Make Tweet Love – Top Tips for Building Twitter Relationships


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Twitter is an incredible medium for listening, learning, and sharing. And, for those in the media and communications industries, it’s also a rapid and immersive education in meaningful, two-way micro messaging that helps both parties walk away with a new form of value.

While there are no shortage of posts that offer tips and tricks to help you boost your Twitter followers, it is by no means a popularity contest. The surmounting ploys, friending races, theatrics, and contests to tempt those into following individuals can be fun, but short-sighted, when in fact the true technique for building relationships, regardless of volume, is the genuine act of earning and investing in them. It’s rooted in selflessness and rewarded with a rich stream of relevance and a network of valuable contacts that can also help you in the real world.

Twitter is a unique and vibrant community that thrives because of your participation and interaction. The Twitter culture evolves and matures though the greater collective of those who invest in the caliber and meaningful dynamic of the micro exchanges and relationships that we earn and forge everyday.

Our experience is defined by what we share, learn, and discover, what and who we follow and spotlight, and how we give back to those who help us and others.

Brevity speaks volumes.

So, to give back to the Twitter community and invest in building more mutually beneficial relationships, here are the top tips to pay back and pay it forward on Twitter:

- Twitter asks what you are doing. Instead answer the question, What do you think we are better off knowing right now? Other questions to consider…What/who inspires you? What just happened? What am I missing? What did you learn today? What’s out on the Web worth sharing on Twitter?

- Curate and share helpful and applicable content on the stream and apply relevance and/or context. Offer perspective. You are unique and your ideas, opinions, and experience can help or offer value to those who are learning.

- The public should feel included in almost everything you share.

- Think about your tweets in aggregate and assess the picture you’re painting through your last 20 updates. To get a picture of how you’re perceived, visit www.twitter.com/yourusername and take a moment to see your tweets through the eyes of a visitor.

- Build a brand theme that complements who you are and what you do.

- Consider establishing a username that people can connect with and remember. Many either use their name or are currently changing their ID to reflect their personal or corporate brand. The Twitter culture is much different than the culture associated with IM (where aliases are much more common).

- Earn a reputation and authority based on the niche you establish for yourself, reinforced by the tweets your post and share. Dan Schawbel has tips to help you do this more effectively.

- Engage with individuals in the public timeline around a given topic. But, draw a line between a public @message and a DM. Not everyone needs to follow your 1:1 dialog in the public timeline, especially as the volume increases everyday. Some things are just better left for the backchannel. If it’s an A and B conversation, your followers may “C” there way out of it.

- Try to thank or acknowledge, in some way, those who RT your updates or promote your outside activity. Personally, this is an area where I’m working on devoting more time. Everyone who takes the time out of their busy day to share something you posted deserves recognition.

- Ask questions and share the results. Twitter is a magnificent forum for sparking conversations that pull responses from your friends as well as from friends of friends. Most vanish without closure or results. Share highlights and observations.

- Pay it forward. This is important. About two months ago, I Tweeted, “Remember, Always Pay it Forward and Never Forget to Pay it Back…it’s how you got here and it defines where you’re going.”

- Don’t just follow the Twitterati. Find and follow everyone who can help you learn and improve your skills as well as the value of your overall network. I recommend using TweepSearch, which is the first search engine that allows anyone to search and discover relevant Twitter bios and location information using keywords. It’s ideal for learning more about those following any given username as well. Mr. Tweet is your personal networking assistant on Twitter. It helps you easily build meaningful relationships by looking through your network and tweets. Mr. Tweet will then suggest new and relevant tweeps and existing followers you should also follow.

- 120 is the new 140. Retweeting is one of the most valuable currencies in the Twitter economy. Leave room in your tweets to make it easier for someone to RT and also add a short reaction or endorsement. The magic number seems to hover around 120 characters.

- Listen AND respond to those who offer insight tied to keywords that are important to you, not just those who send messages in public with your @username. Follow conversations related to the keywords that are important to your ecosystem. Make new friends. Offer value and insight to those conversations related to your industry. Give back to those seeking guidance.

