Twitter is an incredible medium for listening, learning, and sharing. And, for those in the media and communications industries, it's also a rapid and immersive education in meaningful, two-way micro messaging that helps both parties walk away with a new form of value.
While there are no shortage of posts that offer tips and tricks to help you boost your Twitter followers, it is by no means a popularity contest. The surmounting ploys, friending races, theatrics, and contests to tempt those into following individuals can be fun, but short-sighted, when in fact the true technique for building relationships, regardless of volume, is the genuine act of earning and investing in them. It's rooted in selflessness and rewarded with a rich stream of relevance and a network of valuable contacts that can also help you in the real world.
Twitter is a unique and vibrant community that thrives because of your participation and interaction. The Twitter culture evolves and matures though the greater collective of those who invest in the caliber and meaningful dynamic of the micro exchanges and relationships that we earn and forge everyday.
Our experience is defined by what we share, learn, and discover, what and who we follow and spotlight, and how we give back to those who help us and others.
Brevity speaks volumes.
So, to give back to the Twitter community and start building more mutually beneficial relationships on Twitter, here are the top tips to pay back and pay it forward on Twitter:
- Twitter asks what your are doing. Instead answer the question, What do you think we are better off knowing right now? Other questions to consider...What/who inspires you? What just happened? What am I missing? What did you learn today? What's out on the Web worth sharing on Twitter?
- Curate and share helpful and applicable content on the stream and apply relevance and/or context. Offer perspective. You are unique and your ideas, opinions, and experience can help or offer value to those who are learning.
- The public should feel included in almost everything you share.
- Build a brand or a theme that complements who you are and what you do. Earn a reputation and authority based on the niche you establish for yourself, reinforced by the tweets your post and share. Dan Schawbel has tips to help you do this more effectively.
- Engage with individuals in the public timeline around a given topic. But, draw a line between a public @message and a DM. Not everyone needs to follow your 1:1 dialog in the public timeline, especially as the volume increases everyday. Some things are just better left for the backchannel. If it's an A and B conversation, your followers may "C" there way out of it.
- Try to thank or acknowledge, in some way, those who RT your updates or promote your outside activity. Personally, this is an area where I'm working on devoting more time. Everyone who takes the time out of their busy day to share something you posted deserves recognition.
- Ask questions and share the results. Twitter is a magnificent forum for sparking conversations that pull responses from your friends as well as from friends of friends. Most vanish without closure or results. Share highlights and observations.
- Pay it forward. This is important. About two months ago, I Tweeted, "Remember, Always Pay it Forward and Never Forget to Pay it Back...it's how you got here and it defines where you're going."
- Don't just follow the Twitterati. Find and follow everyone who can help you learn and improve your skills as well as the value of your overall network. I recommend using TweepSearch, which is the first search engine that allows anyone to search and discover relevant Twitter bios and location information using keywords. It's ideal for learning more about those following any given username as well. Mr. Tweet is your personal networking assistant on Twitter. It helps you easily build meaningful relationships by looking through your network and tweets. Mr. Tweet will then suggest new and relevant tweeps and existing followers you should also follow.
- 120 is the new 140. Retweeting is one of the most valuable currencies in the Twitter economy. Leave room in your tweets to make it easier for someone to RT and also add a short reaction or endorsement. The magic number seems to hover around 120 characters.
- Listen AND respond to those who offer insight tied to keywords that are important to you, not just those who send messages in public with your @username. Follow conversations related to the keywords that are important to your ecosystem. Make new friends. Offer value and insight to those conversations related to your industry. Give back to those seeking guidance.
- Don't share anything you wouldn't want a co-worker, your boss, friends, or family to see.
- Learn from your tweets by analyzing the statistics associated with your activity. The criteria associated with defining Influence and authority on Twitter are still debatable. However, your numbers of associated followers, RTs, and unfollowers, are undeniable. Tools such as TwitterCounter provides an interactive chart that chronicles the quantity of Twitter followers for any given username. TwitterFriends is one of the most compelling analytical tools for identifying relevant conversationalists, revealing conversation patterns, and visualizing material conversation networks, by Twitter ID. On the other side of the equation, Qwitter is a humbling and instantaneous solution for honing your updates to better match what your friends and followers hope to see or not see. Qwitter will send an email to you when someone unfollows you and will link the action to the most recent tweet that you posted.
