Twitter Content Strategy Guide
Twitter has quickly become a favorite part of content marketing strategies employed by most businesses. The 140 character limit means that it doesn’t take much work, users have little inhibition about following quality profiles and it’s already optimized for mobile. Curating a quality Twitter feed lends itself to an answer for so many marketing questions that it would be hard to list them all here.
Still yet, lots of users have no idea how to make 140 characters count. What we end up with is Twitter feeds consisting primarily of links and quotes. Quotes are an obvious place to start when you want concise snippets of text that convey wisdom and evoke strong emotions. In fact, the most successful Twitter users are almost always inspirational, funny or educational in nature. However, followers don’t want to follow a copy of someone that’s already in their feed, and as an online influencer you don’t want to be pigeonholed.
Nothing changes as quickly as online sentiment, and it’s easy to brand yourself as a one trick pony. People who followed an account to get updates from Charlie Sheen’s cat aren’t going to know what to think when you start tweeting about debt consolidation. Consider diversifying your feed with these Twitter content strategies.
Before I break down each type of content in detail, it’s important to realize that your Twitter content strategy should not match mine exactly. The key to success with any social media campaign is identifying and understanding your audience. Some content strategies will garner much better results with multimedia, while others will need to keep their tweets per day to a bare minimum. Spend some time researching the users who follow you; what do they re-tweet? How many users do they follow? Do they exhibit strong emotions in their feed? The better you understand your audience, the easier it will be for you to engineer an optimum content strategy.
With Twitter you’re focusing on abbreviated content that is either short by nature, or is protracted with a link. Even though one type of content will often to better than everything else you share, it’s important to diversify your content to create a well rounded and well regarded persona. All of your tweets should be part of an overall Twitter strategy, which should be a part of your social media strategy, which is in turn going to be part of your online strategy, that would optimally be part of your overall marketing strategy. If you’re lucky enough to have the level of control required for that type of oversight, making sure that synergy is present in your business will dramatically increase efficiency and effectiveness. For the most diverse content profile, here is a sample of the various types of tweets you’ll see in a well constructed strategy:
- Created content
- Curated Content
- Status Updates
- Q & A
- Inspirational Quotes & Humor
- Replies and Discussion
For the most part, you’ll want to figure out a ratio of each type of content that is welcomed by your followers, create a plan to implement your sharing and then follow through. Depending on your resources and the size of your operation, this could involve hundreds of employees that have the ability to submit content they’ve found or created, or just one person who takes care of everything. I recently consulted with a web development company and came to the conclusion that they should send approximately 50 tweets each week, with only 20 percent containing a link back to their own blog. 50 percent of their tweets included content curated from others, and every day they send 3 tweets answering questions from random Twitter users about web development and the Internet.
Links to Articles
You’ll most likely bridge your company’s blog or website to your Twitter account through content marketing. It goes without saying that you will be tweeting links to your own content, and probably curating additional content from trusted industry resources. By sharing the highest quality content in your field you can position yourself as a go to industry expert, and you’ll quickly become known as a tweeter that filters out the fluff.
Your own content
I suggest doing a little detective and analytics work to find out which times your audience is most active. You can request a free report from Tweriod that analyzes the tweets of your followers to figure out which times of day they are most active. The analysis excludes automated tweets sent from programs like Twitterfeed and BufferApp, so you can rest assured that your followers are actually online during the peak times.
The Tweriod report will give you suggested timeframes for weekdays, weekends, Sundays and Mondays. For a small fee Tweriod will send you a much more detailed analysis that looks at metrics such as re-tweets and @mentions to give you an even more detailed look at prime tweeting times. The premium service from Tweriod costs $2.50 for every 5,000 followers, but over time the insight into your followers’ online behavior will pay for itself.
Tweriod analyzes your followers Tweeting patterns to determine which times of day are the best times to tweet. According to my report, anytime between 9am and 6pm is optimum for tweeting during the weekdays.
