How can I grow my Twitter followers?

twitterMany people are understandably keen to increase their Twitter followers, and while having an engaged community of followers – no matter the size – is often more beneficial than having thousands of uninterested followers, there are some tips and tricks you can employ to give yourself a boost:

  • It sounds silly, but keep going – generally the more active you are the more followers you gain
  • Make sure you’re using #tags and @handles as often as possible to draw people in
  • Retweet and share interesting content from others regularly
  • Use Followerwonk to analyse your followers and find industry influencers to follow and engage with
  • Use a dashboard like HootSuite to schedule your tweets in advance so you can maintain constant and set-up search streams following keywords, phrases, lists of people you’re interested in
  • Find Twitter chats to join to raise your profile within the community you’re interested in
  • Make sure that you’ve optimised your Twitter bio with the keywords you think your potential new followers will be searching for
  • Use Twitter’s Favourite button to like what other people have shared and highlight that you’re interested in them
  • Don’t be afraid to show your personality – some of the most interesting people on Twitter share a mix of professional and personal updates
  • Be social – thank people for retweeting or mentioning you, say hi to interesting new followers, and share other people’s content

Beware of any company offering to sell you new followers – these are highly unlikely to ever be of real value to you. And you could be paying for fakes.

How much automation is OK in social media?

If you’re running marketing campaigns on social media, it makes sense to be using automation tools. Automation increases your efficiency by making it easier to plan and execute your campaigns; giving you back precious time to use on the rest of your to-do list. But it’s crucial to strike the right balance between auto updates and that critical real-time engagement which makes social such a successful channel for your brands. Too much automation can result in your social efforts coming across as contrived rather than authentic, potentially damaging your relationship with your followers and wider community.

To help you make the most of the automation opportunity, here are my top 10 tips:

1 – Plan your campaign: Integrate updates to coincide with what you’re doing on other channels

It seems like a no-brainer, but is easy to forget, especially as social media is still often kept in a silo away from the more traditional/everyday marketing activities, rather than being fully integrated with them. Use your ability to schedule as an opportunity to align you social media messaging with your other campaign channels. If you’re running a social only campaign use automation as an opportunity to really map out the story you want to tell before you start to tell it. You’ll find that you have a much more coherent and cohesive message than if you’d taken a more adhoc approach.

2 – Make time for engagement

Automation shouldn’t be used as a replacement for engagement, quite the opposite. Use the time freed up by your automation efforts to talk to people, join conversations, respond, share and find new influencers to follow and engage. Make an effort to schedule time each day to dedicate to being engaging.

3 – Don’t schedule across all your channels in one go

It’s important to remember when you’re scheduling updates not to simply do a blanket update. Your communities and their expectations will differ from network to network and each social platform plays to different content strengths, so ensure that your updates reflect this understanding. Each social media channel has its own nuances and language – for example, there’s not much point sharing a tweet with an @handle to LinkedIn and Facebook; not only will it not have the same meaning as on Twitter but it will really highlight your social media inexperience (or laziness).  If you’re struggling to find different content for all your social channels, it’s worth thinking about whether you need to scale back and streamline your efforts.

4 – Use auto scheduling  

When to schedule updates for can be quite tricky, especially if you’re dealing with communities in global time zones. Tools like HootSuite have an autoschedule feature which uses an algorithm to determine when the optimal time to send your post will be. Sprout Social offers six suggested times for your posts based on data that show when your message is most likely to be seen.

5 – Make it interesting

Writing and planning content in advance can feel like a thankless task, and it’s really easy to become repetitive…as well as dull. Write your content when you’re feeling at your freshest and don’t try to do it all in one sitting. Have a look at your favourite social media accounts for inspiration – there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

6 – Your agency: How much automation have you agreed with them?

If you’ve employed a social media agency to carry out a campaign on your behalf, ensure that you’ve talked about your automation expectations. You want to make sure that they’re adhering to best practice and that they’re not abusing automation, otherwise your brand could be missing out on valuable engagement opportunities which have been overlooked.

