13 Tips for Developing Positive Relationships on Twitter

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Discover thirteen of my best tips for developing positive and meaningful relationships on Twitter in order to grow your engagement and follower-base.

# Full Post

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been able to leverage Twitter to develop some pretty nice relationships in my local community and amongst my SEO peers. I’ve been introduced to and have had lots positive interactions with many new people, as well as continued developing relationships with older connections.

I wrote an article a couple weeks ago that was received fairly well entitled, “13 Tips to Get More Twitter Followers.” It detailed some simple – but useful – strategies that have worked for me personally in terms of gaining a larger Twitter following.

This is not to say that I’m the greatest thing since sliced bread, because I’m surely not (my fiance can vouch for that). Do I have the most Twitter followers? Heck no! However, what I will say is this. Getting more followers is all well and good, but it doesn’t mean shit if you aren’t making a true connection.

Over the past 3-4 months, I’ve been able to develop more positive relationships using Twitter as a social medium than in an entire few years of being semi-active on that platform (or any other platform for that matter). In correlation, Twitter has represented an increasingly significant portion of traffic to my site over that time period.

Obviously, I’m a huge proponent of using social media to promote your brand so, being the social sharer that I am, I’d like to detail some of the things that have worked for me on Twitter. Hint: Most of what will follow involves giving a bit of yourself rather than asking for something, and engaging rather than remaining quiet.

#1. Talk To People, Not At Them

Ever see those Twitter users who appear to be talking to themselves in a vacuum with little interaction with others? In fact, maybe you even follow some of them. Nobody likes to be talked at, but people do respond well when you talk to them and involved them in the conversation in some way that is meaningful to them.

I find that a lot of companies using Twitter are stricken with this habit. A quick way to avoid this: pose questions relevant to your followers, work to start conversations, or find people that are talking about you first – try Topsy or Social Mention.

#2. Don’t Focus on Yourself

To go along the same lines as point #1, I’d like you to say this to yourself, “It’s not about me.” Nobody is following you to get pummeled with your amazing personal marketing skills. They are most likely following you because they want to develop a relationship, want/like something that you can give them, or maybe they just genuinely like you or your brand. I prefer option 3.

The people/companies who use Twitter (and social media in general) most effectively are not those who only use it to market themselves. It’s those users that take the time to interact with their follow-base and create personal-but-meaningful interactions that end up being most successful.

I’d recommend taking a look at what Zappos is doing as they’ve become synonymous as a good example of using social media to develop relationships.

#3. Take Part in Conversations

Pretty simple, right? Like I should have to tell anybody to take part in conversations using social media! Isn’t being social the whole point? You’d be surprised how often a see clients who want to become engaged in social media, but are simply letting their Twitter profile collect dust.

Ever heard the expression, “If a tree falls in the woods is there anyone there to hear it?” It kind of fits here.

There are plenty of conversations going on in the Twittersphere both locally and nationally. In an age where everyone’s opinions are shared online, you might as well throw your two cents in there! You might be surprised how a simple @ reply may uncover people who share the same feelings, are willing to respond and offer their personal insights, or maybe even politely disagree/argue with you.

By engaging in a conversation with someone on Twitter, you’re opening yourself up to develop a relationship organically where there may not have been one before – had you not put yourself out there, that is! In addition to that, if somebody replies to what you’ve said your conversation will show in their feed as well as your own. What does that mean? An opportunity to get in front of a larger set of eyes, and even more relationship-building opportunities. Fun fun fun…

Taking Part in Conversations on Twitter

A quick note, beware of foot-in-mouth syndrome.

#4. Share Your Experiences

Sharing an experience can be a good way to start conversations. By putting yourself out there and sharing something that’s happened to you or that you’ve learned, you open up an opportunity to develop connections with other Twitter users who may have had a similar experience.

In real life, you may be awkward and terrible at small-talk as I am. Twitter is the perfect place to get over that! You can break the ice in 140 characters or less, and share a common experience with another Twitter user that may not have taken place at all offline.

Sharing Your Experiences on Twitter

#5. Help Others Promote Themselves

This point, along with point #6 are probably the best advice I can give you. Make the effort to help somebody out by promoting their brand/content/cause, and they’ll surely appreciate the jesture.

