In Twitter Tuesday Thoughts Volume 6 I focused on being a good follower. This week I’m turning my attention to being a good leader/author. The paradigm is much the same, though: Be helpful.
Early last year, I asked a social media maven to give me some advice on how to be successful in social media world. He responded, “the internet rewards what the internet likes.” Over time I realized how true those words are. To grow your following and influence on Twitter, you need to be an effective writer that adds value for all that follow you. Period. That is the only way to create a following that will reward you with clicks, purchase, word-of-mouse and attention. Otherwise, you are just junk in the stream. Noise pollution.
To write well for Twitter, think of yourself as a thought leader, not much different than when you blog. Just more compact, to the point and attention grabbing. You are competing against a non-stop stream of tweets, especially if your follower is following a lot of people.
Here are some ways to think about leading:
1. Purpose — Napoleon once said, “the leader’s role is to define reality, then give hope.” This is the perfect approach to Tweeting. Give me a mix of messages that tell me what’s going on, then give me a way to find some hope through it all. News and tools. Don’t just provoke me or be mysterious.
2. Headlines matter — even if you find a highly provocative and helpful website/post/page, no one will read it unless your headline jumps out of the stream like a spawning salmon. The key, much like in ad agency days of lore, is the effective headline. Use 8 words to provoke, then your shortened URL to direct. Read, The Art Of Writing Great Twitter Headlines at CopyBlogger. If you want to go even deeper, read David Oglivy’s fabulous book, Oglivy On Advertising. He was the master of copy writing and specifically, headlines that grabbed attention.
One additional point here: If you are going to link-tweet, you might want to build it up first with a sequence of short headlines from the article you want people to click to. In his book, Twitter Power, Joel Comm calls this sequencing. This is especially useful if you are using Twitter to drive more traffic to your blog posts. For example, as I write this post, I tweet: “Working on Twitter Tuesday, today’s theme: Be a good leader and great writer.” I’ll add another tweet later with an out-take, then BOOM GOES THE DYNAMITE, I tweet with the URL for the blog post. Make ’em come to you!
3. Produce 120 character self-contained ideas of value — In my opinion, this is the #1 way to make yourself attractive to follow. I say 120 instead of 140 because you need to leave room for your followers to retweet you and pass it on to their followers. Think of yourself as a journalist that is limited in your room for copy, but challenged to educate within your limits. Think of single sentences that provide direction, inspiration or make the reader think. For more, read Good Journalism In 140 Characters over at JProfs.
This is an area where I spend much of my time. I focus on single action items that fit my personality as an author. For example, yesterday I wrote: If you want your great tweets to get re-tweeted, you need to pretend that Twitter is a 120 character platform. Short, sweet, helpful. It was re-tweeted a lot as a result. The key is punchy writing that’s very clear. When I first started tweeting, I brushed up on basic writing skills by re-reading the greatest book ever written on this subject: The Elements Of Style by Strunk and White. If you haven’t read this book ten times, you need to!
4. Use quotes sparingly and contextually. Some tweeps just RT others and post quotes — usually from dead people (LOL). I call these Chicken Soupers. They go to #quote, find a good one, then post it. Trust me, a little goes a long way. At some point, it is easy to become a quote machine, with little editorial direction. When I use a quote, it usually confirms my public point of view, often expressed via my self-contained updates or link tweets. The key is to use quotes as evidence, not just stream fodder.
5. Edit, proof read and delete bad writing. In our rush to get out tweets, we don’t grammar or spell check often. This is bad for your personal brand. Always take a minute to re-read what you are about to post. If you are on the run, tweeting from your mobile device, you may spell words wrong and miss it prior to posting. Get to a browser (or a phone with cut/copy), copy your bad post, delete it, fix it and then repost it. Never leave a post up with errors. Ever.
Over time, if you combine these ideas and practice-practice-practice, you’ll be a great leader that builds an organic following. You’ll also build up your writing skills for better blogs, articles and maybe a book!