How to Build a Twitter Audience for Inbound Marketing

The third installment in our “Ultimate Guide to Using Social Media for Inbound Marketing” series delves into the world of microblogging for inbound marketing purposes on Twitter. We will review who frequents Twitter, what they're there for, how to create a winning bio, identifying influencers and what to tweet.

In case you've ended up on this page without having completed the previous instances of the series, you may want to consider starting with our overview and then taking a look at our step-by-step instructions for cultivating engaged audiences via Facebook and LinkedIn before you drill down into the Twitterverse.

Twitter and Inbound Marketing

Despite being the second-most recognized social platform, the Twitter experience can feel strange to many, thanks to its idiosyncratic lingo and syntax. As a result, the platform is adopted by many but used heavily by a relatively small subset of its members. Compared to Facebook's 58%, about 19% of the American adult population is active on Twitter, but those of us who do use Twitter use it more frequently than any other platform. Some 46% percent of Twitter users log in daily or even more frequently.

Twitter's Power as a Social Selling Platform

Businesses often find Twitter to be especially fertile territory because the platform is great for building an audience of relevant, engaged sales prospects. Twitter's culture encourages conversation between everyone – including brands and people. On Twitter, user profiles follow one another unilaterally and non-mutually, so it's more about building influence than peer relationships.

Unlike Facebook, where directly reaching out to specific people is considered creepy, on Twitter, it's acceptable for every profile to interact with any other – using the right touch, obviously. Also, on Facebook, company Pages are forced to operate differently from personal profiles, whereas, on Twitter, every profile has access to the same functionalities.

Twitter is all about real-time conversation in bite sizes, so users here follow brands, publishers, and public figures to get in on stories as they develop. For businesses, this means that the platform is friendly towards announcements, contests and discounts, but just like all of the social networks, it's best to build relationships of value and trust before hitting people up with the hard sell.

What to Post in Your Tweets

Next, decide what to tweet! When determining what will resonate with your ideal audience, take a look at what other companies operating in spaces similar to yours are doing in their feeds to drive interactions.

Obviously, you will want to tweet links to your original content, any guest posts where you’ve been featured and press coverage about your successes. Although all tweets are limited to 140 characters, the kind of content you post will be based on your audience, what they’re interested in and what they want to consume.

In addition to your own content, however, you’ll want to tweet third-party articles, videos, memes, slide decks, observations and questions of interest to your audience and of relevance to your business. Remember that people aren't generally going to interact with you to learn what you have to say about yourself. Inform them. Provoke them. Make them laugh. When you run out of ideas, there are zillions more tweet-worth ideas waiting for you.

One most important norms on Twitter is retweeting. It’s considered proper etiquette, and it’s fantastic for you, too, since it diminishes the burden of having to create so much of your own original content. When you retweet, the person you are crediting receives a notification, so you are simultaneously drawing attention to someone whose content you respect, and you’re providing your followers with valuable and relevant knowledge. It’s a win-win.

Acquiring the Right Twitter Followers

Once you're comfortable regularly posting on Twitter and have established a baseline of ongoing activity, it's time to begin strategically building a following.

Start by optimizing your profile's bio description and cover image. Next, identify the influencers and thought leaders in your industry. Engaging with the movers and shakers is key to success on Twitter. This helps you to build your audience, as relevant followers will see your interactions. To find relevant and influential people in your industry, you can use third-party Twitter search tools like Topsy. When you enter an article URL into Topsy, it will show you a list of the most influential people who have shared it. Bingo! You’ve identified your influencers.

Alternatively, without employing any external software, you can use Twitter lists. All you need to do is identify one influencer in your industry. For our example, we can use Scott Stratten of Unmarketing for the digital marketing industry. Once you're on Scott’s Twitter profile, simply click on “Lists.” This will show you all lists that he has created, lists that he has followed and lists to which others have added him. Lists can be extremely powerful for identifying relevant influencers and audience members.

Manage Your Twitter Audience Churn

The last critical skill you need to for maintaining a successful Twitter presence is tracking your unfollows. Users typically unfollow other users when they no longer wish to see that person’s tweets in their feeds – or because they were hoping you'd follow them back and finally gave up. Inevitably, some of your followers will, at some point, unfollow you. The key is determining why.

Using tools to identify and track unfollowers is useful in this sense. If you incur several unfollows on the same day, investigate your activity on that day.Did you use offensive language? Were you doing too much self-promotion? When you understand better why people stop following you, you're able to adjust what you're doing accordingly.

Additional Key Facets of the Twitterverse

Here are a few more aspects of Twitter that are worth learning more about so you can attract a relevant, engaged following.

  • Hashtags allow you to associate your tweets with specific topics and can significantly boost your reach.
  • Attaching visuals to your tweets makes them pop out in people's feeds, increasing clicks.
  • Because Twitter is such a real-time platform, posting at the right time of day is important, and there are several tools that can help you identify the best timings for your audience.
  • Twitter Analytics has evolved over the past two years into a robust reporting platform that can provide major insight into what's working and what isn't.
  • Don't be afraid to post the same link several times – just make sure each tweet has some distinct commentary in it.
  • Use saved searches and hashtags to find ongoing conversations that are relevant to your business, and chime in whenever you have something to add to the discussion.

Start Chirping

Since Twitter inspires brand loyalty more effectively than other social platform, it may be an ideal channel for you.

Keep in mind, however, that Twitter moves extremely quickly. Brands loyal to their Twitter followers are known to tweet almost hourly. Since inbound marketing is by its nature a long-term discipline, make sure you can commit to the rapid pace and learning curve that Twitter demands before you get started there.

If you're up for the task, you’re likely to find major inbound marketing opportunities with real-time microblogging.

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