Every day you should find at least 1 opportunity to promote somebody elses cause. It may or may not be hard work, but in the end you’ll be far better off for it, and many people will appreciate the help you’ve been willing to give – however little it may be.

Helping to Promote Others on Twitter

#6. Re-Tweet Other People’s Content

Along the same lines at point #5, take time each day (or every few days) to Re-Tweet other people’s content. If you read a good article, take a few seconds to Re-Tweet it – even if you don’t know the person who wrote it yet. It only takes a few seconds of your time, but the impact can be huge!

Putting yourself out there and making an effort to share something that helps promote someone else opens the door for you to make a connection. Furthermore, a connection that starts out with you helping another person out is a good thing to do, and feels pretty damn good. It really sets a solid foundation from whence to build a positive relationship with another Twitter user.

I like to do this every couple days. I make a point to take some time to go through my blog and Twitter feeds> I read other people’s content, and if I like it I make it a point to share with others through a RT.

Re-Tweeting Other People's Content on Twitter

Once again, I’ll remind you to repeat this phrase, “It’s not about me.” Keep that in your head (it’s important in other areas of life too).

#7. Keep Track of Followers & Quitters

I like to know who’s coming and going, so I’ve found a need to track new Twitter followers and quitters. A great tool to do this is NutshellMail, and I’ll just say that it’s probably my favorite Twitter tool so far. It allows you to manage all of your social networks through email, and provides me a daily report of new Twitter followers and quitters.

Why is it important to keep track of followers and quitters?

Personally, I like to know who’s made the effort to follow me so that maybe I can return the favor in some way. This could include simply following them back, reaching out to them through a DM or @ reply, and/or following steps #5-6 above. The way I see it, they’ve made the initial effort to reach out to me to begin forming that relationship, so staying on top of new followers as they come in helps me attempt to return the favor.

As for quitters…

I think it’s important to review a few things when someone has broken up with you on Twitter. First, ask yourself why they might have stopped following you? Is there something you can do differently or something that made them want to end their relationship with you?

Also, there are those people use automated software to attempt to drive up their follower counts. They’ll follow you in the hopes that you’ll follow them back, and then they stop following you a day or so later hoping you won’t notice and will go on following them forever. To me, these people were never really interested in developing a relationship and if I’d made the mistake of following them I’d like to ensure that I extend them the courtesy of an unfollow. NutshellMail really helps with that.

Monitoring New Followers and Quitters on Twitter

A quick takeaway: Technology is not a replacement for interaction, and should not be used as a crutch to be lazy. Social media is about building relationships, and building relationships takes work! Technology is there to make it easier.

#8. Direct Messages

DM’s are a point of contention among many social media circles. Some social media folks say you shouldn’t use auto-DM’s and others think you should. I fall somewhere in the middle.

Here’s the way I see it. Even with awesome technology like NutshellMail it can be hard to keep up with everyone who follows you, much less interact with them right at the very moment they hit that follow button.

Auto-DMs serve as a way to say a quick “Hello” to another Twitter user even if you can’t be there right at that moment. Life happens right? You can’t be at your computer or on your phone all times of day – as much as you’d like to try.

The behavior that I do not condone would be using Auto-DMs to spam people or to be a douche. See point #2 above. Nobody wants to be bombarded with the equivalent of junk mail as soon as they’ve hit follow. This is a sure way to start the relationship out on the wrong foot.

#9. Use Lists

As referenced in point #7, I like to keep track of details. However, it can be really easy to get overwhelmed quickly with all the activity that is the Twittersphere.

Constant updates. Short bursts of information. Nothing but white noise!

This is why Twitter lists has been a God-send for me. This helps me put people into nifty little compartments (is it bad to think of it that way?). Why would I want to do that? Simple. Too keep track of the groups of people that I really want to talk to.

At first glance this may sound a bit arrogant and not fitting with this article, but let me explain. It’s not that I don’t want to talk to every single person that I follow or who follows me, but sometimes it gets really hard to make sense of all the continuous chatter. This in turn causes me to freeze up and not interact with anyone at all. That’s not good.

