This summer, there was a lot of talk about the percentage of “fake” followers for many of the 2012 GOP candidates. At the time, PeekYou, a leading social search company that matches online identities through publically available information, found of the 1.1 million or so followers of Republican candidate Newt Gingrich, only 106,055 were legitimate. The vast majority were found to be either inactive, spam bots, or dummy accounts. PeekYou’s review of other GOP candidates found similar results, but at much lower rates – Mitt Romney was found to have 26 percent real followers, Michele Bachmann, 28 percent, and Tim Pawlenty, 32 percent. So with that in mind, what are some of the best practices brands can employ to keep it real when it comes to growing followers:
- Mine the database. The best place to start is with your own database. Leverage the knowledge you have about existing customers and prospects and reach out to communicate the benefits of following your brand on Twitter. Remember to tag all promotional newsletters and service email communications with your social communities and benefits including Twitter addresses.
- Listen and follow. Want to keep it real? Leverage listening and monitoring tools to find out who is already talking about your brand and follow them to keep the dialog going. In more cases than not, they will usually follow you back.
- Leverage social tools. Looking for influencers to engage and help spread the word about your brand? Check out some helpful tools like WeFollow.com to find key influencers in your industry or on topics related to your brand. Also check out Klout and PeerIndex scores to understand who may be most influential in your industry. Finally, be sure to look at Twitter’s “who to follow” tab for some contextually relevant suggestions on an ongoing basis.
- Advertising tags and Twitter ads. Tag TV, radio, and print advertising with your social communities and use that opportunity to highlight your unique or exclusive content. Twitter is and will continue to develop new opportunities to help marketers call greater attention to their brand(s). Consider testing “Sponsored Tweets” or “Promoted Trends.”
- Directories. List your Twitter account in directories such as Twibes.com andTwellow.com and consider building lists on key communication streams, letting potential followers with similar interests find you easily.
- Search tags/bio/backgrounds. Leverage the power of search and be easy to find. Create a bio with a clear description of your brand and the kind of content you plan on posting. If you have several Twitter accounts serving different purposes, make it easy for users to find those as well by listing them or creating a custom background with the address. Add social links to paid search terms to increase visibility and visitation for your social communities.
- Partnerships. Leverage and cross-promote key partnerships. Retweet, @mention, and build a dialog with these partners and become a resource for their followers as well.
- Unique content. Offer followers exclusives – content they can’t find elsewhere. Granting followers “first to know” statuses and breaking news will keep them tuning in and engaged. Consider building Twitterviews if you have access to individuals that will resonate well with your followers. Challenge users with trivia and reward users who actively engage with recognition, and, if possible, even the chance to win prizes or points.
- Engaging conversation. It goes without saying that the best way to grow your followers is to engage your audience with entertaining and valuable content. Ask and answer questions and encourage people to tweet their thoughts and opinions on key topics. Address concerns, ask for feedback and input, and be sure to thank those that RT or mention your brands by either DM or publicly if appropriate. Build a communication calendar around engaging content ideas. Showcase your most engaged followers and encourage them to be advocates for your brand to increase your visibility and potential pool of followers.
- Analyze and focus. Leverage social campaign management tools to analyze the reaction to your tweets. Create categories and adjust the mix based on performance and feedback received from the community. In addition, monitor engagement and use your social media campaign tool or free tools like FriendOrFollow.com to see who you may be following but is not following back to keep your follow to following ratio in check. With a little analytics and creative writing, you will soon be on your way to optimizing your voice, content, and results.
Twitter is an evolving medium and we all have our share of followers who are inactive. However, with a little attention to best practices and a bit of maintenance, we can keep it real.
This column was originally published on August 11, 2011 on ClickZ.