As a concept, using Twitter seems simple. You need to say what you want to say in fewer than 140 characters ... and that's about it. Who would think that writing a sentence or two and sharing it with people who want to hear from you would be that hard?
And then you actually start using Twitter -- it's harder than you thought. As you're trying to build your business on the social network, little questions and concerns start cropping up. Besides going through trial and error, how are you supposed to figure this all out?
We know it's daunting to get started on Twitter and try to build your company on the platform, and we want to help. To answer your most burning questions about the social network, we've teamed up with Twitter in a live-only webinar on Jan. 29 at 10 a.m. PST/1 p.m. EST.
In preparation for the webinar -- and to get you more acquainted with some intricacies of the social network -- we thought it'd be a great idea to answer some of the most frequent questions we hear asked about Twitter.
Read on below to finally get the answers you've been searching for, and be sure to join us for the webinar!
Answers to 11 Common Questions About Twitter
1) What are some of the major do's and don'ts when it comes to using hashtags?
First off, just know that hashtags are your friend. HubSpot's own social media expert Dan Zarrella has found that tweets with one or more hashtags are 55% more likely to be retweeted than tweets without hashtags.
When creating your own hashtag -- let’s say for a webinar or other similar event -- make sure that the hashtag actually describes, or is relevant to, the campaign you're running (without being too long). It should be very easy for users to understand what your hashtag is referring to and remember to use it in their tweets.
To learn what not to use for hashtags, take a look at this great list compiled by The Guardian. This list details corporate hashtag disasters that resulted mostly from ignorance and allowed the brands to easily be mocked or otherwise criticized.
You’re also better off choosing a hashtag that hasn't been used much before, if at all. That way, anyone following the hashtag during the event will know that every message they see is about the right topic. You can use services like Topsy to research hashtags and see how many times they have been mentioned on Twitter.
2) Why is it important to have an officially verified Twitter account and how can I become verified?
Verification is the method Twitter uses to establish the authenticity of key individuals and brands on Twitter. It's symbolized by that little blue-and-white check mark next to the account name on a Twitter profile. Simply put, a verified account is one that Twitter has officially determined genuinely belongs to the person or company that it claims to represent. For example, HubSpot’s account is verified (see the blue-and-white marking below).
Verification is great for a business, because it can bolster a brand's reputation and make it easier for the public to trust its Twitter content. Unfortunately, there is no way to apply for verification -- instead, according to Twitter, accounts are verified proactively on an ongoing basis.
3) I get lots of tweets from Twitter users. Should I respond to everyone who tweets at me?
The short answer is: It depends. If you have an account with a small following and decent amount of free time, then it may be possible (and worthwhile) to respond to nearly everyone who tweets at you. But no matter how much time you have, there are some comments that you'll want to leave untouched -- and may even want to consider reporting as abusive or spam.
There's no hard-and-fast rule, but one thing you don't want to do is get involved in a Twitter shouting match. What you want to do is help people who have legitimate questions, concerns, or problems -- and respond to the positive comments as well! If people took the time to compliment you, take the time to say thanks.
For HubSpot customers, you have a tool that'll help you prioritize your Twitter conversations: HubSpot's Social Inbox. It allows you to monitor hashtags and accounts and keep an eye out for what leads, prospects, and customers are posting -- all in one dashboard. That way, you'll know whenever someone engages with your account and what stage they are in your marketing funnel, which can allow you to decide how respond to them (if at all).
4) How do @ mentions work? I've heard there's a right and a wrong way to use them.
This is such a frequent point of confusion for marketers that HubSpot recently covered this topic in a blog post. I'm sure you've seen tweets starting with a period and wondered what the heck was going on.
No, it's not a typo: Adding another character before the @ symbol simply means that a larger audience -- all of your followers, instead of only those who follow you and the handle you tweeted -- will see the tweet in their feeds. This chart can help clarify this rule even further:
There's no right or wrong way when using @ mentions, really. We simply hear this question a lot from people who thought their past tweets reached a wider audience than they really did because of misuse of the @ mention. If you're one of these people, now you know!
5) What type of content should I post on Twitter?
Like many items in this list, it depends on your audience and what they like to consume, and the only way to really figure that out is constant experimentation over time.
If you find that your followers really love when you post links to your ebooks, photos of your office, or Vine videos -- whatever it is that proves popular -- do it again! Twitter, above all, is about interaction. If you give your followers the type of content they're looking for, you'll be rewarded in the long run.
