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For a startup, the single greatest tool for growing an audience from the ground up is without a doubt the social networking platform Twitter. There simply is no easier way to find, learn about, and interact with potential customers. On no other platform can you jump into a conversation with a potential customer, uninvited, and it not be construed as rude or awkward. Twitter is an open conversation; it would be a grave mistake not to join in.
As you start tweeting, just like anything else, you will begin to see that it actually takes time to build an audience. You’ll find yourself on Twitter going back and forth with users for hours each day. You may begin to think to yourself that you don’t have time to “play around on Twitter.” Well, don’t give up so easily. You don’t need more time. You just need proof–proof that the time you are investing is actually generating results. You need to measure your activities on Twitter. You need analytics.
The following is a list of items you may want to be tracking as you participate on Twitter. Each Monday, research the following metrics and keep a running spreadsheet of how it changes from week to week. You might be surprised by the impact you are actually having.
A follower is just a Twitterfied term for “subscriber.” Your followers are the people who will see your tweets in their news feeds. If your number of followers is remaining stagnant–or worse, declining–from week to week, you’re doing something wrong. The best way to build a following is to interact with people. Unless you’re already famous, people aren’t going to follow you based solely on the amazing content you are sharing. There is too much clutter on Twitter. No, people will follow you when they trust you. And you earn that trust by following and interacting with them.
The hard truth of Twitter is that the more you tweet, the more likely you are to be noticed. A tweet is like a road sign on the Vegas strip. If you’re trying to get noticed, you’ve got to put up a sign on every block. You can use a service like Buffer to pre-schedule your tweets. For maximum exposure, I would recommend tweeting at least once per hour. There is a flipside to this rule, though. You can tweet too much if you aren’t interacting with users proportionally. I would recommend that at least 20% of your Tweets by @replies. Otherwise, people may begin to consider your tweets as spam.
A mention is when someone tags your Twitter ID in a tweet. They could be replying directly to you or simply talking about you in one of their tweets. In either case, when you are mentioned, your Twitter ID is exposed to their followers. All their followers have to do is click your ID and then click “Follow” on the pop-up box with your bio. It’s that easy to get a follower. The more mentions, the better. And, ideally, your number of mentions will grow with your number of followers.
A retweet is like a mention–only better. When someone “retweets” you, it means that they pass on your tweet verbatim to their followers. They are spreading your message. The more retweets, the better. And retweets not only tell you that you’re gaining influence with your followers, but they also tell you the kind of content your followers are interested in. If a tweet is retweeted multiple times, you’ll know that it’s the kind of tweet people like to see.
Your “mentions” and your “retweets” put together are known as your “interactions.” Your potential reach is a summation of the total followers you will be ultimately exposed to when people interact with you. This number is like the total number of people watching a TV Show when your commercial airs. It doesn’t mean they’re watching it, but it does mean that it’s possible for them to see it.
Use Google Analytics, a free web-based tool, for tracking the number of referrals your website gets from Twitter. This might just be the most important hard metric imaginable, because it brings people closer to actually buying your product. If you get them on your website, you’ve taken them a level deeper into your buying process–into a context where it’s okay to talk about yourself a little more. Increase the number of website referrals by putting your website in your bio and, more importantly, buy tweeting out links to your blog posts (you are blogging, right?).
Measuring leads directly from Twitter can be difficult. Without using a sophisticated and costly marketing analytics service like Hubspot, your best bet is to create a landing on page on your website linked in your bio. The landing page can give visitors two options–to view your site or submit a lead form. If this page is unique to Twitter, then you will know that every lead from this page comes from that platform. You can also tweet the landing page from time to time as part of campaigns.
Collecting and analyzing all of this information each week can be painstaking if you do it manually–especially as your audience grows larger and larger. I would recommend using a service like Twitonomy that gives you detailed analytics of your activity on Twitter as well as the activity of other users.
When Twitter was young, many people were skeptical about its longevity. “How can a 140 character social network really stimulate any meaningful conversation?” They wondered. Well, I don’t know why or how, but Twitter has been incredibly successful. Year after year, it only gets more important for marketers and customers alike. If you aren’t taking advantage of Twitter, you’ve got to start now. But, if you’re new to the platform, there’s no better time to start measuring. You’ll be delightfully surprised by your progress and the return on your time invested as the months go by.