Engagement Guidelines for Individuals and Brands on Twitter

When using Twitter for marketing, you are naturally concerned with appearing engaging to your followers.  But what makes for an engaging Twitter account?  What are the best practices?  For example, How often should you post on Twitter?  How often should you retweet?  How many people should you follow?

While the attribution of engagement is a matter of opinion, TwitCleaner has developed an algorithim that identifies Twitter accounts you follow that are less than engaging (so you can unfollow them).  I use it, and I think these guidelines are very useful, especially for brand accounts on Twitter.  I’ve blogged about that before, but I think it bears repeating, as more and more brands are moving onto Twitter.

On Twitter, you have to give people a reason to love you.  (Remember that Portishead song?)   Here are some ways to make sure you have the kind of Twitter account people love to follow:

Follow about the same number of people following you.  It takes time to build a Twitter following.  An important part of that is following accounts of people you know, as well as companies and individuals that align with your brand or interests.  However, do not follow 70% more of Twitter accounts than are following you.  If fewer than 30% of accounts follow you back, your account appears uninteresting.

The reverse is also true, you should follow your followers, to an extent.  Some brand accounts do not follow anyone at all, practically, usually for fear of appearing to endorse someone, or for other reasons.  If you follow less than 10% of your followers, however, TwitCleaner considers you a “snob” and your followers may, as well.  You do not have to follow every porn and MLM account that follows you on Twitter, but following back a reasonable number of your followers is part of participating fully on Twitter.

Take advantage of Twitter lists.  Let’s say, however, that you do want to keep track of certain industry categories on Twitter, and that industry has numerous accounts.  For example, perhaps you want to keep tabs on the news media, or all government agencies, or congressional representatives.  Instead of following every account in that category on Twitter (which might upset your following/follower ratio), you can create a public or private Twitter list of accounts, which does not require you to follow accounts.  Then, you can then scan that list, as needed.  You can make as many lists as you want.

Participate: tweet at least once a month.  If you want to be engaging, you have to put out some effort.  Lots of people lurk on Twitter (that is, they just read the tweets, but don’t post that often).  Brands can’t get away with that behavior.  Monitor your Twitter stream daily for @mentions, and try to post at least once every other day, at minimum.  If you go longer than 30 days without posting a tweet, you are considered an inactive Twitter account.

If you think you have nothing of value to share on Twitter at least once a month, it’s probably time to develop an editorial calendar, particularly if it is a brand account.  HootSuite can help you post with more consistency, as well.

Don’t retweet more than 50% of the time.  Post original ideas and content.  People follow you because they want to hear from you!  While it’s fine to retweet occasionally, if 70% of more of your tweets are retweets of what other people or brands posted, it makes you look like you have nothing of value to add, yourself.  Keep retweets to 50% or less of your Twitter updates.  Maybe two out of ten of your updates are retweets.  That’s neighborly 🙂  If you find you are retweeting too much, focus on your brand (or personal brand) and what you have to share that’s interesting, relevant, and useful.  Or write a blog post about the content you had wanted to retweet and add your own twist.

Lose the app content.  Another pitfall to avoid is relying too heavily on applications to post content for you.  If you read this blog, you know how I feel about paper.li dailies.  I think they are the Twitter account of junk mail and I they do nothing to showcase your expertise or original thoughts.  If half or more of your Twitter updates are paper.li and foursquare app updates, you’re being a little bit lazy.  Start posting more real, original content.

Engage at least 30% of the time.  Don’t just post feed updates from your blog, and don’t just post links.  Bloggers use Twitter to link to their feed, and that’s great.  It’s okay to use Twitter as a broadcasting medium, 50% to 70% of the time.  But if 90% or more of your feed is consumed with links to articles and links to your blog or feed  (some accounts are 100%) — if you never interact with anyone by retweeting or @mentioning — then your account will not appear engaging, and you or  your brand may appear aloof and unresponsive.

Since you should be monitoring your Twitter stream frequently anyway, log on and post an @mention at least once every other day.  One way I look for good @mention opportunities is I keep a private Twitter list called “Twitter Speed Dial.”  These are accounts that I really enjoy following and like to interact with.  I can always count on finding at least one tweet to comment on in my Twitter Speed Dial.

Post timely and relevant tweets.  It’s fine to broadcast tweets about your company, or your upcoming event.  But try to stay relevant and interesting by also posting tweets that relate to current events and what people are excited about.  This keeps your updates timely and interesting.  For example, comment on the Super Bowl, the Oscars, and the State of the Union address just before, during, and just after they occur.  If you can reasonably relate those topics to your brand, all the better, but don’t force it, or it appears spammy.

If you need some inspiration for a timely tweet, check out the trending topics on Twitter.

No more than 50% inspirational quotes — or in my opinion, none!  One thing you should really avoid doing is posting inspirational quotes, or using them as filler in your Twitter stream during off hours.  That appears really lazy and uninspiring!  TwitCleaner will flag you if more than 50% of your updates are quotes, and you can be sure people will start unfollowing you in droves if you over-indulge.

Post a maximum of 24 tweets/day.  Let others have a chance to share.  Part of respecting the conversation on Twitter is knowing when not to tweet.  Try not to monopolize the stream.  Posting more than 24 tweets a day — not including @mentions and direct messages — is excessive.

You should also know when to be quiet.  Stop tweeting about your brand or other non-relevant content during times of local or national crisis.

Use @mentions to be engaging, without monopolizing or spamming.  So, a true @mention begins with the @ sign at the beginning of the tweet.  This ensures that only that person or brand you are mentioning, as well as people who are following you both, will “see” that tweet in their Twitter stream (the tweet will still be visible on your profile).  You can be fairly liberal with tweets this way — they don’t count into your 24-tweets-a-day limit.

However, if you include the @ within the body of the tweet (instead of at the beginning), everyone will see it. And it’s fine to do that occasionally, but just know those tweets DO count into your 24-tweets-day limit.  And don’t overdo it, or @mention accounts randomly because it’s considered spamming.  For example, you don’t have to acknowledge everyone who follows you with an @mention.  That’s just excessive.  If 60% or more of your tweets are composed of multi-account @mention tweets at any given time, chances are good you are a spammer (or you appear as one).  One #FF (follow Friday) tweet a week is plenty!

Space out your tweets an hour apart.  Resist the temptation to broadcast too many tweets, too frequently.  A good rule of thumb is not more than one or two tweets per hour (not counting @mentions and direct messages).  If you find that you are having trouble spacing out your tweets, use HootSuite to schedule and publish your broadcast tweets, and reserve your natural spontaneity for @mentions.

What rules of thumb would you add to these recommendations? 

Here’s the video for the song I mentioned… 🙂

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About Mary Fletcher Jones

Mary Fletcher Jones is a public relations and marketing consultant, and owns Fletcher Prince (www.FletcherPrince.com). Follow Mary on Twitter @FletcherPrince.

Posted on May 2, 2012, in Twitter Tips and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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