7 – Automation isn’t an excuse for spam 

Just because you can schedule marketing message after marketing message in advance doesn’t mean you should. No one wants to stand next to the person shouting about themselves at the party, don’t let that social media account be you. Your followers want you to be useful and valuable to them, so don’t forget about the quality of your messages in your hurry to schedule more stuff, this is what grabs people’s attention and prolongs the life of your post.

8 – Don’t automate too much

The social media community is savvy, it knows what automation looks like. And while users expect a certain amount of automation from brands, too much means your account goes from being ‘social media’ to ‘shouting media’, pull to push. How do you know if you’re automating too much? If your automated messages are outweighing your authentic actions then I’d suggest that you’ve already gone too far, however the best way to know is to test the response of your followers to more or less content. Gauge their reactions to the changes you make through monitoring your shares, likes, clicks and conversions – as well as how many people are un/following you.

9 – Beware scheduling too far in advance

Although tempting, scheduling too far in advance can be dangerous. The world is a changeable place and relying too heavily scheduling can mean that your content is out of sight, out of mind at times when you need to be on the ball. It could be a little thing, perhaps a speaker has dropped out of your event but a scheduled tweet has gone out about their attendance, through to world altering events which see your jolly message turning downright offensive in the blink of an eye.

10 – Never automate DM messages, follows, and RTs (and beware auto favourites) on Twitter

Though there are tools which enable you to do this, I feel very strongly about not automating DM messages to new followers (obviously spam and not authentic), follows (again, a spammy way to try and get new followers and can end up being rather confusing), and RTs (very dangerous as you can end up retweeting some really weird stuff, regardless of how smart you try to be with your keywords).

Auto Favourites is a tricky one as it can grow your followers and traffic to your site, but it can be dangerous as the auto functionality is set-up against keywords and phrases – so you could end up favouriting something completely inappropriate.

But overall, automation is a must for any busy marketing manager, there’s a great list here of seven time saving social media automation tools for you to be using – happy posting!

Dated event hashtags are so passé

HashtagHashtags are the lifeblood of conversation around your exhibition or conference, so it’s important to choose the right one. Just like a Goldilocks social media breakfast, it shouldn’t be too long, too obscure or too tricky to spell.

But what about timely? If you want your hashtags to live on in post-show engagement and discussion, it’s best to steer clear of dates, for example #yourevent13. And by choosing a hashtag with year-round appeal and relevancy, you don’t need to coach the community on using your #2014 tag – it’s already embedded in the conversation.

Also consider how you use your brand within your hashtag – or whether you leave it out altogether. A good hashtag is often one which is absorbed into the community and used in discussions not directly related to your event, but around the show’s topics or focus area.

We’ve seen this around #Ecobuild which is being used by the community as a synonym for sustainability in the built environment, and #thinkcircular on our Resource Event. #ThinkCircular is not only arguably a more interesting and appealing hashtag compared with #ResourceEvent, but has year-round relevancy for the community – it’s really taken on a life of its own since the show team started using it.

However not using your brand within a hashtag does carry its own risks, after all there’s nothing stopping a competitor jumping on your successful hashtag bandwagon, but I would argue that if you’re the first to adopt this as your event-related hashtag (obviously don’t pick something really generic which is already in use within the community, such as #furniture) you’ll be claiming it as your own and sending a signal to the community that you’re in social for the right reasons – to foster conversation, share knowledge, and be useful – not just to talk about your brand 24/7.

Social media advertising isn’t social media, it’s just ads

Twitter small bizA couple of weeks ago Twitter announced that advertising is now available for small and medium sized business in UK, Ireland and Canada. This move now makes social media advertising affordable for those of us with more modest marketing budgets across the Big Three (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter) by using their self-serve ad platforms. Certainly more affordable than the £5k minimum spend per month per @handle which I was recently quoted by their ads team (not a great fit for a large business such as UBM which is made up of lots of individual brands which are independently budgeted for).

