It’s Not Twitter, It’s You

Do you hate Twitter? Do you think it’s a waste of time? Do you feel lonely and ignored? Don’t you just hate that your best friend has 5,000 followers who retweet and “favorite” his stuff all the time while you only have 50 even though you follow at least three times as many people as he does? It’s time to face a hard truth: Maybe it’s not Twitter. Maybe it’s you.Twitter’s been taking a lot of hits as of late for perhaps being past its use-by date, but the complaints about how there’s too much useless content misses the point of Twitter. It’s less a promotional platform than an Internet version of your university’s Commons. Each tweet is equal; it’s up to you to get it heard. And many of us have no idea how. Here are some simple steps to raise your Twitter profile.

Talk to people, not at or over them

Unless you’re someone like author Seth Godin, who pushes out tweets to more than 400,000 followers and follows no one, you need to engage others. Even my boss Keith Ferrazzi, who is constantly traveling and may or may not sleep he’s that busy, interacts with his audience regularly. That’s because Twitter works best when it’s a conversation – the operative word being “conversation.” Preaching doesn’t work, especially when you’re trying to build a following since no one listens to the crazy guy spouting fire and brimstone in the middle of a park.

Post your thoughts and ideas but look to see if someone you’d like to be aligned with has those same thoughts – or better yet, doesn’t. People may appreciate knowing you agree with them, but they’re more likely to reply to someone who has a different point of view. And even if the main tweeter doesn’t respond, starting up a conversation in the replies gets the job done.Of course, don’t be a jerk about it. Even if that can seem like Twitter’s stock-in-trade – because a lot of the time it is – the option to be a jerk always exists, so save it for the right occasion. Don’t use it as your first if you want to be heard.

Find your audience

How many lists do you have? To how many public lists are you subscribed? Do you have mobile notifications set up for the most important people you follow? Why not? No tweeter is an island, except maybe Seth Godin, but if you follow more than 100 people, you could feel overwhelmed by the number of tweets you get.Lists are an underutilized option that help you focus on subjects that matter to developing your brand while avoiding all the cat pictures and videos that fill your feed. You can create your own, but following public lists that include your main influencers is a way to expand your audience as well. And mobile notifications let you know in real time what the most important people you follow are saying and help you stay on top of the conversation.

Create something you’d want to retweet

No one cares about your lunch. And cryptic tweets with one word and a hashtag are a sure way to get unfollows. Unless it’s “Eskimo #Heathers” and only if you’re live-tweeting the movie “Heathers.” Feeds fly by quickly, so don’t make your followers work to read what you have to say. 140 characters aren’t a lot, so make sure each one of them counts. Be funny, be trenchant, be thoughtful, but don’t be self-involved. If you can punch it up with a great visual, even better – but not of your Chipotle burrito. No one’s got time for that.

Repeat yourself, over and over and over again

Does a tweet exist if no one sees it? Of course it does, but if you want to get your point across, repeat it. Then rephrase it. And maybe repeat it again. No matter how many followers you may have, you won’t reach all of them in one tweet. But if you space out the number of times you say something, you’re likely to get traction. A good guideline is to post two to three times a day. And don’t worry, no one will remember if you just posted the same thing a couple of hours ago.

Don’t just ride any old trending hashtag

The other day, Zayn quit One Direction. I KNOW! But what amused me most about this was that the British boy band is so popular on the Twitters that even the misspelling #Zayne trended. Think about that, and rather than weep for the future, consider how trending hashtags affect your brand – which is to say they probably don’t, but there are likely plenty of other hashtags that do. Even if you don’t get in on a trend, there are thousands of hashtags out there that are followed and are relevant to who you are. Find them and ride them. Just leave the trending ones to pop stars and major news.

Accept the things you cannot change

You’re never going to be Taylor Swift. And that’s fine. Let Tay be Tay and you do you. Embrace the fact that you’ll never have 55 million followers, but you’ll also never have your “youthfully questionable” dating decisions blasted on every tabloid.Of course, you’re probably not going to be a social media guru like Gary Vaynerchuk or Guy Kawasaki, either. They came into social media with high profiles. Don’t compare yourself to unattainable results. Building your brand takes time, diligence and realistic goals. Then plug away. Tweet, tweet again, tweet some more and review your analytics to see what content did well and what didn’t.New apps and platforms pop up constantly, but Twitter’s still the place that enabled the Arab Spring and killed a publicist’s career while she was flying from London to Johannesburg. It’s huge, it’s unwieldy, it’s obnoxious and, at its best, it forces you to focus on who you are and what you want to accomplish.Twitter isn’t here to make you better, or get you before your audience. It’s an effective platform for you to test the waters, experiment with messages, have fun and eventually define and develop your brand.

Image courtesy of Tash Lampard/Flickr

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