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How I’ve benefited from Twitter—and you can, too

Twitter didn’t appeal to me at all in the beginning. I asked, “How can I benefit from reading an overwhelming volume of one-liners?” But @BillWinterberg and my writer friends convinced me to try it. I’m glad I did.

Here are four ways I’ve benefited from Twitter.

1. New clients

Twitter has brought me new clients, directly and indirectly. Sometimes it was as easy as tweeting that I was looking for more paid speaking gigs. One of my followers responded to that tweet. Soon, I had another chapter of the Financial Planning Association as a client for “Writing Effective Emails.” I described my tweeting for clients process in my guest post, “Secrets of a speedy sale via Twitter,” on the Social Marketing Technology blog.

Sometimes the client cultivation process started with meeting someone new on Twitter, whom I might never have met otherwise. In one case, after trading occasional tweets, I met a Twitter friend in real life for a conversation that deepened our relationship. Eventually, I snared some work for that person’s firm.

2. Greater awareness

Twitter has boosted prospects’ awareness of me. I see that partly in an increased number of Twitter followers and newsletter subscribers since joining Twitter. My website’s Google Analytics statistics show that 24% of its visitors come from Twitter.

One prospect’s comment—“I see your name everywhere!”—made me think about how Twitter contributes, along with my blog and other social media.

Twitter has also spread the word about my new blog posts, books, presentations, and other services. I couldn’t have reached as many people prior to the arrival of social media.

3. New connections

I’ve met many new people through Twitter. While some are prospects, others are sources of new ideas or ways to solve problems.

I also enjoy the social side of Twitter. I can hop on briefly for a conversation and then hop off. That disrupts my workday less than hiking into Boston for a meeting or even chatting on the phone. Plus, the less immediate nature of Twitter exchanges is easier on an introvert like me.

4. Information

I find news I can use on Twitter. It’s a great way to get a sense of what people in my niches are buzzing about. Plus, sometimes I can ask a question and get a quick, authoritative answer from an expert.

Try Twitter, you may like it

Not convinced of Twitter’s merits? Consider the following steps to get the most out of it.

  1. Follow a diverse group of people. This means experts, colleagues, prospects, and friends.
  2. Don’t try to read every tweet. Avoid information overload using something like Hootsuite. Set up columns to monitor topics or groups of people of particular interest.
  3. Post links to original content to engage more readers. This is easy for bloggers. If you don’t write linkable content regularly, then share your own take on other people’s content when you link to it. This is how to establish your value in the eyes of other people on Twitter.
  4. Interact with others. Show that you’re not a robot. You have a personality.
  5. Don’t promote yourself relentlessly. That’s a quick way to lose followers. Guy Kawasaki says, “…promotion should be one out of 20 posts,” in “Talking tweets with author, media guru Guy Kawasaki.”

What’s worked for you?

I’m curious to learn about YOUR approach to Twitter.

How to live-tweet a financial conference

Live-tweeting a financial conference—tweeting as you attend the sessions—can reward you as well as the conference organizers and speakers. Do it right to maximize your benefits.

Why live-tweet?

Live-tweeting offers both personal and professional benefits.

Personally, I find that I listen better when I take notes on a presentation. Live-tweeting is a form of note-taking, but other people get to benefit from seeing what you write.

Live-tweeting can also build your social media influence. The week that I live-tweeted the CFA Institute’s 2013 wealth management conference, I noticed a jump in my e-newsletter subscribers, in addition to an increase in Twitter followers.

Prepare before you start.

1. Find out the conference hashtag before you start live-tweeting the event.

A hashtag is a kind of abbreviation that starts with the # sign. For example, the hashtag for that CFA Institute Wealth Management conference was #CFAWM13.

Here’s a sample tweet:

#CFAWM tweet

The hashtag is important because it helps conference followers find your tweets.

2. Pick your Twitter tool.

I like TweetChat because once I enter the conference hashtag, it automatically creates a list of tweets bearing the hashtag and attaches the hashtag. This is more efficient than working directly in Twitter. NOTE: TweetChat appears to have gone out of business since I originally posted.

Some live-tweeters prefer to stick to their usual means of filtering and communicating in Twitter. For example, in HootSuite, which I use, or TweetDeck you can set up a column devoted to specific hashtag. However, I’m not aware of how you can automatically generate a hashtag when you tweet in Hootsuite.

I prefer TweetChat because it saves me time when compared with HootSuite.

3. Have the speakers’ names and bios handy. This will help you to tweet these details accurately. I was once very embarrassed by sending a tweet that misnamed the speaker.

Compose your tweets.

1. Name the conference. When your first tweet names the conference along with its hashtag, you put your tweets in context for readers who aren’t attending the conference. For example, I might tweet, “CFA Wealth Management conference starting now #CFAWM13”

2. Tweet “sound bites.” You can’t build a complete argument on Twitter, so it’s best to write the Twitter equivalent of “sound bites”—short statements that stand on their own. For example, share an interesting fact or provocative opinion expressed by a speaker. You can also ask a question or express your own opinion about a conference topic. Another popular technique: tweeting a helpful website mentioned at a conference.

2. Identify the speaker. Readers want to know who said what. Sharing the name, title, and company affiliation of your information source provides context and credibility. It’s easy to incorporate this in an article or blog post; it’s challenging within the 140 characters offered by Twitter.

One shortcut: use the speaker’s Twitter name. For example, if I attribute a statement to @michaelkitces, I save one character over “Michael Kitces” and, more importantly you can click on Michael’s Twitter name to read his Twitter bio. You can even explore his credentials further by clicking on the website within his Twitter bio.

If there’s no Twitter name available, I try to give the speaker’s full name and company affiliation in my first tweet. After that, I may save space by referring to the speaker by last name only.

