Tweet Fearlessly, Block Ruthlessly

Yesterday, I had a tweet burp.

(If you've been living under a rock in the past year, a “tweet” is a brief, text message on micro-blogging platform Twitter.)

I call it a “tweet burp” because it's something like a brain fart. But I prefer “brain burp.” Reason is, unlike a brain fart where one forgets something basic or says something meaningless, what I thought, and subsequently tweeted about, was surprisingly meaningful.

And for some, even profound.

They are tips on how to Twitter better. (Try to say that 10 times in a row really fast!) Let me share it with you by posting some of the highlights here.

Some of these tips are not extraordinary, of course. Most of them are simply common sense. But they are some of the things I do in my own social media involvement that has proven to work well for me. I recommend you do the same…

It all started when Amrit Hallan asked on Twitter: “Wondering what keywords should a content writer or online copywriter must target. Any ideas?” We began tweeting back-and-forth in an effort to help him about his keyword selection for his niche.

He told me that his keywords are pulling in very little traffic. A conversation and a series of tips ensued, where, in short, I told him to target better keywords — because the ones he chose may not be on his target market's radar.

The problem, I gathered, is that he was betting on words revolving around his services.

My thinking is, people don't look for solutions by typing them into search engines. They are likely looking for solutions by typing in the problem, or symptom, instead.

To prove my theory in Amrit's case, I used a couple of keyword tools. And sure enough, search volume for terms related to the problem people experienced was much larger than those with keywords that included the solution.

True, traffic levels may still not be extravagant. But the chances are high they will bring in more traffic because seekers will have an affinity with the more targeted search results, as well as bring in more targeted traffic to boot.

This reminded me of something brilliant my friend and top copywriter David Garfinkel once said. He said to write copy (or in this case, to write keyword-rich content), you need to know three critical things:

  1. Who is my client,
  2. What is their problem, and
  3. How are they talking about it?

Knowing the first one is crucial. A lot of people do market research only to gauge demand, without ever knowing who their client really is, much less how they perceive, talk about, and seek out solutions for, their problem.

The third question in particular is the kicker!

People looking for your services may be typing something completely different in the search engines, and if you ignore this you're going to miss out on a ton of traffic.

Back to my point. The keen thing about this interaction was, a couple of other people got involved in the conversation. It was awesome. It also gave me a chance to help others who were on the sidelines, lurking and learning what was being said.

I know, because a lot of people either replied or direct-messaged me to thank me. Plus, at the end it gave me an opportunity to talk about our own keyword research course, which resulted in a few sales let alone a few extra followers.

And that was when I had a brain burp.

What happened was a powerful example of how to effectively market on Twitter, even without marketing directly on it at all. Plus, the conversation indirectly lead to a few epiphanies. So I decided to tweet some tips in light of what had just occurred.

However, before I tell them to you, let me share something else that happened. Something, well, not as positive. (There is a method to my madness, so bear with me.)

During the conversation, someone replied to me, complaining that I was “clogging up their tweetsream” and told me, in essence, to shut up.

I found that disturbing and fascinating at the same time.

The reason is, if a person feels I'm clogging up their tweet stream, then why are they following me? Whatever his purpose in following me was, it certainly wasn't because he found what I tweeted was of any value. In other words, he wasn't “qualified.”

So I decided to block him.

And blocking is such an unused feature on Twitter, but it's one I highly recommend. It's really easy. Go to a person's profile, and on the right there's a link that says “block” underneath their bio. By blocking someone, they can't follow you or see your tweets.

Blocking is not just for whiners and stalkers, either. Use it to block spammers, spambots, and people who use scripts — scripts are not real people but software that seek out followers for the purpose of building their own list.

(Alice Seba wrote an interesting article on the subject, by the way, in which she compared “followbots” to those infamous spammers' safelists. And I agree.)

Now, don't worry. I don't block autofollowers outright — people who automatically follow those who follow them. But I do try to block those that autofollow then auto-unfollow when the script realizes you don't follow back. These are mostly spambots, not real people.

Nevertheless, here's the series of tips I gleaned from these exchanges.

Want to spread your social authority?

Search Twitter for questions people in your niche are asking, and respond using a reply. Even try to engage them in a conversation. You don't need to follow them. Just be helpful. Use the “@reply” to introduce yourself and answer their question.

