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The Marketer’s Guide to Twitter

While Twitter may not be as big as Facebook in terms of traffic, it has several advantages over Facebook. Not only is it easier to gain followers on Twitter, but you can engage with people before they become your friend on a personal profile or your fan on a business page.

The following is a guide to help you setup your Twitter profile and implement a successful Twitter marketing strategy. It gives suggestions and tips for those who are new to Twitter or are just looking for some new ideas.

Note: Although we refer to using automated techniques in this guide, by no means do we encourage you to spam on Twitter. Doing so will only subvert your own efforts. Automation is suggested as merely a way to increase the efficiency of certain repetitive tasks.

Researching the Competition

If you’re just starting out on Twitter and need a few examples to follow, why not start by doing a little research on what your competition (or colleagues, if you prefer) are doing in the Twitterverse.

I can *almost* guarantee that there is a similar blogger, freelancer, entrepreneur, local business, or any-sized business already out there taking advantage of Twitter. You can find them by visiting their websites or using directories such as Twellow and Wefollow to search for Twitter users in a specific industry.

Be sure to find the best examples to follow – if you’re a local bakery, and your competition down the road isn’t on Twitter (or only has 3 followers), then try broadening your searching for a local bakery in a larger city. Once you’ve found them, follow them and see what they do. Note what seems to get a good response and what doesn’t.

For more tips on researching the competition, I wrote a post here a few months back called 7 sneaky ways to use Twitter to spy on your competition. Be sure to check it out to see what you can learn from others in your field!

Essential Profile Elements

Again, if you’re just starting out, or if you’re not seeing a lot of success, one thing you will want to look at is your profile itself before you start going and searching for followers. Particularly, you will want to make sure you have the following:

Custom Background Design – When someone comes to your Twitter profile for the first time, they should see a great design that reflects your brand.

Concise and Descriptive Bio – You get a whopping 160 characters to describe yourself and what people will get when they follow you on Twitter. Make it interesting and convincing!

Profile Picture – No one wants to follow the generic Twitter icons. And not a lot of people want to follow a logo (unless it’s a well recognized one). What they do want to see is a person behind the profile. Social media is all about engagement, and people want to engage with other people, not just companies or bots.

Great Tweets – Last, but not least, when people are deciding to follow you, chances are they are going to do so based on your most recent tweets. If you visit your profile, you’ll see your last twenty tweets at the least. Make sure that these tweets reflect your engagement level with your audience – you should be sharing great content and responding to others MORE than you should be doing pitches and trying to make sales.

For more about creating an effective social media presence, be sure to see the 10 elements of a successful social media profile.

Finding Targeted Followers

Now that you have your profile setup, and some great tweets, your next on-going goal will be to gain followers. Sure, there are lots of ways to get just any followers, but the key is to get targeted followers who are interested in your industry.

So how do you find them? And how do you get them to follow you?

While everything shouldn’t always be about numbers, there is a certain thing to be said about someone coming to your profile and seeing that you have a good follower count. I usually like to start a new Twitter account out by finding people who have a follow back policy in place, usually implemented by an online application. Basically, you will be looking for people who have close to a 1:1 ratio of followers and following count.

Some great places to search include:

TwitterCounter Search – Enter in your keyword and you will see users with their following and follower count. Connect TwitterCounter with your Twitter account and follow those users directly from TwitterCounter’s search results.

twittercounter search results

Twitter Lists via Listorious – Search for Twitter lists compiled by other members from your industry. When you view these lists on Twitter, go to the following tab. Then click on each of the users. In the new Twitter layout, you will see their profile pop out on the right side of the screen so you can see their followers, following, and have the option to follow them.

twitter lists new layout

Of course, there are many more ways to find followers. You can use the Twellow and Wefollow directories mentioned above. There are also applications out there that automate the following process, the most popular being Twitter Adder which finds and follows new users regularly based on your customized searches as well as unfollows people who do not follow you back within a specified timeline.

Getting Followers from Your Own Online Properties

Do you have a website, blog, email newsletter, or other way to share links with others online? Then be sure to add your Twitter link to everything, down to your email signature, forum signature, and even other social profiles (such as your Facebook). This way, people who are already connecting with you online can easily find you on Twitter.

