I am taking a short-term diversion from the Food Revolution to discuss the best career tool and knowledge-sharing app available. The web has become a crucial tool for building one’s credibility as an expert, and yet most people are missing one of the most important knowledge-sharing networks on the web.
I am talking about Twitter. Speaking from experience, using Twitter for business has been invaluable in building my standing as an expert in the food industry.
Let me first run through some of the other app tools to give you an understanding of how Twitter is different. First, there is the big dog, Facebook. Facebook is a great tool for keeping up with family and friends, and even for following some brands that you love. However, Facebook is not a business or knowledge-sharing network. Few of your friends and family care about what is happening in your industry or your career. If you start sharing stories about your industry, your company or your expertise, you are likely to get shunned at Thanksgiving dinner, or worse, blocked from your friends’ feeds.
LinkedIn is the other network that many point to for business sharing. However, LinkedIn is really a job-searching website. Most people do not go to LinkedIn on a daily or even weekly basis. When I share stories on LinkedIn, they stagnate with just a few viewings and interactions. The newsfeed element of LinkedIn is just not valuable because there are not many daily LinkedIn users.
If you start sharing stories about your industry, your company or your expertise, you are likely to get shunned at Thanksgiving dinner, or worse, blocked from your friends’ feeds
Twitter is completely different from both FB and LinkedIn. Twitter is a news- and information-sharing network. If you use Twitter correctly, you can find many highly relevant industry news stories that you can share back to your followers. As you provide more relevant information, your followers will grow, as will your standing in your field. What’s more, serious Twitter users get onto the app many times a day and are continually interacting with highly relevant stories.
To demonstrate Twitter’s value, I am going to share some of my own statistics and experience with the platform. Just 2.5 years ago in January 2015, I was a Twitter novice. While I had used it for years, I did not know what I was doing and only tweeted a couple of times a month about random topics – absolutely the wrong way to Tweet! It’s no surprise that I only had 109 followers with almost no similar interest base.
Fast forward 2.5 years and I just surpassed 10,000 followers with a majority of followers interested in my Tweets about better food, sustainable agriculture and the Food Revolution.
What changed? Well, I did some research and became very serious about building my presence on Twitter, thereby enhancing my standing as an expert on the food and agriculture industries. At right is a chart on my growth in followers during the past 2.5 years. Believe me, this is not hard, and was completely free until I recently outsourced some of my work gaining followers to Social Quant in April 2017.
By the way, that exponential growth is not unusual because as your “expert status” grows, the number of people following you will grow at a faster rate! You can copy exactly what I did to get 10,000 followers in an even shorter timeframe because I am going to catapult you up the learning curve.
I am not kidding: It is incredibly easy to build a following as an expert on Twitter! It just takes a commitment to get on Twitter on a daily basis (during your commute, at lunch or in the evenings). You need to tweet a few times a day and you need to seek out people with similar interests. The following tips will show you everything you need to start growing your following and your standing as an industry expert.
PHOTO: Your photo must be a photo of YOU. That is the first and foremost rule. You are building yourself as an expert so you must have your own picture as your profile image. Don’t make it your company logo. Don’t make it a photo of your cat and never leave your profile as the default image! People trust and believe in other people. Give them someone to believe in.
Bonus tip: Include a photo that shows you smiling or laughing. I don’t know why, but when I changed my profile photo to a photo of me laughing with my daughters at a Cubs game, my following rate increased dramatically. I think the takeaway is you look more approachable with a smiling, jovial photo.
HEADER: For your header, I suggest using a photo relevant to your industry. Mine is the photo from one of our indoor agriculture companies. It is bold with great color and it embodies many of the aspects of sustainable agriculture that I want to highlight. Make sure to get permission to use your header photo if you don’t own the rights. Then head over to Canva.com as they have great tools for converting your photo into a header for any social media site, including Twitter. You can see it just as it will look on the site.
Bonus tip: You can also insert a tagline over the photo which can help to grab people’s attention to read more about you. There is a great article from Raj Nathan on how to choose a great tagline. I highly recommend you read it before selecting a tagline. Your tagline is meant to generate interest. Ultimately, they’ll think, “I wonder what that means. I want to learn more.” My tagline is “Igniting a Food Revolution.”
PROFILE: Lastly, your profile is limited to the same 140 characters as a Tweet so you need to be judicious and succinct in your description. Describe how and why you are an expert in your given field. Don’t be cute or waste characters telling people that you are a husband or a mom. No one cares and that is just wasted space. Get to the point: Why should I follow you?
Bonus tip: Don’t put hashtags in your profile. I used to do that, thinking I would show up in searches. You will show up in searches because of keywords. They don’t need to be hashtags. If you put hashtags or other linked names, it becomes a pathway for someone to leave your profile page. And once they leave, they may never come back!
Once you follow a lot of people, your main newsfeed is NOT going to be very useful. Rather, you want to use the newsfeeds of highly targeted Twitter lists to find specific information on topics you care about. A Twitter list is a list of users that you create who tweet about a specific topic or interest. You can create and find your lists from the dropdown menu that appears when you right click on your profile image.
