As Twitter evolves and potential applications of the platform emerge it is already clear that it provides a powerful channel to build and contribute to a community of like minded individuals and organisations. It’s openness creates opportunities for establishing far broader communities than other invite only based social network platforms.
The philosophy behind engaging with a community through a social network is really around how you can contribute to the discussions and ideas of a group of people with similar interests to yourself or your business. By giving and engaging with that community you will get far more than if you try to use Twitter as a pure marketing / selling channel.
Establishing an identity
Your identity on Twitter is determined primarily by what you choose to discuss and to a lesser extent what is in your bio. Many use Twitter to simply share their day to day experiences as some kind of life stream with family and friends.
However if you wish to establish a community around a particular domain or area of interest be that some kind of technology, business area or personal interest then it is important that you focus the majority of your tweets and links on those domains and areas of interest.
If you regularly post on a particular topic then others who share that interest will find you through search and follow you.
Building a community
The people you follow or who follow you on Twitter form the community that you will interact with so care and consideration should be given to both who you choose to follow and to those you allow to follow you by not blocking them.
Avoid mass following – this is analogous to blackhat SEO techniques of generating as many inbound links to a website as possible. This will completely dilute your community and is likely in the future to impact reputation scoring which could assess the relevance of the people you follow and who follow you.
There are a number of tools that can be used to help find people who share your interests in a particular topic or space, examples include :
- Many Twitter clients allow keyword searches to be saved and will update real time showing the tweets containing those keywords – one example is Tweetdeck
- TweepSearch – performs a keyword search through the bio’s and profile of Twitter users
- MrTweet – recommendations of people based on who the people you follow are following or interacting with
Suggestions for Twitter Post Optimization
Twitter posts are restricted to 140 characters so it is important to think about how best to use those limited number of characters to share something of value with your intended audience.
The goals of a Twitter post intended to reach those with similar interests should be :
- Post is found by as many of your target audience as possible
- Post is retweeted alot
- Post results in interest in your other posts, in you, your company and leads to new and loyal followers
Given these goals the following 10 recommendations can help achieve them :-
- Use keywords that are relevant to your intended community and also score high in Twitter keyword searches. The following tools can help identify the popular keywords (helps meet goal 1)
- Power of the headline – post needs to grab attention and interest (helps meet goal 1 & 2)
- Consider time of post – taking into account time zone of the community you are trying to reach (helps meet goal 1)
- Share something of value and informative not just blatant advertising (helps meet goal 2)
- Post should contain a link to further information (helps meet goal 2 & 3)
- Try to ensure that a high percentage of your posts address the topics/themes that are relevant to your intended community (helps meet goal 3)
- Give credit to others – so ReTweet or reference other people when sharing information they have posted (helps meet goal 2 & 3)
- Break news (helps meet all 3 goals)
- Answer questions and respond to other users who are discussing topics relevant to your business domain/speciality (helps meet goal 2 & 3)
- Post links to your Twitter posts on other channels such as on blogs, websites, social networks etc (helps meet goal 1)
The above is also dependent on how Twitter search evolves. For a discussion on ideas of how Twitter Search could evolve see Ideas for Improving Twitter Search. Twitter Post Optimization (TPO) is the new SEO and is still evolving – interesting to see how TPO will change as the platform and tools expand.
Despite the tools evolving the practise of engaging, sharing and contributing to a community remains the same and will be important for individuals and businesses to embrace no matter which channel they use.