Last week, I was preparing for an interview on Writing & Blogging in Kenya with a leading news TV station. Even though I started blogging in 2005, writing since I was a child, I only started (re)writing last year. I was out of touch on the happenings in the world of writing and its future. Decided to call a friend to touch base.
Part of the chat was us reminiscing on the good ol’ (namely 2005-2008) days when we blogged and performed spoken word poetry. The bit that remained with me was what the advent of Twitter did to our online rabbit hole. I remember that the first accounts of followers and that I followed; consisted of my fellow writers, bloggers, poets, who congregated at WaPI.
The idea of micro-blogging, initially 140 characters fascinated us. We proliferated the use of abbreviations as w/o because we only had so much space to express ourselves. May the reader be advised that this was before the allowance of 280 characters and threads. We had to learn to be succinct in our tweets, so as to get the message across. Yet we still had to find a way to use hashtags, that were counted within the limit of 140 characters. Surely! Now we have the cerelac of Twitter!
I believe the attraction to Twitter, might have been the opportunity for us to express ourselves outside of our personal blogs; and to a whole new audience. We had Facebook, but it’s a platform that mostly talks to family & friends. Twitter remains interesting because it gives us the potential to talk with just about anyone around the world. A fact you get to know intimately when your post goes truly viral. It has since strengthened as a news portal and remains a strong place to air an opinion, strongly or not, to declare which hill you are choosing to die on in regards to many other opinions that float about the platform.
Thought leadership is defined as, “individuals or organizations who are experts within an industry whose views are widely known and trusted“. You may ask, how an organization can use this highly emotive, divisive, and opinionated platform in the best way to boost their profile as an opinion leader.
It first starts with understanding that beyond being a social (sometimes political) media platform it is a news platform. Your organization should consider Twitter as a Public Relations (PR) medium. It is especially useful to those with already existing News & Events pages on the website. You can share announcements on your latest happenings, in relation to new products, services, events, partnerships, projects, and the industry.
A web post can be converted into a 5-10 post (max) thread that links back to the main article. Remember, in the same way, you have a featured image on your web article, use that same image in each post on the thread. It helps build a visual attraction and bring awareness to the content.
When posting from an article, do not directly quote the entire article onto a thread. Instead, highlight the key points of the article, link to the main article on every post. It creates further interest and pushes readership to your website, which in turn, helps you build data for your analytics. A critical tool for deriving insights to make decisions.
You can also tag, or back-tag relevant handles on images, the accounts of related people who you’d like to know on the thread of contribution to the discussion. However, it is important you note that not everyone will want to be tagged for tagging sake. It might upset and create an aversion to your handle. Consider sending a heads-up on email or via Direct Message (DM) to alert them, therefore gaining their permission, and attention to take part.
It is critical that your organization not only talks about itself but also about what’s happening in the industry. Idea is to share an expert opinion on what’s happening, helping those with little or no understanding or in need of commentary, or for research can understand it all. Over time, people will learn to trust your organization’s opinion and look forward to its thoughts and opinions on emerging issues.
As with anything, consistency is key. Social media calendars work across all platforms helping organizations decide, create, plan, post, and sustain conversations beyond the content. A simple proposed posting frequency would be almost every day of the working week. The content options ranging from one (1):
It seems tedious! Why the high frequency? News is fresh, and your organizations should aspire to remain relevant. It helps the brand inform, inspire, and trigger conversations in a good way. On matters trending topics, a high percentage of which tend to be negative, you don’t have to keep up. However, find industry-related news (from across the globe) that would be good to latch on, to share your opinion on.
Finally, don’t just Retweet (RT) but always Retweet with Comment (RTwC). The latter, helps your followers understand what your opinion is on the content shared; before they decide to engage (or not). RT w/o comment leaves your followers out on a lurch, uncertain how to engage.
