How to Use Twitter to Deliver Followers and Targeted Web Traffic
What Can Twitter Do for Your Web Traffic?
If you are reading this article looking for a quick boost to your online traffic, then Twitter is not for you. But of course you are reading this because you are serious about building your online presence. Like me, you are commited to your chosen niche, and looking for a way to build your audience over the long term. I'd like to show how with time and effort Twitter can be a fantastic social media tool, and in the process deliver you a serious number of hits.
Approached in the right way, Twitter can help you build a community of people that are interested in what you have to say about your chosen subject, whatever it might be, and enable you to engage with a potentially huge audience of 100% targeted traffic.
In this article I will share my experiences of Twitter, gained whilst buiding my own online community, and show how this has helped me to increase the number of visitors to my online content.
Why People Use Twitter
In my experience, Twitter is used by people in one of three ways, depending on what they are looking for from the service:
- Passive "Receivers" of Tweets. Some people never Tweet themselves, they follow other people, perhaps celebrities or people they admire, and have no followers other than those they pick up accidentally
- Active "Broadcasters" of Tweets. Companies and individuals (generally celebrities or renowned experts) who want to engage with a community of interested followers. This group may have many followers but don't follow anyone else, they just tweet to inform and entertain their fans or promote their products
- "Community" Twitterers. These are people who follow other Twitter users with a shared interest, and who will also have followers from that same community. These are the most valuable Twitter users, as they both send and receive, they interact, they retweet, they have conversations.
It is this last group we want to engage with, as they will be most likely to help you reach the widest possible audience for your content.
Let me give you an example.
Twitter Conventions - The Hashtag #
The # (or Hash tag) is used to flag a subject within a Tweet, so that people can search Tweets easily, for example #justinbeiber. When people talk about tweets trending, it is generally related to a popular hashtag at that point in time.
Example of How Twitter Can Deliver Online Traffic
You have worked tirelessly to build a Twitter following of 250 people, all of whom share your passion for birdwatching. After a particularly successful afternoon indulging in your favourite hobby, you update your blog and tweet this fact to let you followers know.
As a result of this tweet, the resulting traffic is generated:
- 50 of your followers are online when the tweet is sent, and 25 of them respond and visit your blog immediately, as you have piqued their interest being a trusted member of the birdwatching community
- 5 of your followers like your blog post so much, they each retweet your update to their own 250 followers, meaning that over 1000 people will have seen your original Tweet, and 100 of them decide to check out the blog as it sounds interesting, and comes recommended by someone they trust
- Of these 100 people (your follower's followers) 10 like the blog so much they retweet to their 250 followers, reaching an audience of over 2000 additional people, 200 of which visit your site...
So from a single tweet it is possible to get your message in front of 100's, possibly 1000's of Twitter followers, each one a potential website visitor or new follower for your community.
The power to generate traffic is therefore not in your direct followers visiting your site, as this is a relatively small number, but the ability to reach their followers, and their follower's followers. A well timed tweet with a compelling message has the potential to reach thousands of people, if you have a strong following in the first place, and are trusted in your Twitter community.
Not only does this deliver higher volumes of traffic, but as it is related to a specific community and niche, it gets you quality traffic from people who are really interested in your content, not tricked into coming to your site, thus reducing bounce rates and increasing repeat visits.
But now for the hard part - how do you build a community of followers in the first place?
Twitter Conventions - the @ tag
The @ character is used to indentify an individual twitter user, and enables Twitter to index all mentions of this user, and provide a shortcut to their profile. Make sure you use this if you refer to someone in a tweet.
Building a Twitter Community
Twitter relies on a simple premise: you follow people who have something interesting to say, and people follow you for the same reason.
So building a community of followers is relatively straightforward, as long as you have a contribution that adds value - in this way it is more like an online forum, just one that does not record all of the conversations in one place!
So let's go back to the birdwatching example - where do you start?
1 - Build a Twitter Profile
I am presuming that your Birdwatching blog is live, and has some interesting and current content. The first thing you need to do is join Twitter and create a profile, one which clearly identifies you as a birdwatcher. If you include a birdwatching related profile picture, as well as talking about your hobby in your bio, this clearly marks you out as someone who is serious about this subject. Make sure you add the URL of your website to your bio, as potential followers may use this as a criteria to decide if you are worthy of following, and it will get you a small number of immediate hits.
2 - Add some Tweets
This may feel a bit strange, as at this stage you will have no followers to see your tweets, but potential followers will also use your tweet history to identify if you are really serious or just a spammer, and no-one will know they would have been tweeted to a non-existant audience!
Include some comments on your blog, interspersed with retweeted Birdwatching stories from around the internet, and perhaps some original photos, enough to demonstrate you are really interested in Ornithology.
How many followers do I need?
If you are a Hollywood a-lister, you can expect millions of followers, but if you want to develop a community you should aim for between 300-500, any more and you will not be able to engage on a personal basis.
3 - Follow People in Your Chosen Niche
This is the easiest way to get followers and build a community, simply identify people already active in the niche you have chosen. Search Twitter using the term "birdwatching" and look for people with this in their profile. Also look for the hashtag #birdwatching, and see whose Tweets are listed and follow them. Once you have followed these people, they are likely to investigate your profile, and if they like what they see will follow you back.
