When I started at MLP and was given access to our social media, I was (frankly) really intimidated by our Twitter account. I’ve used Twitter for years (since 2008!) but never had a crazy large feed. I just followed my friends, a few comedians, that kind of thing. All of a sudden I was told to take over the MLP account with several thousand followers, and I didn’t even know where to start. Through both trial and error and some great advice, I’ve figured out a few easy ways to handle your Twitter timeline – whether you have 100 followers or 100,000.
Don’t Automatically Follow-Back
In 2011 when Twitter kind of exploded into the cultural consciousness, there was a big push to gain a lot of followers, fast. That led to a reciprocity movement called “Follow Back” where users would promise to follow any other user who followed them. This boosted numbers all around, sure, but it resulted in the same kind of problem as fake followers – if you’re following just for the numbers boost, you’re not getting any real value out of the other user, or them from you. Instead of just blindly following anyone who follows you, take a look that their profile and their recent feed. Do they have tweets that you’d want to see regularly? Are they in your industry? Do they actually interact with other users, or just post their own content? Use all of this info to help you figure out if you actually want to follow this person, or just shoot them a message thanking them for following you. By being selective about who you follow, you’ll be able to better curate the content you see.
Lists Are The Best, Take Full Advantage
I was at the NonProfit Roundtable’s event in 2014 when I learned about the miracle that is the Twitter List. Lists, you see, allow you to categorize your content for easy viewing. So, let’s say I wanted to read about social media management. Well, I find users that post relevant content and I add them a list dedicated to that topic. Once I have enough users, I can click into that list and get a feed all about social media management. If you’re starting out with a huge feed, dividing them into lists can take a while. Basically, I dedicated half a day to sorting through our followers, finding out who posted good content, and sorting them into appropriate lists. So now when I go on MLP’s Twitter, I can view posts from our clients, from video production professionals, from local organizations, and yes, from experts in social media management. It makes finding good content much easier, and helps me actually interact with other users, rather than just get lost in an endless stream of posts.
Twitter Chats Are Fun!
Twitter chats are when a group of users all agree to use a specific hashtag at a specific time to talk about a specific topic. Sounds dry, boring, and specific, right? Wrong! Twitter chats are actually pretty cool. You get a diverse group of people you might not otherwise have come into contact with, and you talk about a topic you all have in common! You get some good knowledge, you get to spread your reach to a new audience, and you might find a few new people to follow! Not sure how to find a Twitter chat? TweetReports has a HUGE list of Twitter chats with their topic, hashtag, and when they take place. If you want to get started, that’s where to look.
Keep An Eye on Trending Hashtags
Honestly the best parts of Twitter are the innovations that its users came up with. Using the @ symbol to direct a tweet toward a specific person, putting RT at the beginning of a post to show you were sharing another user’s content, putting a pound sign before a word or phrase to make it searchable… all those innovations became features of Twitter: @replies, ReTweets, and the hashtag. People all over the world now use hashtags to talk about popular or “trending” topics. Like during the SuperBowl, you can bet that #SuperBowl was a trending hashtag. So when you go to your Twitter feed, take a look at the box on the top left side – you’ll see Trending Hashtag. You can alter your settings to show what’s trending in your area, your country, or the world. If you click into the hashtag, you can see what people are discussing. Hashtags are a good way to stay on top of what people are talking about, and also get your voice heard by a new audience. Caveat emptor: make sure you understand the context of the hashtag before you chime in. You don’t want to jump into a discussion about a serious topic with a joke or a meme.
Use the Search, Luke
A great feature on Twitter is their comprehensive search capabilities. Let’s say you want to know what people are saying about you. Well, if they’re mentioning you by username, you’ll see it in your notifications. But if they’re not tagging you, you can still find those tweets. Just search for yourself! (Or whatever topic you want.) You’ll find top tweets, live tweets, accounts that tweet primarily about that topic (hopefully not you, that’d be creepy), photos and videos about that topic, and more. So if you just watched a great advertisement and want to talk about it, if you search for the company you’ll probably find other people who are talking about them too.
The big thing to remember about social media (and I say this a lot) is that social media is social. You get the most value, the most ROI, if you’re doing more than just shouting into the abyss. You have to listen, and interact, and share other people’s content. Don’t treat social media as a bullhorn, treat it as a networking happy hour. Get to know your fellow users and join in conversations. And if you are careful about who you follow, organize your feed into lists, and keep an eye on what people are talking about, handling your Twitter timeline will go from being a chore to a breeze.