Ep. 103 | Building Your Twitter Following For Lead Generation

In this week’s Rethink Marketing episode, Sharon Hurley Hall (@SHurleyHall) outlines how to build your following on Twitter for lead generation.

In our conversation, we run down more than a dozen tips and tactics to employ with your brand podcast. We cover goal setting, strategy, equipment, outsourcing, launching, metrics and more.

Sharon is a professional freelance writer and blogger.  She writes for a number of tech blogs, including OptinMonster, where I ready her great post, “Twitter for Lead Generation: 19 Clever Ways to Explode Your List.”

Picture of Sharon Hurley Hall for the Rethink Marketing podcast where she talks about using twitter for lead generation

Is Twitter still a place to consider investing your time in building a following?

Nathan: Is Twitter still a place to consider investing your time in building a following?

Sharon: Absolutely. Twitter is still a great place to find information and build buzz. In fact, when you look at their own stats, they say that 66 percent of people have found a new business they wanted to work with on Twitter. Ninety four percent of people plan to buy something from business they’re following, and tweets bring business too. And 69 percent of people have bought something, because of a tweet. So, just from the sheer numbers, you know that being on Twitter means that you have a chance to reach more people. That might be people that you want to do business with.

What are some things that you should be doing on Twitter?

Nathan: Interesting. So, if it’s a place you’re going to focus your time and energy, what are some things that you should be doing on Twitter? Such as, on your profile just to improve your followers.

Sharon: A good starting point is the bio. Many people join Twitter and they start out, they put some things there, but it’s not really working for their business. So, you want to improve it, so it highlights aspect of your business that you want people to know. Because, I don’t know about you, but the first thing I do when I go on Twitter and I’m considering following someone is, I click on their profile and I looked at that bio to see if they have compatible interests with me.

You can go beyond the plain facts of who you are and what you do. You can use your bio to showcase aspects of your business, like highlighting a great piece of content, or a lead magnet, adding a call to action which drives people towards your website. You can include relevant hashtags about the topics you blog about, or if you have another Twitter account, you can share a link to that Twitter account too. Some businesses have Twitter accounts for customer service as well as for the main business. So, that’s another option for using your bio.

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And, it’s also important to use the header image to send a message about your business. It’s a great place to reinforce your brand, promote something new, or even to add a call to action. Because, even though it’s not clickable, it can still be effective. I’ve seen a lot of companies use that space to promote something new that they’re doing, and send people towards their site to find out more.

Nathan: Interesting. It sounds like that’d be a great place if you had an eBook or something like that, that you are featuring that month to focus that on, or something like that for a business.

Sharon: Absolutely.

What content should be shared on Twitter?

Nathan: I’m wondering what content should folks be sharing. Is there something preferred? Text, images, gifs, or a video?

Sharon: Well, as you know, Twitter started out mainly as being text based, but you’ve been able to share much more than that for quite a while now. For any social media site these days, using images is key, because images get attention. As human beings, we’re hardwired to look at images and pay attention to visual content. So, Twitter is no exception to that rule.

Most social sharing tools automatically pull content images in when you share it. But, if you’re using an external tool, you can also select the most effective images so that you get the attention that you need. In fact, research from Buffer shows that using images can result in a 35% increase in retweets, which means that you’re getting your content out to a wider audience. Even more than images, video is pretty hot on Twitter as it is on many platforms now.

OK, so I have to be honest that this is a case of do, as I say, not as I do, but Twitter stats show that the videos get six times the retweets of images, and three times the retweets of gifts, or jiffs. Live videos also immensely popular among social audiences too. So, if you’re getting started on Twitter today, certainly think about including some video and some live video into the mix.

Nathan: I think you would want to have a strategy around that, right? Maybe it’s a new product release, or an event that you’re doing, and then add that into your go to market, your campaign, right?

