Twitter was tiny. Then it was huge. Then it was irrelevant. Now, it’s on the verge of landing somewhere in between “huge” and “irrelevant” with the rollout of their “While you were away” feature.
Businesses have had a love/hate relationship with Twitter since its birth. It can be a tremendous communication tool, of course. That hasn’t changed. However, it seemed to only be of true benefit for big companies. Local businesses outside of real-time floaters like food trucks or music bands had a hard time generating a true return on investment.
The problem has been that for a local business to have any chance of getting noticed on Twitter and generating proactive benefit, a lot of time was necessary. Unfortunately, the return did not always justify the time spent. What’s worse is that it became painful for some who were finding that the positive things they tried to do went nowhere while anything negative about them that went out on Twitter seemed to go viral.
Bad news flourished. Good news got buried.
That’s in the process of changing. “While you were away” will bring real ROI for local businesses.
One of the most appealing aspects of Facebook is its extremely intuitive algorithm. Most people take for granted the amazing complexity and uncanny accuracy of the algorithm that powers the news feed.
On the other hand, Twitter has always maintained strength in real-time exploits. See what’s happening now… and now… and now again. This meant that local businesses would have to Tweet several times a day in order to get any traction, plus engage in conversations, plus monitor for mentions, plus several other little annoying activities that made it more cost- and ROI-effective to simply maintain a basic presence and monitor briefly every day.
The new feature means that quality could trump quantity, or rather add to it. On Facebook, it’s better to post less and make it meaningful. Posting too much can hurt. With the new Twitter, it will likely make sense to focus on quality first but with the understanding that quantity will still help. In essence, “While you were away” means that you want to do whatever you can to generate some sort of interactions on some of your Tweets. If you do, your Tweets from minutes, hours, or even days ago have an opportunity to be seen by your audience in ways that were impossible in the chronological-only world of old Twitter.
Quality is new Twitter’s best friend.
Here are a few anticipatory best practices. We can’t be definitive at this point because the feature is still limited, but we can anticipate some things that you’ll want to do to bump up your Twitter quality.
- Include images whenever appropriate. By keeping them the proper size (2-to-1 ratio) and compelling, you’ll get more attention while it’s live, giving it more potential engagement and increasing its chances of being seen by people when they log into Twitter next time.
- Post often but spread it out so as to not get unfollowed. Every guru has an opinion about frequency. I like to keep at least an hour between standard Tweets (not including @replies).
- Do not ask for retweets. Here’s the thing. It works. Unfortunately. Then again, panhandling at the subway station can work as well, but it’s not something that you want to do for a living. Rely on your content. They’ll retweet it if they love it.
- Retweet and favorite others’ posts aggressively. I’m a little worried about using the word “aggressively” in this best practice because it can definitely be taken too far, but helping others will encourage them to help you. Don’t do it randomly, though. Whatever you retweet will appear on your Twitter profile. Be selective and only retweet the best content from good sources. That doesn’t necessarily mean big sources. A Ford dealer will probably notice if you retweet them. Ford corporate most likely will not.
- Use hashtags, but don’t overdo it. Reading these, one would think that it’s written by Goldilocks. Not too hot. Not too cold. Just right. That’s really what you want to do with Twitter – find the sweet spot for all activities.
I hate to admit it, but I lost love for Twitter over the last couple of years. The love is getting renewed. Twitter is going to be effective for small businesses once again if they do it right.