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The Seven Secret Habits of Twitter Power Users

Twitter is awesome for so many reasons. It’s the Great Connector. It’s the Great Amplifier. It’s the Great Curator. And it’s so simple to use. But Twitter could borrow a tagline from the Othello board game: a minute to learn, a lifetime to master. Because as easy as the platform is, there always is more you could be doing to leverage your use of it.

In this post, seven Twitter power users in the online marketing field share their tips for getting the most out of the popular micro-blogging platform.

1. Be Very Responsive

Chris Brogan has over 260,000 followers, but perhaps even more impressive is the enviable level of engagement his tweets get. We’re talking about dozens of replies, retweets, and favorites on the simplest of tweets.

So how did he build up that kind of an audience? His brief answer gets to the core of what all power users agree on: “Be VERY responsive.”

You see, Brogan approaches Twitter as a real conversation. His feed reads like a dialogue rather than mere self-promotion. Case in point: when he tweeted “what are you doing?” to his followers, the replies started pouring in immediately.

And he was on his game, with responses like this:

And this:

2. Track Your Feed in HootSuite

The question, of course, is how to be responsive on Twitter without draining your productivity. Mention Ian Lurie on Twitter, and within moments, you’ll have a reply from the man himself. Considering that he follows thousands of people, how does he do it? Lurie uses HootSuite to follow his feed, breaking it into different blocks. His @mentions list is highest priority for responses, followed closely by mentions of his name with a “?” after it, catching any questions addressed to or about him that don’t include his Twitter handle.

“Then I have a very small list of folks I really, really want to stalk (er, track),” he says. “If one of them asks a question or says something that gets me thinking, I’ll retweet or reply to them. Then I have a few other feeds. I track different hashtags depending on current events and conferences. I will track individuals. I also track all posts that include various marketing keywords and ‘?’ And, of course, posts with gaming geekery and ‘?’”

That allows him to jump into conversations about his areas of expertise when anyone throws out a question.

3. Curate Unique and Interesting Content

Twitter is infamous for its echo chamber effect. It’s true in politics, it’s true in sports, and it’s certainly true in SEO. I, for one, think carefully before following someone new. Do I really want this person’s tweets clogging my feed?

Establishing yourself as a good curator makes you a valuable person to follow. Judging by Avinash Kaushik’s feed, one would think the only thing he does all day is browse the web for interesting reads. He consistently shares fascinating finds, running the gamut of fields and disciplines.

Stuff like this:

And this:

And this:

His secret?

“My strategy is very boring,” Kaushik says. “I’m a voracious reader. I have a diverse collection of interests. I share what I think is unique and interesting. I think the ‘secret’ is not to try too hard.”

4. Schedule with Buffer

As far as sharing goes, Distilled’s Will Critchlow says,

“I like using Buffer to enable me to post at sensible times of day no matter when I’m reading something I want to share. It works from a Chrome extension and from my phone so it’s really easy.”

Critchlow doesn’t mean anything scientific when he says he posts at sensible times, but there’s actually been a good deal of research done on when it’s best to tweet. Marketing analyst Dan Zarrella claims engagement is highest on the weekends and later in the day.

Critchlow is based in the UK and has lots of followers in the US, too. He says he times his tweets for the late afternoon or early evening UK time, “so that (hopefully) a bunch of my UK and US followers are awake.”

5. Make Personal Connections

As Director of Promotions at Fractl, Kelsey Libert is an expert on leveraging Twitter for outreach. “Considering most editors get pitched hundreds of times per day, we need a way to stand out and build authentic relationships, before we ever send a pitch,” she says. She uses Twitter to create a personal connection with people and establish herself as a valuable contributor, not a bot.

Libert suggests that a good way to make a connection with a writer is to “share something they recently wrote, but be sure to credit their @handle to get their attention.”

Rather than tweeting the title of the article, Libert recommends demonstrating that you actually read the content by sharing a direct quote you identified with, like so:

“Provide feedback on her article by sharing your opinion on the topic,” Libert adds, “and ask a direct question about the topic she wrote about,” like this:

Another great tip Libert shares: “Use your bio as an authority signal. Are you a published author? A speaker? Include these trust signals in your bio, but also incorporate your qualities that other people can relate to.”

6. Search, Monitor, and Connect

Besides individuals, small brands stand to gain a lot from a strategic use of Twitter. Nonprofit Kars4Kids, of radio jingle fame (infamy?), has had success turning even haters into fans with a good-natured sense of humor and an effective Twitter strategy.

Many of the brand mentions on Twitter reference the maddeningly annoying 1-877-Kars-4-Kids jingle, and the charity responds to each one. The key, they’ve found, is to have a list of commonly tweeted URLs handy, making it easy to respond on the fly. You can use Evernote to keep the links easily available or, if you’re tech-savvy, Glovebox with a Tasker shortcut to bring the process to lightning speed.

Every smart aleck who thinks they’re the first one to crack a joke about kids getting cars or trading in kids for cars gets a link to Kars4Kids’ “car for kids” meme on Pinterest.

