Thanks to certain political events over the past few years (ahem), Twitter has managed to stay more relevant than many expected. And it’s still one of the easiest social media channels to use for building an audience. If you’re at all interested in connecting with leaders in your industry or media folks, it’s likely that they have a Twitter account.
What’s stayed the same on Twitter?
280 characters; up to 4 photos, a gif, or a video per Tweet; we’re still using hashtags; you can still send people direct messages. A while ago, we put together this post on the Anatomy of a Tweet, breaking down all the components that go into your Twitter post. Most of these rules still apply!
It’s a place where it’s pretty easy to find your tribe, whatever that might be, and express yourself. Want to share your opinions on your favorite Housewives? You can. Want to track an ongoing crisis, like the current Ebola outbreak in DRC? Absolutely. Want to get motivated on a Friday? That’s a thing.
It’s still a go-to place to find breaking news, and for customer service. Especially if you want to yell at airlines about your delayed flights.
Screenshots of funny Tweets are still shared everywhere. Half of Buzzfeed’s content is ripped right from Twitter, and even though teenagers aren’t using Twitter as much these days, they still love screenshots of funny Tweets shared on Instagram.
Twitter is still on a crusade to take down fake accounts, and new ones keep going up. If you haven’t before, read our guide for learning how to spot a fake, and don’t get duped.
And let’s not forget that there’s still a downside to this open accessibility, in the form of trolls and anonymous harassment, especially of women and people of color.
So, if you’re just using Twitter to RT news articles and share your latest blog post, you’re not doing it wrong… but you can and should do more. Lately, Twitter’s been mulling over redesigns and inviting users to be part of the testing process, including changing the experience to feel more like a chat room, adding more analytics and support for live events, and even experimenting with new partnerships that integrate video.
Here are 5 ways to update your Twitter strategy and stay current:
Make sure you know why your target audience is on Twitter at all. Are they interested in jokes, breaking news, or a combination? What do your customers and supporters need the most: to be inspired, or to have their problems solved? If you have no idea, it’s time to find out.
Try this right now: Spend a little time on Twitter finding users that fit your target audience profile and see how they’re using Twitter every day. Make a note of what they’re sharing, and check out their replies. Check who they’re following, and what hashtags they’re using, too. If you don’t know who your audience is, start by checking out your individual followers as a starting point.
Start posting more videos on Twitter. Twitter is perpetually trying new ways to integrate visual content, and they’ll only keep doing it. So whip out the video camera that’s already in your pocket—yes, we’re talking about your smartphone!—and start filming yourself! Experiment with communicating your messages in short videos instead of only through written updates. These short videos can also be used on other social channels like Facebook and Instagram, and posted on your blog or YouTube channel, but this practice also serves another key purpose: It trains you to get your point across quickly, and gets you more comfortable in front of a camera lens.
Try this right now: If you’re a social media manager for a company or organization, sit down with your colleagues and ask them to explain what they do in one minute or less. These short videos can become evergreen posts introducing your staff to your audience, and building a personal connection to your work. It also helps everyone practice getting comfortable in front of the camera!
Use Twitter threads. A Twitter thread is a series of connected Tweets that look like these. (Please click that link, by the way; they’ll make your day!) These threads have become a neat way to tell stories and share opinions, but only if you have something truly interesting or entertaining to say. You can tell a funny story, give a statement, or just use them to start a discussion; it’s a way to be a bit more creative and say something in a longer format.
Try this right now: Find a recent news article or blog post that’s very relevant to your work, and write up a short response to it from the perspective of your organization. Do you agree and have something to add? Disagree and have an alternate viewpoint to share? Have a story to tell about that subject? Once it’s done, put it out as a Twitter thread following these steps.
Tag users strategically to drive conversation and boost your credibility, as long you tag users who are ACTUALLY interested in what you have to say. Organizations and businesses have abused this so much over the years that it’s almost expected that you’ll randomly be tagged in posts that are irrelevant or spammy, so when you’re tagged in something very much related to what you care about or work on, it’s a nice surprise.
Try this right now: Make a Twitter list of colleagues, friends, coworkers, leaders in your specific niche, and journalists with whom you want to build a relationship, and spend some time following them to really get to know what they like and post about. When you see something that they’d love, send it over with a note about why they might find your link interesting. It might start a conversation, or they might just give you a quick thanks, but over time this ups your value and credibility on Twitter, which is the whole point of building a brand.
Get back to following Tweets in chronological order. Twitter tried to change the Newsfeed so you'd see the most "important" Tweets first, based on what they thought you wanted to see, instead of the most recent Tweets. But after lots of negative feedback they're giving us back control, and if you're using Twitter for breaking news you should know how this works.
Try this right now: Follow these instructions for turning the chronological timeline back on and updating your content preferences.
The bottom line:
Think about what you really have to bring to the table on Twitter. Are you funny and want to spend time crafting snarky jokes that others will applaud? Are you inspiring and want to tell emotional stories that drive action? Are you informative and want to be the bearer of good (or bad) news? Find your role, and play that role to the fullest for a specific, engaged audience who can reply.
Don’t go for as many followers as possible; since there’s so much spam on this platform, a better goal is to ensure that the quality of your Twitter audience is as high as it can be, and you’ll get much higher returns on your time spent here in the form of genuine relationships and quality content.