Using Twitter to Build Your Brand
Posted by Lindsay Hicks on June 9, 2011
Before you toss Twitter aside as yet another social media fad, consider this: The way you use Twitter is totally up to you. When used effectively, Twitter can be a very handy tool for gathering information and building your personal brand. In just 140 characters or less, you can demonstrate your wit or show you’re aware of the latest trends.
To get what you want out of the microblogging site, find the people or organizations most interesting to you. This could include employers you’d like to work for, bloggers you trust for advice, and professionals you look up to in your field. It’s wise to be selective about whom you follow. Just because Janice from accounting follows your feed doesn’t mean you have to subject yourself to hourly tweets about her cats and husband.
You can always stop following someone too. So if your Twitter account becomes cluttered—if you sign in and don’t immediately find interesting, relevant posts—then start cleaning it up by dropping the guilty parties.
Finding Your Niche
Each tweet represents a small facet of your personal brand. Decide what it is you want to get out of your Twitter account and the knowledge you can provide to others. Tweeting about your lunch isn’t going to prove your value; tweeting an article about the effects of cap-and-trade on the renewable energy industry will.
Follow the same rules as you would when setting up a blog when it comes to being consistent and producing quality content. Use spell-check and take the time to edit your work. Typos and grammar errors won’t help your brand. Unlike regular blogging, microblogging requires you to post more frequently, but with fewer words. Your tweets could link to interesting articles, columns, websites, and anything else that highlights who you are as a professional. If you’re content with your current employer but want to get promoted, tweeting about company news is one way to show your coworkers just how dedicated you are. If you’re looking for something new, start following people or publications you admire in the fields that interest you.
In the process of setting up an account, you’ll have to pick a username. Just like a blog, this username could be your name or another smart, catchy phrase relevant to your personal brand. The key word here is relevant. You spent the time creating a professional email address to replace metalhead666, so don’t revert back to your old ways at the first sight of the “Username” field.
Once you’ve decided on a username, you’ll have to upload a photo or logo. This can definitely be more fun than your LinkedIn profile picture, particularly if your tone will be more casual or the topic more specific. The Twitter profile image is yet another opportunity to let your best self shine through, so choose wisely. The final step before you begin tweeting is to pick a theme for your page. Twitter offers several templates easily customizable by color, and there are many other sites on the Web that offer free templates. If you have something in mind in terms of color or feel and cannot find it in one of these places, try to enlist a designer for a small fee.
Follow and Be Followed
Think of Twitter as a game. The objective is to increase your network of followers by feeding them consistently interesting, relevant information, all the while increasing your own knowledge base. Successful Twitter members are rewarded with new contacts, job offers, respect among colleagues, and a solid network of professionals to tap into when the time comes. You’ll see your followers multiply if you carefully choose the people or organizations you follow, engage with fellow members, and post interesting content.
What and When to Post
Content is key when it comes to creating value for your followers. Many tweets link to off-Twitter content, such as articles or reports, or link within Twitter to others’ observations, which is called “retweeting.” The secret to success is keeping your feed fresh by striking a balance between the different kinds of posts. If you post too many promotional tweets in a row, you’ll look selfish. If you are continually posting links to articles you find interesting, you’ll come off as well read but lacking original ideas.
The 140-character maximum forces concise thoughts and encourages more posts, more often. When ready to post, use TinyURL.com to shrink the link, or a site like HootSuite.com, which allows you to shrink the link and post in multiple places (Facebook, Twitter) at once. Try to post at least six times per day. You’ll probably discover soon, if you haven’t already, that Twitter’s word limit is more freeing than constricting: It allows you to post thoughts throughout the day without spending much time constructing them. Still, keep the teenage texts—the LOLs, the OMGs—to a minimum.
The value of your Twitter activity is not only determined by the number of followers you have, but also how you leverage those contacts—the relationships you build. Share good info and you’ll be proving a service to your network. In turn, following interesting members will help you stay informed about the topics meaningful to you. Once you’ve started posting steadily, seek new connections to follow so as to load up on more ammo with which to tweet. You can simply browse the “Followers” and “Following” lists of trusted connections to find good contacts, or look for the authors of interesting re-tweets.
Social Media Success Story
When Amanda Montgomery, a 2009 graduate of University of Alabama, started using Twitter, she took a more laid-back approach to the service, meaning she barely used it at all. But realizing she’d be entering one of the bleakest job markets this country has seen, Montgomery started using the microblogging site as an information source for finding job opportunities and career advice. Eventually, she became more active, using it on a daily basis to find networking events and participate in local forums.
While expanding her network, Montgomery started following “LinkedInQueen,” Eve Mayer Orsburn, the CEO of consulting firm Social Media Delivered. Montgomery was working at a boutique interior design business in Dallas but tweeted about her interest in social media and her plans to start a master’s program in Emerging Media & Communications at University of Texas. Eventually, the recent grad reached out to Orsburn through LinkedIn, beginning a relationship that led to Montgomery’s job at Social Media Delivered. “LinkedIn is the best thing that could have happened for people of my generation coming into the work force,” Montgomery says, adding that she uses social media to recruit interns. “I absolutely look at LinkedIn first for cross-checking, then I look at their Facebook and then Twitter. That’s the thing about Facebook, it’s such a personal medium, if I’m going to cross-reference.”