The missing guide to Twitter: Unorthodox ideas for exceptional people like you!

Summary:Sure, you've used Twitter... but have you used it like THIS?

As you may or may not know, Twitter is the bees knees of social media these days (where Facebook may be considered the rest of the bee). As such, if you're not on Twitter taking advantage of the opportunities awaiting you to garner followers, traffic, feedback, et al, you are seriously missing the boat -- or as the case may more appropriately be -- the little blue bird. The Internet is chock-full of ways to use Twitter in the typical sense of "have tweets, will follow," but I'm not here right now to tell you things you probably already know or will run across in every other Twitter guide out there. Likewise, I'm not here to sell you a dream. It's easy to tell people all the ways Twitter will help them gain traffic when you have 20,000+ followers, but the truth is, those methods don't work at a 1:1 ratio. In some cases, it's not even close.

For instance, if you sell or a client sells boat anchors, then you're going to have to come up with some pretty darn impressive link bait to garner interest in that product outside of the niche. Now, read that again. The fact that you have to create something other than, "hey, check out these boat anchors you can buy" to get a significant number of eyeballs should be the revelation. No matter how much you Tweet or scream, "hey, check out these boat anchors you can buy," your just not going to get anyone's attention who doesn't have an immediate need for a boat anchor. Perhaps "boat anchors" isn't the best example, but I hope you understand the point I'm trying to convey here.

With that in mind, here are some ideas for your consideration. I've formulated these ideas from personal experiences and observations. Once again, I'm not here to sell you a dream or make it seem like these are the be-all and end-all Twitter tips that will work for everyone. As such, use what seems viable for you or your client(s)! In no particular order of importance:

Total number of followers: A near-useless metric

Have you ever seen a Twitter account where someone has THOUSANDS of followers? Let me go ahead and clarify for you now that the total number of followers a person has is -- on average -- only good for serving one purpose: To gather an overall picture of how popular they are. If someone has 10,000 followers and up, they're probably pretty popular... but how many of those followers are genuine? How many are spam accounts? How many are Twitter feeds that simply retweet information? How many of them are even active on Twitter? How many of them will see all of the content that person tweets, on average? The list goes on and on.

For example, let's say that out of 10,000 followers, only 7,000 aren't spam of some sort. Out of those, 500 are feeds that simply retweet everything from those they follow. Of the 6,500 left, only 3,500 are truly active Twitter users. Lastly, let's assume only 1,500 of those people care enough to check that person's direct feed for everything they tweet. Of those 1,500 people, what's the actual reach per tweet? It's subjective. Just because you gain a dedicated follower doesn't mean they're going to click on everything you tweet!

Now, bear in mind that this is a fictitious example and the numbers I pulled out of thin air don't apply to every person who has thousands of followers. My main point here is that there is MUCH more than meets the eye where the total number of Twitter followers is concerned. Yes, a person with more followers probably has more reach to more actual people, but quality of content, niche/market, quality of followers, time of tweet, etc. all play a role in the subjectivity of the true value of the totality of Twitter followers. Don't worry, though! As grim of a picture as it seems I might be painting, I'm merely creating awareness. Sometimes, finding that person with 1000 followers instead of 100,000 may actually bring better dividends your way, so keep that in mind with the points to follow. :)

Their followers can be your followers, too.

Basically, the idea here is to take the time to seek out influential Twitter users/accounts that tweet about content similar to yours. If you make them aware of your content and they feel it's a benefit to their followers, there's a good chance that they will retweet your stuff! (BTW, "stuff" is my word-of-the-day as Mr. Professional ZDNet SEO Blogger-Guy ;) ). Even if it's not the page you initially tweet them to make them aware of you/your content, then perhaps future articles, if they start following you. After all, your content is potentially providing their followers with value which -- in turn -- helps maintain the value of that user's Twitter stream. While you may gain a number of followers along the way, each time you can get someone else to retweet your content, their followers are essentially your followers for the span of each retweet! So take the time to find the most influential people you can in your niche/market and clue them in! Of additional note is that it may be worth your time in some cases to go through the "following" list of those who you find to be the most influential.