Any snark about the jingle gets a link to the new, rock version:

And complaints about its “stick-in-your-head” quality are directed to this blog post:

Kars4Kids’ social media expert, Steven Weldler, shares more tips:

“Any Twitter app (TweetDeck or MetroTwit are two good ones) that lets you set up search columns can be an amazing asset to your Twitter usage. Set up columns for any brand or industry terms and monitor them continuously. Where this really gets powerful is when you are trying to connect with a Twitter power user for link building or another reason.

“The best way to cut through the clutter that is their mentions is by catching them while they are actively using Twitter. Set up a column for their account; you can even opt to be notified when they tweet. Follow them for a day or two to get an idea of their style and their interests and then ready your tweet. As soon as they tweet next, you can tweet at them a personal tailored tweet while they are looking through their timeline/mentions.”

7. Think Strategically but Act Naturally

Rand Fishkin is the poster child for CEOs leading the charge for their companies on social media. He has written about his social media strategy on his blog and says he has been trying to apply the great tips in this post on getting more Twitter followers on the Moz blog. Although he calls social media an “intentional, strategic process,” Fishkin doesn’t use any tools to manage his feed (his following list is carefully pruned), other than tracking engagement in Moz Analytics.

Fishkin says he has a dual role to play on Twitter: he’s both an evangelizer for his brand / industry and a listener / engager, with many distinct audiences such as Moz customers, marketers, potential hires, and so on.

Here’s a classic example of Fishkin evangelizing:

And listening:

Even with very high engagement on his tweets, Fishkin’s very responsive. And, he says, people who engage often, get noticed. In a recent interview, he said, “probably more than 2/3 of my relationships that have come about in person have started, literally, on Twitter.”

The beauty of Fishkin’s approach is that it feels real and natural. Too much automation and over-optimization strips Twitter of its essence, on-the-fly spontaneity, and charming quirkiness.

The bottom line to success on Twitter? Show your human side. Don’t be afraid to interact, and, above all, be real. If the real YOU is engaging and delivering value, good things will follow (pun intended :).

About the Author: Wendy Kirwan in the director of media relations at Kars4Kids, a national car donation charity that funds educational and youth programs. Find her on Twitter @Wendy_Kirwan.

  1. One thing that I find most powerful and we should all focus on is: “questions”. You can never harness the full potential of good questions. When you show your followers that you care by engaging with them and trying to get to the bottom of different problems, they will most likely respond to your efforts!

    Thanks for this wonderful post! I’ve personally learned something: that I will start using questions in my tweets more often.

    • Hey Chris, thanks for reading!

      That’s a great point. Asking questions tends to elicit replies and when you engage with the people who responded to you, that’s a great way to build an engaged following. (Chris Brogan is a perfect example of this.)

      Glad you learned something new!

  2. I really love number 6 because it really embodies what the monitoring tool, Engagor, is all about. Monitoring and analyzing first and then most importantly engaging with customers in 2-way conversations. Great information in this article!

  3. Love the list – very helpful. Thank you!

    Here is an addendum: You can combine #2 (“Track Your Feed in HootSuite”) with #4 (“Schedule with Buffer”) by downloading the Hootlet Chrome extension from HootSuite (here – this way you only need to check analytics n one place.

  4. Hey Chris, thanks for reading!

    That’s a great point. Asking questions tends to elicit replies and when you engage with the people who responded to you, that’s a great way to build an engaged following. (Chris Brogan is a perfect example of this.)

    Glad you learned something new!

  5. Love the content & structure of this post & so much of this can be used to not only teach people how to be better on social media but also how to increase engagement and collaboration across all social platforms!! Thanks for posting this!

  6. Hey Wendy,

    awesome post! I just recently started posting more frequent updates on my Twitter account and this post appeared right in time. I had missed the part where sharing tweets to other websites while adding insights can be a great way to engage conversation :)

  7. Jonathan Keller Jan 01, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    A great list to help me with my social media goals for this new year!


  8. I’m very happy to read this blog which carries plenty of helpful data, thanks for providing such information.

  9. I enjoyed the example you used for Kars4Kids, there are so opportunities on social media for brands to shape their personality. You guys are doing a great job staying positive with folks.

    • Thanks Zion! Social media is definitely an incredible opportunity for brands to develop and show their personalities. I’d tend to agree that Kars4Kids does a great job on Twitter :)


  11. Steffan Peter Jan 06, 2014 at 8:43 am

    This blog has definitely improved my knowledge for the subject. Knowing and learning about social media is great. I appreciate your sharing of knowledge.

  12. Twitter is awesome for so many reasons. It’s the Great Connector. It’s the Great Amplifier. It’s the Great Curator

  13. Thank you for sharing. There are some good tips here. I would be interested in hearing more about how Glovebox and Tasker are used. I’ve tried working with Tasker several times and have not been able to get the hang of it.

  14. Chris Brogan is a jerk in real life – we’re talking real sociopath (and he would probably be the first to admit it )


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