Be careful, however. I don't mean to say you should do this as a way to get clients or sales, much less followers. Your goal is not to seek out people you can easily spam to.

It's about increasing your visibility about you and your expertise, which will inevitably increase your Twitter followers. Genuine followers. Real people with real problems or concerns, who listen and care, and value what you say.

This will subsequently increase your leads and your sales, too.

That's what being social is all about. But being social doesn't mean just being among others, it also means doing among others. That is, engaging, conversing, interacting. Answering questions, offering advice, tweeting brief tips, etc.

It's amazing how many people ask questions on Twitter.

Do a Twitter search for the kinds of questions people ask, or using keywords in your niche people typically use when they have a need or a problem, and you'll be amazed by the results. Twitter is filled with potential prospects. People you can serve, not sell to.

Also, don't forget people use Twitter search, too. If they have a question, a challenge, or an idea, they sometimes search for answers on Twitter as well. Not just the search engines. So you want to be in front of them, too.

In fact, people are constantly looking for worthy people to follow. One great way is to look at people you are following, and see who they are following. It's a great start. Check out their profiles. Check out their tweetstreams.

And many of them are also looking for worthy people to follow by conducting searches on Twitter. They tend to search for keywords in their niche. (For example, I often conduct searches using the terms “copywriting,” “marketing,” and “blogging.”)

So ensure to include those keywords in your tweets.

In fact, here's a great tip:

Just like the easiest SEO strategy is to publish a lot of fresh content, because by doing so you naturally increase the number of indexed pages on the search engines as well as the number of keywords and keyword combinations, the easiest “TEO” (or “Twitter Engine Optimization”) is tweeting a lot of keyword-rich tweets.

However, in your TEO efforts, don't forget spambots. There are just as many spammers conducting searches — often, for nefarious reasons — as there are legitimate people.

So don't be afraid to block, block, block!

Nevertheless, everything you tweet is both permanent and searchable. So by posting a lot of keyword-rich tweets will cause you and your messages to come up a lot in the Twitter search engine results. But what you want to show up are follow-worthy tweets.

Specifically, don't just tweet for the sake of pummeling the database with your updates. Be helpful, not spammy. Above all, be nice. Remember, and it's worth repeating: everything you tweet is both permanent and searchable. Everything.

If you want to be more strategic about it, look for people with large, authentic followings in your niche whose opinions their followers value. And try to interact with them.

They will converse with you. Their people will follow you not because your name is mentioned on the conversations, but because your opinions matter to them, too.

After all, you are like them.

And people like people who are like them.

It's all about affinity.

If a genuine relationship develops as a result, believe me, they will talk about you. They will mention you as a person worthy of being followed on those famous “follow Friday” tweets. They will link to your blog. They will retweet your tweets. They will endorse you.

So be sincere. Be helpful. And be generous.

Don't just look for people with large followings, either. Interacting with people with a large number of followers only because they are popular, with the hope you will access their “list,” won't score you any brownie points.

Look for people with whom you have an affinity and whose opinions their followers value.

Often known as “thought leaders,” they have large followings for a reason. Unless they're a celebrity with a huge fanbase, these thought leaders often tend to tweet valuable information, helpful advice, and interesting tweets. So why not do the same?

So don't just follow others. Be a leader and build your own following.

Educate. Encourage. Engage.

Your authenticity will shine through. Equally, any insincerity will shine through just as well. The worst thing that can happen is, if you're only looking for followers, they will see through it and speak out against you — or simply ignore you altogether.

My point is, don't go trawling for followers.

Look for people you can serve.

Look at it this way: in marketing, they say you want to be in front of qualified eyeballs. But just trying to be in front of qualified people doesn't mean you deserve their attention and respect, much less their follow. Quality is something you attract, not extract.

So post quality tweets, especially keyword-rich tweets — i.e., be helpful, genuine, and real. And you will attract quality followers, almost as a natural byproduct.

And don't be afraid to praise people on Twitter. Genuinely and generously. People want to know you care. And people want to know what and who you care about, too.

They say “praise publicly, but criticize privately.” Right? Similarly, praise others on Twitter. Praise often. But if you have a beef with someone, don't do what the complainer did earlier, when he told me to shut up. Send them a direct message instead.

Above all, don't be afraid to…

… Tweet fearlessly and block ruthlessly.

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