People are drinking the Twitter Kool-Aid like it's the last day before Prohibition. It's fantastic that so many are finding value in something so simple that can be so powerful.
But many experienced marketers who've joined the latest wave of Twitterers seem to be overlooking a fundamental premise of the Twitter follower/following paradigm -- people only know as much about you as you tell them.
Having a succinct, compelling profile is more critical on Twitter than anywhere else.
Your Twitter landing page
Just as the landing page is the most important component of a PPC, email, or banner ad campaign, your Twitter profile is the most important landing page for your personal brand or the brand of your company/agency on Twitter.
Every time you follow someone, they will be asked to make a decision on whether to follow you back. At scale, these decisions are made in increasingly large batches, and are made quickly.
I'm not Twitter royalty, but routinely get 50+ follow emails per day. For each of these, I visit the person's profile page and decide whether to follow back. And just like on a landing page, I scan and make this follow/no follow decision in about eight seconds or fewer.
Here are important considerations for your Twitter profile.
1. Use your real name (and don't use underscore)
I realize your real name (or even business name) may not be available, but try to get as close as possible. This isn't an AOL chat room circa 1997; this is business -- especially if you're a professional marketer.
Using made-up names makes it very difficult to tie your Twitter profile to your Facebook, LinkedIn, blog comment and other profiles (unless Twitter adopts Facebook Connect). Further, five weeks from now when I see "@batgirl63? in the tweet stream, it's difficult to remember who you are.
I'm also not a big fan of using @"youragencyname" as a Twitter handle, if you're really serious about interaction. Increasingly, the "official" agency or brand account is more of an announcement megaphone, and less of a conversation platform. If you want to truly interact in Twitter, use your real name (or your name combined with agency name like @jason"agencyname".
The underscore issue is more of a personal peeve. It's not inherently terrible, but it's much easier to remember for direct messages, etc., if you do not have an underscore in your name.
2. Use a real picture (especially if it's a real name)
Twitter is about human connections. Don't use a cartoon, a dog, a tree or any other animate or inanimate object for your profile picture. A simple headshot is great -- preferably with some interest.
Ideally, use the same photo on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, et al. It's easier to remember that way. And don't change your photo routinely, as many Twitterers have commented that they look at and remember profile photos more than usernames. There are definitely marketing rock stars that violate the rule of keeping your photo consistent, including @chrisbrogan and @armano, both of whom change their Twitter photos plenty, but that's the exception that proves the rule.
3. Think SEO when writing your bio
Each Twitterer has multiple spheres in which they operate, sometimes intersecting and overlapping. You want to belong to as many spheres as are practical and relevant to your interests and expertise. It's helpful if you define your spheres before jumping in, as it will make your following decisions and bio creation much easier. If you're using your Twitter account for both business and personal reasons, you'll have multiple spheres that intersect and overlap. This can be confusing, but two rules should be observed:
- Don't post anything on Twitter (or elsewhere on the social web) that you are not comfortable with the entire web reading.
- Trying to keep your social profile "all business" or "all personal" is not going to work long-term. Social media insists that you are part work, part play.
Just as you would when optimizing a webpage for search engines, when you write your Twitter bio think about your desired spheres and include words and phrases about them. A touch of personality is helpful, too.
4. Include a URL
Make sure to include a prominent link to your website or blog. @briansolis links to his Wikipedia page, which is useful.
5. Consider a custom background
Custom Twitter backgrounds are inexpensive (or free), and can convey important details and contact information. Include information about you and your company, URLs for your other social outposts, and some sort of semi-interesting graphic.
6. Don't protect your updates
Seriously, what's the point of being on Twitter if people have to jump through hoops to follow you? It completely runs counter to the spirit of community. If you don't want people to see your tweets, maybe you should stick to LinkedIn and Facebook where your connections are typically your friends/associates in the real world.
7. Take it slow
Certain Twitterers' following/followers ratio makes it seem like they are using Twitter inappropriately. When you are following 1,997 people, and have 57 following you back, it looks like you are randomly following as many as you can, hoping for follow backs. That's essentially "follower spam" and it calls your motives into question. You'll get fewer followers, not more, with that approach.
If you want to expand your personal network via Twitter, you'll never find a more fertile opportunity. But, try to follow these guidelines to make it easier for potential followers to decide they want to read your 140-character advice.
Jason Baer is a social media consultant with Convince and Convert.