- Don’t share anything you wouldn’t want a co-worker, your boss, friends, or family to see.

- Learn from your tweets by analyzing the statistics associated with your activity. The criteria associated with defining Influence and authority on Twitter are still debatable. However, your numbers of associated followers, RTs, and unfollowers, are undeniable. Tools such as TwitterCounter provides an interactive chart that chronicles the quantity of Twitter followers for any given username. TwitterFriends is one of the most compelling analytical tools for identifying relevant conversationalists, revealing conversation patterns,
and visualizing material conversation networks, by Twitter ID. On the oth
er side of the equation, Qwitter is a humbling and instantaneous solution for honing your updates to better match what your friends and followers hope to see or not see. Qwitter will send an email to you when someone unfollows you and will link the action to the most recent tweet that you posted.

- Host or attend tweetups, conferences, events, etc., where your Twitter friends and contacts are participating. It’s important to remember, as it’s easy to forget, that relationships count online and in the real world. Investing in meaningful relationships requires in-person engagement over time.

- Share visuals that capture your attention or better help you tell a story, as long as it will appeal to your community. I use Twitpic and BrightKite.

- Respond to negative criticism as well as the accolades. There may be points worth considering to embrace and visualize a broader perspective. Those who respectfully push back, contribute to what we learn, while also push things forward. But, sometimes there’s also a point of diminishing return. Certain individuals are steadfast in their views and it’s their right to maintain an opposing viewpoint. Beware: Don’t feed the trolls.

- Be helpful.

- Make this about conversations, sharing, and learning. Tweetcasters and self-promoters are eventually tuned out.

- Ensure that your bio is representative of the brand you wish to convey. In addition to your bio, consider strategically branding your Twitter background as well. Here’s how

- If you witness a series of RT’s regarding a post that sings to you, consider following the source.

- This one is a bit of a controversial subject. Do you follow everyone who follows you back? Some say yes, some say no. It’s a personal choice and a topic that usually ignites a passionate discussion. I treasure the tweets of those I follow and everyday, I follow new people whom I believe to add value to my Twitter stream. It’s important to listen to those you follow and regard and by amplifying the quantity of people simply to return the favor of a follow, makes it incredibly difficult to actually hear anyone. There are those who follow everyone and that may work for them. There are also those who create an alternative account to simply listen to those individuals whom they appreciate and respect. PeopleBrowsr is an incredible Twitter service that allows you to follow everyone back, but also create a column for “VIPs” to see only their tweets on your visual dashboard. In the end, do what’s right for you and your network of friends, followers, and mentors. This is something that I’m thinking about quite a bit these days.

- Relationships, whether they’re on Twitter, Facebook, or any other social network, are held to the same guiding and ethical principles of those we cherish in the real world. Think of them as investments where the ROI is intelligence, social capital, respect, trust, and friendship. Individuals on both sides must realize mutual benefits and advantages for cultivating short-term or long-term relationships. You are equally responsible for contributing ongoing value.

But don’t just take my word for it. Leave your tip in the comments section below…

Also, I took the conversation to Twitter and here are some of the highlights(I tried to include everyone, apologies in advance if I missed something):

Question: If you could share 1 tip to build new & more meaningful relationships on Twitter, what would it be?

Be Engaged @VirtueIMC

be yourself. it’s the only sustainable voice you’ve got. @alexknowshtml

business comes second. @spotcher

always (or at least most of the time) reply back to people when they @ reply you @pepstein

Adopt the Tit-for-Tat version of the Golden Rule. And always say “please” and “thank you.” @cheeky_geeky

don’t get hung up on the numbers, instead…focus on genuine connections. More isn’t always better. @promodiva

just think it goes back to what Doc Searls once said: “screw popularity, just make yourself useful” @triciabuck

Give support. @SavvyAuntie

Be honest. @justinmwhitaker

Make the effort to help followers and followees out (not just to the twelebs!) @seanfee80

Personally send a DM thanking every new person who follows you. @DixonTam

help people solve their problems. don’t just twisten (twitter listen) but also respond @healthworldweb

