Many folks ask me why they should invest in using Twitter if they already have a Facebook page (and vice versa). After all, a tweet lasts but a few seconds and then it’s gone, lost in the stream.

  • Yes, although many people use both platforms, many do not. So you are expanding your reach.
  • For those who do follow you on both Facebook and Twitter, your message is reinforced by being seen on multiple sites.
  • Most importantly, I find it much easier and faster to build Followers on Twitter than to gain new Likes on Facebook.

If you’ve only just gotten your Facebook page launched and you’re struggling to build your audience there (or even remember to post on a regular basis), I do not recommend kicking off your Twitter account while you’re still getting your sea legs (per se) on Facebook. It’s best to get your presence and fan engagement running like a well-oiled machine on one platform before getting started on a new one.

One advantage of this system is that once you’ve built that huge fan base on either Facebook or Twitter, you can ask them to join you on the other platform when you kick off your new account. It’s a great way to get an instant, large fan base.

Facebook’s structure makes it quite difficult to grow your fan base without paying for an ad, holding a contest and/or giving something away as a prize for Liking your page. Twitter, on the other hand, has tighter structure and users adhere more closely to Twitter etiquette protocols than folks appear to do on Facebook. Many arrived on Twitter and used the etiquette of the day that you Follow everyone who follows you.

This is not today’s modus operandi on Twitter. (Furthermore, you don’t want to follow every Tom, Dick and Harry. Nor do you want everyone following you.) A better strategy is quality, not quantity. (But a little bit of both helps.)

Since you are limited to 140 character tweets, everyone is very succinct with their messages on Twitter. Hundreds and thousands of them can go by on your screen at a much faster rate than you’d likely see on Facebook.

Once you get a good understanding of the right rhythm and volume for your tweets, retweets, mentions and so on, you can maintain your presence on Twitter through automation and tools without feeling the need to watch all your lists and tweet traffic every minute of the day. However, if you are in highly active Follower-building mode, you will need to devote much more time to your activities on Twitter in order to gain, build and sustain the momentum of Follower acquisition at a high level.

My Twitter Life in a Nutshell, er, Birdsnest

Like many I kicked off my Twitter account many, many months before I could figure out what to do with it and how to use it well. When first beginning, your Twitter stream is nearly blank, as you don’t have any Followers yet, and aside from a half dozen friends who tweet every other week, you don’t see a lot of action.

Second, there’s been a perception (read: myth) that you can’t effectively tweet unless you’re using your mobile device for much of the activity. This is completely untrue.

What made Twitter far more popular with mobile users than Facebook was simply that it required very short messages. With limited keyboard capability in older phones, short messages were desirable!

Now with a large percentage of the population using smartphones with QWERTY keyboard capability, it’s much easier for users to post to both social media platforms while on-the-go. However, I should note that I find it much easier to track Twitter activity from my desk using Tweetdeck (Hootsuite is also highly regarded.) than from the small screen of a smartphone. Myth destroyed!

Stumbling Around in Search of Followers

One surprising observation I had while my account was mostly dormant was that from time to time perfect strangers would Follow my account, presumably based entirely upon the content of my bio, as I had little to no activity of tweets. Now, I don’t know about you, but from a strategy perspective, you can’t expect to build raving fans off of nearly dormant accounts.

Each time someone new follows me on Twitter, I check out their page or statistics to see how much activity they have on Twitter. If s/he has thousands of followers and tons of tweets, the possibility of my tweets being seen by thousands more goes up exponentially. If, on the other hand, this person has tweeted a handful of times and has almost no activity (or none in the last several months), it’s a strong indicator this person may not be worth my time to follow.

(Safety tips: You should always check out new followers just to ensure the accounts aren’t spam, which can be quite prolific on Twitter. Do NOT automatically follow anyone back. And do NOT automatically reply to someone you don’t know and/or haven’t reviewed their profile and Twitter activity to ensure it’s a real person.