- Host or attend tweetups, conferences, events, etc., where your Twitter friends and contacts are participating. It's important to remember, as it's easy to forget, that relationships count online and in the real world. Investing in meaningful relationships requires in-person engagement over time.
- Respond to negative criticism as well as the accolades. There may be points worth considering to embrace and visualize a broader perspective. Those who respectfully push back, contribute to what we learn, while also push things forward. But, sometimes there's also a point of diminishing return. Certain individuals are steadfast in their views and it's their right to maintain an opposing viewpoint. Beware: Don't feed the trolls.
- Be helpful.
- Make this about conversations, sharing, and learning. Tweetcasters and self-promoters are eventually tuned out.
- This one is a bit of a controversial subject. Do you follow everyone who follows you back? Some say yes, some say no. It's a personal choice and a topic that usually ignites a passionate discussion. I treasure the tweets of those I follow and everyday, I follow new people whom I believe to add value to my Twitter stream. It's important to listen to those you follow and regard and by amplifying the quantity of people simply to return the favor of a follow, makes it incredibly difficult to actually hear anyone. There are those who follow everyone and that may work for them. There are also those who create an alternative account to simply listen to those individuals whom they appreciate and respect. PeopleBrowsr is an incredible Twitter service that allows you to follow everyone back, but also create a column for "VIPs" to see only their tweets on your visual dashboard. In the end, do what's right for you and your network of friends, followers, and mentors. This is something that I'm thinking about quite a bit these days.
- Relationships, whether they're on Twitter, Facebook, or any other social network, are held to the same guiding and ethical principles of those we cherish in the real world. Think of them as investments where the ROI is intelligence, social capital, respect, trust, and friendship. Individuals on both sides must realize mutual benefits and advantages for cultivating short-term or long-term relationships. You are equally responsible for contributing ongoing value.
But don't just take my word for it. Leave your tip in the comments section below...
Also, I took the conversation to Twitter and here are some of the highlights(I tried to include everyone, apologies in advance if I missed something):
Question: If you could share 1 tip to build new & more meaningful relationships on Twitter, what would it be?
Be Engaged @VirtueIMC
be yourself. it's the only sustainable voice you've got. @alexknowshtml
business comes second. @spotcher
always (or at least most of the time) reply back to people when they @ reply you @pepstein
Adopt the Tit-for-Tat version of the Golden Rule. And always say "please" and "thank you." @cheeky_geeky
don't get hung up on the numbers, instead...focus on genuine connections. More isn't always better. @promodiva
just think it goes back to what Doc Searls once said: "screw popularity, just make yourself useful" @triciabuck
Give support. @SavvyAuntie
Be honest. @justinmwhitaker
Make the effort to help followers and followees out (not just to the twelebs!) @seanfee80
Personally send a DM thanking every new person who follows you. @DixonTam
help people solve their problems. don't just twisten (twitter listen) but also respond @healthworldweb
Take ur time; treat it like the adventure it is. Other people are so fascinating! Enjoy it! @ROICoaching
Make it a habit to respond to people not just to what they post @Taiwriter
Don't try to be anything but yourself. @jtnt
Simple, just TALK to people. Isn't that how you create relationships in person? @GlazrKenndyCopy
Follow people within your industry and also follow people with similar interests. @pliadesigns
I'd change the prompt question of Twitter to: "What has just captured your attention?" @barbaranixon
express all the different sides of your personality, don't just twitter about one topic @woodlandalyssa
would say reach out specific requests & support via DMs, just do not auto DM as it feels careless, meaningless @PinkOliveFamily
It matters much more who you're following than who is following you. (Don't get me wrong - I love my followers!) @jfraga
Eagerly follow industry peers. No matter where you are in your career you can learn from others. Share ideas and opinions. @rachelakay
It is about engagement - from all sides... I call it the world's largest cocktail party conversation for clients @VirtueIMC
Find a way to meet in person. Conference, events in your local area, while traveling. And make the effort to follow through. @sloane