Take ur time; treat it like the adventure it is. Other people are so fascinating! Enjoy it! @ROICoaching

Make it a habit to respond to people not just to what they post @Taiwriter

Don’t try to be anything but yourself. @jtnt

Simple, just TALK to people. Isn’t that how you create relationships in person? @GlazrKenndyCopy

Follow people within your industry and also follow people with similar interests. @pliadesigns

I’d change the prompt question of Twitter to: “What has just captured your attention?” @barbaranixon

express all the different sides of your personality, don’t just twitter about one topic @woodlandalyssa

would say reach out specific requests & support via DMs, just do not auto DM as it feels careless, meaningless @PinkOliveFamily

It matters much more who you’re following than who is following you. (Don’t get me wrong – I love my followers!) @jfraga

Eagerly follow industry peers. No matter where you are in your career you can learn from others. Share ideas and opinions. @rachelakay

It is about engagement – from all sides… I call it the world’s largest cocktail party conversation for clients @VirtueIMC

Find a way to meet in person. Conference, events in your local area, while traveling. And make the effort to follow through. @sloane

Respond to direct questions/feedback. This might not build bigger followings but would build better links across the ‘brands’. @jenajean

engage, don’t just be a listener or a monologuist, engage, engage, engage. And don’t mass follow. Ugh! @tyamdm

Be genuine. You are what you are – be that same person on Twitter not someone you are trying to be. @keithdon

share relevant, new content. Engage in dialogue. @gogocomm

find interesting people and engage them. Ask them questions about themselves, their projects, be genuinely interested in them. @gingerw

Be real, be transparent, don’t sell, don’t fall into the follower ego thing. @davidfeldt

find out more about your followers and try to engage them in converstaions. like this one. @kmvictory

Be open minded. You never know who is going to be a valuable relationship until you start interacting, listening and learning. @aarond22

To never be afraid to put a bit of yourself and your real thoughts out there when Twittering,no matter how drastic or dynamic(: @themissingsock

Notice. Really notice. Whether you’re an A-lister with a huge blog/ gig. Or new-ish. Notice who’s supporting you & return love. @Ed

be yourself in all the glory 140 letters let you be… @dgourlay

Like any relationship building activity, I’d say “Listen, engage and converse” is extremely important – especially “Listen”. @zubintavaria

it might help if u actually “talked” 2 them instead of adding people like they’re poker chips.. Have at least 1 meaningful convo @MarcMeyer

answer the questions others are asking. @gbender26

Hottwiitertips says, “GET REAL.” to make twitter more meaningful. What does that mean anyway, “meaningful?” @jmacofearth

Stop calling your followers…”followers.” :) @jaculynn

Attend Tweet-Ups, without a doubt. Physical interaction is still the key to connecting. @andrewlockhart

share your connections @1day4me

Meeting people IRL is the best way to have meaningful twitter relationships. I’m excited to meet tweeps upcoming events. @khartline

Listen, react, converse, and be informative. Reply to others’ questions, and ask questions yourselves. @emd5005

Don’t feel obligated to follow everyone who knocks on your virtual door. Sometimes less is more. Take time to read profiles. @TobyDiva

focus on real-life relationships @Jesse

Be curious and talk to people. @JohnCannon

have real convo-tweets with people. Respond to replies always, and keep the convo going. It’s tough to do in 140 characters. @adenasf

Create an “inner circle” or a subset of your subscriptions that you interact with on a regular basis. Feed that stream! @BostonDave

Add as much value as possible in every reply and RT @JodiEchakowitz

always try to give more than you take. @getshust

join the conversation. Meaning don’t always be a watcher: share, discuss, react, repeat. @jacquelynmogol

2 Build meaningful relationships on Twitter, connect & engage. Don’t just push your info; interaction = trust; It’s addictive 2. @CathyWebSavvyPR

Tip #1-Read the tweets, bio, and any links to see who person is and begin convo on what you find. @3keyscoach

