In my last post, I offered several ways to leverage Twitter to grow your photography business. One of my recommendations was to “tweet with your followers in mind” — meaning to carefully target your content to the people you’re trying to reach. But what’s the best way to go about this?
I suggest you start by thinking of your Twitter stream as a TV or radio station — one which employs you as its program director. Rather than randomly tweeting about things like what you had for breakfast, it’s time to get serious about your Twitter channel and show some discipline in how you “program” its content.
Here are five steps to programming your Twitter stream with targeted content:
1. Define the nature of the content that will fill your channel.
Approach this task as though you are creating a specialized cable TV channel. Your cable package might have 200 channels — a cooking channel, a yoga channel, a history channel. What should your channel be about? Remember, there are 14,000+ photography tweeters out there (according to WeFollow), so “photography” is probably not specific enough.
How about photography marketing? Fashion photography? Techniques? Industry updates? Whatever focus you choose, make sure it’s something that marries your interests with those of the people you are trying to connect with.
2. Research and identify sources of content.
Once you have designated the focus of your channel, you need to spend time researching sources for your tweets and — even more importantly — your retweets. That’s because one of the best ways to grow your follower base is to retweet other people’s content. Some advise that the ratio of retweets to original content should be as high as 7 to 1.
In finding the content sources for your retweets, you want to start by identifying a core group of Twitter users with similar interests, and to build relationships with them by regularly retweeting their content. You’ll also want to keep one eye out for fresh content coming from new and varied sources, and to make a point to “meet and tweet” new people.
As you grow your follower base while consistently retweeting your core information sources, you will grow in value to both your followers and to your sources. You will be thanked and promoted on “Follow Fridays” for your efforts.
And this is where your original content comes in. Whether you are directing individuals to your blog or online gallery, or simply highlighting relevant articles you come across in the news, once you have established your channel, your original content is much more likely to be retweeted by your followers.
3. Schedule your content across the day to reach more of your audience.
Many photographers on Twitter madly tweet and retweet at the end of their work day, or when they have a short break at the studio. This may create a nice volume of content, but since you’re not spreading your tweets out across the day, you’re only reaching a small portion of your potential audience — and you may annoy this group by sending out too many messages at once.
Scheduling your content across the day is perhaps the most important, as well as the most overlooked, aspect of creating a successful Twitter channel. You should work to create a consistent stream of tweets that are timed strategically. Remember, your followers are on different schedules and in different time zones. Some are morning people and some are late-night people. Some may live in Los Angeles and others in London.
Fortunately, a number of free third-party tools are available for automated scheduling of tweets, so you don’t have to be chained to your computer to program your content. You can keep the messages streaming — even while you sleep.
4. Repeat your most important tweets.
In the Twitterverse, your followers are different from a television or radio audience, where the programming is geared to longer attention spans — a half-hour sitcom, or a 10 minute radio segment. How can you ensure that your updates will be noticed?
And amid all your retweets, how can you make sure your most important updates — a link to your portfolio, or your announcement of an exhibition — will get the attention they deserve?
Your best approach is to schedule your most important tweets for peak times, and also to repeat your tweets. And no, this isn’t spamming. Guy Kawasaki, among others, strongly recommends repeating your tweets up to several times throughout the day.
Repeating your tweets is no different from the old CNN Headline News model (before it became HLN) of running 30 minute newscasts 24 hours per day — or the scroll at the bottom of the screen on most cable news stations.
5. Use automated tools — but don’t go on autopilot.
Just because you’ll be using third-party tools to schedule your tweets, that doesn’t mean you should put your Twitter strategy on autopilot. You can still jump in at the end of your day over a cup of coffee and leisurely surf through your Twitter lists, finding new things and tweeting on the fly.
The difference is that instead of such spontaneous messages being your primary mode of updating, they now are a nice complement to your well planned, researched and scheduled “programmed content”.