When I think of Twitter, I often imagine the floor of a stock exchange. Particularly, I am reminded of the scene in the classic film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”— a large space filled wall to wall with people yelling, running around and trying to get noticed with gestures. The success of an individual on the floor can be completely dependent on one action that lasts five to ten seconds. Like in any stock exchange, Twitter also requires that you act in real time to make your online interactions count. As an intern in the PR space, Twitter prowess is a major key to building your professional reputation — for future internships and eventual jobs.
But sometimes, you can feel like a small bird in a big, big Twittersphere.
Getting your voice heard in this rapidly-changing environment is no easy feat, and when you’re starting to build a professional online presence, it seems nearly impossible. Following communities and retweeting content that is helpful or informative is a great start, but retweeting alone does not project your own personal brand and enhance your reputation.
Here’s a quick primer on how to jump into the world of Twitter headfirst:
When to Tweet
A common Twitter mistake is tweeting too often. Tweeting three to five times per day, when followers are likely to be online, is a good goal. (And only tweet when you have something to say!) When you have built up enough activity, find out what time of day your profile gets the most activity using the Twitter Analytics page, which you can set up and access in the profile drop-down menu. Knowing when users engage with your profile is crucial, as you can identify when your users are online and garner the most exposure. You can also glean information within Twitter about your top followers: what their interests are, where they’re from and which tweets received the most engagement.
Following and Followers
To attract more followers, you want to have more users following you than you follow others. Generally, aim for a 1 to 3 ratio. Using tools like ManageFlitter are extremely useful for managing your followers and can help you find new ones that will grow your community.
When it comes to personal branding on Twitter, few do it better than Sree Sreenivasan, chief digital officer for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. When he isn’t spearheading the social media initiatives for the Met or cultivating his renowned online brand, he occasionally stops to present a lecture or two to people interested in the social sphere. I was lucky enough to attend his last lecture in Seattle, and a few of his key takeaways have stuck with me:
- Make sure your profile information is up-to-date and tells the most accurate story of you: e.g., using hashtags and your company’s handle in your profile.
- When applicable, use an image, a mention, and a link: images and mentions garner more favorites and retweets.
- If you need more characters, sometimes using hashtags instead of mentions will have the same effect.
- Don’t be an “ask.” Basically, this means you should be selfless when it comes to networking on Twitter. Follow first, then connect and nurture the relationship with favorites and RTs. Show you are interested by tweeting at a user about a blog post they wrote or a previous tweet they shared, and then consider posing a question. Odds are, the individual you are trying to engage with will be more apt to chat if you have already demonstrated your interest.
- Use HashTracking to be up-to-date on trends.
Show Your Value
So what’s the true value that will set your Twitter apart? Your personal insights. Can you tell a story about who you are in 140 characters? Establish a consistent tone and build your reputation by showing your own thoughtful commentary and proving that you’re interested and connected to what’s going on.
Becoming a Twitter networking pro and knowing how to build strong, professional online presence and your online community takes time and practice. But, each time you craft a thoughtful tweet and network with your fellow Tweeters, you build your reputation, your network and your social capital.
For more on developing your personal brand, check out our post, How to Get Your Personal Brand on Track.
Brianna Kuplent is a former intern for Weber Shandwick Seattle. You can find out more about Brianna on her Twitter @Brianna_Kuplent.
Photo courtesy of Ognian Mladenov via Flickr.