Some giveaways that an account is robo-created and/or spam is the use of the egg icon instead of a profile picture. Also if the ‘person’ has tweeted the same or similar message to dozens before you, it’s spam. If the photo looks unusually suggestive, or the profile uses highly suggestive language, it’s spam.

Use good judgment. Block and report suspected spam accounts immediately.

[Hootsuite and Tweetdeck both have single-click ways of reporting these accounts right away, and they’ll be barred from contacting you again.])

My next step was to add and search for anyone I knew using Twitter. This can be a slow-going way of clicking on user info to ensure you have the right person or company name or branch office before clicking the Follow button, but it does help you learn the ropes.

Another approach is to make a list (on paper or using a service like Evernote, Tumblr or Delicious) where you keep an ongoing list of Twitter handles (@Name) or business and personal names you want to search for on Twitter.) Set aside a little time each day to find and Follow a handful of them.

Turbo-Charging Your Follower/Following Strategy

If you have, perhaps, sat there following one new person or company at a time while noting some of these folks have hundreds of thousands of followers wondering, “How did they do it?!?!” My single answer is that it sure wasn’t by clicking “Follow” “Follow” “Follow” one-at-a-time all day long.

Keeping quality in the forefront of your mind, I recommend you pull out your list of 20 keywords about your business that you used when you were Like-building on Facebook. (These are the same primary keywords associated with your website in your SEO programming on your site.)

Use this list of keywords as a starting point to perform a Twitter search on these words. Note that Twitter’s Search page doesn’t require the use of hashtags (“#” symbol) for its algorithms to find tweets containing the word you just entered. (However, if you use the Twitter search field in the black navigation bar, it will only return results when the # hashtag has been used with your keyword or phrase.)

The results of this search should bring up a plethora of tweets made by lots of users you’ve never seen before. Upon finding a tweet of interest to you, click on the tweeter’s handle and a pop up window will appear showing the tweeter’s profile, statistics, recent tweets (for you to review further) and the all too important Follow button. Choose to follow (or not). And you can also add this tweeter to a list you’re creating, report this tweeter as spam and so on, using the head ‘n’ shoulders icon button next to Follow.

The Magic of Following

Here’s the magic of Twitter that’s different from Facebook: As you keep adding new Followers (and even if you stop adding them), if you are regularly tweeting valuable content every day, several times a day, many of your viewers will Follow you every day, adding to your fan base. Voilà!

Steadily building fans without spending twelve hours a day combing through tweets is possible!

You may be wondering how it’s possible to build this fan/Follower base on Twitter if I’ve said I still am tweeting multiple times a day, every day with valuable content. Here’s my secret: You do have to put in the elbow grease when first launching your account so that you gain a good understanding of what does and doesn’t work for you and your Followers. But once you get a handle on whom to follow and what content is valuable to your Followers, you can begin to automate the process.

This isn’t to say that you can pre-program tweets to run for weeks without attending to your account. Your Followers will learn quickly that you’re not really there if they respond to one of your tweets and you don’t respond back within a reasonable time frame. That’s a fast way to destroy all your hard work.

What I am saying is that after learning the ropes, fine tuning them and finding out what works best for my business (or a client’s), with my long-term goals and strategy in place, I can program in a week or two of valuable tweets covering a wide variety of topics. Now I don’t have to ‘be there’ every minute of the day to monitor activity. I can review current tweets from those I follow and retweet the best ones when I review the content periodically during the day.

With email notification I can reply to questions or kind mentions with thank yous in a timely manner. And now, Twitter fits into my work schedule – not the other way around!

On a regular basis I get new Follows and my fan base increases from those who’ve seen my pre-programmed tweets.

Twitter may be home to zillions of super-short-shelf-life messages, but when you take them altogether and over a longer period of time, a pattern of strategic communication, peppered with valuable content, emerges. You can paint a very complete picture about your brand and your offerings through careful planning and posting.

If you’re already tweeting, tell me what strategies or tools have worked best for you.