Let’s presume you’re already familiar with the basics of Twitter, and your current goal is to grow your follower count. Want to learn advanced techniques? Hi, my name is Tim and I’m pretty sure that you’ve landed here right from your Twitter account.

Ok, you got me this time as the above claim does not apply to everyone, but I’m confident that this post is currently hot on Twitter! How do I know that while writing the very first paragraph? Come on, it’s going to be a Twitter Guide – I’ll just use the tips below to make it go viral!

Twitter Basics Part 1: Creating a Twitter Account (The Right Way)

Let’s presume you’re already familiar with the basics of Twitter and your current goal is to grow your follower count. Moreover, you need those dedicated followers that read your tweets and, what’s more important, retweet them to their followers making your content spread.

Just in case you’re not sure what I mean by basics, here’s a quick refresher.

Username: The very first dilemma that most business owners face while creating a Twitter account is whether to use a personal name or a business name. There are pros and cons with both, but I think that having a brand name is mostly beneficial for big established brands as people already know them and are willing to follow.

Recently I did some consulting for a website builder company and offered them to switch from a branded account to a personal account of their founder and CEO, as people are most likely to follow an interesting person, who they expect to tweet valuable things, rather than following a ‘website builder’, which they assume will most likely tweet nothing but spam.

Your Twitter username should be unique and memorable. Remember that people will have to type it to mention you – don’t make them type too much.

Bio: There are only 160 characters which you have to fill in to tell the Twitterverse about you, your company and what you’ll be tweeting about. Your Bio is used all around Twitter next to your profile picture, and people read the bio section to decide whether to follow you or not. Anyone you follow will receive an e-mail with a recap of your profile including your Bio. Do you think they’ll be interested enough to follow you back?

My Bio is probably not the best, but I tried to make it stand out from the crowd. Best Bio practice is to briefly state who you are and what others will get if they follow you. I often ask myself two questions before following someone:

  1. Who is that person?
  2. How can they be useful to me?

Some people go really far with this incentive tip and use their Bio to suggest a Free E-Book to each new follower, but this sounds kind of desperate to me.

Image: People on Twitter mostly use a personal photo as their avatar. I think this is because Twitter is a powerful personal branding tool and you might want your followers to recognize you.

My vote goes for consistency – if there’s a non-photo avatar that you use around the web (forums, comments, guest posts), I think you should use it on Twitter too so that people who have seen your avatar around the web recognize you.

Web Link: Why would you miss an opportunity to promote your website in your Twitter profile? And, besides, here’s what Hubspot says about the impact of the web link on your follower count:

Background: You can easily create a customized Twitter background, but is it worth your time and efforts? First of all, your Twitter account will become more attractive – but that’s pretty obvious, right?

What’s not that obvious is that with a well-designed background you have a chance of appearing in one of those numerous Twitter background showcases. Thousands of people will see your creative profile and they might become your new followers.

Twitter Basics Part 2: Following the Right People

Now, that your Twitter profile is complete and following all the best practices, it’s time to follow some people. Following the “right people” will not only keep you up to date with all the latest news in your niche and help you to network, but it will also affect the way Twitter uses your profile in its recommendation engine. Every time you follow someone, you are being associated with them in some way.

With the automatic recommendation engine Twitter uses, I have to assume you’d prefer to be associated with people who you share something in common with. It might be the place you live, the field you work in, or a circle of mutual friends and acquaintances.

Follow the people you know: this is the number one tip. You might be reading some blogs or websites on the topic that you are interested in. Most of the authors mention their Twitter profile at the end of the post. Follow them as they might tweet lots of cool stuff.

Twitter Search: Each term you search on Twitter is now being split into four independent searches. Tweets, Tweets with links, Tweets near you and people. There’s even more than that – check this awesome guide by SEJ to become a Twitter search ninja.

Twitter lists: Twitter List is Twitter’s way of allowing users to group profiles (and their tweets) together – you can check the lists that people you follow are listed in. You can also check if you are being listed and see who you are being listed with.

Twitter Directories: There are places where Twitter accounts are neatly organized and categorized.

To name a few: Listorious, WeFollow, JustTweetIt, TweetFind. Browse them, and I’m sure you’ll find some interesting people to follow. By the way, why not add yourself there?