An alternate service, Whentotweet.com, uses a similar algorithm to determine the best times to send out tweets. For only $4.99, regardless of number of followers, Wheretotweet will look at your followers’ tweets and send you visual depiction of their activity in the form of a line graph.
Even though using a tool like Tweriod or Whentotweet.com is easy, the best way to figure out how effective your Tweets are is by recording and analyzing the data yourself. To track click-thrus you can use a URL shortener such as bit.ly or goo.gl that keeps stats on how many people visit your links. Use a spreadsheet to record your tweets, the time they were sent, and how many visits you got. Try to retain as much control as possible by adhering to a strict schedule, and limiting variables.
If you want to get more in-depth with your analysis, Google’s URL builder tool will let you track additional data with your links, including where your visitors are coming from. Let’s face it, if your primary goal is selling American Flags, domestic traffic is going to be much more valuable than International traffic, so you’ll want to make that distinction. The more variables you can track, the better you’ll be able to isolate outliers and come to a conclusion about which ties offer not just the most traffic back to your site, but the most valuable traffic back to your site.
Now that you know which times of day are the best times to reach your followers, you can use BufferApp to schedule the tweets that promote your own content during peak usage times. Since you may not be available to trigger your tweets, BufferApp will make sure that your blog posts and other created content is always shared at the best time. You can go a step further and use a combination of Ifttt and BufferApp to import your RSS feed to be scheduled into peak usage tweets. Relying on a tool like Twitterfeed that imports from RSS feeds shortly after a new post is found doesn’t guarantee that anyone will actually see your tweets.
You can make a new item in your RSS feed a trigger sharing in your social networks immediately, or you can add it to the BufferApp and schedule the share for a specific time.
An accepted strategy is to send out tweets promoting your own content several times each day. Several of social media’s leading thought leaders agree that this concept doesn’t constitute spam as long as you’re careful. On the day you publish a blog post, you can tweet it up to three times without raising many eyebrows. The key is to re word your tweets so that it isn’t obvious that you’re just sharing the same piece of content. I suggest tweeting your recent blog post once in the morning, once in the afternoon, and once at night.
You’ve made sure that you’re reaching your followers at optimum tweet times with your created content, but you’ll need to add some additional content to be shared throughout the rest of the day. If users just wanted to read all your articles, they would visit your blog. The idea of Twitter is that you’ll share all the greatest content, and it will decrease your viability substantially if you don’t include posts from other websites in your tweets.
You may have more followers online at 3pm than 8am, but there will be some users who never use Twitter after noon. To reach the maximum number of followers, you’ll need to send out tweets throughout the day. The idea is to reach an optimum saturation point where the majority of your followers will notice you in their streams and start to form recognition, but not be overwhelmed by your messages. Over sharing is one of the worst mistakes you can make, but it’s hard if not impossible to please everyone while still reaching as many users as possible.
I can’t tell you how many times you will need to tweet each day to maximize your reach and remain relevant without pissing off your existing customers. Not only does each industry have different expectations regarding Twitter usage, every single following will require different considerations. In the social media marketing niche I participate in, it’s not uncommon for Twitter users to send out 40 tweets in a single day, every day. High school students will often use Twitter as a sort of public text message service, sending out over 100 tweets each day. Still yet, there will be users who are used to Facebook’s status updating patterns, and will only tweet once per day.
You will however need to curate a certain number of other people’s content in order to develop your unique content sharing profile, and keep your avatar in the streams of your followers. Users will get turned off if they see you sharing 10 posts from your own website for every 1 post you share from other industry related blogs. You’ll want to at least keep your original content ratio below 25%, but I would recommend going even lower if you can. So if you’re sharing your daily blog update three times each day, you will need to curate nine articles from other blogs.
The primary consideration for curating content is quality. You are acting as a filter for your followers, so aim to be a good one. Next you need to remember that if you’re a technology blogger, your fans have likely read the posts on the leading industry websites already. It doesn’t add much to your stream to share the latest article from Mashable or Tech Crunch because not only are they obvious destinations, they’ve also already been re-tweeted a couple thousand times already. Your role is to be a content discovery agent. Some of the best writers on the net get fewer than 100 visitors each day, and it’s your job to find the best pieces from the best writers that no one else has ever heard of.
