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Being on Twitter means connecting to millions: about 288 million active users a month. That’s a good thing, so long as you’re using this social media platform right. To establish a presence, gather a community of like-minded peers, colleagues and friends, and extend your network (and influence) takes empathy, creativity, enthusiasm, a healthy dose of audaciousness, and persistence.
Twitter may be newfangled, but it’s actually kind of old fashioned. It thrives on honesty, moxie and stick-to-it-ness. In that way, it’s not unlike nearly any other good professional social endeavor, except you have to do it in 140 characters or less. Moreover, there are 500 million Tweets crowding the Twitter-sphere every single day. So how do you get noticed and followed, and not languish in obscurity — everyone’s worst Twitter-mare?
Here are 5 tips for optimizing your Twitter Feed to growing a following and develop into an influencer, one Tweet at a time.
• Don’t fake it. The platform of Twitter can help you consolidate your own identity and pinpoint your goals. This works for a professional beautifully. Make sure you invest time in that initial work: it’s well worth it. Then, keep it consistent. The more defined your image and clear your voice and point of view, the more followers you will have. Also, if your presence has a clear reason, that will also engage a far greater following. And the more followers you have, the wider an audience your Tweets will reach — and the greater influence you will likely have in the micro-blogging community.
• Tweet with intention. And keep your focus. You’ll engage a far greater following if your presence has a reason and a scope. You’ll also begin to build a field of expertise, one small microblog at a time. While you don’t want to always be serious, you’re not on Twitter to regurgitate watercooler gossip. If a topic is trending that’s related to your field, Tweet about it. Pose questions. Quote insights. It’s a great way to find your network (and don’t forget relevant hashtags).
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• Tweet often, but not too often. Tweeting often is better than tweeting hardly at all, but there’s balance to strike: It’s good to give your posts time to “sink in” on social media. How many times you Tweet on any given day is your choice, but I recommend you Tweet only once every hour for the best results. If you want to Tweet back to back posts, make them from totally different viewpoints to reach different readers. The exception might be if you’re live-tweeting an event. Then, vary the content, keywords and hashtags to attract different followers. And: make sure you’re covering it in a helpful, not subjective way.
• Work in your own personality. An interesting byproduct of our preference for transparency is that we like people who seem real — especially on social media. So give your Tweets a sense of your own personality and humor. Include your own (positive) insights, and add inspired messages. Don’t be afraid to voice your take on a topic. Then, invite others’ opinions — a great way to gain followers. But be careful: Twitter is like an instant mirror, where what you say reflects right back onto you. Saying “I’m bored” will reflect back on you as “I’m boring,” which in workspeak can have a tremendously harmful impact on your viability as a colleague or a candidate.
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• Be consistent. Once you’re up and running, building up followers and following influencers you like, don’t suddenly drop out of sight. You’ll have more followers if they know what to expect from you, and if you’re tweeting regularly, it’s a clear indicator that you are interested in the world and engaged in your field. If you’re stymied, get creative: Break out of your professional mold for a Tweet or two. Find some great visuals, such as a gorgeous scenic or an adorable portrait, a compelling illustration, an insight from your journal. Don’t overdo the baby or throwback Thursday (#tbt) dorm room photos, though. Creativity gives your Tweets a little spice, but oversharing can lose followers.
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Twitter works best when its part of a daily — or hourly — habit, when you work in engaging content, and craft every post with intention and self-awareness. But there’s more to your feed than posts. Keep a clean feed, deleting junk and snark. Make a habit of retweeting (and credit the source). Spend time looking for great, relevant content to retweet, and admirable influencers to follow. Be yourself, but be your best self. And watch your influence grow.
Germany Kent is a social media influencer, author, and entrepreneur with decades of experience in personal branding, social networking, and entertainment. Her newest book is You Are What You Tweet: Harness the Power of Twitter to Create a Happier, Healthier Life (May 2015), a self-help guide packed with tools, tips, tricks, secrets, and strategies for mastering Twitter, and turning it into a powerful vehicle for self-transformation.