Be authentic: Do not self-censor and do not Be Safe. Numbers are meaningless. @AdRanchJason

Follow people who are unlike you, too. Different industries, different beliefs, different geos, etc @jaculynn

Actually read some of the Tweets from those you follow. I have 1200 followers, but I’d guess 20-30 read my Tweets. @chucklasker

Arrange for a tweetup or phone meeting with interesting tweeps. I’m meeting fab people this way. @3keyscoach

Be seen elsewhere. @MaryannM

do stuff for people: quid pro quo @scriber

introduce my network to people who can benefit from knowing them @ducttape

Add value to other peoples tweets, not only the ones that serve your agenda. Be a giver always. @MikeAbrams

Being honest, direct, and “real”. @MikeMathia

It will ALWAYS be: be yourself…in 140 characters or less, or more, or whatever — just always!!! @SteveRepetti

2-way comm, provide info to help others succeed @relth

i like connecting around specific subjects. as u tweet consistently about one thing you converse with people who do the same @rgujral

Go beyond just using Twitter :) @rloughery

Give helpful, honest and friendly replies. Many just post their own updates, toot their own horn, and don’t form relationships. @PluginPR

Be authentic: Do not self-censor and do not Be Safe. Numbers are meaningless. @Twensored

Answer questions and offer help because you TRULY want to serve — with no expectation of reciprocation. @baylan

reply to tweets that responate with you – take the next step beyond reading and act, respond, connect @dahawe

only follow the people who mean something to you, mix it up, RTs, Replies, Daily Garbage, Promotion of stuff you care about @ChrisSaad

Direct message about a shared personal interest or helpful info specific to that person’s twitter activity/profile. @katiewinchell

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Related Posts on PR 2.0:

- Twitter Bowl 2009: And the Winners are…
- The Battle for Your Social Status
- How Dell Deals with Twitter
- Need a Dictionary for Twitter?
- Introducing MicroPR, A Resource for Journalists, Analysts, & Bloggers on Twitter
- Twitter Tools for Communication and Community Professionals
- Is Twitter a Viable Conversation Platform
- Is FriendFeed the Next Conversation Platform
- State of the Twittersphere

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  • Jessie B

    I would also add to also use photos as they help convey meaning and show personality.

    • http://www.easyrecovery.ie/ Data Recovery

      Thanks for this blog,I really find it useful

  • Paul Fabretti

    Fab post Brian. Might I be so brash as to throw my hat into this ring with this piece:

    http://blendingthemix.com/2009/01/23/the-most-popular-100-twitter-applications/

    Best wishes, Paul.

  • Emory Cook

    Thanks for the great post. I especially like the idea of building a consistent brand/theme for yourself on Twitter (and other social media sites). I believe this is a great way to enhance relationships–people come to enjoy and respect a person they understand.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t agree with with follow everyone who you can learn from. There is absolutely ZERO way that the average person can follow more than 500 people and get something out of it or establish any kind of relationship. I believe in quality over quantity. The quantity is easy to get if you got the time.

  • Angela MacIsaac

    Brian,
    Thanks for this. A reporter friend asked me this morning to explain Twitter, but I’m one of those people who is better at doing than teaching.
    When I got home from our hike, I found your post and immediately sent her the link.
    A hundred thousand thank-yous!

  • Emory Cook

    With respect, to say that there is “absolutely zero” way that someone can create and maintain meaningful relationships through social media shows a lack of understanding about this important megatrend. Through Facebook, for instance, I can see and leave comments on photos of my old roommate’s new baby boy. Through LinkedIn, I can connect with potential business contacts and maintain useful dialogue with them. Through blogs, I can interact with distant family members and learn about what’s happening in their lives. Social media doesn’t replace traditional methods of communication, it ENHANCES them.

  • Katy Barrilleaux

    Thanks Brian, great info from you and your followers. I would add:

    Be sure to include information in your profile about yourself…and put in a photo!

    I see some people who put something very vague in their Bio and you can’t really tell what they’re into. And if you’re just starting out with very few tweets…you are less likely to get followers.

