How to build a Twitter following that contains the audience you want to reach. How manufacturing marketers can reach the right audience.
While I don't advocate amassing thousands of followers on Twitter, I do believe in consistently cultivating quality followers - and my list of followers has grown slowly but consistently over time, since I got serious about using Twitter. A quality follower to me is someone who meets any of the following criteria:
Potential or current customer
Potential strategic business partner
Various marketing communications experts, some could be competitors
Social media expert
Source of industrial business news or other news in personal areas of interest (for instance, politics)
Industrial companies that have a Twitter presence (these companies are blazing the trail)
They're just fun or interesting people (these are a minority, since I primarily use Twitter for business)
I'm sure with the exception of "potential or current customers" YOUR perfect list of followers will be different from mine. Think about the various types of people you might possibly want to connect with on Twitter so you know who you're looking for. Once you've determined that, there are plenty of ways to find them.
There are lots of articles and blog posts (and even books) out there that claim to tell you ways to gain "hundreds - even thousands of Twitter followers each day." Avoid them like the plague. It's an absolute waste of time to add thousands of followers to your Twitter account who bring no knowledge, sharing of information, potential business relationship, pleasurable (entertaining) chats, or any other benefit at all. Twitter is for building networks and relationships, self-edification, and if you're on Twitter for business: increasing brand recognition. Don't waste your time with people who do not "fit" within the scope of your network (no common interests); who you have no interest in building a relationship with; and who could care less about your brand. OK, off the soap box.
The first thing you need to understand about building your Twitter following is that it is proper etiquette to automatically follow someone back when they follow you. (You may choose to "unfollow" someone at any time, and this is also perfectly acceptable.) You can instantly start building a following by following others. They will most likely reciprocate and follow you back. Whether or not they continue to follow you is another story. It is also perfectly acceptable on Twitter to "unfollow" someone, especially early on in your "Twitter relationship." To keep quality followers, you will need to be active on Twitter and providing something of value to your followers.
There are many ways to find quality followers on Twitter, but following are my top ten:
Use the Twitter People Search function to find commonalities in other peoples' profiles. If you manufacture valves and want to find other component manufacturers you could search the word "valve," "manufacturer," or "equipment." If you're a marketing director for a valve company and you want to connect with other industrial marketers, search for "industrial marketing (or marketer,") or "B to B marketing." Just play around with different word combinations till you find some people that look like they have the right profile.
Use Buzzom.com to do more in depth "bio" searches. Again, just play around with key words and different phrasing to find people and companies with which you want to connect.
Use one or more of the main 3rd party Twitter clients (web based applications) like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, DestroyTwitter, or Seesmic to save and monitor searches. As new people who meet your search criteria appear on the Twitterscape, you'll have them coming up instantly on your radar. These clients are not only for searching; in fact, most people use them because they help organize your social media information and automate many tasks. They're all slightly different in the features they offer. You'll just have to test drive each one to see which suits your style and taste.
Use Twellow.com to search different business categories. Twellow is the "Twitter yellow pages" and you have the ability to search broad categories in order to identify people who are in your industry, field, or discipline.
Enter your information in the JustTweetIt.com directory. JustTweetIt is a Twitter only directory in which you enter information about yourself and your areas of interest. People interested in a particular category can then find and follow you.
Go to tweetchat.com and engage in Twitter "chats." First, search for hashtags in the posts of people you follow or who follow you. (A hash tag is a word that begins with "#" - like "#manufacturing.") Hashtags are a way of grouping tweets within a community of people who are interested in the same topic. You might see a hashtag before the name of a big event, like a trade show or conference, #OTC; an industry, #refining; a profession, #engineering; a country, #Brazil - if you can think of a topic of interest, it probably has a hashtag stream on Twitter. Once you find the right streams, you will find people who are quality followers.
Find your competition on Twitter and search their followers. This is bordering on sneaky, but hey - it's only Twitter! Twitter is a public forum, and nobody can expect anything to stay private or confidential in the Twitterverse. I'm betting that among your competitors' followers there are some quality followers for yourself. Follow them first - they will likely reciprocate.
Search through your vendors' followers. Again, this is taking a short-cut, but just like your competitors have followers with commonalities, your vendors probably do too.
Promote the fact that you're on Twitter. Include your Twitter information in your email signature and on your business card (if your company policy allows.) If you blog, place your Twitter information on your blog. If your contact information is on your company's website, include your Twitter information. Any place you have contact information - include your Twitter information.
And finally: interact with your followers. Be helpful, be caring, be REAL, and being humorous doesn't hurt either. It doesn't matter how many followers you have if you never interact with them. I know you've heard it before, but social media is about BEING SOCIAL. You can't expect a lot of followers if you're just using Twitter to upload your blog posts, or by popping in once a day (or week) and telling the world what kind of sandwich you ate for lunch. (Yawn.) If you interact with others, you'll not only keep the followers you have, but THEIR followers will see you and you may gain them as followers as well.
Kerry O'Malley is President and founder of Marketects, an industrial marketing communications agency based in Houston, TX. For over a decade Marketects has worked with numerous small to mid size manufacturing and industrial service companies and helped them increase brand recognition, move into new markets, and obtain new propsects through creative and targeted marketing communications. Prior to founding Marketects, Ms. O'Malley had a proven track record managing marketing communications in actual manufacturing and industrial service companies. Because of her work on "the other side of the desk" Ms. O'Malley has a no-nonsense approach to marketing and believes she can offer creative solutions to industrial companies, regardless of budget.