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Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Digital Media Toolbox

Increase your audience on Twitter

By Amanda Maurer

For some of us it takes quite a leap to sign up for accounts on social media sites like Twitter; to others it’s just a part of the job. No matter which side you’re on, the true test comes after creating an account. Anyone can sign up, but how does that profile turn into something worthwhile? To build a vibrant profile on any social media site, you need at least three things: an understanding of the community, daily (or as frequent as possible) participation and patience. And when you think you’ve tried all of these, try them again.

While most of these tips are specific to Twitter, a number of them are general best practices. Here are a few quick tips to jump-start your profile:

UNDERSTAND YOUR COMMUNITY

Before you join any site, do some research to find out why people are using it. What are they talking about? How much time does it take to maintain a profile? Is it really the place for you?

PERFECT YOUR PROFILE

If you want to meet and connect with quality folks, you’ll need to start with your own profile. Make sure you fill out as much information as possible, including your real name and other keywords so people can find you easily. Add a photo (don’t worry, it doesn’t necessarily need to be of yourself) and a link to your blog or news site, and you’re good to go.

ADOPT A NEW MENTALITY

Building a community takes a while, so don’t fret if folks don’t find and follow you immediately. Instead of waiting for folks to follow you, take the initiative to find people you think are interesting.

BECOME A RESOURCE

Keep your Twitter stream updated and relevant. If you mentioned in your bio that you’re an environmental reporter, make sure a number of your tweets reflect that. If you follow a variety of people, you may want to categorize them into specific lists. This helps you and your followers: The folks you follow are organized, and others can subscribe to your lists.

INTERACT WITH OTHERS

Twitter isn’t a one-sided phone conversation. Remember to interact with others by tweeting them first, asking/answering questions and retweeting others’ tweets. Bonus: Every time you tweet to someone else, remember your username pops up in his/her feed, which gives you even more visibility.

BUT NOT TOO MUCH

You’ll soon learn when to take a conversation from public (@replies) to private (direct messages). Interaction is very important, but be considerate — you don’t want to clog your followers’ feeds with all of your one-on-one conversations.

FIND WORTHWHILE FRIENDS

Take the time to seek out new followers weekly, if not more often. Use Twitter directories like WeFollow, Twellow and MuckRack, a Twitter directory of journalists. Note: Don’t start following too many people at one time (several dozen in a day), otherwise the site may penalize you. Along with finding users by interest, you can also find them by location. You can do this on Twellow and Twitter search.

PLACE YOURSELF ON DIRECTORIES

Certain sites like WeFollow automatically ask visitors to list themselves in the directory before searching for others. If you have the option or opportunity to do this, take the time to list yourself. You may also want to ask your employer if your company has its own Twitter directory, like the Chicago Tribune’s.

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