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When Twitter first arrived on the scene, it was decried by businesses as being useless for marketing purposes. “How are we supposed to engage an audience in under 140 characters?” would have almost certainly been a popular question. Of course, today you would be hard pressed to find a successful business that doesn’t have a highly active Twitter account. The question is, now that we know it can be a useful marketing tool, how do we attract and build upon our Twitter follower base?

Create a solid foundation: Before delving into the fine art of increasing Twitter followers, it’s imperative you start with the basics. It can never be said enough – prepare by defining your goals and building a plan around them. You can’t hit a bulls-eye if you don’t have a target! Then, ensure your Twitter profile is complete. With only 140 characters per tweet, you can’t remind users of the basics there – so make sure your bio, picture and website information are on clear display.

Add a Twitter ‘Follow’ Button to Your Website: Like other social media sites, Twitter provides code that allows you to add an official Twitter button to your website. This is far more effective than simply including a text link or providing your handle.

Include a direct link to your Twitter page In all branded materials. Where you can’t have a button (emails, other social platforms, hard copy such as business cards and pamphlets) be sure to include your twitter handle and/or url.

Sync Your Email Contacts: This often forgotten technique is an excellent way to quickly build a highly interactive following. You know your business contacts have an interest in your brand. With Twitter’s handy email sync tool you can extend that relationship into this additional platform.

Use Hashtags – The Right Way: Yes, hashtags are a great tool to get your content found – but they can be worthless if used incorrectly. A smart way to think about them is as ‘SEO for Twitter.’ As a result, many of your top keywords can be integrated into Twitter posts as well as your bio. Interestingly, two contrasting strategies are both very effective for your posts. Trending hashtags with some relevance to your business can bring in additional followers, however fun and witty ones unique to your business ca
n be excellent tools as well. In both cases, check out the hashtags used by industry leaders for inspiration.

Time your Tweets: Due to the short lifespan of tweets, it’s vital that they are posted at the times current and potential followers are most likely to see them. While there are variables that will cause this in certain situations, research shows that in general, before 8pm is your best bet on weekdays (except for Fridays where you should try not to tweet later than 3pm). Scheduling tools like HootSuite are excellent for making this process easier and more accurate.

Make Your Tweets Brief and Fun: Yes, you’re running a business – but in a form of communication that’s limited to 140 characters you can’t take yourself too seriously. Your audience isn’t on Twitter to read content that would be more at home in a whitepaper. Like most social media platforms (and even more so than many) they want to be entertained. Have some fun with it and show some personality! That being said, don’t betray the core values of your business. With a little practice, a perfect balance can be reached.

Use Psychology to Engage: Perhaps more so than any other channel, psychology plays a big part in attracting and engaging Twitter followers. The bandwagon effect is perhaps the most commonly used – if it seems a group that your audience belongs to or, even better, wants to belong to is on board you can bet they will be too. Careful wording can make great use of this fact.

Image psychology is also important – photos have been shown to increase sign ups by as much as 100%, with close up images of individuals being the most effective. Also, by determining how your target audience views themselves and creating content consistent with this, you can make use of the proven self-perception theory.

Use Promoted Tweets: With the sheer volume of content, including your best in paid or ‘promoted’ tweets in a savvy move that can ensure it gets noticed. The fact that these will be focused on people that will most likely be interested means it’s an important tool for increasing followers.

Don’t Forget Your Analytics: There’s that timeless marketing truth: you can’t measure success without data. Twitter offers built in analytics – you’ll be required to sign up for an advertiser account, but it’s most certainly worth it. The data provided will allow you to tweak all of the above techniques to best suit your audience.

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Shannon Prager is the President of Leadit Marketing. She is responsible for the daily operations and management of Leadit Marketing as well as the long term vision for the company.

A marketing leader with over 17 years of B2B demand generation and marketing experience, she understands the importance of a fully developed marketing strategy. Shannon’s background includes demand generation, marketing automation, social media and marketing operations. You can follow her on Twitter via: @LeaditMarketing