Custom lists: Bloggers always used to create lists: “10 Best Books on Marketing”, “20 Coolest Design Blogs”, “15 Social Bookmarking Sites” – you all know that sort of stuff. The new trend is top people in each industry to follow on Twitter: designers, bloggers, marketers, SEO experts, social media gurus and so on.

Do a couple of Google searches for those lists as they may suggest some cool people to follow. If you can’t find a list on your niche, you should create one and maybe you’ll get some new followers just for being an author of that list.

Online Tools: There is an enormous amount of Twitter tools to help you find and manage followers. I don’t want to promote any of them, so just try them all to see which one works best for you.

Play around: As I’ve said before, Twitter has an awesome recommendation engine, so once you start playing around with Twitter you’ll get lots of recommendations. Check out the powerful “Who To Follow” tool, which speaks for itself.

Advanced Twitter Tactics Part 1: Getting More Followers

I want you to check out an excellent study by Ian Lurie on the quality of Twitter followers. He started collecting data after some spammy guy who had 32,000 followers retweeted one of his posts. You might expect that a retweet by a person with such a huge following will grant your URL lots of clicks and further retweets. Well, what Ian got was only three clicks.

I won’t tell you the rest of the story, for it is too cool to be rewritten. Twitter power is not about the quantity of your followers, but about the quality of your, and your followers, content.

In this part of my guide, I will teach you how to gain quality followers.

Think: Yeah, that is my first tip. But I think it’s the most powerful one. Think of the way YOU follow new people and think how many of them eventually stay in your Twitter feed. Then do the same stuff that they did to get followed by you. If you ask me, I mostly follow people who blog.

When I see a smart post, I will do my best to find the author on Twitter, follow them and perhaps even communicate a bit. The second way I may follow people is when they @-mention me in their tweet. I will usually check the profile of that person and if it appeals to me – I’ll follow them.

Follow to get followers: This is the best-known tactic to grow your follower count and it’s based on the newest psychological disorder called ISFBaG (I Should Follow Back Guilt). When you follow someone, they receive an e-mail notification and may follow you back. You can mass-follow people via Twitter interface, use some online tools or even create scripts, which will auto follow people, who tweet specific keywords.

Another study by Hubspot shows that your following to followers ratio dramatically affects your chances to get a follow back. So ideally you need to keep the number of people you follow lower than the number of your followers – this way you are more likely to get a follow back.

People might think that having a large number of followers will add credibility to their account. Well from now on they won’t be able to trick you! It’s easy to measure the credibility of a Twitter account by comparing the number of followers to the number of the lists. Rand from SEOmoz has one listing per 7.6 followers ( 24,368 followers / 3,187 lists = 7.6). If the ratio is more than 10 – that’s a signal that a person is a spammer who does a lot of mass-following.

Run a contest: People love contests, freebies – such events always attracts great attention. Classical contests go well on social networks, but if you can think of some extremely unique event, it may do wonders to your social presence.

There is an interesting story, I would like to share (little NSFW) how Dutch porn star attracted a lot of people to follow her! She got around 15,000 followers within a couple of days since that claim, but you should think twice before running a contest like that.

Know who is sharing your content: Once you publish some content online try to track who is tweeting about it. You already know that those people appreciate your work, so it’s usually a matter of a “thank you” message to get a follow back from them.

Promote your Twitter account: That’s probably the most popular and most obvious advice, so I’ve left till last.

Use your Twitter account URL everywhere you can: e-mail signatures, social media profiles, forum signatures, blog comments, business cards etc. There’s no rocket science here, just use every opportunity you can to share your Twitter account.

Advanced Twitter Tactics Part 2: Building Relations

It’s cool to have a couple thousand followers, but do they care about you after all? You might have followed my tips to gain quality followers, but still it does not mean that they will interact with you and help you to spread your content. What you need is to build relationships with them so that they know who you are and read your updates.

Reward your followers: You can do that with a follow back or, alternatively, you can just thank them for following you in a reply or direct message. Just don’t spam everyone with those automatic Direct Messages which no one cares about. Try sending a personalized message with some information that the recipient may be interested in.

