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We only have so many social media minutes, and every one of them is easy to waste.
Get it right, and you will build a bigger fan base, sell more books, and move more widgets — whether that means freelancing or hours spent consulting.
Get it wrong, and you will waste your time like so many tweeters before you.
How you use Twitter ultimately depends on your endgame, which means you can’t use it well if you don’t know what your endgame actually is.
Too often, smart people are thrust into a stupid situation, not knowing their goals and thus confused about the workflow required to mine the most from their time with the tool.
That’s KEY — Twitter is a tool, not a toy. And that’s probably the number one problem digital writers, and professional users in general, have when using Twitter. They don’t understand the difference.
Sure, they’ll swing by Facebook to see if anyone left a comment on their wall update, reply to their @’s on Twitter, and maybe retweet a handful of worthy tweets from their stream, but they log out of Hootsuite not an inch closer to their dreams.
This is an EPIC post, so you might want to bookmark it, share it on Twitter, and come back later. If not, let’s dig right in.
Know Your Purpose on Twitter
You must know your purpose if you expect to get results.
What follows are 7 reasons I use Twitter, as well as reasons I think the social media hot spot is essential for every digital writer.
1) Tribe Building: Twitter makes community building simple and fun; an easy-to-use technology that makes building a tribe, and communicating with that tribe point-and-click basic.
2) Membership: Other writers and readers are using it, as are the people in your industry. You must be an active participant of the ecosystem or you will get left behind.
3) Observation: Twitter can teach you to observe a crowd. Sitting on the sidelines and watching the world stream by can be incredibly powerful. Whether you’re watching the influencers you’d like to connect with or the tribe you’re trying to help, Twitter lets you see the human flow of emotion; frustration, boredom, excitement, confusion, anticipation — passing by in real time.
4) Networking: I’ve met a fair chunk of the people I work with regularly through Twitter. That alone has made the social media app a massive part of my life.
5) Trend Watching: Twitter can keep you up to date. A writer who doesn’t know the latest breaking news, upcoming movies, cool new software, trending topics, and popular books, is a writer running behind. Follow the right people, and effectively manage your lists, and Twitter can give you it all at a glance.
6) Traffic: Obviously this is a BIG one. The idea isn’t to build a platform on Twitter; it’s to drive traffic back to your blog, where you can lead readers into the widest part of your funnel.
7) Grow as a Writer: Twitter will sharpen your writing more than any other social media spot. You can only post 140 characters at a time, so you must be concise. Precision is essential to great writing. Short sentences pack a powerful punch. Hemingway’s best short story would fit on Twitter in its entirety: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
Now, those are reasons; you need goals.
There is a difference.
Regardless of your reasons, your number one aim should be building authority — NOT ATTENTION. Attention is fleeting; authority is leverage for a better life.
Building Authority Instead of Attention
Because attention is so easy to gather on Twitter, and because your follower count can climb with the speed of a soaring stock, you might find yourself falling into the too- typical trap of thinking Twitter’s purpose is to gather as much attention as possible. It’s not.
Attention is great, but it’s only the end result of getting what you’re really after — quality relationships.
The more you establish quality relationships, the more easily you’ll leverage them for your own benefit, whether you’re trying to build your brand or broaden your influence. People in your day-to-day life are happy to help you because you have an existing relationship. The same holds true online.
Constantly ask yourself, “How can I add value?” Make that the primary focus of your time on Twitter and things will generally turn out in your favor. If those aren’t the results you see immediately, be patient; good times are right around the corner.
Be helpful, and never think, “What’s in it for me?” Don’t reach out to others because you think they may do something for you in return; help them because it’s the right thing to do. Imagine you’re at the grocery store and the old woman in front of you is a dollar short on her bill. Would you cover the difference or watch as she returns her pint of milk? You have little chance to recover your dollar, yet helping feels like the right thing to do.
Allow your best instincts to guide you online, just as you would while standing behind the old lady in line.
Be an excellent listener. Everyone wants to be heard, and no one wants to feel alone. If the people following you on Twitter believe you can hear them, and understand where they’re coming from, you will slowly form a quiet, consistent, and natural bond.
