When to tweet. What to tweet. How to tweet. Where do you begin?
There are many, many factors and variables that go into a Twitter strategy. Not only do you have to think about the tweets themselves, but you likely have to also tie them in to a number of activities and platforms. Some examples include blog post publishing, company online materials, other social platforms such as Facebook, marketing campaigns, brand marketing, and personal online presence management. It’s a convoluted mix of considerations. In this post, I’ll break them down for you so you can cut a clear path. Read on. Determine how to set up your own Twitter strategy.
1: Determine What Factors Apply to Your Business Twitter Needs
Before you venture very far, take inventory. What do you have in existence that your Twitter feed will be part of or support in one way or another? Here are a few.
– Personal blog post publishing
– Company documentation, blog publishing
– Company websites
– Other social platforms used, including Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn
– Marketing campaigns
– Large events applicable to many, such as holidays
– Time zones in which your audiences are located
– Hashtags used for the topic for which you tweet
– Use to maintain and elevate the online presence for yourself or your brand
Think of all the ways you might use your Twitter feed. Then you can begin analyzing it and building a plan. Details on different aspects for these items follow.
2. Determine Your Audience and Purpose
Determine what you want your feed to stand for. What’s its purpose? What’s the main topic? Who are you tweeting to? How are you going to help them? If you can’t answer these very basic questions, your feed will wander and people won’t know why or if they should follow you. It’s critical that you determine your goals and audience before traveling very far in the Twitterverse.
One of the main benefits of Twitter is that you can follow experts in various subjects. Keep that in mind. A number of your followers may be following you because they consider you to be an expert in your field. Tweet accordingly. Share information like the industry expert you are, and people will come to regard you in that exact manner.
Twitter is also used for tech support by many companies. Needless to say, a support feed will vary considerably from a company marketing one, or someone’s personal brand feed. Support feeds would be more likely to be heavy on engagement, with links back to company documentation or other online materials. That’s very different than sharing information with followers, which is what other types of feeds are about.
For those types of feeds, I think it’s better to dig for information and find one quality article to tweet out that helps people rather than quickly churning out ten tweets linking to articles with less substance. Don’t waste your followers’ time. Don’t waste your time. Find the good information that helps your audience. Solve their problems. Find information they didn’t even know they needed. Give them something to think about.
Those are just a couple of examples. There are others out there. Find a feed that’s similar to what you have in mind and follow it. Watch it and analyze what they do. What content, what hashtags they use. All sorts of things. You just need to know who you’re tweeting to, and why.
There are a gazillion folks to follow out on Twitter. Think about what will make your feed unique and compel people to feel they must follow you.
3: Review Hashtags That You’ll Use
You have to determine the best tag to use for your tweets. The only way to do that is to watch the tags. Find multiple tags for the same topic and see how they flow. What you need to determine is which one will provide the most exposure. Even that is a fine line, though. Pick a heavily-used tag and your tweet might disappear as quickly as it published. Choose a lesser-used, yet robust one, and your tweet might have more staying power. The only way you can know is to watch the tag, try a few postings, and see what happens.
Example: in Twitter, look at the following hashtags: #socialmedia #social #socmedia. I use Hootsuite, and can easily set up columns for each. Then you can compare side-by-side and check refresh rates and real-time pace of the tag usage. Of these three tags, #socialmedia gets the most use. However, tweets go so quickly that I don’t always post to that one. I’m also starting to use #social more, as it frees up tweet space, and “social” is now being used in lieu of the longer “social media” term.
Take a look at this sample for a moment. I let this run in Hootsuite for a few minutes without refreshing. Look what resulted. Check the numbers in the red circles at the top of each column. For #socialmedia, 30+ tweets had come in since the last time it was refreshed. For #social, there were 16 new tweets in the same time period. For #socmedia, there was nothing new. In fact, checking the timestamp, it had been about four hours since the last tweet to that tag.
I would not use #socmedia. The usage doesn’t appear to be very high.
Check the content of the tweets.
What types of articles are being referenced? Is that the type of information you want to share? Or find? That would help your followers? Would it possibly expand your reach and enhance your or your company’s online presence?
Is the hashtag used more for sharing of information or for conversation? How does your planned tweet content fit into that? How can you combine the two?
