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My Top Tips for Managing Twitter Accounts

Twitter was born in March 2006 and launched to the world in July of that year. I’ve been a daily Tweeter since April 2007 – just after it’s big launch at SXSW when it really started to capture the public’s imagination.

Over that time I’ve built up a sizeable following and people often ask me how I manage to keep a track of my followers. Here are a few tips to help you manage your account.

Firstly, you need to really decide what you want out of Twitter. If you’re an individual you may simply want to keep in touch with a circle of friends and acquaintances, occasionally adding a few more into your network. If you’re a business or Tweeting on behalf of a brand, then creating a sizeable channel of potential and existing customers may be your goal instead. Either of these are perfectly valid reasons for having a Twitter account of course, but the way that you manage your account will probably be different in both these examples.

In my case I have my own personal account – @Rokkster, but my business also has its own account too (@RokkMedia). The waters are muddied slightly because although @Rokkster is my personal account I often touch on my work and so I have to be conscious that anything I say in that account is likely to reflect on my businesses. That’s not an issue for me, but it may be for others. Just something to bear in mind.

Tip #1 – Don’t be afraid to follow back.

Many people I know are cautious about following back too many people for fear of creating an unwieldy stream. This is a genuine concern. The most that can be followed realistically is about 150-200. So how do I manage 17,500+ followers?

The answer is in LISTS. Twitter has provided the ability to create lists for a long time now and although most people don’t use them it is probably the most powerful feature in Twitter (Google+ and Facebook offer similar features too).

In my case for example, I have two key lists – one for people who have engaged with me at some point and one for people who I want to keep an eye on their tweets, but haven’t engaged with me (not a crime and not to be expected for global brands, celebrities, or information ‘tweet-casters’ like news accounts).

Other people create specialist lists such as people in their industry, tweeters in their local area, celebrities, political groups etc. There’s no right or wrong here and you can literally create hundreds of lists if you wish.

My lists are private, i.e. the membership is not visible to the public. This is just a personal decision however and depending on what you create lists for – there’s no reason normally to not make them public.

In this way I am able to monitor about 2-300 people on a daily basis in my ‘engagement’ list and only miss occasional tweets. Alternatively messages in my main stream change every second and even tweets from people who are of interest to me are gone before I have a chance to read them.

How you monitor these lists is easier or harder depending on what application you are using. Twitter’s official website and mobile application, for example, require you to dig through your profile before you can view your lists. If you use these primarily therefore you are unlikely to keep a regular check on your lists.

I use Hootsuite on my computer, Tweetbot (iPhone only) and Twitter (iOS or Android) on everything for monitoring my lists (Twitter’s mobile app or website is not great for managing lists but their desktop app works well enough. It’s also very useful for seeing recent followings to follow them back). Hootsuite allows me to create columns and position them where I want – so my lists are usually placed ahead of everything else. Tweetbot allows me to replace the main stream with a list of my choice.

I also SWITCH OFF my main stream as the speed that tweets come and go renders this useless.

Sadly, this does mean that I am undoubtedly missing out on some fantastic tweets, but that’s unavoidable.

If you have anything over 500 followers and are avoiding following any more people for fear of drowning in tweets then this is the solution for you.

I recently attended an entrepreneur’s conference in London where a well known brand owner gave a passionate keynote on using social media. Everything he said was great advice and he pleaded with the business people there to work on their social media accounts for the betterment of their businesses.

However, when I looked at his account I noticed that he had about 5400 followers but was only following back 350. That’s less than 10%! To me as a potential follower that said that he was unlikely to ever engage with me – and to the 5050 followers he hadn’t followed back that he probably didn’t care about them much either. Now, I’m sure that wasn’t the case and in fact he made a big point of saying that he always replied to tweets (although to date he hasn’t replied to mine!) – but perception is everything and to his unfollowed followers that can’t ring true.

The solution though is simple. Follow those who follow you (within reason – see next tip), and place those you want to follow on a regular basis in to lists. Job done. The ROI for his brand in doing this would be increased loyalty which undoubtedly will lead to direct business too.

