The Final Word on Twitter Influence, Reach, Ratios and Ads


Name another tool you can use during the course of any business day to drive 200 – 300 views to your latest post. Oh, and free.

Let there be no mistake, Twitter is permission-based marketing. If you’ve been trying Twitter ads have any anything worthy to report, I’d love to hear from you. But just like Sponsored Posts on Facebook, Sponsored Tweets are like a shot in the dark. A lot like buying a loosely targeted email list and blasting a few offers at them. It’s interesting if you’ve got some extra marketing dollars to spend before the end of the quarter, but don’t expect to have a breakout hit or a substantial growth pattern using Twitter ads. Twitter doesn’t really work that way.

In the beginning, Twitter was created like an instant messaging service you could use with your friends, updating them about your next destination on a Saturday night romp, for example. And when it launched at SXSW in 2006 that’s just what it was like.

“We’re heading to JO’s for coffee.”  “We’ve bailed on Austin Pizza because of the lines, we’re heading to Magnolia Cafe on SOCO, meet us there.”

I tried, but I didn’t get it. I dropped off soon after SXSW wrapped. A few years later I was working for Dell and I was added to a new team. (They call it re-org in Dell-speak.) We were doing a lot of social. I started up a new twitter account @jmacofdell, because I couldn’t remember the old Twitter account. (It’s probably still in existence if I could just find that old computer with the login.) I learned pretty quickly, about an hour later, that this type of “ofdell” or “atdell” handle was assumed to mean you were tweeting on behalf of Dell. Um, nope. I changed my name a few hours later to @jmacofearth, reflecting on my “green team” association.

And this time I began to get it. Twitter was like those “friend” updates you used to do via email, except in real-time. “This is the latest tool to help you manage your email downloads…” etc. And it was quick, simple, and new. So I pushed around on my new non-Dell twitter account mostly on my own time, trying to get a handle on what it was good for.

Today we all have a pretty good idea of what Twitter is good for.

  • Publicizing events
  • Reporting news
  • Tagging posts and information related to an event (#superbowl2015) a tv show (#walkingdead) or some other current event (#election2014)
  • Random sharing of information and news related to your interests
  • Business information broadcasting (like a new RSS feed)
  • Real-time marketing research (want to know what ads are winning the Superbowl? Track the hash tag.)
  • Keeping in touch with thousands of people at once (maybe not so much)
  • But most people are still confused about how to get started. Even businesses are struggling with some ideas that limit their reach and influence. Let’s take down a few of the myths and put up a few of my own personal Twitter maxims.

Forget about the Follower/Following Ratio. You may think someone cares, but no one cares. It’s all about the reach. If my ratio is really good, it just means I spend time unfollowing people too. (I do.)

Forget about organic growth of your Twitter account. I have experimented with this idea for years. Here’s how the theory goes: 1. write great content, 2. share great content via twitter, 3. retweet great content, 4. respond to great content. If you do all those things your followers will increase. I even took it a few steps further in my aspirations. 1. Use your Twitter handle as the signature for everything, sometimes instead of your name, 2. use Twitter as a primary response mechanism for your marketing campaign, 3. ask for followers on Twitter or via marketing materials (“follow us on Twitter and Facebook”) My best results for the organic growth approach to twitter was about 15 new followers per week. Well, how am I going to reach 100,000 followers like that?

The real path to growth.

  • Keep your Twitter account focused on ONE or TWO topics and stay on topic. (Mine is about social media, marketing, and occasionally about random music/politics/cat picture. But people follow me on Twitter primarily about marketing. That’s what I tweet about.
  • Follow great tweeters related to your primary topic.
  • Don’t follow everyone. Sure you may like evangelical ministers, but your business account isn’t the place to follow all of them. And Mylie Cyrus, unless you are in entertainment, looks more like the account of a teenage girl or boy. Button it up.
  • Don’t get to proud in your bio. If you’re an “expert” let someone else say it about you. Don’t tell us about your love for Jesus (even if you love Jesus) unless that’s the entire point of your Twitter account. (It might be.) And if you’re a “best-selling” author, or an “award-winning” journalist, those credentials better be on your Twitter landing page.
  • Keep following great people until Twitter says “You cannot follow any more accounts at this time.” This is the goal line. You’ve done it. Pat yourself on the back.
  • After a week, unfollow most if not all of the followers who are not following you back.

Sound spammy? Get over it. I don’t care how I get my next 100 marketing-savvy followers. I won’t buy them. But if following 1,000 new marketing people nets me 100 new followers a week, well, I’m still not likely to catch Guy Kawasaki, but I’m on my way to building an influential Twitter account about marketing.

If you need multiple channels, multiple topics, consider building several Twitter accounts at once so you keep the stream pure. People don’t unfollow you because you tweet too much if it’s good stuff. They unfollow when you start spamming them, or tweeting about discounts and coupons. Keep your tweetstream relatively pure and grow the account. The simple math: the more followers you have the more reach you can achieve.

Back to ads for a minute. If Twitter is actually permission-based marketing, then I give you permission to tweet at me by following you. If you get spammy I can unfollow you. But a promoted tweet breaks that rule. I didn’t ever follow McDonalds, why am I seeing this post about the New Improved Big Mac? That’s when I pull out the BLOCK and REPORT guns. I’m guessing McDonald’s can’t buy their way into my Twitterfeed if I have blocked their account.

Ratios are for beginners. Business accounts that are following 200 folks and have 300 followers do not understand the value proposition of Twitter. Get growing and see the exponential effect is of having 2,000 followers. After all your hard work, with a nice sized Twitter account you CAN actually drive traffic to your site, to your post, or to your client’s posts. It’s the business side of Twitter. You can buy Promoted Tweets, but you’d be breaking the trust of permission-based marketing and throwing money at uninterested and aggravated consumers.

Have you come up with another free traffic-driving tool yet?

My Twitter drop as I unfollow a lot of people. (twittercounter nov 2014)


John McElhenney
@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)


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