One great way to get more followers, specifically from your blog, is to use Twitter’s retweet button. It allows you to put a retweet button on each of your blog posts to make it easier for visitors to share those posts with their followers. But the bonus is that when you create the button, you can put in a Twitter account to recommend after someone shares your post.

twitter retweet button recommendation

This way, people who are already interested in your content are invited to follow you, and likely will because it is so convenient.

Direct Messaging Best Practices

Now that you have followers, the next step is to start engaging with them! One way to connect with your followers is through direct messages. Twitter users have a love / hate relationship with direct messages, as many of the ones sent seem like spam.

As you follow others, you will see examples of good and bad direct messages. The bad ones are those that are pitching a product or service right off the bat and those trying to get you to opt-in to their mailing list (usually through the temptation of a free eBook).

Think of that first direct message as the first thing you say to someone you have just met and shook hands with. You don’t want to put them off immediately. Think of your direct messages as a way to go above and beyond to connect with a new follower. Simply thank them for following you, or ask them what they would like to learn from you on Twitter. The latter can be especially helpful in surveying your followers to see what kind of tweets will keep them engaged.

The best way to do direct messages is by personalizing each one to your new followers. But of course, when you start getting dozens of new followers daily, it becomes a bit of a productivity issue to do so. This is where automation comes in.

Free services such as Social Oomph lets you register your Twitter account and send your new followers a direct message automatically. My biggest suggestion on this one is to remember not to pitch your new followers off the bat and ALWAYS try to reply personally to them if they respond to your message.

Something that can come in handy is to keep track of who direct messages you personally, past the initial welcome message. For example, do you have people who direct message you asking you to promote their blog content? Then the next time you have some content you really want to push, you can feel good about direct messaging them for a favor.

What Can Be Automated and What Needs to Be Personal

Automation can be a dirty word when it comes to social media, because there is no bigger turn-off on Twitter than realizing an account is nothing but an automated bot. But there are some forms of automation that can be helpful to incorporate for both yourself (to save time) and for your followers.

There are two automation services I use that usually get a great response from followers. The first is TwitterFeed. This service allows you to connect your Twitter account and publish tweets whenever your favorite blog adds a new post to their site using the blog’s RSS feed.

twitterfeed setup

By using the advanced settings to add on the blog’s Twitter account in the Post Prefix or Post Suffix, you will be letting them know with every tweet that you are a loyal follower of their blog and sharing their content, which may lead to connecting with the blog owner for guest posts, cross promotions, and more.

Why is TwitterFeed so great? If you choose blogs which fit your industry that your followers will like, they will appreciate your willingness to share relevant content with them and likely will retweet those items to their followers as well.

The second automation plugin works specifically with WordPress blogs – Tweet Old Posts. This plugin will tweet posts in your blog archives to your followers, this way new followers can see content that they may have missed out on.

The best part of both plugins is that they will keep your Twitter account active when you can’t be actively updating it. But it is important to remember that these cannot be the only sources of tweets for your account.

The most important updates you can do are the ones where you directly engage with the Twitter community – not only your followers, but also the influencers in your industry.

Having a higher instance of conversations where you are directly @username replying to someone is key to showing your current and potential followers that you are more than just a bot but an actual human who wants to communicate directly with others. This means that you need to not just be tweeting, but also be listening.

Listening on Twitter through Searches and Lists

One of the best Twitter management tools that I highly recommend for setting up your listening strategy on Twitter is HootSuite. This tool allows you to setup multiple tabs with 10 columns to help you monitor your mentions, direct messages, searches and Twitter lists.

hootsuite columns

Twitter Searches

Twitter searches are very powerful in the sense that you can monitor any tweets including a particular keyword. For example, if you sell auto accessories, you can setup a Twitter search in HootSuite with the keywords best muffler? to see when anyone is tweeting a question related to finding the best muffler. If you run a food blog, you can setup a search for cookie recipe? to see when anyone is asking for a cookie recipe.

In both cases, you can @username reply to the person and share a link to your website where you have information that answers their question. I have tried this with my blog using searches related to WordPress, blogging, etc. and have only received thank-yous in return.

You can also use the advanced Twitter search to get even more detailed with your searches, such as finding out who has been tweeting a specific keyword within 15 miles of a particular area code.

