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HOW TO GET STARTED WITH TWITTER

Now that you have a basic understanding of what Twitter is, let's get the ball rolling. You won't be able to connect and grow your business without getting

Twitter Improves Customer Service

FIGURE 14.1 Twitter Improves Customer Service

started and learning the ins and outs of this platform. Once you decide to create a Twitter page, here are a few steps to follow:

Setup/Optimize Your Twitter Profile – So before you begin to tackle in- depth Twitter marketing campaigns and budgeting ad dollars to promote tweets, make sure you have your basics covered. Below is a checklist of five areas to optimize that will make your individual or firm Twitter profile stand out:

1. Profile Picture – Your profile picture/avatar is going to be the first thing that someone sees. Use a company logo, or if you want, be creative and use a picture of a person or character. Just make sure that whatever image it is, it represents the company as a whole. Also note that you should consider using color instead of a white background, as this will help your brand stand out in someone's feed.

2. Twitter Handle – Your Twitter handle is also your Twitter URL, so it should be an obvious choice that reinforces your brand identity. Keep in mind that your Twitter handle can contain up to 15 characters. If your

Twitter Bio

FIGURE 14.2 Twitter Bio

company name is already taken or is too long, get creative with abbreviations. We recommend staying away from underscores, however.

3. Company Bio – This is your chance to introduce yourself. The challenge: only use 160 characters. Write a clear, concise bio that describes your brand, products, or services. If you have an opportunity to throw in a few keywords, go for it. Twitter also gives you the ability to include live links in your bio so you can drive traffic to a specific product page, another social profile, or any required disclosures. See Figure 14.2.

4. Location and Web Site – Be sure to include your physical location, as this dramatically increases your searchability and will also help you connect with your local community. Include a web URL where people can go to learn more about your brand.

5. Cover Photo – Last, but definitely not least, is your cover photo. This is prime real estate to portray your brand both for both desktop and mobile viewing. Try incorporating an intriguing graphic, some contact information, or a call to action. It doesn't necessarily need to be a single image. A collage, for instance, can represent brand identity in a more layered fashion, but don't get too exotic. There is already a lot going on in your feed, and you won't want to distract from the most important element–your content. See Figure 14.3.

Also, keep in mind that if you don't have a lot of photography or design services available to you, there are several hundred web sites that provide great, creative backgrounds. Even though this won't be a custom graphic, it is 100 percent better than just leaving the cloud background that Twitter generates automatically.

Twitter's Cover Photo

FIGURE 14.3 Twitter's Cover Photo

Start Following People – Once you have your handle set up, you will be prompted to follow people. Before you start randomly following, think about the goals you have in mind for the specific demographic you'd like to reach. Start by following people you know, and build your feed by following people that you want to know. It's important to be selective when looking at these people. I'm sure you've seen a lot of profile descriptions that say “will follow back,” but these are not the individuals you should be looking to add to your social networks.

The purpose of Twitter (and many other social networking sites) is to build a solid networking foundation of prospective clients, current clients, industry leaders, and partnering businesses. Simply following someone to build your numbers will not only clog your network, but it will damper your social media marketing commitment by blurring the intent, investment, and return strategy.

Here are some additional ideas of people to consider connecting with:

■ Local media stations (great precursor for getting PR exposure)

■ Local newspapers

■ People you want to know

■ Financial publications

■ Other businesses similar to yours

■ Local chambers of commerce

■ Industry leaders

■ Social media thought leaders

■ Better Business Bureaus

■ Athletes

■ Regulatory organizations like FINRA and the SEC

■ Authors

■ Editors of publications

Once you're following users, an extremely beneficial way to strate- gize and keep your followers organized is to categorize them into lists. This will save you a ton of time while engaging on Twitter. Some examples of lists you'd create are: industry leaders, financial publications, local media, local businesses, prospects, and so on. When you separate groups of people into lists, it makes it easy to interact with or “retweet” a certain demographic of users. Just think: if you log on to Twitter with the goal of gaining exposure for a recent article you published, you can go straight to local media and financial publications lists to promote your content. Lists are key for helping you target the right people at the right time.

Learn the Twitter Lingo – Twitter lingo can feel like learning a foreign language. With the barrage of jargon and symbols, it isn't any wonder why you might be skeptical and confused at first. Let's break it down into smaller pieces:

Tweets – So, what is a tweet? Tweets are the hallmark of Twitter, and are basically small bursts of information. Each tweet (a.k.a., post) can only be 140 characters long, which challenges users to offer concise and rich information.

A Retweet or RT – When someone shares a tweet by another person with their own followers. It shows that they value my content enough to share it with their network. Let's be honest, getting retweeted feels like a million bucks. If you want to position yourself in front of bigwigs and/or influencers, retweet their content. It's a great way to get noticed and stay top of mind. (Remember: If someone RTs your content, don't forget to thank them. It's proper etiquette.)

■ @replies or @mentions – When someone tweets you directly or about you. It's similar to tagging someone on Facebook and when you @mention someone it is public for anyone to see. By adding the @ symbol in front of a user's name it turns their name into a hyperlink and connects back to the person's profile when clicked on. Use this feature to capture someone's attention or link to another user's profile. For example: “Tune into @9News at 8am to see my interview live with @ryansheckron!” or “@WSJ Great article on Tax Laws. Check out my recent blog post on the topic and reach out if you need a resource.”

Direct message – Like most other platforms, you can send direct messages to people, which show up in their private inbox. In order to direct message a user, they need to be following you back. Direct messaging on Twitter is like the communication frontage road. It's much more effective than trying to squeak your way through people's jam-packed e-mail inboxes. Remember: only 140 characters.

URL shortener – Because the character limit in Twitter is only 140 characters, it is good to shorten URLs. While Twitter has a built in URL shortener, you may consider alternative shorteners like Bit.ly or TinyURL that also allow you to track the number of clicks each URL receives. This is great for learning what your audience is most receptive to.

Favoriting – A great way of keeping a record of any tweets that you want to refer back to, whether that's someone recommending you, testimonials, or interesting news. You can find all your “favorite'd” tweets in one convenient place on your profile.

Hashtags (#) – The # symbol was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize conversations. #finserv is a public conversation on Twitter for people who – you guessed it – are interested in financial services. Using hashtags can lead to increased exposure, more followers, higher engagement and interaction levels, strategic connections, and much more.

Now that you know the basics, it's time to dive in and start building a following. With social media, you literally become the media. If you've ever run an ad in a newspaper or on the radio, you are essentially renting someone else's audience. With social media, you have the opportunity to build and own your audience and, on Twitter, that equates to followers.

Ever wonder how some companies amass so many followers? Well, it goes back to the basics of good ol' networking: create valuable content and participate in the conversation. Social media is a dialogue, so start by listening to what others have to say and work to create interesting, valuable content that will add to the conversation while positioning you and your brand as experts in the field.

 
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