Like any strategic communications tool, Twitter only really works if it is harnessed, managed, and assessed periodically by those who use it for business – including educators and recruiters. In this post, which expands on our recent introductory post with some important hands-on tips, we’ll point the way to some best practices and resources to help you use Twitter as effectively as possible.
1. There are good ways and not so good ways to @reply to other users
As we mentioned in last week’s post about Twitter, engagement and interaction with other Twitter users and your followers is paramount in establishing an effective Twitter presence. But there are do’s and don’ts associated with interaction. For example, did you know that if you address someone (e.g., @username) at the start of a tweet (e.g., “@username, did you know that Canada is a leading study abroad destination?), it will be visible only to those users who follow both you and the @username you referenced?
The better idea is to put a small punctuation mark at the start of the tweet (e.g., “.@username, did you know that Canada is a leading study abroad destination?), or place the @username within your tweets (e.g., “This is a fascinating article by @username on student visas in Thailand”).
These are called “@replies” and you can see how many times you have been @replied by looking at @connect on the main page of your Twitter account. The @connect page is a quick and easy way to see how others are reacting to your tweets: who’s favouriting tweets, who’s a new follower, who’s mentioning you, and who’s retweeting your content.
Speaking of retweeting and favouriting, these are two Twitter gestures to get right, since they are major parts of your participation in the Twitter conversation as a whole – and they can tell your target audience (hopefully well-represented in your followers) you like what they are tweeting. Here is a helpful post about the art of the retweet, and here are some useful tips about favouriting.
2. Twitter offers some important tools for account management
Twitter offers a host of useful tools that can help you prevent your Twitter feed from becoming overwhelming and thus unhelpful. One of the best offerings in this category is Twitter’s “list” function, where you can assign every account you follow to a list – and this list acts like a filter.
For example, you could assign an account to “research,” another to “entertainment,” and another to “education.” To add an account to a list, you click on the account’s icon and then drop down to “add to list.” You can make each list either public or private. Once you’ve introduced lists, you can choose to only view tweets from a select list when you’re time pressed, and/or when you want to focus in on one audience in particular.
Twitter also allows you to save searches (e.g., “UK scholarships”) and then go back to them when you want to see the conversation about a specific topic.
3. It’s simple to tweet regularly through the day (and even night)
Many professionals in international education have target audiences that span the globe, and thus numerous time zones. There are ways to ensure you are posting content for your far-flung audience on a regular basis – even if your main social media manager is asleep!
As an article in Forbes notes: “All of the major Twitter clients (TweetDeck, HootSuite, CoTweet) allow you to schedule tweets to be published in the future. (You can also use a standalone product like Twuffer or FutureTweets.) Go one step further and check out Crowdbooster, which gives some really practical analytics that’ll help you determine the best times of day to share your content.”
More broadly, there are a multitude of web-based tools with which you can help to manage your Twitter account, and CIO.com does a nice round-up of some of them here. A few of the tools CIO profiles are mentioned in the previous section of this post, “How to tweet regularly.” They all have strengths and weaknesses so they’re worth reviewing to see which best meets your needs. Here are a few of their features:
- Some allow multiple people on a team to update a Twitter account;
- Most allow for the scheduling of tweets;
- Some are simple, and some are more complex;
- Some allow you to slow down the tweeting process and review tweets before publishing (which can be important since too many people tweet too impulsively);
- Some allow you to save search words for future reference;
- Some allow you to “mute” people you feel you need to follow for business reasons but who you don’t get a lot of value from;
- Some have more tracking features – i.e., to measure how tweets are resonating – while others are more strictly management-based.
Check out this page from How Stuff Works for other third-party apps that might be helpful to your business.
4. Twitter is about influence and sharing, not numbers
As much as it is important to amass a decent number of followers to signal to other potential followers that your Twitter feed is worth watching, this doesn’t mean you should follow everyone and anyone in the hopes they will follow you back and boost your follower numbers. More important than sheer number of followers to measure is, as Twitter says:
- Follower growth: How many new followers you get every day, week or month.
- Follower quality and engagement: How many users interact with your account.
- Reach: How many users favourite or retweet your Tweets.
- Traffic: How many users go to your site.
- Conversion: How many users sign up for your service or buy your product.
And here is a complete list of Twitter’s certified partners who can help businesses with analysis.
5. There are ways to increase the branding impact of your tweets
As much as tweeting is mostly about 140-character messaging – and increasingly pictures and small video – Twitter is also a platform and an aesthetic way to represent your brand.
One person will likely be doing most of the tweeting for your business or organisation. He/She could be the “face” (i.e., the picture in your Twitter icon), and if you go with a person, he/she should appear friendly – an inviting smile helps. If you go with a non-person icon, it might be worth it to see if there’s a picture that can represent your brand, unless the brand logo is really well designed. Sometimes logos can seem cold and boring – if yours isn’t really good, think of something more inviting.
Constructing an attractive “profile page” is key, because it is often from here that people will check you out and decide whether to follow you. Design Shack offers this “how to” post to help with the creation of impressive profile pages, and Twitter itself has some good pointers.When it comes to describing what you do, the shorter the better – and in Twitter for business, it’s important to prioritise “clear” over “clever.”
In addition, a lot of people will decide whether or not to follow you on Twitter from your organisation or company website. Therefore it’s also important to consider how you display tweets and your Twitter “follow us” prompt on the main website. Mashable offers a post dedicated to well-done Twitter feeds here.
As much as some of the information in this post may seem like a lot of work, it tends to feed on itself and before long, you’ll get the hang of making Twitter serve a valuable business function. The alternative is something many complain about with Twitter: it claims too much of their time without providing much sense of what may or may not be working. Twitter can be a great way to connect with target audiences – the key is to manage it.