Sharon: Absolutely. With any marketing, you’re not just going to throw content out there widely. You’re going to be strategic about it, and you’re going to have a reason for the content that you’re creating, and a target audience. Younger people often relate more to video, and some other research that I came across, lots of people, I can’t remember the exact percentage, but it’s somewhere around two thirds to three quarters of people use videos to find information before making a purchase decision. So, explainer videos about your business, or introductory videos for anything that you happen to be doing, can get a really good response.

What engagement with followers and influencers should a business be doing?

Nathan: You know, I’m wondering, we’re talking about the content and building your profile, but it seems like it’s probably a two way street with building a following on Twitter. And so I’m wondering, what engagement with followers, and tracking, or monitoring others should you be doing, or a business be doing?

Sharon: Engagement is definitely key, Nathan, because you’re not going to get a lot out of Twitter if all you’re doing is broadcasting your stuff. You need to respond to what is out there, and you need to respond to people’s responses to your content. The people that I’ve seen have the most success on Twitter and build a following fast, are the ones who are most responsive. Now, okay, that’s totally unscientific. This is just what I’ve observed with people in my friends list and on my timeline, but I know Twitter users who respond to every like, retweet, and reply, and therefore, they start getting that interaction and the engagement from their network, and it has just exploded.

Sharon: One of the ways to do that successfully is to use monitoring tools, so that you can respond as soon as something happens, if this is what works for you. So, you can either do that by setting up your Twitter notifications so that you can get alerts as things happen, or you can use a monitoring like Mention, or any of the main social media management tools have that functionality. The sooner you respond, the sooner your responses are likely to get seen, because Twitter is very, very busy.

Any recommended tools for building your social following?

Nathan: Right? And, speaking of tools, I mean, any insights on just what tools you should be purchasing? Or, it seems like there’s just so many options out there. How do you separate what’s going to work for you, and what’s not?

Sharon: Well, the only way to do that really is to try them. But, there are a couple of tools that I started out using his free tools and ended up paying for. So, I talked about Mention, which I’m still using the free version of. Buffer, which I use for posting stuff to multiple social media sites including Twitter, which is one of the primary sites I post on. And, I actually upgraded, because it gave me access to a couple of more tools, and the ability to post to more sites. And, one of my favorite tools at the moment that I’ve been using for maybe the last year and a half or so, is Missing Letter.

This is a tool that allows you to link it to your blog, and it automatically creates a drip sharing campaign over a year for each piece of new content that you publish. So, that’s why people say to me, “Oh Sharon, you’re everywhere.” And, it looks like I’m everywhere, and that I’m constantly publishing things. But, that’s a really smart tool that helps to create that illusion. Now you still have to go on and do some manual interaction yourself, but that can really help a lot.

What should be your posting cadence? 

Nathan: I’ll have to check that out. When we talk about a sharing this and using the tools to share, is there a cadence or a posting schedule that you should follow?

Sharon: There’s two answers to that Nathan, because … One answer is, Twitter is a place where it’s perfectly okay to post multiple times a day, all the research says that. That’s absolutely fine. And in fact, what some people recommend is that if you’re sharing something in the morning, then you can share it again in the evening, so that you get people who are in a different time zone.

Other research shows that if you’re in the B2B market weekdays are a great time to post, which makes sense because that’s when people are talking business. If you’re in B2C, then your audience is likely to be checking their Twitter feed at weekends. That’s when you need to be putting your best foot forward. And, you can use Twitter’s own analytics, and other similar tools to figure out when your audience is online.

Nathan: Because, there’s no one answer, right? It’s, your … Each audience is going to be different. If you’re marketing to manufacturers, they may be different than the high tech industry. And so forth.

Sharon: Yeah, the first rule of marketing know your audience. Second rule, target your marketing to that audience. And, I think that applies no matter what you’re using, what tools you’re using, what social media sites you’re on. You can start out with using this external research as a starting point, but eventually you’re going to have to say what works for me and my audience, and that’s what you’re going to use in the long run.

Any advice on paid Twitter ads?