That aside, what’s really important to remember when we’re talking about social media advertising is that it isn’t social media, it’s just digital ads. There is no real social aspect to this marketing activity other than the fact it’s taking place on a social network, in short it’s a misnomer.

To get the most from social media you need to be social – and by that I mean that you need to engage and be engaging. It’s about those personal connections, having a conversation and doing something which resonates with your customers and wider community.

Whereas social media advertising is just another push marketing medium, it doesn’t build the relationship between the community and your brand. While it might help to grow your followers or increase your click throughs, it’s only a short term solution to the much bigger challenge of really understanding and getting to the heart of how your business can leverage the power social interactions. And promoting your tweets is not it.

The big business benefits come from social when you earn it. Take a look at this blog from Martin Zwilling in which he discusses Jim Tobin’s new book ‘Earn It. Don’t Buy It’, which really highlights the importance of engagement, engagement, engagement. And also take a look at Sarah Mason’s blog on why follower numbers are not the most important measurement of social success.

So while advertising on a social network might get you lots of lovely digital advertising metrics, which you may or may not actually be able to track back to real business benefit (does getting more followers mean we get more conversions?), just remember not to confuse it with actual social media engagement. Social media advertising is not a social media strategy, the two things are worlds apart.

Case Study: Our 2013 Ecobuild Social Media Story

The social media explosion has been a huge opportunity for the face-to-face industry. Despite early fears that digital networking was going to kill off live events, show organisers are realising that social channels are not only enhancing the community experience on site, but also helping to turn their brands from ones which are relevant for just a few days each year, to ones which are in touch with the community 365. Ecobuild is one such show which has recognised these benefits and run with them.

Since its launch in 2005, Ecobuild has grown to become the biggest event in the world for sustainable design, construction and the built environment; it attracts over 900 exhibitors and 45,000 attendees to Excel in London. Our social media strategy, aligned carefully with our business and marketing strategies, runs year round, however for the purpose of this blog I’m going to tell you about the creative campaign we ran in the lead-up to the show. Our channel of choice is undoubtedly Twitter; while we have social accounts for Ecobuild across a range of platforms, we find that the microblogging service is the perfect complement to live events as it facilitates conversation and connections – exactly what we work so hard at doing on the show floor.

Our first engagement initiative was the #Ecobuild100. People love lists (look at the success of BuzzFeed), and this initiative encouraged the Twitter community to nominate their favourite sustainable construction, design and built environment accounts.  During the three weeks of the campaign we received nearly 300 influencer nominations. We used Peerindex to initially rank the list of nominees (we’ll be going back to Klout as Peerindex has now removed the group list functionality), but the final 100 was curated by the Ecobuild team and listed alphabetically. We felt it was important to cast a human eye over the nominations to ensure that the list would feature truly useful, knowledgeable and expert users, rather than a list based on a faceless algorithm alone.

Using GleanIn we were able to calculate that the campaign’s reach exceeded 2.5 million on Twitter – not bad for a list of 100 influencers. The Ecobuild100 engagement didn’t stop there as we invited all the participants in the final list to write a piece for our show blog on the website, bringing more industry thought-leadership and discussion under the event brand. This was a really strong initiative to kick off with as it generated a fantastic buzz, produced some excellent content for people to share, highlighted the influencers in the community, and got people talking about the show.

Following on the heels of this success we launched the #Ecototem campaign. This was a collaborative campaign with BBM Sustainable Design and BBP Consulting Engineers who had commissioned a 9m totem designed to change current mindsets of waste as an inconvenience to that of a valuable resource. Our @Ecobuild_Now followers were invited to submit slogans via Twitter using the #Ecototem tag, answering the all important question ‘what is the future of waste’?