Twitter Lists

Twitter lists allow you to add people (up to 500) to particular lists to help you monitor those users. This is a great way to monitor thought leaders in your industry. You can create lists easily in HootSuite by adding a new column to one of your tabs, creating a new list, and adding users to it. Follow them to learn what topics are most important in your industry, retweet their posts, and respond to them when they have questions to get on their radar.

Another way to use Twitter lists is to properly segment your Twitter following. A new online service called Formulists automatically creates new Twitter lists for you based on your followers’ location, keywords in their bio, latest updates, and so on.

You can also create lists to help you expand your following that cross reference people that your followers interact with that you are not yet following. Check out the lists that you can create (currently 15 types with tons of options) to see what can benefit you the most.

Monitoring Your Business and Brand

Another great listening / online reputation management strategy that you can implement via Twitter through HootSuite is monitoring mentions of your business, brand, website, blog, or products by creating keyword searches for those names. This way, you can thank those who are praising you as well as respond quickly to those who might have customer service issues or other negative commentary.

Handling it on a public platform will also show other users (and possible potential clients) that your number one focus is their satisfaction, which will lead to stronger positive sentiment towards your brand as a whole.

Trending Topics and Hashtags

This one may not apply to every industry, but one way to spread your Twitter message beyond your own followers is to attach it to a currently popular hashtag (#keyword) or topic. The top 10 most popular hashtags are listed on the right sidebar of your Twitter homepage. You can change it to show worldwide trends or trends specific to a particular country.

If there is a trend or hashtag that you can jump on board with, your tweet will be seen by anyone following the topic. This is a great way to promote relevant blog posts and content that will drive new traffic to your website and possibly new followers to your Twitter account as well.

Twitter Chats

Finally, a great way to get involved with the Twitter community is by participating in relevant Twitter chats. There is a great schedule of regular Twitter chats that can be found in this Google spreadsheet. Joining in these chats regularly usually leads to an increase in targeted followers, as well as a great way to increase new traffic to your website, assuming you have content that directly ties in with the topic of the chat.

Your Thoughts on Twitter Marketing

I hope that this post has given you a great start on ways to take advantage of Twitter for both engaging with your community as well as for online marketing. What other tips and suggestions do you have to make the best of your Twitter marketing strategy?

About the Author: Kristi Hines is a freelance writer, blogger, and social media enthusiast. Her blog Kikolani focuses on blog marketing, including social networking strategies and blogging tips.

  1. Great tip about Formulists I’ll definitely be checking that out. Useful post as always.

    Thanks Kristi!

    • Thanks Charlotte! I like to spread the word about Formulists because it doesn’t seem like a lot of people know about it, but it can be a very powerful tool!

    • A provoacvtie insight! Just what we need!

  2. Kristi, I’ve been looking for an authoritative and comprehensive post about how to make the best use of Twitter — you just provided it. Thanks!

    I make good use of lists, and just recently I’ve started adding appropriate hashtags to my tweets, but I know there’s a lot more I can do.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it John! Yes, there’s a lot you can do on Twitter, and I’m sure there are more great tips out there too. Since you have such great articles on writing, you should definitely check out the Twitter chats for bloggers and writers. I’m sure you could rock those!

  3. Kristen Robinson Feb 15, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    You have some great strategies for Twitter there. I had no idea that there were that many Twitter chats! Oh my! That was a great resource. Thanks so much!

  4. If a marketer used webinars in their campaign, they could use the same approach by getting attendees to tweet at different times throughout the webinar. That way, if someone was following several people attending the webinar, they would see that it was popular amongst their friends and possibly hop on it as well.

  5. Julia Bramble Feb 15, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    What a great post, full of really useful information, thank you! One way I like to find new targeted followers is to look at the followers of a key player in my field and follow them, with the result that a good number will usually follow back!

  6. Awesome article. Thank you so much for explaining this. Twitter is one tool I’ve trying to figure out for over a month now. Thank you for sharing, I bookmarked your site and can’t wait to read more.

  7. Krisit, I love your ideas on automation. It’s a great way to automate without becoming just another bot. Thanks for the tip about Tweet Old Posts, that is going into testing on my blog right now.

    • Yes, you have to make sure you have a good balance between automating and being personal. Certain kinds of automation can add more value to your profile, while other kinds will make it a bit too automated and “bot” like.

    • Make sure you come back and let us know about the results from your tests.

  8. I have been using twitter for a while now for my company and my own blog. This post really provided me the direction I need to make more use of twitter.
    The point about the automation was very helpful. Just one question, does following the influential people in your industry help increase the follower?

