Twitter is growing at a phenomenal rate – approximately 55% month over month. As more and more people start tweeting, the service and how it is being used by its community are evolving in a number of ways.
Though it began as a way for bicycle messengers to communicate with each other, Twitter now offers something much more: the ability for businesses and celebrities to directly interact with and market to a large number of people at once. You can think of Twitter as “Mailing List 2.0”, with each Twitter account and its followers being a unique content channel. There are several advantages over traditional e-mail:
1. there is no need for a double opt in system – people either follow you, or they don’t
2. deliverability is pretty much guaranteed as part of the Twitter.com service
3. with re-tweets, @replies, and #followfriday, your list can grow virally at no cost to you
4. public tweets are quickly crawled and indexed by search engines, providing some SEO benefit if you are promoting your own sites
Whether you are trying to promote your business or start a new one, you can build and monetize your own Twitter content channel in four steps:
1. choose your niche
2. set up account(s) and post content
3. grow followers
Choosing a Niche
Pick a Twitter account niche the same way you might pick a blog niche. ProBlogger has some great tips.
There are an infinite number of topics you can discuss. The more niche, the better. If people are talking about it, and if people might spend money in some way related to it, it has potential. Take a few minutes to visit search.twitter.com, and check if people are talking about your niche. Is it something people are interested in? If you have no ideas, browse the public timeline. What are people talking about?
You want to think long-term here. Yes you will try to monetize it, but your primary goal should be growing the eyeballs on your Twitter account. You want to build an account profile that adds value to your followers – something people will want to read, want to follow, and would even recommend to their friends. You want it to be good, because good content will get you more followers, and the more followers the more you can monetize. So avoid creating Twitter accounts that are too commercial in nature.
Remember, you are building an audience here. If you account is overtly spammy or adds no value – such as if you just tweet affiliate links 24×7 – you will eventually get flagged for spam. You don’t want that. So focus on providing content that people will actually be interested in.
Creating Your Profile
Be sure to fill out your account bio, description, and provide a link to your site if you have one. And make sure you add an image. The image doesn’t necessarily have to be a person’s photo; depending on your account name etc. you may want to have a photo of a place or thing etc. If you have an account about widgets, use a picture of a widget as your avatar. Use a stock photo if necessary.
Twitter users will click through from your Twitter profile to your site; if you want to track that traffic, use a URL shortener such as cli.gs and/or append Google Analytics UTM parameters to your URL.
Finding Feeds and Posting Content
You’ve heard it before: content is king. It’s no different on Twitter. Good content sources are key to building popular commercial Twitter profiles. You want great tweets that people are genuinely interested in – the kind of thing they will re-tweet or @reply to. This shouldn’t be too hard if you picked a decent niche. It will just take a few minutes of research.
If you have a blog or niche site with an RSS feed that pertains to your niche, use your RSS feed to promote the site via Twitter. You can also use newspapers and other content sources, such as Yahoo, Google News, other blogs, or even create a custom Yahoo Pipe. The sky is the limit here. Ideally you are looking for 2-5 content sources that have RSS feeds. Each should have one or more new articles every few hours.
You want to post regular content, but you don’t want to overwhelm your followers with content. 1-2 items per hour works pretty well. There are various tools that can do this part. Of course, I recommend you use EasyTweets.
Once you get your account set up and are posting content regularly, you will want to focus on building your followers. Good content is the key to this, but there are other things you can do to help nudge things in the right direction.
One way to quickly get some followers and give your account some credibility is to follow a bunch of users that are known to auto follow you back – such as @guykawasaki, @barackobama, and @chrispirillo. (Google is your friend here.)
You can also @reply users that are engaged in a conversation that interests you, and try to get involved in the discussion. This works best when the user asks a question and is looking for an answer. If you are responding to a tweet that’s more than a few hours old, the person may not remember their original question – so link to their original tweet in your response.
Be careful not to overdo it, though. You want to engage people in conversations, but you don’t want to spam. There is a fine line here, and some users are much more sensitive to it than others. You can’t just write one canned response and send the same @reply to everyone. The responses need to be tailored to each conversation, and you should space them out over time in between other tweets. At a minimum you should have 5-10 different “canned responses” that you can rotate over time.
Also, make sure you are tweeting other things. Don’t just reply to 25 people in a row with a promotional message – users will look at your tweet timeline, and this sort of thing will get you blocked and/or get spam complaints, both of which could ultimately lead to your profile getting suspended. Instead, use a service that lets you schedule tweets (such as EasyTweets), so you can post your responses over time and in between your other tweet content.
