeking out existing conversations and contributing to the dialogue.

If you implement these ideas, please get back to us with a comment about how it goes after a week or two. I'd love to hear your stories!