Never talk trash. Though exceptions do exist — longtime friends, siblings, and fraternity brothers or sorority sisters — most people don’t want to be friends with trash talkers. Social media isn’t a sporting event; it’s a community. Talking down to, or at, others will do nothing to elevate you and will ultimately bring you lower.
Be real, get involved, and reward your audience, early and often. You won’t get a penalty for giving too much, but you’ll always get diminished results for caring too little. Do everything you can to build relationships with honesty, integrity, and only the best intentions.
A relationship that is well-built from the beginning is always easier to nurture.
This may seem more difficult in the beginning, when you’re feeling like everyone knows you’re a newbie. But the truth is, Twitter moves far too fast for people to tell.
How to Tweet as a Newbie (And Look Like a Pro)
Many new users to Twitter have trouble feeling like the new guy. It’s bad enough when you’re the new kid on the block, it’s worse when you live in fear that everybody knows, everyone is looking, and maybe some are even talking about you, trading heckles and hollers behind your back.
Truth is, that’s never going to happen. Twitter is crowded, and your followers have more than enough to focus on beyond your rookie mistakes. But that doesn’t make your feelings any less real. No one wants to look like they’re new, even if they are.
Plus, being an obvious newbie makes it difficult for other Twitter users to follow you.
After all, if you’re just getting started, what could you possibly have to share? Yet, this puts you in an unfair Catch-22. You need a foundation before you can grow, but how can you grow without a solid base to build on?
You can do a few simple things to strip the newness from your profile and let others se you’re worth following.
First off, make sure your profile and avatar are properly filled out. Stick with the default avatar and you will only gather a small percentage of the total followers you deserve.
Same for your profile. When people click on your Twitter handle to see if you’re worth following, you must give them an immediate reason to.
Next, start tweeting. Experience doesn’t happen by accident. Get going and maintain your early momentum. Eventually you’ll find your flow. Tweet as often as is sensible for you. Think of yourself as Goldilocks; don’t tweet too much or too little. Aim for a rhythm that’s just right.
Make sure you’re putting others first and retweeting quality content from people you want to network with as often as possible (without being annoying). Interact, ask questions, and be your best, friendliest self.
Don’t ever spam or use direct messaging to offer unsolicited advice.
Above all, observe. Notice what works and what doesn’t, then quickly adapt, crafting a Twitter strategy uniquely tailored to you. Feeling it right when you start is impossible.
Like anything worth doing, you can only truly excel at Twitter by doing it, then doing it over and over until it feels natural. And like life, never forget your manners.
Manners Makes it Easy For People to Follow
Twitter mimics real-world relationships. People who find succeeding in the social media hotspot difficult are the same people who don’t understand its correlation to the real world, or believe that the rules of online etiquette are somehow different than the ones they’ve been using since preschool.
Take time to craft your response. Yes, Twitter moves fast, but that doesn’t mean you’re obligated to respond to something the second you see it. Always consider your responses before hitting send, and know that a reply isn’t always required.
Think before you tweet. This doesn’t mean you can’t be fluid or natural or say the first thing to enter your head, but realize that everything you say is a permanent reflection of your brand
Apply the same rules to your online behavior as you would if meeting someone in person. Introduce yourself using your real name, not a keyword. Even if you have a freelance business and call yourself “The Best Brand on the Net!” you shouldn’t use it as your Twitter handle. If your name is Bob White, your Twitter handle should read @BobWhite or as close as you can find (most first/last names are taken).
Above all, take time to listen. If you wouldn’t barge into a crowded room and start yammering away and telling everybody about your lunch, the colors of your shoes and the black between your teeth, don’t do it online.
Think of Twitter as a cocktail party. You enter the room, look around and see different groups mingling amongst themselves. You wouldn’t burst into the room, throw your arms in the air and yell, “Hey everyone, I have awesome freelance writing services! Read my new book! Check out my blog!”
Do this online and you will be shunned. And deservedly so.
Now imagine that same cocktail party. You grab a drink, mosey over to a crowd of interesting looking people, then stand quietly and listen. When you sense a break in conversation and have something intelligent and relevant to add, you speak, showing everyone around you how witty, helpful, and on-point you can be.