Another thing you can do is follow users that are using your target keywords in their conversations. Ideally you should pick a handful of keywords that are relevant to your account, and auto follow some users that are using your target keywords. Many of them will not follow you back, but roughly 30-50% of them will if you are posting decent content that is of interest to them.
Ultimately you want to maintain a healthy ratio of following vs. followers – i.e. about the same number of followers as following, or more if possible. This is hard to do with new accounts, so you should limit the number of people you follow per day to 50 or less when you are first getting started. You want to ensure you don’t exceed Twitter’s follow limits. If you get too aggressive with following or un-following, or if your following is significantly higher than your followers, your account could get flagged by Twitter for “aggressive following.”
There are three major ways to monetize a Twitter following:
1. send traffic to one of your sites, which you can then monetize directly (via product purchases, affiliate offers, adsense, etc.)
2. send traffic directly to an affiliate link
3. sponsorships and ad networks
Sending Traffic To Your Sites
If you have your own site that sells products or has affiliate offers, you can include links in your tweets (and your profile page) that send Twitter traffic directly to your site. You might annoy your followers if you keep posting the same link over and over, so try to post fresh content to your site. Twitter users tend to be more web-savvy than users that arrive via organic search, and are less likely to click on Adsense than other users. Use CrazyEgg’s Confetti View to see what Twitter users do on your site vs. other types of traffic.
Send Traffic To Affiliate Links
You can also just drop affiliate links in your tweets that redirect to promotional offers or sale pages. Special offers and discounts, especially time sensitive ones, tend to work well here. You want to add value to your followers by giving them the opportunity to save money or get a great deal on something. Don’t just post a link to buy blue widgets, give them the chance to “save 70% on blue widgets if you buy today”.
Tracking Twitter Traffic
One of the challenges with Twitter is tracking how many users actually visited your site and what they did when they got there. URL shorteners such as cli.gs can provide statistics on clickthrough rate etc. But to track their actual conversion rate on your site, you will want to use Google Analytics.
Google Analytics lets you append parameters to the end of your URL that identify the name of the campaign and where the traffic came from, such as UTM_SOURCE, UTM_CAMPAIGN, etc. You can read more about this in our recent blog post, or use Google’s URL Builder Tool. You can still shorten the URL even with the added parameters, making it very Twitter-friendly.
If you are promoting your blog on Twitter, EasyTweets can automatically add these Google Analytics parameters to RSS feed items for you.
Sponsorships and Ad Networks
If you have a network of multiple accounts with thousands of followers, you can also set up a direct advertising deal with sponsors that are interested in reaching your audience. But if you’re not yet big enough to do this, there are other ad networks that can help you monetize your Twitter profiles.
One ad network for Twitter that can do this for you is Magpie. Magpie will automatically posts tweets to your account at specified intervals (like 1 sponsored tweet for every 5 regular tweets, etc.). Magpie has several options you can choose from. Some pay commission (basically affiliate links), and others will pay you a small amount of money (about 50 cents) for each tweet you post. They also let you choose the ratio for the number of sponsored tweets vs. your normal tweets. This may not seem like much, but if you have multiple automated accounts it can add up. The available inventory of relevant tweets will vary depending your niche.
Another option is Twittad. Twittad matches up advertisers with Twitter profiles that have audiences they are interested in. Like Magpie, they will post a couple tweets to your account. They will also upload a background advertisement to your Twitter profile during each campaign. (You can see some sample background ads here.) In order to use Twittad you will need to add your Twitter account profile to categories in the Twellow directory.
You can also use Adjix to monetize tweets and links that you post. Basically when you shorten a link using their service, there is an option to place an ad frame at the top of the page. You get paid whenever someone clicks on that ad. Last month they launched Embed Ads, which will embed an ad at the end of your tweet (if there is enough extra space). Adjix lets advertisers set the price they are willing to pay per Twitter follower.
The real benefit of Twitter is connecting with people and providing value to them, so you need to make sure you connect as much as you can. Check your @replies and direct messages and respond as necessary. Do whatever you can to not appear automated or spammy. Remember, you are building a list – you want to get as many eyeballs on your tweets as possible. The bigger your list, the more you can monetize it.
EasyTweets is an all in one Twitter marketing tool that makes it easy to take control of Twitter. I’m confident that once you’ve tried EasyTweets, you’ll never use Twitter without it again.
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