Many organizations have an impressive following of more than 10k+. However, a quick scroll through the list of followers reveals that none of them have any industry, media, and thought/opinion influence. Basically, people who could help get the word out on what you are doing or saying. I sometimes ask my clients, to consider is unfollowing everyone (if the numbers are below 1,000); and starting all over again by following & re-following relevant accounts. It’s as hard as it sounds but it helps create a mindful way to build a relevant following.
An example of relevant accounts would be:
Once you follow the right people and eventually having the right people follow you – start to actively join conversations. Do this by responding to other people’s posts/threads. Remember to always RT with Comment, tagging people on or DMing posts that might interest them. [Update: Retweeting with Comment (Retweets With Comment) is now called Quote Tweet as of 1st September 2020].
After building a relevant following, look at the database and start to consider how you can work together. For example, if you manage a venue, you could offer a free event to someone on your TL by looking out for someone who hosts events.
However, prior to getting in touch, research, and understand their platform. See if their values, and vision is in sync with yours. Also, gauge if their following is within your target demographic. Then reach out to them find out if they have an event they’d like to host. If not pitch an event idea to them, stating the shared value to you both. Partnering with a high profile account is likely to bring attention to your brand. It’s a simple case of scratch my back and I scratch yours.
You can also engage your followers by creating a #TwitterChat, which is a pre-curated, and scheduled conversation built around an emerging topic. While the majority of the work is in the planning, they are easy to set up. To create a Twitter Chats you decide on a topic, approach relevant people to attend at a certain time and day. Prepare and send questions or points of discussion ahead of time. Then promote it on the platform as well as the participant’s, like you would a normal physical event (pre-COVID-19)
On the set day & time, participants respond to the organizing account, while using the agreed hashtag. The longest it should run for is ideally 1 hour and the entire set up should be conversational. I have had the privilege of participating in a great long-standing Twitter chat series called #SiasaWednesday. It is hosted & run by the prolific team at Siasa Place. It was a great experience, professionally managed, and done to the benefit of all. I hold Siasa Place in high regard and trust them to discuss and provide clarity on topics that matter.
“When used correctly, hashtags can be an effective way to grow your reach, encourage engagement, and get discovered on Twitter.”Twitter for Business
There are two routes that you can take when deciding on which hashtags to jump on but it always starts with research. Firstly, ask yourself what you want to be known for as a brand; and which field you’d like to create the most impact. Finally, visualize what you’d want to achieve as an ideal desired outcome from all your effort.
During this COVID-19 pandemic season, many organizations closed shop, but are slowly starting to re-open. For example, by using the tag #OpenForBusiness, which has had 500 tweets in the period of August 21st to 26th 2020, gives your organization a potential reach of approx. 1.4M.
However, in a few months when the #newnormal has set in, the tag will be stale news. Your organization would need to review its use and move on to the next relevant tag. In the case of this example, your organization would be jumping on a global trend. The risk you may face here is that, your content might get lost in the sea of millions of tweets.
The other option is to pick a no-brainer tag, much like how we pick keywords that clients are likely to use in searching for related content. Remember the consistency bit? Tagging a certain phrase builds your SEO as the hashtag gets attributed to your brand over time.
The best thing about digital marketing is how easy it is to access, analyze, and apply data to generate insights and understanding of your content and its impact. For Twitter, log onto Twitter Analytics to understand your top content, followers, demographics, and other information that would help you make more impactful content for the platform.
“The only reason why we ask other people how their weekend was is so we can tell them about our own weekend.”Chuck Palahniuk
After curating content, being consistent, choosing the right people to do Twitter with, don’t forget to be easy about how you talk to other people. Twitter is not a platform to just sell, sell your products, services or opinions. Instead, consider it a place for potentially great conversation which slowly but surely builds trust. It starts in most part by giving the person running the account some leeway to be free in using not just corporate jargon but colloquial and trending terminologies to engage the relevant audience.
I am sure you have come across serious corporate brands, whose Twitter content is easy, fun, conversational, yet informative. You smiled, liked, retweeted & followed them for more. If not, you’re using the Twitter all wrong.