Tip #2: That Said – Be Selective

Having urged you to follow back I would still urge you to be selective whith whom you follow. Twitter unfortunately is now groaning under the weight of spammers (and worse), and no matter whether you are exposed to those tweets or not, none of us want to encourage them. So here is the fltering process I go through before I follow anybody back:

1. Are they using a photo/image in their avatar – or is it the ‘Twitter Egg’? I don’t care particularly if it’s a real photo, a logo, or anything else – but if it’s an egg this is a pretty good indicator of a spam account (but not always). Chance of not being followed: 1/5

2. Is there a bio? If there is no bio or description of the Twitterer that can also be an indication of a spam account (these people create thousands of accounts, mostly using automated software, which are used to tweet spam messages).  Chance of not being followed: 1/5

3. Bio exists but it describes the objectives of a typical spammer. An example would be: ‘I’m a stay-at-home mom making thousands a week’. That one would be quickly passed over. Chance of not being followed: 5/5

4. Check last few tweets (up to 10). I’m looking here for some level of engagement or personal insight. If I only see quotes (e.g. ‘Be true to yourself and others will believe in your truth’) – that’s a very strong indicator that the account is an automated spam account looking to build a following before releasing it’s spammy messages! If I only see other people’s Tweets re-Tweeted, that isn’t a definite no-no but if those RT’s are spam-like messages then that is. If those RTs are pertinent to that account (for example the @RokkMedia account largely tweets mobile app related news), that may still be OK – if I’m interested in that information. In those cases I am more likely to add the account to one of my other lists. Chance of not being followed: 2/5

5. Abusive or obnoxious views. We all have off-days and when things wind us up Twitter can be a good place to let off steam – but if I am seeing constant expletives and venomous messages there is no way I’m going to follow. Chance of not being followed 4/5

This process is purely for those who have followed me first. If I engage with someone on Twitter or in ‘real life’ then of course none of this applies and I will simply follow and add to one of my lists.

The final point I want to make concerns when to unfollow. Personally, unless you start spamming me there are few occasions when I will unfollow beacuse of my filtered list system. I have previously written a post covering my reasons why which you can read here. 

Treat clients like children

I was driving along earlier and my little girl (7) asked a simple enough question: “What does uncle Phil do?”. Now, uncle Phil is a stock-broker. A hard enough concept to explain if you know what it is – but to a little girl who has no concept of finance, or much of an understanding of what money is come to that – how do you tackle that one? Truth is a lot of parents wouldn’t bother but I am a big believer in answering every question my children pose and in fact it’s a fantastic skill to get under your belt for business too.

This is particularly true in the industry that I work within – new media (web development, web marketing, iphone apps, software development etc.) – notorious for it’s fair share of jargon and geeky terms! I have lost count of the clients who have come to Rokk Media with a clear phobia of anything tech, and usually exacerbated by experiences with earlier agencies who have never learned the art of talking in terms the rest of us understand.

Like my little girl’s question, there are very few meetings where a technical term or concept isn’t met with a glazed look and it’s that moment I relish – breaking it down in to chunks of information that the client can grasp. That’s the secret – finding common ground that both parties can relate to.

In the case of my little girl uncle Phil looks after other people’s money – a bit like a bank (yes I know that’s wholly inaccurate and stock-brokers the world over are up in arms, but it was all she needed). With clients it may be the fundamentals of a content management system, what happens to email when the send button is pressed, what is this cloud thing, or even – what’s the internet then?

In all these examples there are simple, everyday concepts that are universally understood and can step in to substitute for the techie stuff. It’s great to see a client’s face light up when they are given an every day example to grasp on to.

Of course this is nothing new – it’s what teachers (good ones) do every day of the week but it’s an essential skill to master in business, particularly if you work in an industry that is cloaked in jargon such as mine, engineering, medicine etc.

So next time a young person (or client) asks you a challenging question – don’t shrug them off with a flippant comment, give it some thought and work hard to come up with an answer that turns the light bulb on. You will get as much out of it as they do – and will be developing a skill that your customers and clients will thank you for as well.