    • It doesn’t necessarily help you gain followers by simply following someone influential. What you will want to do is follow them and interact with them. Hopefully, if you engage with them in a meaningful way, they’ll respond and people who follow them will see them mention you, and from that point you may start to gain followers.

  9. Excellent guide and thanks for sharing.

    Another element of research with twitter search is keying on Foursquare or other LBS services. This helps identify interested parties or potential fans/interests as they have checked in for particular events or establishments.

  10. Wow, Kristi! You packed this post full of great information on using Twitter. I love your example of a bakery using it as a market research tool – not only on the bakery across the street, but seeing what’s working (or not) for those across the nation too.

  11. Kristi,
    This is probably the most comprehensively useful article I have found on this topic! I am operating on the thinnest of shoestring budgets and thus do all of my own everything. Each hour it takes for me to research and learn about Social Media, SEO, websites, blogs,… takes time from gainful business. I can already see that your post will not only be immediately helpful, but helpful time and again as I try out, and learn from, each suggestion. SINCERE THANKS!!

    • I know what you mean Susan. Following some of Kristi’s methods save you so much time and allow you to be much more effective.

  12. Wow! I’m a little late in reading this post, but thanks! Incredibly useful and comprehensive.

  13. Thanks for a great post, very useful.

    One question – when having users following you is it better to DM them or to just @mention them?.. Mentioning seems less “spamy” for the users so wondering about suggesting better practices here, thanks!

  14. Twitter Marketing Increasing the ability for frequent updates to blogs or web sites or news. Thanks for informative sharing..

  15. Twitter has become the best place for getting new visitors. My friend recently got 2000 visitors from a single retweet by a famous personality.

  16. well explained tips. one of my favorite app is TweetDeck that allows multiple columns, much like the HootSuite but accessible from Google Chrome Browser.

  17. I’ve also found it helpful to find hyper-local twitter feeds and sort through their followers. For example, your local news station may have 900 followers all in your target region, this allows you to engage with those specific individuals even if they haven’t tweeted anything to show up in search results.

  18. Amazing insights on twitter and definitely implementing the recommendations listed here.

    I also get a bit turned off whenever I hear “automation” on social media channels but bringing more traffic with twitter CAN happen without converting our personal accounts into zombie-like bots.

    Thanks for putting such a great and detailed article on twitter Kristi. ;-)


  19. Thanks for posting all this great information about how to maximize your use on Twitter. I wasn’t aware of HootSuite and Twitter Search tools that you mentioned. Thanks for posting about that. I’m gonna look into that.

  20. Ciaran Connolly Feb 11, 2012 at 5:43 am

    Great Tips as always – use tweetdeck a lot – but will look into these other tools as well. Very true re the direct messages – nothing worse than just spamming people or asking them to sign up…really off putting. Now to go find twitter followers :-)

  21. I never knew there were so many things behind Twitter marketing that I was never aware of. I definitely gained a lot of new ideas and knowledge from this article, ideas that could be taken together with other tips in order to form an effective social media strategy. There are more tips on social media marketing at

  22. Fabio H Buritica Mar 03, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    Great Post. @Cammipham just tweeted it and I followed the link. Do you find a lot of these tools are still relevant?

    Following you on twitter!

  23. Michael Leedy May 14, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    Wow.. there’s so much information in this post that it just got tweeted and bookmarked… so I can review it again, when I’m not quite as saturated from reading and writing all day!

    Thank you so much for puttin this out there. I look forward to reviewing it again!!!

    (and again and again… )

  24. Angeline Mathews Feb 19, 2016 at 2:18 pm

    Hi Kristi,

    Thanks so much for this informative post! I finally understand the true marketing power of Twitter. My B2C client is a local veterinary hospital and I am looking to boost their basically nonexistent social media presence into something substantial.

    My first question is do you know of any analytical tools that can analyze a company’s Twitter profile (i.e. in # of times visited, # of hastags, etc.)?

    Secondly, I worry that there might be a fine line between being interactive with your followers and becoming too spam-y. Any tips on how to keep this from happening?

    Lastly, in terms of time investment, do you think my client should focus on one type of social media outlet or have an even presence across the board? Thanks so much!


  25. Great post! Thanks for sharing :)

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