Marketing Turnaround - 2017

Twitter - Short and Sweet

By Gail Z. Martin

Twitter confounds a lot of people. It's a micro-blogging site that limits your post to 140 characters, or about one long sentence. That's not too different from most conversational replies, so I'm amused to find so many folks struggling with what to say.

Twitter is great for sharing quotes, one-liners and observations about trends, topics, and news events. It's perfect for sharing a link to an interesting article, cool photo, or your latest blog post or video. Ask a question, and get your followers involved in a conversation. Share a survey or poll link, and discuss the results with your tribe. You can live tweet when you travel or attend a presentation, sharing the highlights of what a speaker says or interesting landmarks you see. When you're speaking, have an assistant or someone in the audience live tweet your best comments. Or, give your assistant good one-liners from your speech in advance and pre-schedule the tweets to run while you're speaking. Tweet the Amazon link to your latest book, or to a good book you've just read. Share a link to your newsletter, or give a signal boost to a colleague who has tweeted something interesting. The possibilities are endless, limited only by your imagination.

The news feed on Twitter moves much faster than the wall on Facebook. So while posting more than one or two times a day on Facebook might annoy your online friends, you can post about once an hour on Twitter without wearing out your welcome. As with all your social media platforms, vary what you post. Try to post 5-10 times about something not sales-related before you post a link to something you're trying to sell. Note: content rich articles, videos, and blog posts that you've written don't count as “sales-related" if the information is helpful and it's not the wind-up to selling something.

The law of reciprocity thrives on social media. Sharing quality content by people you admire helps your tribe and establishes you as a giver, winning points with both your audience and the people whose content you are forwarding. Your sources, in turn, will be likely to return the favor by forwarding helpful content that you have created to their tribes, increasing your visibility and extending your credibility.

Realize that when you retweet content by someone less well known than you are, you are giving someone a hand up, and when someone more famous than you are retweets your content, they have done you a solid. Even sharing content between two people of equal status is a win, since your tribes are unlikely to completely overlap. When you share valuable content that is not all self-generated, you gain influence because others see you as confident and generous. You also demonstrate that you are well-connected to information and to other experts, and your followers begin to rely on you to vet the most valuable content and serve it up on your newsfeed, enhancing your value to them. When you share your own content along with the other information, its credibility is heightened.

Using hashtags (#) are another way to enhance the visibility of your posts. Hashtags denote words or phrases that are popular, so when you incorporate a hashtag in your tweet, you assure that your tweet will show up with other tweets that include the same tag. So if you tweet “Send your loved one a card for #Thanksgiving", your tweet will show up when anyone searches on #Thanksgiving or grouped with similarly tagged tweets for #Thanksgiving under the Trending column. Likewise, you can watch the Trending column for popular hashtags and use those that relate to your content to raise visibility.

Using hashtags can gain your tweets visibility when the tagged word is trending in popularity. But be careful not to bait and switch—readers take a dim view of thinking they're getting a post on one subject only to find content that has no connection to the tag. In other words, don't tag your posts with the names of famous celebrities if it's not relevant to your topic!

When you share content mentioning someone else, be sure to use their Twitter “handle" which is the name the use on Twitter with @ in front. So on Twitter, my non-fiction handle is @GailMartinPR. Why should you use it if you retweet me or mention me? That way, I see your post in my feed. I can thank you, return the favor, and retweet you. We all win! Don't begin a tweet with the @ symbol, or the only people who follow both of us will be able to see the tweet. You'll unnecessarily limit your reach. Likewise, don't tag people (especially famous people) who have no interest or connection to the subject of your tweet. It's the Twitter equivalent of name-dropping, or worse, bragging about being besties with a celebrity you've never met. It's okay to tag a famous expert if you have a legitimate reason to think there is interest or mutual benefit, but don't do it often.

Since you only have 140 characters, save space when you tweet a link by using a shortened URL. Use a site like to shorten a long web address into fewer characters. Always give your followers an idea of what a link contains, since no one wants to click through blindly. Photos increase engagement and stand out on the rapidly-updating news feed. Use photos in your tweets whenever possible.

Twitter also lets you create lists of specific Twitter followers to help you better manage your newsfeed. When you create a list, you are grouping people with similar interests or content together. When you click on that list later, you'll see the latest posts from everyone on that list. It's a great way to get a news digest of information by topic or by group. You can create lists and share the lists with others, or keep your lists private. It's an honor when other people add you to their lists, because it's a way of making sure they catch all your news.

Twitter has begun offering paid advertising. Much like with Facebook, Twitter ads allow you to choose a target audience for your message, and your ad will show up in the news feed of people who fit your target. The ad will note that it is “promoted." You can promote a tweet, your account (to get more visibility and followers) or a trend (a hashtagged word or phrase).

Twitter also offers analytics to see how well your page is interacting with other users. Your analytics page gives you a snapshot of how many profile visits, mentions, tweet impressions, new followers you've gotten in a 28 day period, and keeps several months of data visible so you can see how your effectiveness changes over time. Other helpful data includes identifying your most popular tweet (measured my impressions or how many people saw it), your top mention (when someone else mentioned you) and your top follower (the person who follows you and has the most followers themselves).

Think of Twitter as the tickertape for the Twenty-first Century, the modern AP newswire where we are all generating the news. If you're still unsure about how you want to use Twitter, go check out the pages of top experts you admire. See which types of posts attract you and which don't. Watch how they engage with followers. Get ideas of what works and what doesn't. See if you can tell which accounts have a PR professional managing them (and not the account owner) and which feel more authentic. Then wade in and try it for yourself!

Excerpted from The Essential Social Media Marketing Handbook