Now that you have an idea of how many posts you need to share each day, you should look into integrating your content sharing with your tools. BufferApp will allow you to space out the articles you find over the course of the day. Assuming that you stumble across 9 other high quality pieces of content every day, all you’ll have to do is add them to your buffer as you browse the web.
If you’re really busy and can’t find the time to curate the content yourself, you can set up TwitterFeed to pull posts into your Twitter stream directly through RSS. Choose mid-sized blogs that are industry specific and maintain a high level of quality. This isn’t the best way to handle content curation, but it can be effective and may be the only option for someone who is operating on borrowed time as is.
Another tool that combines the scheduling abilities of Buffer with the content discovery abilities of Google search is BundlePost. If you have an hour or so each week to handle its maintenance, BundlePost is probably the most effective and efficient way to handle content curation. You start by constructing a Google alert for industry specific terms, and publishing the alert as a feed. Import the feed in to BundlePost, and set up a schedule for your Tweets.
You’ll need to log in to BundlePost every so often to go through your feed and import the content into your schedule, but the application will handle the rest. Since you’re using Google for content discovery, you’ll never have to worry about your stream getting stale from the same sources. There are three tiers for accounts at BundlePost, but since the bottom tier is free, there is no reason why you shouldn’t use it as a possible option for content curation.
One of my favorite uses of the microblog is to reach out to other users who are asking questions. Many users see Twitter as a crowd sourcing platform where they can get feedback on everything from “which outfit should I wear this weekend” to “how do I block people on Facebook”.
It’s not every day that potential followers reach out and give you the opportunity to connect with them on multiple levels, but that’s exactly what a question is. If you provide an accurate and legitimate solution or answer, the user is going to be genuinely thankful for your help. At the very least they will follow you, or you’ll leave them with a positive impression. Your answer may just inspire them to hire a professional, and since you’re standing right in front of them, your odds of getting hired just went up exponentially.
There is a plugin for Chrome and Firefox called inboxQ that will allow you to search all the recent tweets for questions that contain certain key phrases that you define. Not every result will be a viable lead, but if you are smart about your search terms you can limit the noise and target the people you really want to connect with. The secret for getting the best results with inboxQ is to know your audience, and understand how they ask questions.
When you help someone facing a problem, they are almost always grateful for your help, and will likely follow you.
To optimize your search terms you need to study the language used in pertinent questions more than anything. You aren’t going to get a great list of questions about Feng Shui by using Feng Shui as a keyword. As an expert you know the circumstances in which Feng Shui is often used, so break down the questions, and use those keywords. It has more to do with which way your home faces, re-arranging furniture and addressing your problems with superstition than it does “feng shui”.
By answering questions you’re not only educating the person who asked, you’re educating all of your followers. If you sell Vacuum cleaners for a living and answer a question about whether or not a customer across the country should buy the turbo model, you probably aren’t going to get that sale. However, when you say “The standard model only has two less horsepower than the turbo, and it’s $300 cheaper, so the upgrade isn’t justified”, a customer in your region sees that you aren’t concentrating on the up sale. They may have planned to visit your competitor tomorrow to purchase the turbo model, but now they’re going to visit your store and buy the standard one. After all, you’re obviously an expert and seeing you connect with customers on Twitter indicates that you have extraordinary customer service.
You may need to go through a dozen results returned by inboxQ to find a question that you’re qualified to answer and is pertinent enough to be valuable to your niche, but the level of authority that it adds to your feed is well worth it. I recommend trying to answer at least two questions every day of the week if possible.
Instagram Shares and Photo Uploads
A content strategy wouldn’t truly be diverse without other forms of multimedia, and Twitter is no different. If you use an iPhone or Android device you can send photos straight from Instagram to your Twitter feed (which is effectively doubling your exposure if you’ve attracted a following on both networks). You don’t have to always keep your picture shares on topic; everyone can relate to beautiful scenery or food porn. It’s a good idea to try and relate your shares to your niche anyway. A major part of marketing on Twitter is marketing yourself, so any photo that is relevant to you is going to be relevant to your followers as well. Users aren’t following your business, they’re following you. This includes pictures of yourself, as well as friends and family.