Retweet others: People on Twitter usually keep an eye on their retweets. So try retweeting someone else’s tweet and add a personal comment to it – this is a great way to get noticed and start communicating with people that you follow, and your own followers.

Public mentions: #FollowFriday or #ff is a nice occasion to show your appreciation to someone by publicly mentioning their account and providing a reason for others to follow them. However, there is no need to wait till Friday to do that.

Twitter lists: When you add someone to a Twitter list, they won’t be notified about it, but they may find it out on their own sooner or later. Make respectful Twitter list names to show some appreciation to people you list there. I am really happy each time someone adds me to a marketing related list. (this was a call-to-action :) ) By following other people’s Twitter lists you can get some attention too, as people might check who else is following their lists.

Twitter list Ninja Tip #1: follow @listwatcher as it will send you a DM each time someone adds, removes you from their list, or changes their list. Being listed is a reason to get in touch and say thank you, (or something else, if you were removed).

Twitter list Ninja Tip #2: learn how to automate your lists with Formulists online service.

Follow people who @mention you. This is a great way to show your appreciation for being mentioned and, besides, this will make a person to take a closer look at your profile and what you tweet about.

Twitter Favourites: Currently this feature is not widely used, but I think it can be considered as a form of appreciation too.

Each tweet that you add to your Twitter favorites is saved in your profile under the “Favorites” tab. I doubt that the author of a tweet will ever see that, but others might find your favorites feed useful and that can be another reason to follow you.

TweetChats: It’s a regularly scheduled online event which is perfect for networking.

For instance, you can check #seochat – this is a search marketing chat which is held every week. If you fail to find a TweetChat on your topic, maybe you should launch one yourself.

Twitter Ninja Part 1: Getting Retweets

Eventually, the aim of every single tweet is to be noticed and get retweeted by others. If you think that your tweets get enough engagement, try measuring the CTR (Click Through Rate) of every link you tweet. This can be easily done with Bit.ly URL shortening service, just add a + at the end of any short URL, and you’ll see the stats. In most cases, you’ll notice that the engagement not as good as expected. So what can you do to improve it? Lets see…

Tweet metrics: Almost everything can be measured, including tweets. In his great study Rand Fishkin tried to calculate and improve the CTR of his tweets. This resulted in a few takeaways:

  • * the average CTR of a tweet is about 1.17% of the followers number;
  • * shorter tweets get a higher CTR;
  • * tweets on a topic that people expect from you get a higher CTR.

Ask for a retweet: A study by Dan Zarrella shows that you can easily increase your ReTweetability by simply asking your followers for a retweet. Only five letters can make a change – “PLS RT”

What to tweet: You already know that tweets on topics that people expect from you get a higher CTR. In addition to that, another study by Dan Zarrella reveals the fact that tweets about Twitter perform really well. (Remember I promised this post would be HOT on Twitter? :)) You can also use various bookmarking and news services to discover what’s hot and trending and tweet about it.

When to tweet: There are lots of statistics on this one which show different numbers, but in general the best time to get retweets in the US is 4 PM and the best day is Friday. So try to stick to these when scheduling your most important tweets.

Twitter Ninja Part 2: Miscellaneous Tips

Leverage your website: In case you have a website or blog, why not to use it to promote your Twitter account a bit? WordPress users can check this awesome selection of Twitter plugins and the rest can get inspired by the showcase of how people embed their Twitter feed into their website design.

Use Hashtags: This feature is used to unite Tweets around a particular topic.

Track Google SERPs: You can easily get a daily Direct Message of your websites Google position using a twitter bot by TweetedRanks (free tool).

Get your website pages indexed faster: A recent experiment concluded that a tweet which gets 3 retweets or more will help in increasing the time and rate at which the tweeted page gets indexed.

HootSuite Hootlet: I must confess that HootSuite is a tool that dramatically improved my tweeting experience. Specifically I am obsessed with their bookmarklet tool.

You just drag it to your bookmarks and when you want to share the post on Twitter you just click the bookmarklet, and the message window pops up. What’s more important, you can schedule your tweets right from this Hootlet window. This is the best Twitter tool I’ve ever used.

This is it! The end of my Twitter Marketing Guide, but not the end of the creative ideas and ways to use Twitter to market yourself, your content, your company or your products.

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