Once you’ve done those quick reviews, repeat this research over a period of time. Check it at different times of the day – over the course of a few days. Does the tone of the tag change after a certain hour of the day? What about global use? Is there ever really a down time? How does flow fluctuate day-to-day, hour-by-hour? There’s one tag I follow that changes audience completely after office working hours. It’s a totally different demographic and used in an entirely different manner. So it pays to do the research on a tag before using it extensively.
4: Plan Ahead
For some of your content tweets, ideally, plan some of your tweeting as far in the future as you can. For instance, if you have an upcoming marketing campaign, your tweets would likely be an important piece of that effort. The same goes for a product launch or some sort of event that you want to publicize. You know: what the event or whatever is, who it’s for, what hashtag you’ll post to, will there be a new hashtag you’ll want to create and use just for that, do you need to publicize that beforehand, or write companion blog posts to generate buzz? Those sorts of questions. Planning is definitely needed.
Perhaps there’s even some large event that you want to be ready for or be part of. Holidays are prime examples. That’s a major social event, not just a company or personal event. If you’re not part of it somehow, how much might you lose?
If you have or run a personal or company blog, tie your tweets to your editorial calendar. Work out a plan for different types of blog posts and plan your tweets to support your work. The planning ahead is for the BIG items. You’ll still have day-to-day responsibilities, but don’t forgo the larger picture.
In all of these instances, your overall strategy should be in place. Then you can just apply it to whatever situation you’re planning.
5: Plan for Real-Time
The beauty of Twitter, of course, is that it is real-time. That, in fact, is a major point to keep in mind. People are out there through the day, tweeting content, offering thoughts, discussing topics, and interacting with people and brands. It’s absolutely critical to have real-time needs accommodated in your strategy.
Real-time is what makes Twitter unique. Don’t forget that.
Ignore real-time at your peril. Really. Brands have to monitor what’s been said and be able to respond quickly if need be. Individuals need to monitor their online presence. If you’re trying to help your followers or customers, you want to be there real-time. People want information and answers now on Twitter. You have to respond. The same can’t be said as completely for Facebook and other platforms. Yes, it’s true somewhat for Facebook, but not as much as Twitter.
With regard to sharing content, find something new every day to share. You want to have “fresh” material shared as much as possible. Don’t schedule so much that all you’re sharing is yesterday’s news. Yawn! Be particularly careful of this on hashtags. You need a mix of content.
Also, probably 90% of your engagement is real-time. This, of course, is a major requirement. If you just broadcast info and don’t talk to people, you’ll go nowhere. This is discussed in multiple places, so I won’t say more about why engagement is needed. Just plan it only to this point: tweet through the day when you can, converse with your fellow tweeters as you have time. Have fun! If you’re not engaging with others, you’re really missing out, IMO. Twitter isn’t all business, after all. Lighten up your day a bit and get to know some more colleagues or those with which you share an interest.
You can’t really plan for it or schedule it; engagement just has to flow. Don’t force it. Don’t fake it. Just be yourself and tweet away…
With real-time, all I can suggest is this. Know that you need to be on top of it throughout the day, and that it’s unpredictable. Just make sure it’s in the schedule, and monitor it out of the corner of your eye if you have to. Find fresh, timely content. Interact with others as much as you can. Just always be ready…
6: Determine Integration with Other Social Platforms
Well, now, this is the really tricky part. Twitter feeds can be embedded everywhere or repurposed and reused in another social platform. This is one area in which you want to be careful, though, IMO. Be careful of overexposure. Think: are you flooding your followers? Will they see the same information everywhere they go? Will you risk alienating them? What might be a timesaver for you could actually hurt you in the long run.
Personally, I prefer not to stream my Twitter feeds into other platforms in actual newsfeeds. I prefer to adapt the information I share to the platform. For instance, here’s one way I use Twitter with Facebook. I pick one item from a particular day, often something I tweeted that day, and add it as a status item. It allows me to add commentary to provide more information about why I think it would be helpful to people. You can also ask for people to add comments as well. I believe that providing a bit more information in Facebook status items helps build community, more so than just repeating tweets. But, that’s my interpretation.
