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Did you know that 60% of active users have purchased something from a small business because of Twitter? Commerce is becoming an increasingly important activity for the social network. If your SMB isn’t on the Twitter bandwagon already, it’s time to start.

Imagine entering the world of Twitter as though it’s your very first day of high school. Except that this school has over 645 million registered students, and you’re just one of 135,000 freshman enrolling that day. Over 40% of your classmates will sit in class and never participate. But that’s not going to be you – you’re here to win friends and influence people! Here’s how to get started on the right foot with Twitter.

Set up a strategy

One of the reasons why almost half of all Twitter accounts are rendered dormant within their first month is because users don’t define exactly what they want from their experience before signing up. Are you joining Twitter to further your brand and establish business? Or do you simply want to socialize and be entertained? Successful accounts manage to do both. On Twitter you can be a contributor, learner or wallflower. But you’re the one who determines which role you’d like to play in this classroom.

“If you’re willing to take risks, Twitter is a vast amusement park of interesting life possibilities,” said American performer Amanda Palmer, who leveraged Twitter in her successful Kickstart campaign to raise an unprecedented $1.2 million for her music project Grand Theft Orchestra. It is imperative to identify your motivations behind joining Twitter before going online, whether it is tangible like Palmer’s crowdfunding goal, or merely to connect with current clients and potential customers

Attract the right followers

An invitation to sit at your lunch table is far more alluring if you’re already surrounded by friends as opposed to dining alone. Tweeple (Twitter users) are attracted to accounts that have healthy statistics — their number of Followers outweigh the number they’re Following. It’s the basic allure of popularity. So what are these Twitter hotshots doing right?

Research shows Twitter users are attracted to accounts that possess the five following attributes:

  • Accessibility. Actress Alyssa Milano uses Twitter to connect with her fans; she’s not afraid to answer questions and retweet the little guy. Milano has an astounding 2.68 million followers and through her Twitter kindness has stayed relevant long after her biggest show Charmed went off the air in 2006. By being accessible, Milano influences her followers on matters beyond her professional career, namely baseball and the environment.
  • Incentives. Distributing incentives, like a special coupon or entry into a giveaway, is incredibly easy on Twitter. The days of mailing out tangible rewards are long gone; followers want to redeem their prize as soon as they click the Follow button. And interesting example of this are authors who give away a chapter of their novel or a short story via automatic download available only to their followers. If promo codes are your style, think about what other incentives can you deliver to your followers online.
  • Resourcefulness.  Twitter isn’t just about broadcasting. If you see a question from a follower, try to lend a helping hand. If you don’t know the answer, try introducing one of your Tweeps who might. And if you can share links to content that solves the problem, even better. Proactively engaging is a great way to earn influence with your community of followers and their friends.
  • Consistency. We follow accounts based on the information we believe will get from them. If you say you’re about entrepreneurship, we want to hear about that, every day! Take your position as a source on your chosen topic very seriously. The best way to accrue quality followers is by generating quality, consistent content that will be shared and also drive traffic back to your website and other social media channels. If you haven’t start your own blog yet, start writing and aim to post at few hundred words daily.
  • Uniqueness. Look up “cats” and you’ll find an account with just about every variant of feline love including a 17 pound Siamese with a sushi habit. It’s hard to find a niche that is completely yours — so take a new angle on it. Followers can smell the copycat pretty quickly, and unless you’re going to offer them something new, they’re out.

Engage from day one

Like high school, you may perceive social cliques on Twitter, but in reality there are none. Once your profile is complete (bio finely tuned and a tasteful display picture and header image in place), stride across that virtual playground with your hand outstretched and begin to connect with the people you want to, without fear of rejection. Twitter is a place where celebrities chat with fans, CEOs answer customers and sports teams channel the masses. A Twitter user with 10 followers has every right to approach another with a million.

Building relationships and a solid following takes years. You must commit to it and work at it every single day. Constantly referring back to your strategy, continue to put yourself out there daily. If you’d like your following to grow by 1,000 every year, you’ll have to introduce yourself to five times that many Tweeple. Just keep putting yourself out there and contributing in meaningful ways.

Influence the right Tweeple

Remember that jock in your class who had 1,000 friends but no real confidants? While good statistics will attract others (and are very pleasing to the ego) you need to concentrate on quality over quantity. Social Media Examiner’s Rich Brooks sums it up perfectly: “Having 20,000 followers who don’t respond to anything you share is equivalent to shouting from the top of the Empire State Building and claiming all of New York City as your audience.” Trying to please everyone and not just the right people is a huge waste of time, and again, referencing your Twitter strategy, invest in the right followers and concentrate on influencing them.

What does your Twitter strategy entail? How do you attract Twiends and influence them? Share your tips via Twitter!

Leave a Comment
  • Ability Gear

    Spot on advice and comments. Retweets and some follower love via a #FF are helpful as well.

  • Completely agree Sean! We’re working on a project with Twitter, so I’ve been studying a lot of e-commerce accounts, and the biggest indicator of success is just being a good social citizen. Post useful content, engage with followers, help out customers, give something of value… Follow those basics and you’ll drive sales from social. Treat social as a spam channels and you won’t get any ROI from it.

  • Sean Dawes

    Growing your social reach is no different than it was years ago. Only easier. People think you just setup accounts and thats it. Get some fans, spam them, and you win. Its far from that. You need to get in the trenches and get your hands dirty. Work relentlessly towards your goal….Caring. There is no secret sauce to pickup a fan base other than giving a ____ about them. You put your customer or target audience first, and you build a loyal army of followers and people willing to work with you.

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