Use Twitter to get Google's attention.

Put simply, tweet content you want Google to see and index. If you ask people "please RT" (which means "please retweet"), every additional tweet that follows will help validate your content in the eyes of Google since they pay attention to and index tweets. Personally, I like to do this not to get content to rank, but simply to help get content indexed and noticed in the first place! From there, you can work on boosting your page's rank through various link-building campaigns. Oh, and as for Bing, they index snapshots of users' Twitter feeds but they don't currently index tweets themselves -- at least, not from what I've seen thus far. It's worth it to get attention anywhere you can get it, but Google's got the most bang for your buck here (as with many other things as well, of course).

Page 2: Standing out, Parodies, and More »

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Add your Twitter handle to post titles.

Here's an interesting one to consider that may not be of value to most people, but in the event that it might be to you, here you go. Basically, the idea here is to add your Twitter handle to the title of a blog post and watch how it spreads via your @Mentions stream. Not only that, but as content gets retweeted around Twitter, people start dropping the originator of the tweet and they simply begin retweeting things using solely the title of the post/tweet they're retweet about. In the right scenario/campaign, you could choose to do this with one particular post that you think will spread widely and the number of followers you stand to gain could well be worth the addition! Although I didn't do this for the sake of gaining followers, I learned this little "trick" accidentally when I wrote this post.

Stand out in the crowd.

You eBay sellers and e-Commerce folks out there may know this little trick when selling products, but I've yet to see anyone really do this on Twitter. Basically, people's Twitter streams fill up, right? There's a good chance that your tweets may get overlooked for any number of reasons. If you want to make sure your tweets stand out, try adding a thick red border around the profile image you use for your Twitter account. So far, the overwhelmingly popular (and ultra-spammy, mind you) method I've seen people use on Twitter to get peoples' attention is using a sexy model or some super-attractive person. That's not you, though, because you want to use a picture that represents you or your company. The addition of a red border should help steer the attention of people to your tweets in certain events where they might otherwise look over them! To clarify, I don't know how well this actually works with Twitter, but I've seen this method work wonders in other avenues.

Gettin' faux-y with it.

This is a method I brainstormed a while back and implemented with fair success (good enough for an idea I was simply testing the waters with, at least). It takes a good bit of work/planning, can take a lot of time to pan out, and you certainly want to take the time to brainstorm your idea through -- but the gist is to create a parody Twitter account (which is completely within Twitter's rules so long as you aren't trying to fully impersonate) for someone/something famous who/that you think is worth parodying (Examples: @ceoSteveJobs and @BPGlobalPR). If it's good enough, over time, you will amass more followers than you could imagine. Once you have enough, the idea is to drop in a link to some content of yours at some point that you'd like to net some page views on. You may only be able to get away with this once, so really make it count lest you "damn the torpedoes."

If you want to gauge your actual reach for content linked to from your tweets, use Bit.ly links for everything, keep tally of your numbers and average out all totals. Remember earlier when I said there are many factors to consider, such as the quality of followers, what your content is about that you're linking to, which people are interested, what time you tweet, et al? The same applies here. With that said, if you're simply looking to get the most views that you can, tweet a link to your page with no additional information in the tweet; just a link. Curiosity gets the best of more than just cats, you know!

Conclusion

Well, I hope you found some of the information contained within this post useful! I realize there may be a little bit of backlash from people who think I've come up with deceptive ways to spread content, but it's important to realize that there are completely non-deceptive manners to treat all of the methods I've listed above. From here, it's up to how an individual decides to personally interpret and put into practice that makes all the difference, so don't shoot the messenger unless you're looking for a good tussle! :D

In all sincerity, I do hope something here helps out at least one of you out there. If you have any questions/comments/concerns or additional tips to offer, please feel free to reach out via the comments below. Thanks for reading!

Topics: Legal, CXO, IT Employment, Social Enterprise

About

Stephen is a freelance writer and blogger based in Charlotte, NC. His contributions to ZDNet cover topics related to security, gaming, Microsoft, Apple, and other topics of interest with a tech/SMB skew.

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