Sometimes, I’ll tweet about a specific topic throughout one day – something timely for that day. (This is following the real-time, fresh content strategy.) On my Facebook page, I’ll then add one status item for the topic and include the link tweets as comments. Then a person can just go to my page and see all the key tweets and articles for that topic. They wouldn’t have to scroll back through tweets. It also provides a way to share more background information and thoughts. Here’s an example from my 2moroDocs page:
It also provides a way to share more background information and thoughts.
With Facebook, you also have to keep the algorithms in mind. You don’t want to throw off your page’s inclusion in news feeds. Nor do you want folks to hide your page. That would be counter-productive, would it not? If there’s one place in particular marketers want people going, it’s Facebook. Don’t scare people away. I actually hid the page of one of my favorite social sources. They were posting many items daily, straight from tweets, no doubt. It was flooding my news feed. Again, it’s a balancing act. You need to know how each platform works before you start blindly streaming tweets everywhere.
Now, with all the Facebook factors in mind, take another look at my example. I’ve grouped a number of tweets into one status item. So instead of multiple tweets rolling by a news feed as separate status items, fans see only one item. They don’t have to scroll back through tweets or status items, either. It’s one neat little package, packed full of helpful information, presented only once. I’ve also set up separate tabs in my Facebook pages for all the tweets. That way, a person could see them all when they want to.
The different platforms serve different purposes. If you try to use the exact same information in the same manner in all the platforms, you won’t benefit from the unique aspects and roles of each, and your followers/fans/customers may grow weary of your content.
Don’t serve up the exact same information in each place. Give your customers and followers something to look forward to – or wonder about what they might miss if they don’t check out your Twitter feed, Facebook page, and Google+ page. If you’re giving them the same info everywhere, they might pick only one, or get bored and never return to any, or get the feeling that you’re spamming them to some degree. In any case, they would know that you’ve just automated everything to post everywhere.
You can’t “dial-in” social.
Make a little extra effort to tailor your information to your audience and platform, and I think that people will notice. And keep coming back.
7: Break Out Your Twitter Feed into Separate Accounts
When I started, I had only one account: @2moroDocs. I used it mainly for tweeting for the technical communication field, as that was also the focus of my blog. As time went on, that feed expanded to information about social in general, and advocacy work. Those are three different focuses and audiences, although the social tweets apply to tech comm as well. Eventually I changed the focus of my blog. It’s now about using social, not tech comm per se. It became clear to me that it was time to create some new accounts and split the information.
Now, I have multiple accounts. @2moroDocs, which I use for social, primarily, but still tech comm as well. That’s also been in existence for several years, has more followers, and some brand awareness. I had set up one for my consulting company: @TailoredThought, but am now switching back to using only @2moroDocs, particularly since I rebranded my business name to 2moroDocs. Finally, I set up another account for some advocacy work on a completely different topic.
Having multiple accounts for very different purposes enables me to target my audiences and hashtags more easily. It helps me sort my tweets and makes sure I don’t send information to followers in which they may not be interested.
So that’s another strategy item to consider: determining what to tweet on different accounts, and which hashtag to use (or not) when you duplicate tweets. Also, if you find that one Twitter feed has morphed into multiple topics, consider creating some new accounts. It will benefit your followers and make your life easier.
As an overall Twitter strategy, this is my recommendation for basic tweeting. Have a mix. Research ahead and schedule good information for your followers. Spend some time every day to find information to tweet about that day. Engage through the day. Add tweets to articles during or after a real-time conversation which would then be helpful and relevant to the discussion. Incorporate tweets into varied social networks at varied times, but tailor them to the network, forum, and audience.
Remember: Twitter will get the word out quickly. Carefully timed, carefully worded, carefully placed tweets can provide maximum exposure for your topic. With a little research, some testing, and some planning, you can get the most out of your Twitter feed and be able to help your followers and customers in the best, most efficient manner possible. And isn’t that what it’s all about?
These are only some of the factors to consider. If you’d like a review of your tweeting strategy, I’d be interested in spending a few hours to analyze it for you. Until then, I’ll see you in the Twitterverse! Follow me @2moroDocs (using social and some tech comm).
Updated: June 10, 2013, June 30, 2015, January 4, 2016
For additional information about using Twitter, see the post I wrote on Social Media Today: 20 Ways to Repeat Tweets (Without Being Annoying)