While preparing my slides for the upcoming Webinar about the Twitter hacks that helped us turn Twitter into a traffic, lead generation and sales powerhouse, I wondered which things changed on Twitter since we started out and if anything significant was among it. After all, we started growing our Twitter presence almost 5 years ago, and the question whether our hacks are still relevant is totally legitimate.
In matters of social networks, 5 years is an awful lot of time – and Twitter was not even new to the market when we registered. Many hyped new social networks have died an (un)timely death within 5 years, never to be heard off again.
Can the hacks I share in the webinar still help you to grow your traffic and sales? Should you listen to me or rather to someone much newer to the game.
Let me tell you one thing before we dip right into the things that changed: Our Twitter hacks to grow on Twitter still work. I can prove it. Some of you may have read about our new blog project. And of course, we are building a new Twitter account. And while we currently have not much time for the new blog project, I am using exactly the hacks I will be talking about in the webinar to growing the new account.
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They still work!
The reason is that at its core Twitter is still more or less the same as it was years ago. Of course, Twitter has some new functions, and you can take money to buy your success – which we could not five years ago since advertising was just coming up when we were already growing and not available outside the US (we are German, remember).
But building a Twitter account does not depend on you using all the fancy new features, or investing a ton of money into advertising. You may be able to enforce growth with advertising, but it can also be done by following a recipe without spending one cent on ads.
To get back to the subject of this article, here are the things that did change since we started out:
1. More noise, increased importance of content/value, mute function
Just as any of the larger and established social networks, the noise is increasing. And that people are following you does not necessarily mean they are listening to you. Twitter has a function that allows users to mute you even if they are following you. You have to earn their attention by sharing valuable information. They will listen to you if they like what you are sharing.
It may have become harder to stand out in the noise, but with the right content to share and consistency in your activity, your audience will reward you by putting you on a list or clicking on your content links.
2. Tweet Images
When I started out on Twitter, a tweet was a text and a link. Today, honestly, a tweet without an image will mainly pass by totally unnoticed. Be honest and watch your feed: Are you more likely to notice a tweet with a simple text and link or are your eyes magically drawn to the tweets with images?
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Hint: Add images to your tweets, they will receive more clicks, retweets, and comments!
3. Twitter Cards
Instead of tweets with images, you may want to go for a Twitter card. They come in various forms like summary cards, photo cards, audio cards and lead generation cards. Michael Akinlaby has listed them all in his post on Social Media Lead Generation.
The truth is that we never used Twitter advertising. Back in the times when we needed growth and would have paid for it, it was not available for us. Today you can use advertising to save you some time with manual Twitter account management or promote a certain tweet to a larger audience.
Honestly, what I like most about Twitter compared to other social networks is that by knowing how it works you can totally succeed without spending a dime on advertising. That is probably one of the problems Twitter has: It does not make enough from advertising because you do not need advertising to succeed on Twitter.
5. Twitter Analytics
Twitter Analytics came up around the same time Advertising did. At first, you only could view your Twitter analytics when you were registered for advertising. Today, you can and should use the Twitter provided stats and numbers to see if what you are doing is targeting the right people and how your account is growing in numbers – not only followers but also in reach, retweets, and other activity.
More on Twitter analytics can be found in this article.
Even 5 years back when we started to use Twitter on an international basis, there was basically no niche where you could not find an audience on Twitter. We grew topic based Twitter accounts for over 20 different topics, and the same hacks worked for all of them. The results varied, sometimes they came fast, other niches are not that responding, and it takes more time and effort to get it right.
Today, you can find a lot more niches and corporates on Twitter and can talk to them. Many companies now understood that Twitter is not only a marketing channel but also a communication channel, and you will be able to reach out to many of them. Back five years that was a lot easier in our niche marketing than in many of the others we targeted.
7. The feed including “While You Were Away.”
Earlier this year the Twitter feed got an update. Many old-time Twitter users were threatening to leave Twitter for good if they established an algorithm like Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest to select the tweets you get shown. This forced Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to take a stand on Twitter to calm people down.
Today, you can see this change in your own feed (if you did not switch it off) in the top section called “While You Were Away,” where Twitter presents you with some selected updates from the Twitter community based on an algorithm which is probably something like Facebook or Instagram’s algorithm.
The old feed is still there, below the While You Were Away section.
8. New Functions
Of course, Twitter has not been sleeping and as many of the other social networks, Twitter has some new features that have not been around five years ago. This includes Polls, Pinned Tweets, Images, Twitter Cards, favorites are now called likes, and the Twitter profile got a make-over, too. But none of these new features drastically changed how Twitter works and can be used for marketing and communication purposes.
9. The importance of Offsite integration
This may be one of the most important changes for Twitter users. It is neither about new features nor innovative tools. It is more about offering your audience a convenient and easy way to help you get more attention via Twitter and help you spread the word.
While 5 years ago I may have been willing to build my own tweet, I today totally expect to find a share button and a predefined tweet I can use. The more content people can find and the more social networks they use, the more they are looking for the easy way out when it comes to sharing content. When you are not providing share buttons, predefined tweets, and images in the right size for every social network, you will see much fewer results than you would have seen 5 years ago.
Update October 2018:
Something else that changes: The length of the tweet. While 140 characters often asked for some creative shortening of a sentence and made it hard to add comments or even retweets, today you can use 280 characters – not counting the link.
That allows you to be much more creative and makes it easier to fit everything you have to say into just one tweet.
What stayed the same
While there are many things that changed, at its core Twitter is still the same. You need to provide value with the content you share. You can target through the topics you cover with your shared content. You can enforce growth by actively bringing your account in front of the people you want to connect to.
Twitter also has been and still is one of the best social networks to talk and connect with total strangers. And Twitter can well be a perfect starting point for all social media activity.
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