  • Jennifer Larson

    Great tips! I’m happy you spent so much time discussing the value of building real relationships. I get very frustrated by people that constantly post their links and thoughts, but fail to respond to your replies to them. You realize quickly who is in it for themselves and have no interest in their followers. I see social media as an online form of networking, and in networking it is just as important to actually engage in real conversation as it is to try and promote yourself, business and/or product.

  • ToddySM

    I like the post Brian and the most the tools you mention in there.
    I think honesty and transparency are very important – just being yourself and not trying to play roles and you will gain more respect.

  • ExploreMyBlog

    Brian: That’s Great! I’m happy and wondering that you spent so much time discussing the value of building real relationships and social networking.

  • desiree@lookiloos

    Great post. Thanks. I’m new to twitter and this helps out a lot.

  • Morgan Mandel

    Great twitter tips. Thanks a bunch.

    Morgan Mandel
    http://morganmandel.blogspot.com
    http://twitter.com/morganmandel

  • datkinson90

    Great post with a lot of tips.

    Thanks Brian.

    Regards

    Dave.

  • JFish

    Brian,
    Thanks for this. As a long-time Facebook user, who just signed up for Twitter 2 weeks ago, this is gold as far as helping me truly get the most out of it.
    I thank you, and my future career will thank you.

    Jeremy(the NKU grad student)

  • Becky Carroll

    Here’s a thought on sending a DM (direct message) to a new follower. I can understand if you want to automate this (I think), as you are probably very busy. But don’t just tell me to join your social network, come to your free webinar, or visit your website.

    Let me build a relationship with you through @replies, ReTweets, and good old-fashioned conversation. I might be willing to listen to your business messages somewhere down the road.

    As always, Brian, a very thoughtful and well-written post. You rock!

  • Sue Adams/Candles Off Main

    Thanks for the helpful tips and all the links to great Twitter services. Much appreciated!

  • Warren

    Excellent tips for both newcomers and experienced users!

  • Elizabeth M Thompson

    Just joined Twitter and followed some friends to your blog looking for a little information. Sipping from the firehose here! Thanks. It will take some processing….

  • K. Dawson

    This is fantastic info! Thanks for sharing such valuable content in a concise, easy to read manner. Truly awesome!

  • Beth Pinson

    Great blog, love your ideas and insight.
    What businesses have to do is make the customer excited. With the economy tight, the customer is in charge and they want to be excited. Whether it’s with Twitter, traditional marketing or another Social Media outlet, businesses have to meet customers on a level that makes them feel engaged. Walter Pinson speaks on this in his blog Hyundai schools us on Relationship Marketing

  • Salvatore Saieva

    Favorites is an underutilized feature of Twitter. Take the time to Favorite tweets that are meaningful to you, and then put a link to your Twitter Favorites on your Website or blog. Additional information on using Favorites can be found here:

    http://saieva.wordpress.com/2009/02/22/the-most-overlooked-feature-of-twitter/

    Regards,

    Sal.

    Salvatore Saieva

  • Molly Gordon

    I never would have thought that 120 characters exchanged among thousands of people could produce real relationships and value. But Twitter makes that possible.

    Valuable Twitter Trait: be curious. Read people’s bios and click links before following. Scan the tweetstream of a different person each day.

    • DaraBell

      Yeah I think you must Trawl profiles, make yourself unique 2.0 and be yourself, authentic and give value in what you are saying and do listen alot too.
      DaraBell

  • Pam Roach

    Brian, Your tweets, blogposts, books, and ebooks have ushered me into the social media revolution. Thank you for making the transition much easier!

    Pam Roach

  • Michael

    Retweeting has easily been the number 1 thing I have learned to do more of.

    thanks for the tips.

  • Andy

    One question I have I didn’t see answered is how to identify yourself on Twitter. I run a news service called ohmygov.com, but we use the screen name bureaupat – our androgynous bureaucratic mascot – as our main Twitterer. Is this a good idea or not? I thought it more interesting than tweeting from ohmygov.com.

ABOUT ME

Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. In 2009, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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