Respond to direct questions/feedback. This might not build bigger followings but would build better links across the 'brands'. @jenajean
engage, don't just be a listener or a monologuist, engage, engage, engage. And don't mass follow. Ugh! @tyamdm
Be genuine. You are what you are - be that same person on Twitter not someone you are trying to be. @keithdon
share relevant, new content. Engage in dialogue. @gogocomm
find interesting people and engage them. Ask them questions about themselves, their projects, be genuinely interested in them. @gingerw
Be real, be transparent, don't sell, don't fall into the follower ego thing. @davidfeldt
find out more about your followers and try to engage them in converstaions. like this one. @kmvictory
Be open minded. You never know who is going to be a valuable relationship until you start interacting, listening and learning. @aarond22
To never be afraid to put a bit of yourself and your real thoughts out there when Twittering,no matter how drastic or dynamic(: @themissingsock
Notice. Really notice. Whether you're an A-lister with a huge blog/ gig. Or new-ish. Notice who's supporting you & return love. @Ed
be yourself in all the glory 140 letters let you be... @dgourlay
Like any relationship building activity, I'd say "Listen, engage and converse" is extremely important - especially "Listen". @zubintavaria
it might help if u actually "talked" 2 them instead of adding people like they're poker chips.. Have at least 1 meaningful convo @MarcMeyer
answer the questions others are asking. @gbender26
Hottwiitertips says, "GET REAL." to make twitter more meaningful. What does that mean anyway, "meaningful?" @jmacofearth
Stop calling your followers..."followers." :) @jaculynn
Attend Tweet-Ups, without a doubt. Physical interaction is still the key to connecting. @andrewlockhart
share your connections @1day4me
Meeting people IRL is the best way to have meaningful twitter relationships. I'm excited to meet tweeps upcoming events. @khartline
Listen, react, converse, and be informative. Reply to others' questions, and ask questions yourselves. @emd5005
Don't feel obligated to follow everyone who knocks on your virtual door. Sometimes less is more. Take time to read profiles. @TobyDiva
focus on real-life relationships @Jesse
Be curious and talk to people. @JohnCannon
have real convo-tweets with people. Respond to replies always, and keep the convo going. It's tough to do in 140 characters. @adenasf
Create an "inner circle" or a subset of your subscriptions that you interact with on a regular basis. Feed that stream! @BostonDave
Add as much value as possible in every reply and RT @JodiEchakowitz
always try to give more than you take. @getshust
join the conversation. Meaning don't always be a watcher: share, discuss, react, repeat. @jacquelynmogol
2 Build meaningful relationships on Twitter, connect & engage. Don't just push your info; interaction = trust; It's addictive 2. @CathyWebSavvyPR
Tip #1-Read the tweets, bio, and any links to see who person is and begin convo on what you find. @3keyscoach
Be authentic: Do not self-censor and do not Be Safe. Numbers are meaningless. @AdRanchJason
Follow people who are unlike you, too. Different industries, different beliefs, different geos, etc @jaculynn
Actually read some of the Tweets from those you follow. I have 1200 followers, but I'd guess 20-30 read my Tweets. @chucklasker
Arrange for a tweetup or phone meeting with interesting tweeps. I'm meeting fab people this way. @3keyscoach
Be seen elsewhere. @MaryannM
do stuff for people: quid pro quo @scriber
introduce my network to people who can benefit from knowing them @ducttape
Add value to other peoples tweets, not only the ones that serve your agenda. Be a giver always. @MikeAbrams
Being honest, direct, and "real". @MikeMathia
It will ALWAYS be: be yourself...in 140 characters or less, or more, or whatever -- just always!!! @SteveRepetti
2-way comm, provide info to help others succeed @relth
i like connecting around specific subjects. as u tweet consistently about one thing you converse with people who do the same @rgujral
Go beyond just using Twitter :) @rloughery
Give helpful, honest and friendly replies. Many just post their own updates, toot their own horn, and don't form relationships. @PluginPR
Be authentic: Do not self-censor and do not Be Safe. Numbers are meaningless. @Twensored
Answer questions and offer help because you TRULY want to serve -- with no expectation of reciprocation. @baylan
reply to tweets that responate with you - take the next step beyond reading and act, respond, connect @dahawe
only follow the people who mean something to you, mix it up, RTs, Replies, Daily Garbage, Promotion of stuff you care about @ChrisSaad
Direct message about a shared personal interest or helpful info specific to that person's twitter activity/profile. @katiewinchell
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