3. Save space with colons and paraphrasing. Instead of tweeting “…, says Patterson,” you can tweet “Patterson:…” Sometimes the few spaces you save can keep you under Twitter’s 140-character limit. Keep your statement short enough for others to easily retweet, or free up space that’s better used explaining an idea.

Similarly, you can shorten your character count by paraphrasing—restating in your own words—what speakers might say in a wordier or more colorful manner.

Tweet selectively.

Don’t feel that you must tweet every session and every interesting fact. After all, you’re at the conference to learn. Constant typing may distract you from processing information.

Nervous about your typing skills? You can focus on retweeting other people’s conference tweets. This shows respect for other people’s content and may help you build relationships with them.

Bonus tip: Use photos.

Joanna Belbey photo suggestion for live-tweeting Thank you, Joanna Belbey, for this excellent suggestion, which I’m sharing with your permission!

 

 

Note: I updated this post on May 27, adding Joanna Belbey’s suggestion.

How I gained 5,000 Twitter followers in 4 years

@susanweiner Twitter widget

Twitter plugin that appeared on my website prior to its redesign

This is not a get-rich-quick or even a quick-success story, but you’ll find some helpful Twitter tips in it.

After four years I hit 5,000 Twitter followers in April 2013. Five thousand was not a lot compared to Justin Bieber’s 44,055,359 fans or even The Motley Fool investing website’s 436,638 fans, but it’s not bad in the world of financial advisors, asset managers, and niche writers where @MichaelKitces is a star with 9,305 followers (all stats as of September 3, 2013). Update: As of October 2018, I had over 13,000 followers.

Looking back, I believe four things grew my Twitter numbers.

1. My goal is to engage, not to grow followers

Plenty of hucksters will tell you how to boost your follower count quickly. However, those folks won’t stick with you when you fail to deliver anything of value to them.

I’ve tried to deliver useful content with a dollop of promotion and plenty of interaction. If you’ve ever tweeted a legitimate question to me, I’ve done my best to reply.

I also ask questions of others and highlight their expertise. You may be following someone whom you discovered through one of my retweets.

2. I take initiative to follow members of my target audience

In my early days on Twitter, I mainly followed people who traded tweets with me. However, as I noticed Twitter boosting my e-newsletter list, I began identifying more people to follow.

I used the following techniques:

  • Reviewing the profiles of my new followers
  • Looking at names suggested by Twitter in its “Who to follow” section
  • Checking Twitter lists of people whom I respect

3. I don’t unfollow or block people unless they annoy me

People sometimes tell me they’re trimming the list of people they follow. I don’t spend time on that unless people spam me or annoy me in some other way.

I believe there are two main reasons why other people unfollow. First, they’re overwhelmed by the volume of tweets. However, I use Hootsuite to filter tweets. This helps me focus on more valuable clients and deepening relationships with a small group of people. However, my “home feed” with all of my followers helps me find good content in unexpected places.

Second, people unfollow because they bump up against Twitter’s rules about how many people you can follow if the number of people you follow is greater than the number of your followers. I don’t recall being in that position except in my early days on Twitter.

4. I share my tweets and Twitter handle

I don’t confine my tweets to Twitter. For some years, I shared them in the right-hand column of my website using a plugin (a little bit of software) that displays my most recent tweets attractively in a box. I know this little box works to interest some people in Twitter because it was a little box like this on Bill Winterberg’s FPPad website that worked its lure on me.

I also send some of my tweets to LinkedIn. I don’t recommend sending everything you tweet to LinkedIn, especially not if you’re a frequent tweeter. Oversharing on LinkedIn will annoy some folks.

I post my Twitter handle, along with a  link to my Twitter profile, in many spots. For example: my website, e-newsletter, email signature, and LinkedIn profile.

What about YOU?

What are your thoughts on growing your list of Twitter followers? Do you think it’s worthwhile? If so, how do you pursue your goals? I’m also curious to learn more about why folks cull their followers.

Note: This post was updated in October 2018.

4 Twitter #FF tips from my personal experience

Thanks to everyone who has favored me with a #FollowFriday (#ff for short), I’ve
learned a few things about how to do it right. If you’d like to use the #ff hashtag to show respect or gratitude to others, consider these tips.

1. Keep your #ff tweets short

Your #ff tweets will get retweeted if you limit them to 120 characters or fewer. It’s common for some #ff honorees to thank the folks who honor them by retweeting. But a retweet might add 19 characters or spaces, as with the following text: Thx! RT @tweetname

2. Say why you like the folks you favor with #FF

“Add value with context,” as savvy user Mike Langford suggests. Some folks do this by highlighting one person per #FF tweet, with an explanation of why that person is worth following. Tip #3 offers another approach to this challenge. I know I’m more likely to click and follow if you give me a reason.

UPDATE on July 28, 2014: I’ve discovered that Commun.it suggests names for you to #ff.

3. Consider grouping your #ff names by type

If your FollowFriday goal is to help others discover the folks whom you honor, then go beyond a simple list of names. Mention a profession–such as advisors or writers–or a characteristic–such as great content for investors. This takes time, but it also boosts the likelihood that your Twitter followers will click to learn more about these individuals or firms.

If this sounds like too much work, consider picking one Twitter account every week. Use the extra space to highlight why that Twitter account is worth following.

4. It’s okay to skip FollowFriday

FollowFriday suits the Twitter personality of some folks, but not others. It’s okay not to participate in it.

It’s rare for me to originate #ff tweets. I figure that I show my respect for other folks on Twitter by retweeting their content and engaging with them.

What’s YOUR approach to FollowFriday?

I’m curious about your approach to FollowFriday. Has it helped you deepen your relationships with others on Twitter, win new business, or gain other benefits? I’d like to hear from you.