There are college aged girls who do nothing but tweet Instagram pictures they snap during the day and photos of themselves, but have attracted tens of thousands of followers. Twitter is really popular with younger generations, so keep that in mind when you get photo opportunities.
Depending on your audience and niche, multimedia shares may need to be a much larger percentage of your feed than what I would recommend for businesses. For most people, sharing a single photo every day and several photos during events is a good rule of thumb. Whether you’re on a business trip, attending a trade show, having a sale at your store or attending a parade, your followers will likely be interested. You’ll also have the option of connecting with other event attendees, so remember to tag your tweets with the appropriate hash-tags.
Ask Questions Yourself
Remember when I said that Twitter was a great place to crowdsource opinions and information? Well, that dynamic works in both directions. One of the most tested methods of sparking engagement is by asking questions. Users enjoy sharing their opinions more than they do hearing yours, so why not invite them to do just that?
There are some professionals that blatantly elicit responses with questions, seemingly to spur users to populate their profiles. It becomes obvious when the questions aren’t relevant to current news, or anything the person asking is involved in. I may run a social media blog, but if I asked “Which social platform do you prefer?” it’s obviously fishing for engagement. A lot of users recognize this type of fishing, and see it as an annoyance. Make sure that your questions are genuine, pertinent and timely.
Jokes and Quotes
Even though a feed that is completely full of jokes and inspirational quotes is limiting when it comes to engagement and business, no one can deny the emotional reverberation that quips like these can induce. People like to laugh and feel inspired. When you have hundreds of links, random updates, and Lady Gaga re-tweets zipping through your feed, a profound quote seems like Twitter gold.
Since quotes are so popular on Twitter, many quotes websites have entire categories dedicated to quotations that fit in the 140 character limit. A simple Google search will return thousands of quotes that you can fill your BufferApp with to keep your followers knee deep in inspirational goodness indefinitely. However, the best quotes and humor tweets are the ones you think up yourself. When you come across an idea on a competitor’s blog that is original and profound, quote them on it! When a friend or coworker metes out inspirational wisdom, take a note and tweet it later when you get the chance. Be sure to credit the appropriate party, and avoid quotes that are too well known.
I would suggest posting a quote 1-2 times daily. Inspirational quotes are a great way to start the morning, and something funny helps your followers unwind toward the end of their workday. The most important thing is to know your audience, and pick your tweets to compliment your niche.
Replies and Twitter Chats
I don’t reply to everything sent my way on Twitter, but that’s just because most of the tweets that mention me aren’t meant to be part of a conversation with me. If someone directs a question, comment, praise, or any other type of feedback toward me I always make sure to reply to them. Of course, the number of users who are trying to have a two-way dialogue with me is still manageable.
Even though each reply is directed at an individual, you must treat it like every other piece of content you share on social media. Try to craft your tweet so it can stand on its own without the context of prior messages. Very few followers will take the time to follow a conversation all the way back to the beginning, and some followers find it annoying when you turn their Twitter stream into a one way conversation that they don’t even comprehend.
The same rule of thumb goes for participation in Twitter chats. You’ll quickly alienate your followers if you treat your Twitter account like an IRC chat room. When someone asks a question, re-tweet the question and try to tag your answer onto the beginning of it. If it doesn’t fit, restate the question in your answer. Be mindful of the people who follow you at all times, and remember that everything you tweet is public.
Diversification is a must in social media for business. You keep it fresh, and make sure that there’s something for everybody. What other types of tweets do you send to your followers? Do you know if they enjoy getting them?
Adam is a veteran Web Developer and Online Journalist. He runs several web properties, a regional web design and marketing firm and is a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! Technology. You can find Adam at his personal blog, Social Media Marketing Expert.
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