Nathan: The one thing we haven’t really covered is that, Twitter is a public company, they need to be making money. From what I understand, a lot of organic tweets are just not getting seen as much, especially by brands that they want twitter’s, they want you to pay for some payed ads. How does that work? Is there any best practices, or is there some sort of mix that you want to be doing there?

Sharon: Most social media sites are now pay to play, and ads can be a great way to get visibility, because Twitter is so noisy. I have to confess that I do most of my social advertising on other platforms, because further to a previous comment, that’s where my audience is most active. But, the one thing that I’d say about Twitter ads is that as with all marketing, fine tuning your audience, and your target keywords up front will help you succeed in getting those ads in front of the right people.

You can use Twitter’s own analytics data to start finding your best performing tweets, that you can as ads and that gives you a headstart. That’s pretty much all I can say about Twitter ads, from my own experience.

What else do we need to know about building a following on Twitter?

Nathan: We’ve covered a lot, but I’m sure there’s plenty I’ve missed. Any other thoughts on building a following on Twitter?

Sharon: There are two things that I’ve found very effective. The first is using Twitter lists, even private Twitter lists to segment your audience, because Twitter is so busy, it can sometimes be difficult to keep up with everybody. You can add people in a particular business area, or who are talking about a particular topic to a private Twitter list, so that you can easily just head to that list and use that as a starting point for your Twitter interaction.

My second tip is to take part in Twitter chats related to your niche, as a marketer I tend to take part in chats about blogging, writing and social media and so on. But, there are lots of Twitter chats out there, and I found having participated in several, and being a guest on one or two, that it’s a great way to reach a new audience of people who are interested in the things that you are tweeting about, writing about, and promoting. Usually, that results in you attracting new followers and building new relationships with people, which is basically what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Do you have any tips on using hashtags?

Nathan: The one thing we haven’t talked about at all, and so I’d be re missing not asking, any insights or tips on hashtags?

Sharon: Yes. Hashtags, you need hashtags on Twitter, because it’s the only way to cut through the noise. The research shows that using a couple of hashtags in a tweet is probably best when you’re posting your own content. It’s not like Instagram where you use it the gazillion, or Facebook where you don’t even have to bother. A couple of them will help to show your Twitter audience what you’re talking about, and will help those who might not be an L direct audience with who are interested in a topic, find your content.

You can find popular hashtags on, hashtag.org. And of course, Twitter always has a list of trending hashtags at the side of the web interface. You can use these as a way to post content that is related to what’s going on at the moment, and that again, will help it get more visibility.

Nathan: What about your thoughts? Just one last question, I’m sorry. What about your thoughts on targeting people that you want to follow you? So, we both work in marketing, there are big a marketers like Ann Handley, or Larry Cam, Robert Rose, these guys that … Say I wanted … Would you mention them in a tweet and say, “Hey Robert, what are your thoughts?” Or trying to get onto their radar screen?

Sharon:  The best way to connect with the people that you want to connect with is first, to add them to a private Twitter list. So, that you can find the content easily, and comment, and interact genuinely on the things that they have posted, and shared that you find interesting. One of my contacts who does this extremely well, we’ll go and leave detailed comments on their blog, and will look for opportunities to connect while still being totally genuine. Overtime that builds up the relationship, the point is to be human and genuine, and let it happen naturally. But, you can help the process along by knowing what people are publishing, and interacting around what they’ve done.

Nathan: There might be rule number three, right? Being authentic.

Sharon: It might well be rule number three Nathan, for sure.

Nathan: All right. I appreciate your time today. How do I learn more about you?

Sharon: If you want to find me, you can find me on Twitter as @SHurleyHall. On my website, SharonHH.com. On Facebook, Sharon Hurley Hall, or on Linkedin at Sharon HH. Feel free to hit me up if you want to learn more about anything we’ve talked about today.

Nathan: Excellent. Thank you very much.

Sharon: And, thank you, Nathan. I appreciate it.