Twitter: You say Build a Following, I say Build Relationships

Twitter seems like a mystery to some. For others, it’s a numbers game. I can’t demystify it for all of you, but let’s start the process by simply remembering that Twitter is NOT Facebook. It has a different audience, and that audience has very different expectations. For now, I follow someone on Twitter whose tweets are, “I posted a new photo to Facebook …” It makes me certain they just don’t get it.

Now, decide who you are. If you are an individual, you don’t need this article. If you are an artist, you are a business on Twitter. As a business, everything you put on Twitter needs to support your brand. Every tweet, reply, retweet, photo, video, and link needs to support your brand. I am the marketing director for a pipe organ builder, Bedient Pipe Organ Company. Our Twitter feed has regular posts of organ music, announcements of upcoming concerts, and daily retweets of things in our feed. As a pipe organ builder, we don’t retweet news stories, unless they are pipe organ related. We don’t retweet Justin Bieber (we might if he took a church job as an organist). We also don’t follow just anybody. We follow news in our area, churches, organists, and other pipe organ builders. We know and stick to our market.

Twitter doesn’t use the Facebook algorithm. This can work for and against you. Yes, everything you tweet shows in the feed of your followers, but that is true for everybody else. Just because you have 11,000 followers, don’t count on 11,000 people hanging on your every tweet. Very few people pay close attention to their feeds. Most interactions happen in the spare moments someone has on their phone while waiting for a bus, standing in line at the grocery store, maybe before going to bed. You’re not going to catch your entire audience with a single tweet. What’s more, not everyone who follows you will care about your tweets. Some people follow consciously, others do it through automation. I recently set up an account for an early music ensemble. Twitter asks you to identify your interests and then automates who you follow. I used music as an interest. Avril Lavigne ended up being one of our first 8 followers. I’m sure she’s a lovely person, but I’m pretty sure she has no interest in attending a concert of Elizabethan music in Nebraska.

Make it play on the small screen. Keep your profile photo simple and bold. This image will show in a very small space to the left of your tweets. It is your logo. Make sure it follows the rules of good logo design. If you can’t tell who you are from a centimeter-square image, choose a different image.

Make it interesting. Make it fast.You don’t have very long to capture the attention of your audience. Be considerate of your followers’ time. If you have a lot to say, say it in a series of tweets. If you say it in a series of tweets, use hashtags to pull people through the series. Are you releasing an EP? Use the name of the EP as the hashtag. Use that hashtag in everything related to that project, every interview, every gig, every link to YouTube. Don’t make your followers work too hard, and leave them bread crumbs.

#Hashtags are gateways. #WhyIStayed is a recent example of a hashtag that opened up a dialog about domestic abuse. Think of hashtags as gathering places or open markets. Use your city’s hashtag to publicize an upcoming event. Use a conference’s hashtag to start or join a conversation about that conference or group. #WhyIStayed is a powerful example of how hashtags pull people through a series of Tweets, to learn and to share.

Finally, interact with your followers. I had trouble with a United flight. I tweeted and they responded nearly immediately. I got the whole thing figured out over Twitter. When it was ready to resolve something on the return trip, the support person tweeted that they had wondered what happened to me and were glad to hear from me. That is a great lesson in building relationships. It softened my image of the company. It made me feel less like a mindless member of the herd and more like a person. This involves paying attention. If someone tweets you, tweet them back. Do it as quickly and respectfully as you can. Retweet their compliments. Build a relationship with them. They will pay attention to you when you pay attention to them. This takes work and time, but it pays off.

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