How to Be Social in Twitter

CL_Twitter_11,030 tweets ago, I joined Twitter.

It was April 2012, the same month we launched a social collaboration platform at my employer.

In addition to a leadership blog I started on the platform to figure out what I was doing, it seemed like the right time to join Twitter too.

It wasn’t until just over a year ago that I really engaged with it, though. Dorie Clark inspired me with her Forbes article on how to dramatically increase your Twitter following.

Setting goals. One of the challenging things about Twitter is figuring out why you’re there and what you want to accomplish. At first I couldn’t articulate any clear goals, other than trying it out.

Then I realized with my voracious reading habit, it could be a way to share great content, without becoming a near spammer by emailing too many articles to friends and colleagues.

My goal became to share content related to my professional interests – corporate communications, change, leadership, human resources and corporate social responsibility.

And it’s an opportunity to promote my employer, with an emphasis on community involvement @DIRECTVSchools and talent development @DIRECTVCareers.

As always, it’s important to disclose my affiliation and be clear that opinions expressed are mine. And I follow the light, bright and polite mantra from How to Be Social.

Getting started. After opening your account comes setting up a 160-character bio. This is a chance to be interesting and use #hashtags, @mentions and links. Upload a photo. And update the bio from time to time as you and your interests evolve. Work Smarter with Twitter and HootSuite by Alexandra Samuel is a great Harvard Business Review e-book to jumpstart involvement.

Finding people and organizations to follow. Just like being social in LinkedIn, you can connect with your existing contacts to invite people you already now. Every time you meet someone new, see if they’re on Twitter and follow them. If there’s someone you want to know more about, follow them. I also follow the media outlets in my News Rituals of a Communicator.

Following people back. Early in my career, I read John Maxwell‘s book, Becoming a Person of Influence. What stuck with me was his premise that people are open to influence from those who are open to influence from them. John Maxwell was one of the first people I followed on Twitter. And I was gleefully surprised when he (or whoever manages his account) followed me back.

That influenced my thinking about who I’ll follow back. I’ll follow back people and organizations who seem professional and legitimate. Accounts that offer Twitter followers for sale or have inappropriate content? No thanks; not interested.

Tweeting compelling content. My daily news ritual as a communicator also allows me to find tweetable content to share. There’s @WSJ and @nytimes. And @latimes since I’m in Southern California. Also love @HarvardBiz, @TheAtlantic and @PsychToday.  As often as possible, I look up the reporter’s Twitter handle and add it to the retweet.

Lots of favorite people – @AmyJCuddy, @AdamMGrant, @LVanderkam, @PenelopeTrunk, @MartyNemko, @brainpicker and too many more to list.

Being visual. Tweets with images get 150% more interaction than those without, so include a photo or video with as many tweets as possible. @TheAtlantic now includes an images with nearly every tweet. This is highly engaging, with an Instagram feel. Perhaps that’s one reason why Instagram seems to be neck and neck with Twitter with the number of users.

Reciprocating. Retweet great content that fits with your area of interest. Give it your personal spin by tapping “quote tweet,” and adding a few personal words, followed by “RT” and the original tweet. (If that puts the tweet over 140 characters, you can do an MT – modified tweet – by making minor changes such as “&” for “and” or deleting extraneous words like “that” to save characters).

If I like a tweet that isn’t fully relevant to my subject areas, from one of our local schools for example, I’ll favorite it rather than retweet it.

Growing followers. According to Dorie Clark, the more often you tweet, the more followers you’ll attract. At a minimum, I tweet at least once a day. Three to five tweets are better, spaced throughout the day. And try a message to new followers to say thanks and engage on a topic of interest.

Fitting it into daily life. Plan a tweet first thing in the morning, at mid day and at the end of the day. If you’re the super organized type, create an editorial calendar. Research says the best times to tweet are Mondays through Thursdays between 9 am and 3 pm. Of course, you have to factor in your own geographic location, who you’re trying to engage with and where they’re located.

Finding adjunct uses. There many ways to use Twitter beyond connecting with people on the platform–

  • Researching people I’ll soon be meeting
  • Assessing a job candidate I’m about to interview
  • Vetting a speaker I’m considering for a leadership conference
  • Getting quick, authoritative info in real-time a crisis situation (the 2013 LAX shooting being one example)
  • Engaging with compelling content and colleagues at conferences, by sharing valuable sound bites and images. Speaking in larger venues highlighted for me the importance of preparing your speech to be shared via social media in short, tweetable statements.

What are your best Twitter tips?

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Caroline Leach

Hi, I'm Caroline Leach. I help people and organizations tell their stories. I'm a Marketing VP at AT&T, a former Communications VP at DIRECTV and an alum of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. This blog, Social Media Savvy for Corporate Professionals, shows you how to build your personal brand, advance your career and embrace your future. It helps you promote your employer and your network too. Opinions expressed in this blog are my own. Your comments are welcomed and encouraged. I'd love to hear from you!

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