Only after you are given an entry, would discussing your product, service, or brand be natural. The people around you would probably be happy to hear about it. Though they wouldn’t call the scenario above spam in the real world, that’s exactly what it is — an unsolicited barrage of garbage.
Manners are no different online than in the real world. Follow that maxim and you should always be fine.
Knowing what to do is important, but knowing what not to do will keep you free from tons of Twitter trouble.
Twitter is relatively new. Many people are unfamiliar with the etiquette; an even larger number of people could care less about the few rules in place. Which is why many users are quick to hit the block or unfollow button the minute people’s poor Twitter manners cross their path.
Everyone’s tolerance levels are different, but the following six things seem to be generally accepted no-no’s on Twitter:
1) Send out offers on how to increase Twitter followers. Especially when you have less followers than the people you’re pitching.
2) Repeat the same self-promoting tweet over and over. No one needs to tweet about an “incredible limited time offer” eight million times. Obviously, the offer can’t be too incredible or limited if it’s a constant in the stream.
3) Send links to porn. Offering complete strangers free pornography isn’t okay in real life, and it’s not okay on Twitter. Spam, viruses and shadiness aside, porn on Twitter is just plain tacky.
4) Send a link pointing to your business without having ever tweeted to that user before. Blatant and unsolicited tweets to “check out” your site will either get ignored or blocked. It’s bad, not to mention, lazy marketing.
5) Tweet only slightly less than you breathe. If your avatar is the first one users see every time they log on to Twitter, you’re tweeting too much. Take a break. And PLEASE, don’t tweet, “Off to take a break from Twitter.” Just go.
6) Act like a robot. Using an automation tool here or there is okay, but if your Twitter feed is being run by Skynet, people can tell. Users want humans on the other side of the tweets, not a robot scheduled to say “something funny” at 12:06.
In the real world, putting up with the personalities that annoy us isn’t easy. On Twitter, a “block” button is specially designed to make annoying people easy to ignore.
Make sure you’re tweeting how you would expect others to tweet, and others will want to hear what you have to say.
How To Find And Join The Right Conversations
Finding, joining, and initiating quality conversations is the key to getting noticed, building your brand and individual authority, and quickly exploding your follower count.
Yet, actually starting and maintaining conversation on Twitter can be difficult. And conversations that stop and start, pop and fizzle, can be frustrating. Few things are worse in the social media space than gearing up for a volley, only to find yourself standing on the court alone.
The best way to get the most from your Twitter conversations is to understand the ecosystem. Twitter isn’t a chat; it’s a never-ending party. When you have a conversation with someone, one-on-one, the two of you are both engaged; two listeners sharing a single conversation. With Twitter, the world is listening, or at least it seems so, even if it’s only your followers (and the followers from the person on the other side of the exchange).
When people are in a two-way conversation, even if it’s in e-mail or text, they generally follow the standard rules of polite conversation. Exchanges aren’t abrupt. If one person is leaving the dialogue, they typically say so, especially if closure isn’t implied.
On Twitter, people abandon dialogue without notice every second, and yet it’s not considered rude in the least.
Having successful conversations on Twitter is possible, but they take more strategy. Engage people, respond to what they have to say, then learn to draw them into conversation with direct questions and articulate responses. If you want someone to join your conversation, mention them with an @reply.
Just because many users abandon the rules of offline etiquette on Twitter doesn’t mean you have to. Set the precedent you’d like to see. If you’re just getting started on Twitter and trying to grab someone’s attention, start with a simple hello just as you would in real life. If you’re signing off, don’t be afraid to say goodbye.
Use searches to find those conversations you want to be a part of, but never hijack someone else’s exchange. Always wait your turn. When you see a question you can answer or can provide a response that adds to rather than detracts from the existing conversation, quietly insert your tweet.
Prove yourself to be intelligent and articulate and you will be a welcome part of almost any Twitter dialogue. Do it with consistency and your Twitter conversations will naturally lead to the growth of your following.