Remember to thank everyone publicly for the follow with a "thanks for the follow" tweet, mentioning their Twitter name (people love a mention), as well as a direct message asking them to check out your Birdwatching website, which will not be seen by everyone and therefore not deemed too pushy.
Twitter Conventions - #FF
The hashtag #FF is short for "Follow Friday", and has evolved as a standard way of publicly recognising new followers in the prior 7 days. Just enter #FF followed by a list of the user names (#FF @username1 @username2 etc.)
4 - Enage with the Community
Rather than getting carried away with following everyone in the world who loves birdwatching (this will reduce likelihood of getting followed by other people as your profile will look unbalanced), I would recommend having a roughly equal split of followers to following. So stop when you get to around 50, and focus on engaging with your community:
- Retweet interesting Birdwatching updates from people you are following
- If the birdwatchers you follow have a website, retweet updates directly from their site and add some comments
- Ask a question - did anyone go birdwatching at the weekend? Reply publicly to answers!
- Every 10 or so tweets, add in a reference to your birdwatching blog or Youtube channel, and include the URL for people to follow
- Retweet articles from news sites that relate to Birdwatching, and make a comment about each of them
- Make use of the picture capabilities of Twitter, and use your iphone to turn your ornithological photo into an instant tweet
Rather than do this all at once, spread this out over the day while you are working on something else, and respond to tweets from the community as they happen. You need to think of Twitter as an email system where people will only see your email when they are online, it will not be waiting for them when they log in again as each Tweet is "of the moment". Have your twitter feed on in the background and alert you when something has been posted.
As you are engaging with the community, people will be retweeting your comments, generating potential new followers. As your profile in the birdwatching fraternity builds, new Twitter users will find and follow you directly. Remember to thank every new follower.
Why not Request a Backlink?
If you find a fellow Twitter member in your community has a website, why not offer to exchange links? This will boost traffic to both of your sites and also improve search engine rankings.
5 - Ramp up Your Followers
Once you get to a certain mass, say 100 to 150 followers, you should find that ongoing engagement with the community will increase your followers organically, without having to seek out new followers directly. You should also see engagement with your website or online content increase accordingly as you become a trusted member of the community, and your content starts to get retweeted.
If you want to increase your followers further, again whilst keeping your follower-to-following ratio in balance, you can try the some of these techniques:
- Look at your follower's followers - people following the people following you are more likely to be interested in your content, so check their profiles in Twitter to find more birdwatchers, and follow them directly
- Request a retweet of your profile, with an objective of gaining new followers. This works well when you are at a threshold, for example you have 149 followers and you need help getting to 150, so ask for a cheeky retweet to push you over your target
- Offer a prize or incentive for a retweet of your profile and a follow, either a small prize or a promise of promotion on your website, or an article on someone's favourite bird. Make sure you follow through, and promote the winner in another tweet
Once you do reach a certain level, as long as you remain active, new followers will come to you directly anyway, and I believe this will result in a more valuable community.
Twitter Conventions - RT
The letters RT in a tweet refer to ReTweet. Before twitter introduced a more formal method for retweeting content, people would just add RT in front of the tweet and the username. Twitter does this for you now, but people are still in the habit of using the RT shorthand.
6 - Maintain Your Community
Maintaining a Twitter community should be part of your daily routine, dipping in and out as necessary to ensure an ongoing presence rather than short periods of intense activity then nothing for months.
If you are at a desk, have a Twitter client running in the background on your PC or Mac and dip in every now and again between other jobs. If you are out and about, download a Twitter app for your phone, and keep up to date on the train, in the car (not when you are driving!) or in those moments when you a waiting for something or someone else.
Once you reach 300-500 followers, you probably need to stop there, as you will find it difficult to engage at a personal level with your community. Your followers will always retweet your content, so don't think a bigger following equals bigger traffic, once you get to a critical mass.
It is a lot of work starting up your Twitter community, but with a bit of effort, Tweeting becomes second nature and will guarantee that you have quality organic growth in your traffic over an extended period of time.
If you are looking to build a community around a particular niche, and drive traffic to your online content, then Twitter is a great way to achieve your goals. By taking some time to carefully select and nurture your community, you will be building a group of ambassadors who will do your marketing for you. This is not a quick fix or a scam to buy traffic, you will need to put the time in, and if this is going to be an enjoyable experience, it needs to be a subject in which you actually have some experience and you are happy to share.
Along the way you will meet some interesting people, learn something new about your chosen niche, and increase your credibility as an expert in the community, as well as delivering that all important traffic. So what are you waiting for, get tweeting!
RolyRetro, twitter profile @retrogamesnow
Do You Use Twitter to Engage with Your Online Community?
What are Your Twitter Tips?
Please tell me about your experiences with Twitter, I'm genuinely interested to hear how people have used it to help generate quality traffic. These are just my personal experiences, no-one taught me how to use Twitter I have just learned some things along the way, and am still learning.