How I Underestimated Twitter- Confessions of a SEOApril 12th, 2012 by Mackenzie Fogelson
It’s kind of embarrassing to say that I spent years toiling in the darkness that only a Twitter skeptic can know. I’ve been in the SEO industry for 10 years and until last week, I completely failed to take full advantage of the power of the people who are engaging on this social media outlet.
And I didn’t even know it. Tragic, isn’t it?
For those of you who are self-proclaimed Twitter cynics, I have taken it upon myself to change your mind. So suck it up and read on.
Behold…I have become the Twitter evangelist.
I’m going to start with the data (because numbers make me look like I know what I’m talking about. Just…pretend to be impressed. Please? For me?).
Twitter launched in 2006, but didn’t really take off until 2007. And what a take-off it was. Let’s take a look at the demographics on Twitter:
1. Twitter has 127 million active users (that’s a lot of peeps)
2. 13% of Internet users also use Twitter.
3. 67% of Twitter users are under the age of 45.
4. 54% of Twitter users use Twitter on their mobile devices.
5. 36% of Twitter users tweet at least once a day.
6. The average visit on Twitter lasts for 14 minutes.
7. 59% of Twitter users are female (and therefore, 41% male).
Remember way back in 2009 when they said Twitter was just a fad? Ha.
Back to the point.
The feedback we often get from our clients is that they’re wary of Twitter because they don’t think it’s likely that any of those 127 million active users are their target customers. Which is, of course, a possibility.
But you know who just might be?
The thought leaders in your industry.
You may not use Twitter to reach your target market, but it is an incredibly valuable place for you to become part of the conversation in your industry’s online community.
What I’m trying to say is this (I know, I know, make a point, Mack):
Twitter is more than just a place to waste time at work talking to your friends. Use it for knowledge, people!
A little story
June, Mack Web’s social media strategist, has been telling me for months that I need to think of Twitter in a different way.
And finally, thanks to a little adventure of my own, I have seen the light. I have had a revelation. I have drunk (drinked?) of the Twitter Kool-aid.
I am a Tweeter. (Twitterer?)
So, here’s the story:
Last week when I was at Link Love, as I was waiting for the speakers to begin their presentations, I could hear June’s voice in my head: “You must tweet when you’re at Link Love!”
So, I opened up a doc for note taking and a window for Twitter so that I could tweet during the presentations.
And then something interesting happened:
1. I was looking through the program booklet at each of the speakers’ bios. I thought, hmmm, it might be a good idea to follow these amazing thought leaders on Twitter. So I did.
2. The presentations began. As I took notes on my laptop, I would simultaneously post updates to Twitter. Good stuff that the speakers were saying. I was an animal, I tell you. Note-taking here, tweeting there. It was epic.
3. What I didn’t realize at first was that while the speakers were working their magic on stage, there was this parallel universe happening on Twitter, in the Twitterverse. The speakers who weren’t speaking were tweeting. Their followers were tweeting and retweeting. I was getting retweeted (which was super exciting even for a Twitter cynic, because, let’s face it: everybody likes a little attention. Even me).
I was connecting with people and getting new followers. I was hooked.
Okay, good story, right? Discovery of alternate universe overlaying our own reality. Hooray for quantum physicists, right?
But…who goes to a conference everyday? How does that help me the other 364 (or, this year, 365) days of the year?
I was beside myself with excitement because I was tweeting with the actual people in our industry (i.e. Rand Fishkin, my hero).
Now, at Mack Web Solutions, we preach online relationship building (no, not the eHarmony kind). We’ve got a couple of reasons for this. The first is oddly technical for such an interpersonal activity: it’s the best way to build your web presence and, eventually, dominate the search engines. Connecting to the right people and earning their trust and respect is a great way to gather links and referrals to your website and content.
But human relationships are also a vital part of human thought. Put a bunch of brains together and we become more than the sum of our parts. We bounce ideas off each other, benefit from wisdom and experience we didn’t have to be there to gain. Standing on the shoulders of giants and all (speaking of physicists, take that Sir Isaac Newton).
And Twitter is a great, immediate way to facilitate an ongoing meeting of the minds.
And at Link Love, boy, there were minds a-meetin’. I had started relationships, made some connections. I was running with the cool kids and I didn’t want to lose my edge. I wanted to stay in the loop, get all of the most current knowledge in our industry, maybe get some of those thought leaders we rave about to notice the great work that we do at Mack Web (because we totally know what we’re doing and, remember…attention). So I decided to change my game.
Here’s my new routine:
1. I get on Twitter
When I get to work every day, I don’t get on my favorite blogs or read my email. The first thing I do is check Twitter.
2. I review Tweets
I look through all of the tweets that have populated since the last time I was there.
3. I look for patterns
At first I was pretty overwhelmed with all of the info that was being passed around. Then I realized that many of the people I follow feature or retweet the same articles. They are also generating their own content, but not every day (that was a relief).
4. I try to get in the game
Many days, I’ve got nothin’. I am in awe of the level of knowledge (and I thought I knew a lot about SEO). But every now and again (and I’m just a week or so into it) I see an opportunity to engage. And sometimes I say something that gets retweeted (woo hoo!)
5. I have to work harder (great, more work)
Every day Mack Web digests the industry knowledge and translates it for our end user: our client, the guys who don’t know what SERPS are. (No, it’s not a disease. But keep on guessing, you’ll get there). We love doing this, but after Link Love, I realized that this wasn’t enough.
Although it is incredibly important to be a knowledge center for our clients, I don’t want to neglect our industry audience. We need to be part of that group too. We now know that Mack Web needs to generate content for both audiences: our clients and our colleagues.
So, give Twitter another shot
Long story short, you really should give Twitter another try. It has become one of the most powerful tools I use.
Plus, it’s free! And who doesn’t love free stuff? (Let she who has never absconded with the hotel shower cap throw the first stone).
Wanna give it a try? Here’s how:
1. Identify your thought leaders
Think of the lead people in your industry. The people you respect. The thought leaders. The people who are working to change the world (sounds beautiful, doesn’t it?)
2. Get on Twitter
Find those people (you know, the thought leaders) and follow them.
3. Do some stalking
Go to the follower list of each person and look for people on their lists that you might want to follow (June gave me this tip and it’s backed up by @Wil Reynolds). Follow some of those people too.
Don’t try too hard or push it too quickly. Remember, you’re relationship building here so you don’t want to freak people out by being too aggressive. Look for opportunities to reply to a post, or just retweet. After you get in your groove, generate some of your own content and push it out. Slowly but surely you’ll make a name for yourself. And have fun in the process.
5. Be selective
If you follow too many people, it’s going to be like drinking from a fire-hose (I know, painful). Stick to a short list. Over time if you can handle that, add some more.
6. Time yourself
Trust me, if you don’t make it a point to get off of Twitter, you never will. Choose some times during the day and limit how long you’re on there.
For our client audience, we will be putting together a guide on Twitter language and etiquette. Stay tuned.