How To Be Interesting (Even If You Don’t Think You Are)
In real life, when you’re more interesting than the other guy, people want to get to know you. They care about what you’re doing now, and what you might be doing later. Twitter is the same.
Besides the brand and authority building being done 140 characters at a time through content curation and listening, Twitter is also home to many personalities who exploded overnight simply because they were interesting.
Justin Halpern, author of “Sh*t My Dad Says” scored a book deal based entirely on tweets taken from his father’s colorful commentary and unique world perspective. The initial book led to a television development deal. For Justin, personality was everything.
There is too much noise on Twitter. If you’re not interesting, you won’t stand out. And if you don’t stand out, you’re just another tweet in a never-ending stream with little to no hope of getting noticed.
Fortunately, like in real life, you have plenty of ways to be interesting on Twitter.
Try to communicate in ways that others can’t. Say things in a unique way or offer a fresh perspective on an old idea. Be the person who makes the light bulb blink above your follower’s heads. You won’t be forgotten, and are far more likely to get re-tweeted.
Be empathetic. People sometimes want to be alone, but no one wants to feel alone. When your followers feel as though you understand their pain and appreciate their point of view, they will always be more interested in what you have to say.
Stay ahead of the trends. Be a curator of interesting topics and breaking news. By reporting on events as they happen, rather than after the ink is dry on yesterday’s edition, you will remain interesting to your audience. As a result, you will become interesting to your followers’ followers. This is an excellent way to rapidly build your authority and reach.
Always put your followers first. It’s simple human nature –– when someone pays attention to you, you are more likely to pay attention to them. By putting your readers first, you are letting them know that you’re interested in them, meaning they will more likely become (and remain) interested in you.
Above all, be yourself.
Be interesting, then stay interesting, and you will quickly and organically grow your authority on Twitter in the most natural way possible.
Check out this short video with three quick Twitter tips:
You Can Drive Behavior on Twitter (Even if You’re Not a Copywriter!)
Twitter is a modern miracle for anyone interested in the rules of direct response. Social Media may usher in a new age of Direct Response 2.0, but as much as technology has altered the landscape over the last few years, human nature is essentially the same.
Twitter is a new proving ground for all the old rules of persuasion. Understand the basics of human psychology that drive behavior and Twitter will grow exponentially in its value. Truth is, all your followers are somewhat irrelevant if they’re not doing what you need them to do. Even 100,000 fans are an empty metric if no one is clicking on your links, re-tweeting your words, or developing any emotional investment in you or what you have to say.
If you learn to drive behavior, and can do it consistently, you will become an influencer. People will follow what you are doing, apply it to their practice, and help to evangelize your message 140 characters at a time.
You’ll see a cumulative affect to your effort on Twitter. The more you give, the more you get. By tapping into the basic laws of human psychology, paying attention to your results and then applying what you learn over a sustained period of time, you will become efficient at driving your followers toward specific behavior. This alone could be enough to put you at the peak of the Twitter pyramid.
It starts with the basic skill set of persuasion, which is simple enough to execute once you understand the essentials of human psychology. Of course, that’s another book altogether, but let’s quickly run through the basic laws laid out by Robert Cialdiani in his book, Influence.
Reciprocity is the social convention found in all societies where one person feels they must repay another person for a kindness provided. This instinct lies deep within us all and explains everything from common etiquette to the stacks of holiday cards we send out at the end of each year.
Commitment and consistency is a person’s undeniable need to validate their previous behavior by repeating the same actions over and over, even if those actions are harmful to themselves. This explains why people stay in bad relationships or continue through a path in life that consistently makes them unhappy.
Social proof is the idea that if a lot of people are doing something, it must be the right thing to do. The greater the number of people approving of an idea, the more people will naturally want to follow. People tend to like what others like, and we often look to the actions of others to give us a green light to make the safe decision.
Liking. People want to interact with other people they like. This is equally true in social settings and in business. Offline, we are most drawn to those people who are similar to us, make us laugh, or touch us in some way. On Twitter, these are the people we want to follow, re-tweet and help promote whenever possible.