However, using Twitter lists has allowed me to keep track of certain groups of people with a little more clarity. For example, I really believe that it’s important to be a part of my city’s local social media scene, so I’ve created a Twitter list for my Columbus connections. By creating this list and setting it up as a feed in Hootsuite, I can keep an eye on national and local conversations simultaneously.

This has really allowed me to be hyper-local in my social media focus, while still giving me the freedom to interact with people nationally as well. I’d also like to do this for my group of SEO-related connections, so that I can begin to focus on those relationships as well (this list is still pending).

Using Lists on Twitter

This is just a case of using compartmentalization to help you refine your social focus, and hopefully help you develop relationships with the people you care to connect with.

#10. Merge Offline with Online, Vice Versa

This is a very simple concept. If you’re friends with someone offline who uses Twitter, connect with them online as well. Once you’ve done that, follow steps #5-6 and remember the motto, “Will Re-Tweet your content for free beer!” Okay, maybe don’t follow that motto.

Conversely, if you’ve met someone through Twitter, try to meet them offline. Technology or social media will never be able to replace a good old-fashioned handshake accompanied with a smile. As Tom Williams said to me recently, “It’s always nice to put a face to the Twitter account.”

Again, the whole point of social media is to develop positive relationships. A face-to-face meeting can be the ultimate culmination of all your hard work on Twitter, and should lead to a rock-solid Twitter connection down the line. That is, if you don’t make an ass of yourself when you finally meet a fellow Twit.

#11. Say Thank You

Never underestimate the value of a simple, well-meaning “Thank You.” If someone has taken the time to help you by doing tips #5 or #6, please take the time to thank them.

Be thankful. Be humble. They didn’t have to do something to help you, but they did. Better yet, do something in return. Maybe do #5 or #6 for them? This is how relationships are solidified on Twitter.

These two simple words can build mountains, yet both are underrated and underused.

Saying Thank-You on Twitter

This is not to say that I thank everyone who’s helped me out, because I haven’t. I wished I could, but sometimes you can’t be everywhere all at once. But that doesn’t mean I can’t try.

#12. Be Human

Humans are interesting, robots are not. At least 50% of the reason someone might follow you on Twitter has to do with you being you – a very interesting human brand. Don’t EVER give this up. Be yourself!

Finding a way let your individual quirkiness and personality come through on Twitter is a sure way to develop trust and interest from other users. Trust is the foundation of all relationships. Simple enough.

I’ve found that companies and larger corporations who are managing their Twitter brands have a very difficult time with this one. Now granted, I understand that certain liabilities – legal and moral – come with managing corporate-type social media campaigns, but my experience has been that many corporations have found a unique way to make something that is very personal become very stale and robotic.

If you’re a large or small company, take this note. While you’re most certainly hindered by what you can (and more importantly can not say), are in a constant state of protecting the brand and managing your reputation, and risk taking a much more drastic PR hit by saying something dumb, you still have to find a way to relate to humans.

Humans are the ones who run your company, buy your products, pay your paychecks, etc. I implore you to find a way to let relate and put that human face on your brand.

Being Human on Twitter

Quick Tips: Make sure that you upload a nice profile picture of yourself and customize your Twitter background.

#13. Work at It

Anything worth doing usually takes hard work to do. Building relationships on Twitter is no different. Don’t expect anything to fall in your lap. In fact, I can confidently guarantee that you’ll get out of Twitter (or anything in life and/or social media) what you put in.

Think of it like a soda vending machine. You put a dollar in, you get a beverage. Sometimes, another beverage shakes loose and you get two (this is rare so don’t expect it). If you don’t put a dollar in, your thirst will not be quenched! Same basic principle.

Hope everyone enjoyed this article, please feel free to add your input as I’m sure I haven’t hit on everything, and here’s to some happy relationship building!

Update (2-21-2011): Although we knew this before, Google recently has placed even more importance on building solid relationships through social media outlets such as Twitter. Per Google, “relevance isn’t just about pages—it’s also about relationships.” Check out their latest update to the social search algorithm.

Image credit: The Next Web

Jacob Stoops

Jacob Stoops

Long-time SEO and podcast host. Senior Manager at Search Discovery. Husband. Dad. Mob movie aficionado. @jacobstoops