If you asked me what I thought about Twitter a couple of years ago, I’d answer, “eh.” What mostly came to mind was the cute little blue bird, celebrities, and 140-character tweets. (Oh, that and the fact that you could follow people or be followed, which seemed like a breeding ground for stalkers and narcissists.)
Needless to say, I wasn’t a fan. But now having a better understanding of how Twitter works, I can say it’s worth exploring for personal branding—just as you do with LinkedIn.
To shed some light on how to effectively use Twitter for your personal brand, I enlisted the help of Fred Dintenfass, who is a digital strategist with over ten years’ experience. He has worked with small businesses and Fortune 500 brands like General Motors, McDonald’s, and Madison Square Garden.
Fred provided some great insight that can help you build your personal brand on Twitter. Let’s take a look at what he had to share with us.
1. Use hashtags to converse (don’t broadcast). A hashtag, which is the # symbol, started on Twitter as a way to categorize topics by keywords. Hashtags are now used across multiple social media platforms, but are often misused. (You gotta love the people who randomly abuse hashtags to the point where you want to respond with #shutthehellup #thatdoesntmakesense #oyemyeyes.)
Here’s the thing: There’s more to hashtags than just using them to broadcast your thoughts. (Click to Tweet)
To get the most out of using hashtags, Fred recommends researching, reading, and engaging in topics relevant to your interests. Here’s a great example he shared:
“When there’s a conference going on I’m interested in, I use the event hashtag to follow the conversation and get links to decks I want to read. It’s also a good way to see who’s up and coming in the field and what strategies people are focused on.”
You can apply this same strategy based on your interests and career goals. If you’re not sure where to start, try the free Twitter hashtags search engine Hashtagify.me. It’s an easy way to find relevant hashtags based on your objectives.
For example, when I did a hashtag search for personal branding, some of the related hashtags included: LinkedIn, brand, career, marketing, and blogging. I would then search for those hashtags on Twitter to see what’s trending.
Once you’ve narrowed down the hashtags to search for on Twitter, you can strategically use them to connect with the right people and engage in targeted conversations.
2. Read and research before diving in. Before you start tweeting away with all the new hashtags you found, it’s important to do your research. As an example, if you’re looking for a job, Fred suggests focusing 80% of your time on reading.
“Find out who is doing interesting things in your space. Follow them. Follow the people they interact with. Read the things people are posting,” said Fred.
This is a strategy that I also use to connect with other career and personal branding professionals, as well as stay on top of industry trends.
I also started creating lists on Twitter to categorize the people and topics I want to follow. This really improved my experience because it filtered out the clutter.
Here’s how you can create your own lists to keep organized (from your desktop):
1. Go to the person or company’s Twitter page.
2. Click the settings icon (it’s the pinwheel next to the Follow button).
3. Select Add or remove from lists from the drop-down menu.
4. Click the Create a list button.
5. Enter your List name and Description (optional).
6. Select if you want your list to be Private or Public.
7. Click the Save List button.
Just remember your list defaults to “Public” unless you select “Private”. So your Companies to Stalk and People Whose Job I Want lists should probably be marked as private.
To jumpstart the process, start with just three lists to get the feel of it (e.g., Industry Experts, Industry News, Target Companies), and then add members to your lists.
Fred shared that if you do your research, you’ll learn valuable information about both the state of the industry and the players in it. “Then you can start to participate — retweet, comment, and begin to build relationships,” he emphasized.
3. Add value to the conversation. Now that you’re ready to get your tweet on, you want to always make sure that you add value. According to Fred, “Twitter is a big platform, but it works best when you think in terms of small conversations.”
As with all social networking best practices, keep the same etiquette as you would in person. In addition to hashtags, you can find targeted conversations by looking for Twitter chats hosted by your favorite group, company, or industry leader.
These chats are live moderated events with a designated hashtag focused around specific topics. This is a great way to share your expertise and learn from other professionals in your industry. Not to mention, companies are now using Twitter chats to find savvy professionals.
As you start getting more comfortable with Twitter, keep in mind that you should use the right keywords to find hashtags for conversations you want to join. Be specific so you can attract your target audience.
Fred stated, “… specific hashtags show that someone knows the players in the field and has spent some time learning how people in that niche interact on Twitter.”
Ultimately, Fred shared that these steps can lead to more interesting reading and conversations, which results in stronger connections. So instead of randomly tweeting your thoughts, show that you’re a brand worth following, and get noticed by the right people.