Twenty of the most inspirational slogans were selected to emblazon the waste totem in the central boulevard at Excel. The slogan judges included Cat Fletcher, Freegle’s waste management expert, (who had been recently acclaimed in the national press as the ‘human womble’ for furnishing her home for free with other people’s rubbish) and eco-architect Duncan Brown from BBM. The brilliance of the campaign concept was that it brought together both the live and digital sides of the event. The community was able to contribute to campaign digitally pre-show and see the result live on-site. It didn’t hurt that it was a fantastic photo opportunity, I can’t tell you how many I saw being shared on the social channels we were monitoring during the event.

The #Ecototem in all its glory at Ecobuild 2013.

The #Ecototem in all its glory at Ecobuild 2013

Our on-site strategy aimed to convert those who had pre-registered into showfloor attendees. As Ecobuild is free to attend there’s no financial incentive to visit the show and combined with people’s busy lives, encouraging them to visit us over working on their current project is a hugely important component of the strategy. To manage the sheer volume of content which we could have been promoting on Twitter (over 140 seminar sessions alone) we launched seven additional Twitter accounts which automatically fed sector specific information throughout the event. This avoided us spamming people’s Twitter feeds with irrelevant content during the event – unless they wanted us to!

Our biggest weapon was the launch of our live blog. The blog enabled us to report live from the show, share photos and videos, link to interesting events happening on stands around the showfloor, and link out to what the community was talking about on their own blogs and social media. It not only gave the community a taste of what was happening on site in order to boost, but for those who truly couldn’t make the show we were able to reach out through digital channels to bring the Ecobuild experience to them, direct to their desks.

During the course of the campaign nearly 10,000 people tweeted about Ecobuild, reaching a potential audience of 13.7 million. Of those, half tweeted during the three days of the event reaching a staggering audience of 4.6 million. We’re are looking to top this for the next event in March, with the campaign kicking off in early 2014 – you’ll have to check back next year to see how we do.

Poppy Powers – Hitting HMV where it hurts

UK retailer HMV got a very short, sharp social media lesson yesterday when Poppy Rose Cleere, formally the company’s social media planner, took to its Twitter account to live tweet from a mass redundancy meeting…

HMV+Twitter+firing

Following her ‘off message’ tweets on @hmvtweets, Poppy took to her own @poppy_powers account to reveal that yet another ‘big brand’ has left its social media presence solely in the hands of a single junior staff member (Poppy set-up the account while an intern), with senior management apparently taking no interest in the changes social is bringing to the way organisations and businesses communicate with their customers. Is it any wonder that HMV missed the internet boat and is now in administration with this attitude to change?

Let this be a lesson to us all. Poppy says it best herself…(read from the bottom up)

HMV+Poppy

Twitter – warping our view of the real world?

Last week I was lucky enough to be able to attend Mashup’s event for Social Media Week London on Twitter and the future of journalism. It was a fantastic look at the role Twitter plays in today’s journalism and how it’s changing our view of what’s newsworthy and what’s not.

Of course there were the Twitter positives: self-publishing, raw reporting, finding and reaching people you wouldn’t normally be able to, breaking news, the huge opportunities for agile media newcomers, publishing to readers on the platforms they’re engaging with, staying in touch with audiences and finding niches etc etc.

However, it started to emerge that there is a seedy underside to Twitter, firstly that validation and verification are two huge problems on the platform, but even more significantly, that our view of the world can being massively narrowed by an over reliance on social media.

One of the big advantages of Twitter for users is that they can choose to personalise their content and filter it by the type of information they want to read. And one of the disadvantages of Twitter is that people can easily choose to listen to very little.

This gives us a warped perspective on what’s important and what’s not. Social discovery doesn’t mean you’re getting a wide angled view of the world, it just means you’re discovering things that people you’re similar to (such as your friends) have found.

We need to remember this when we’re either consuming content from Twitter or using it as a source of leads for our next story. There’s whole world of news out there which we won’t ever come into contact with if we rely on our social connections alone.