One concrete recommendation we can give is to use images in your posts frequently. Many studies, include one at HubSpot, have concluded that tweets with images get significantly higher engagement than those without. And now because of Twitter’s recent change to display images automatically in timelines, you have even more opportunity to get noticed in your followers' feeds.
6) Now that I know what to tweet, how often should I tweet?
There is no one right answer as to how often you should post, and everyone has different opinions on the topic. For instance, Guy Kawasaki recently revealed that he tries to tweet 50 times per day. Others recommend starting with five tweets per day.
So what’s the solution? As noted many times already, your best bet is to experiment. You need to figure out what frequency works for your audience and your competitive environment. For instance, if your business is in a highly competitive space (like the inbound marketing industry, for example), you would probably want to increase your tweet volume to get noticed (HubSpot tweets anywhere from 15-30 times a day on weekdays.)
For example, on one end of the frequency spectrum, JetBlue (1.7 million followers) tweets about 250 times per day, including replies, and more when severe weather hits and there are lots of cancelations. On the other hand, Oracle tweets consistently in the single digits, even including replies, but still has hundreds of thousands of followers.
There is no single optimal solution -- you simply have to find what volume is optimal for your company and industry.
7) I'm looking to expand my Twitter audience. What are the best ways to get more followers?
This is the essential question every marketer wants to know: How do I increase my reach? Fortunately, especially for smaller brands, the answer can be just as easy as asking people to follow you.
For example, you can place a link to your Twitter account on your homepage and in your communications with your customers. Even a short message in the postscripts of the emails ("Follow us on Twitter") from your company can increase your following significantly.
Social sharing buttons are another great way to help your content get shared and, by extension, increase your reach. When you create a great piece of content, make sure it's accompanied by social sharing buttons to make it easy for your followers to share the content with their networks. These buttons can be implemented at the top of a blog post, in the footer of an ebook, or alongside a video you publish.
With the buttons attached, promoting your free, premium content will not only draw people to your website, but also entice them to spread that content even further. That compounding effect will make it much easier to grow your following.
8) Should I create a promoted account campaign, or am I just "buying" followers?
"Buying" followers immediately conjures up images of paying for a bunch of fake accounts to follow you and fraudulently boost your profile -- which, as the Wall Street Journal recently documented, does happen and is an absolute no-no that can result in getting banned from Twitter entirely.
But promoting your account using Twitter’s advertising system is completely different. Your promotion goes out to real people, and if your targeting is right and your content is enticing, some of those people will be interested in your product or service and want to learn more about your company. That’s not "buying" followers -- it’s paying to be connected with actual people who will benefit from following your account.
9) What do I need to do to have a fully optimized Twitter profile?
Well, what you don't need is to have a graphic designer or a social media consultant on staff to make your profile look great and help grow your following in the process.
What you can do to optimize your profile is make sure that your description is filled out fully and correctly, with a short blurb about what your company does, your location, and a link to your website.
Also, remember to use terms you want to be found for in your description and your Tweets. That way, people searching Twitter for topics related to your company can find your account easily.
10) Do certain kinds of photos and images work better than others for my account?
Let's start with what's ideal for your profile picture (or avatar) -- the small photo that appears next to all your tweets. One common practice is to simply use your company's logo. But regardless of what image you choose, the picture should be something that is easily and closely associated with your brand, because when your followers are browsing Twitter, it'll be attached to every single message that comes from your account.
Background images, on the other hand, are a different story -- you can have some fun and experiment here. Try keeping them current with something going on with your business. For example, before our annual INBOUND conference, we changed our background to an image promoting the event.
Personally, I love what Dunkin' Donuts and 20th Century Fox do with their Twitter backgrounds, constantly updating them to reflect new products while still making sure that everything looks clean and simple.
If you're having difficulty designing your own Twitter background and profile images, you can use these helpful PowerPoint templates.
11) What do I absolutely need to avoid doing at all costs when using Twitter?
There are so many stories of companies that have gotten into trouble on Twitter when they do things that are just plain stupid (see this post for prime examples). Don’t let yours be one of them!
Also, be sure to check out this post on social media etiquette to discover more tips and tricks for what to steer clear of on Twitter. Some of the key takeaways: Don’t automatically direct message people that follow you, don’t over-hashtag, don’t use tricks or bots to gain followers, and don’t over-promote or over-sell your products.
Really, it's about using common sense when posting. If something just doesn’t feel right or seems like a big risk, it’s usually not worth publishing. Think before you tweet. This simple rule will help you avoid the vast majority of big mistakes on Twitter.
Originally published Jan 27, 2014 6:00:00 PM, updated July 28 2017