Authority. People are easily influenced by others who they feel are legitimate authority figures. From doctors and lawyers, to coaches and teachers, we easily hand authority to people we see as in charge. Authority carries a halo effect and we often take what these people say as gospel, even if their claims cannot be validated or substantiated by fact.
Scarcity often leads to an increase in perceived value. Though the result may not always be accurate, it is a natural assumption most people make. Rubies are far rarer than diamonds, at least in nature. Yet diamonds carry a higher perceived value because people believe in their scarcity.
Boil the seven essential human triggers down to 140 characters and you can provide relevant information to your audience that they are consistently driven to hear.
You will be trusted, clicked, and able to drive a percentage of your followers’ behavior.
Learning to write effective headlines on Twitter is a massive help.
Headlines on Twitter
At 140 characters, most tweets can serve as a powerful headline. Treat your characters with care, and if you understand that your primary objective is selling the click, you can leverage the ecosystem to your benefit.
Smart copywriters are able to milk buckets of benefit from Twitter because they understand the psychology behind compelling headlines. Fortunately, today’s headlines tap into the same emotional triggers that have driven human behavior for decades before Madison Avenue.
Creativity is borrowed. Take an afternoon to hit your local grocery store and you can easily see how many new headlines have been recycled. Just take a look at Cosmopolitan. Aren’t they using the same headlines, or variations of past ones, over and over and over again?
Buy a stack of magazines and study the copy, then tweak the headlines to your individual needs. This isn’t lazy; it’s smart.
If you don’t understand the psychology behind the headline, or what makes it work, you risk writing it all wrong. And an ineffective headline gathers no readers and holds no attention.
Truly understand the triggers that can make a marginal headline magical, and you will hold the keys to the kingdom. Twitter is always in motion, meaning you can test headlines, see what works, then use the variations of your best headlines for maximum effect.
Twitter is THE place for sharing content. Nowhere else online is content spread so voraciously. Retweets are easy to get, once you know how to get them, and gathering those retweets can do wonders for your authority. The key is in crafting a headline that commands attention.
Offer a benefit, then be original, unique, insistent, and specific. Above all, practice.
How To Find Your Top Fans, Promoters And Evangelists
If you are paying attention to your @mentions and retweets tabs, you probably have a fair idea of who your top fans are. You can also take a peek at your lists tab to see which lists you’ve landed in.
A service like Klout can help you see how much of a reach you really have and who you are influencing. Just because you have a large number of followers doesn’t mean anyone is paying attention.
Take time to get to know your fans. Not just because they’ve been helping you out and you want to repay the favor, but because they can help you understand more about who your audience is and how you can serve them best.
You want to find the signal through the noise, and filtering your tweets is a great way to make that happen. Even if you’ve been doing your best to keep your Twitter followers list manageable, keeping up with the stream can still be difficult, especially on busy weekdays. And if you’ve opted for a policy of auto-following, you have your work cut out for you, especially if you want to avoid information overload.
As already discussed, Twitter’s list function is a great way to chunk groups of users whose tweets you don’t want to miss. Other third party applications have similar functions that allow you to sort those you follow into different groups. They will also allow you to find and view Tweets using specific keywords.
Browser extensions and scripts are also available that allow you to hide Tweets on your homepage mentioning certain keywords or hashtags. This can be especially useful when it seems like everyone you know is participating in a Twitter chat or party that you aren’t interested in that’s clogging up your stream.
If you’ve given permission in your settings, Twitter can share your location with your followers on a tweet by tweet basis with geo-tagging. While you might not want to share so much personal information on a daily basis, it can be especially useful in certain circumstances.
For example, if you’re attending a huge conference, what better way to let others know you’re open to meet up than by sharing that you’re having drinks, with Twitter sharing directions? Sharing your location can be more than just exhibitionism; it can be a great way to build stronger networks and local community.
Using services like FourSquare to share your location can also be a great way to start conversations and let your favorite businesses know you’re a loyal customer.
How To Get More Followers
The best way to get more followers is to be somebody others want to follow. That means sharing interesting and relevant information, projecting an open and likable personality, while being a kind, generous and consistent presence.
