Monday, May 13, 2013

Share great content, and be authentic: How to build a Twitter following in 6 steps [curating series, part 3]


There’s an entire industry developing around teaching people to use social media effectively. 

But I’ll let you in on a little secret. Just between you and me. It turns out that underneath it all, social media is exactly like the “real world.”

People want to know you like them. And, just like your boss at work, Twitter users will like you if you prove you know what you’re doing and make yourself useful.

Over the past two months, I’ve been tracking my curation activities as part of a research project focused on curating content to build a Twitter following.

Curate, v., to “select, organize, and present (suitable content, typically for online or computational use), using professional or expert knowledge.” Oxford Dictionary
I’ve previously shared why you should curate a collection of RSS feeds related to your profession and how to find those RSS feeds; this post is about the “presenting” part of curating.

It’s simple. Just 6 steps.

Presenting curated RSS feeds (and—bonus!—building your Twitter following)

1. Pick 10 links to share each day

Every day, pop into your RSS feed reader of choice, have a look at your feeds, and pick 10 posts to share through your Twitter account (or Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, etc. I used Twitter, so I’ll stick to that here – each social network has its own culture and the techniques may not be transferable). If you’re using HootSuite, schedule the tweets to go out about once an hour so that you don’t flood your followers’ Twitter stream and so that at least one of your tweets is more likely to be seen by each follower.

2. READ THE POSTS BEFORE YOU SHARE THEM

Yes, I meant to shout that at you.

You need to do this for two reasons: first and foremost, to make sure they’re interesting and suitable. If you’re an expert in your field and you can’t be bothered to read the post, why would anyone else want to?

Secondly, I’ve observed over the past two months that adding a personal comment to your tweets increases the likelihood that the tweet will be re-tweeted, favourited, or replied to. This makes sense – you’re curating feeds in your field of knowledge, so adding your take will add value to the tweet and make it more interesting. You don’t need to do this for all of the links you share, but when you read the post before sharing it, think about whether you can add a comment or pull out a quote that will highlight why your followers should click on the link.

3. Cull the herd

Notice that one feed is overwhelming all your other feeds? Get rid of it. 

Got a feed that’s posting off-topic content? Get rid of it. 

Are there RSS feeds whose content never generates a response on Twitter? They’re not interesting to your audience, get rid of them.

The goal of curating is to develop a feed of useful and interesting content on a particular topic from a variety of sources around the web. Anything that prevents your collection of feeds from meeting this goal needs to be deleted. The response from your followers is part of how you determine what’s a “useful” (or, put another way, “authoritative”) source. Using social bookmarking sites to find your feeds is another component.

4. Use hashtags

Your posts aren’t going to magically appear in front of your desired audience. You'll need to use some social media marketing savvy to make that happen. On Twitter, hashtags are how users search for content. Figure out what hashtags your audience is interested in and use them (but don’t misuse them. If the hashtag isn’t appropriate for the particular link you’re posting, don’t use it).

I use #PR, #publicrelations, #socmedia, #writing, and #fail fairly often. Why #fail? Because one type of PR news is about crisis management. (Remember when epicurioustried to newsjack the Boston Marathon bombings? That was a #PR #Fail).

5. Give credit where credit is due

I always try to mention the author or blog a post is from when I tweet it. [Tip to blog authors: make your Twitter name easy to find and copy from every page of your blog.] This does two things:
  1. It lets the author & site know I’m sharing their information, and that I find it useful, and 
  2. it gets their attention (this is a good way to develop contacts in your field). 

Social media is all about engaging with other users – like a link someone tweeted? Re-tweet it, or reply to them and let them know. Someone point you to a great link on Facebook and you want to tweet it? If they’ve got a Twitter account, mention them when you send the tweet.

When someone re-tweets you, tweet a thank-you. Thank you goes a long way, in real life and on Twitter.

6. Pay attention to your audience

Analysing my tweets over the past two months showed that my audience (PR professionals & firms) like content that’s useful. Most interactions (re-tweets, favourites, mentions, etc.) came from tweets that shared instructional content (i.e. “10 Ways to Become a Better #PR Writer”), PR-related news, or included a question (i.e. “Is a blog post better than banner ads? And what will this mean for audience trust?”) or opinion (i.e. “Social Media Doesn't Create a Crisis - Companies Do”) that suggested useful information could be learned by clicking on the link.

But that’s my audience. Yours might be different.

So pay attention to what’s resonating with your audience, and use that to help you curate your RSS feeds.

See? Easy.
That's it. Much of it comes down to the manners we all learned in kindergarten. Say thank you. Help others. Pay attention. Be nice.
As Charlotte points out, authentic communication is key.

Yes, the process of curating can be time-intensive. But if you’re not sharing, you’re not curating, and if you’re not reading the posts, why are you curating in the first place? Most importantly, if you don’t pay attention to what’s working and not working, you’ll lose out on the chance to improve your curating skills, build a larger following, and you won’t benefit as much from all your work.

Besides, if it was easy everyone would be doing it, right?