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How to Engage with the Twitter Community

by Narendra Motwani

The Twitter community is very much like a cocktail party. If you’re new in town, it’s important to meet people and to make a good impression. The same social rules apply:

  • If you only talk about yourself, people at the party become annoyed or disinterested.
  • If you only repeat what other people say (Retweeting), you’ll be viewed as dull and avoidable.
  • Rude behavior, offensive language, and off-color jokes are frowned upon. And when you’re new, you can’t be sure where the societal lines are drawn.
  • No one wants to meet an insurance salesman at a party, so keep the selling to a minimum.
  • Sitting in the corner and watching is creepy. So talk!

Want to be the life of the party and make new friends? Be the person who listens, communicates, and discusses topics of choice by the group, not just you.

Avoiding Heavy-Handed Selling

People don’t want marketing materials shoved at them. If every Tweet is about how awesome your company is, people lose interest fairly quickly – as in, immediately.

“Twitter is an invaluable resource when you have something important, direct, or personal to get out there,” American Apparel’s Ryan Holiday told Business Insider. “It’s important that you don’t blow that opportunity with trivial updates or greedy thinking.”

You have a lot more to share with your followers than “Buy my product.” Show them why they should do business with you, rather than telling them to.

Tweets Should Be Readable and Interesting

It ought to be obvious that nobody follows you unless you give them a motivation to do so. The best way to do that is to be interesting. If your muse is still silent, however, you can be interesting simply by acting as a curator of good content. If you know people who do know fascinating things, and you share them with your followers, you’ll soon be considered a subject-matter expert in your field.

Editing Tweets to Make Them Interesting

“Share interesting stuff” doesn’t mean you can attract people by Tweeting never-ending streams of “Check out this cool link!”

If you are Tweeting something that is already published, such as a page on your website or a review of your product; don’t automatically assume that the existing headline or article title is appropriate as a Tweet.

In particular, don’t confuse headlines that appeal to Google with headlines that appeal to social media audiences. Twitter is not about search engine optimization.

Social media participants, including Twitter users, are not Google. They are individuals who need to be cajoled, entertained, and surprised. For social media promotion in particular, go for the emotional component in your Tweets.

Letting Your Personality Show

Your organization might sell a service that’s perceived as a commodity. There are a finite number of ways that you can make a hair salon stand out from the crowd, distinguish your chiropractic business from competitors, or even why someone would want to check-out your church.

But one thing is a unique differentiator for your brand or persona, impossible for others to take away or duplicate: You. Or, for a larger organization: you and your employees or members.

That’s why I keep beating this drum: the best way to stand out on Twitter is to communicate your own passions and enthusiasms. Most of that passion, presumably, is about your products and services, but it also extends to the technology or techniques that drive your industry (fashion and hair trends, for the salon, or natural health, for the chiropractor). And sometimes it’s about the people, who sell and provide these services – who have other activities and interests.

In short, you want to be likeable. Not just because you are charming (at least we assume you are), but because most of us choose businesses based on people reasons. People want to work with and give their business to trustworthy, likeable people.

Don’t Make Your Twitter Account Only About Personality

While we are all for communicating that your organization is staffed by real peopal with real lives, don’t take it to extremes.

A business Twitter account needs to keep its focus. If a social media influence report shows that your topics of influence are model-rail road-related and your company has nothing to do with trains or hobby sales, then you’re off the rails.

While you shouldn’t talk solely about your company, stay on related topics and industries; that builds you an audience who actually cares about your product. At least, let the diversions be infrequent.

If you are a small business or a solo shop, you can get away with more personal information in your Twitter persona. If you stick to a few unlikely-to-offend topics, they can he a bit like a company mascot or a sign of the company’s values. These snippets of your life give Twitter followers the sense they know you. Still, limit yourself so that these are diversions rather than the core of your Twitter stream.

For example, I found a patent lawyer whose Twitter page indicates interest in legal matters, except he posted for a solid week about what his favorite sports team was doing – and about nothing else. It’s fine to show your enthusiasms, but if you’re selling law expertise, it’s rude to not talk about law most of the time.

Whether you’re Tweeting for yourself, business, ministry or church, I’m sure there is plenty here to think about!

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John Saddington is a full time blogger (http://tentblogger.com), loves leading his creative team building web apps, and is a passionate enthusiast of WordPress. Follow him on Twittter @TentBlogger.