The more you put into Twitter, the more you’ll get out of it. Give people a reason to want to follow you and to recommend that others do the same. Update your stream regularly and take care to only send the very best rather than mindlessly re-tweeting everything that comes your way.
Take time to interact. Answer people’s questions. Remember to ask others about their day, their project, whatever it is that you have in common. Be generous in sharing praise and compliments. Don’t shy away from sharing your opinion but do it in a way that’s respectful of others.
Online community is an ever-evolving concept. People want to be known and seen as individuals while at the same time feeling as though they’re part of something bigger. Keep that in mind when interacting with your community and let them know you see them as fully faceted individuals.
Online communities grow up around people who can articulate ideas that others can easily relate to. If you can understand what people fear, and what they need to make them feel better, you can be a driving force in your community.
Use Twitter to grow as a writer. This video details the three ways I believe Twitter helps digital writers grow most.
Since no Ultimate Twitter Guide would be complete without a list of people to follow on Twitter, the following is a list includes people every Digital Writer should follow (in no particular order).
Brian Clark: Content marketing, online publishing, and copy advice. (Copyblogger)
Joanna Penn: Helping you write, publish and sell your books. (The Creative Penn)
Corbett Barr: I help people build cool stuff online. (Corbett Barr)
Jane Friedman: Follow Jane for info on media-publishing-writing. (Jane Friedman)
Stanford Smith: Getting passionate people noticed and promoted. (Pushing Social)
Michael Hyatt: I help people live and lead on purpose. (Michael Hyatt)
Jonathan Fields: Dad, husband, author, speaker, entrepreneur. (Jonathan Fields)
Steven Pressfield: Historian and author. (Steven Pressfield)
Mari Smith: Passionate Social Media Speaker. (Mari Smith)
Michael Stelzner: Founded Social Media Examiner. (Social Media Examiner)
Jason Falls: Jason Falls thinks and shares. (Social Media Explorer)
Lisa Barone: Co-founder, Branding Officer – Outspoken Media. (Outspoken Media)
Chris Guillebeau: Pursuing World Domination. (Chris Guillebeau)
Dan Zarrella: HubSpot’s Social Media Scientist. (Dan Zarrella)
Matt Gartland: Insights on writing, editing, and publishing. (Winning Edits)
Kristi Hines: Freelance writer, blogger, and social media enthusiast. (Kikolani)
Jeff Goins: Writer. Idea Guy. Difference Maker. (Goins Writer)
David Gaughran: Short story writer, novelist, blogger. (Let’s Get Digital)
Thom Chambers I create online magazines for the restless. (Mountain & Pacific)
Justine Musk: Building out the life of a creative badass. (Justine Musk)
Sean Platt: Writer, Publisher and online entrepreneur. (Sean Platt)
The Digital Writer: We did it. So can you. (The Digital Writer)
Lori Taylor: Optimizing the buzz in your life. (Social Caffeine)
For more on Twitter, some of the best posts we found online are:
Why It’s Okay to Have Multiple Twitter Accounts = Yes, it’s OK
The Theory of 1,000 True Fans = Essential For Digital Writers to Understand
10 Things You Need to Stop Tweeting About = Hysterical
Ultimate Social Media Glossary = 120 Social Media Marketing Terms Explained
The Six Twitter Types = Quick Breakdown of Twitter Personality Types
EPIC Social Media Roundup = Twitter is Just Part of This Amazing Page
Writing Killer Content in 140 Characters or Less = Perfect For Digital Writers
3 Ways to Use Twitter Favorites = Smart
Twitter Hashtags = What They Are And How to Use Them
Social Media Automation = Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That
Twitter Headlines = No One Does This Better than Copyblogger
The Ultimate Guide to Twitter = Possibly More Ultimate Than This One!
Of course, this EPIC Post would not have been possible without the awesome book, The Digital Writer’s Guide to Twitter.
Please share this EPIC Post on Twitter, and any other social media outlets where your audience will benefit.
Enter your best email address in the box below, absorb the free content once a week, then take action on what you learn. You will be a more successful writer.
* If there is a person you feel every digital writer should follow on Twitter, or a post on Twitter that should be included in this post, please add it to the comments and I will look into it as soon as I can.