I have created Twitter lists for food and agriculture investors, nutrition and health professionals, indoor agriculture, and many more. Then, when I want to see the latest information on one of those topics, I simply run through the newsfeed for that list. From there, I can find tweets that I want to retweet or articles I want to read and maybe tweet myself. Twitter lists are an invaluable tool for gaining knowledge to share with your followers and you can make as many different lists as you want.
You can also follow Twitter lists that others create. Simply right click on anybody’s profile image and select lists from their dropdown menu to see their lists. Here is mine. Click on a list to go to the feed and subscribe to the list if you think it is something you want to follow.
As I said before, Twitter is a news- and knowledge-sharing network. People tune in multiple times a day to find out what is happening relevant to them. Active Twitter users gain more followers because people use Twitter to find information. If you share valuable information, people will follow you and add you to Lists.
I try to share 3 to 4 stories per day. While that may sound like a lot of work, it really isn’t because I set up most of those tweets early in morning using a free website called Buffer. Once you find a story to share, you can use Buffer to schedule to share it later in the day. I try to share stories around commuting and lunch times as those tend to be the times users are most frequently checking Twitter.
…as you share more stories, you will gain followers and get added to others’ lists [which] dramatically increases your reach.
To find stories, I use both my Twitter lists as well as a news app called Flipboard that you can download from the app store. When you first open the app, it will prompt you to enter your interest areas. Then, each time you open the app thereafter, it will show you relevant stories. It is very easy to share stories to Twitter from the Flipboard app. They usually come through on Twitter with the photos from the story, which is great because photos increase engagement.
Earlier, I mentioned that as you share more stories, you will gain followers and get added to others’ lists. That last point is important because it dramatically increases your reach. For instance, not only do I have more than 10,000 followers, but I have also been added to more than 500 lists created by others. Some of those lists will have a wide following and each of your Tweets will show up in the newsfeed for those lists. It is a great way for you to get discovered by other Twitter users that aren’t already followers.
Hashtags are another great way to get discovered by non-followers. A hashtag is a keyword preceded by the pound sign. You include hashtags because when people search for a keyword hashtag, your tweet will be included in that search newsfeed. As such, you will be discovered by users who would not normally see your tweet. Here are the newsfeeds from some of the key hashtags that I often search on Twitter:
Using 1 to 3 hashtags per tweet actually increases engagement according to several articles I have read. (However, don’t go overboard because using too many hashtags reduces engagement and will begin to look spammy.) Try to pick a few specific hashtags that fit the topic of the tweet. Ask yourself this: When someone searches for this hashtag, would they be interested in the story I am posting? If not, pick a different hashtag until you can answer that question positively.
To increase your standing as an expert in your field, you want to gain a highly targeted following of people in your field. The best way to increase your following of special interest people is to follow many people in that field. The general etiquette on Twitter is to followback active users that also follow you. As a result, if you follow interesting people in your field, many of them will follow you back – usually about 25% to 35%.
I use Twitter’s advanced search tool to find other users with similar interests. You can use it to search for a hashtag, search an exact phrase, or even search people responding to a top user in your field. I try to follow at least 50 to 100 new people in my field every day. This will continually increase the number of your own targeted followers.
The general etiquette on Twitter is to followback active users that also follow you
However, you don’t want to follow a lot more people than follow you, as you will begin to look like a spammer. Therefore, you need to periodically cull the users that did not followback after you followed them. I try to do this every couple of days. To find those followers, you need to use a free tool such as Statusbrew or ManageFlitter. You can register for free at both sites using your Twitter account. They will help you find those users you are following that are not following you back. You can unfollow up to a certain number of non-followers per day using each site. These sites are also helpful tools for finding other similar users to follow using their tweet search features.
Bonus tip: When deciding who to follow to seed your account, focus on people who have a similar number of followings and followers. It is highly unlikely that someone following very few people will follow you back. Conversely, if someone is following thousands of people but only a few hundred are following them, that account are likely a spam account that was recently created. Focus on balanced users to increase your odds of receiving a quality followback.
I check my notifications several times a day to see who is engaging with my content. When someone likes or retweet my tweets, I will usually go to their feed to like a couple of their interesting tweets. I also often follow interesting people that engage with my content. They have already indicated they are interested in your content; maybe they are interested in following you or adding you to one of their lists.
Twitter is a social news format, so don’t be afraid to engage with others. If someone replies to one of my tweets, I will usually reply back. Sometimes, that can lead to a long and interesting conversation. I have met many interesting colleagues using Twitter, including potential partners, investors, employees and customers for our companies. If your conversation gets highly specific, I would suggest taking your conversation to direct messaging versus tweet replies, because anyone can see tweet replies under the replies tab. [Editor’s Note: Are you making these common social media marketing mistakes?]
Also, remember that if the conversation gets creepy or abusive, you can always block or unfollow another user. Don’t be afraid to use this feature. Life’s too short to let an abusive conversation ruin your whole day.
Twitter is the most overlooked business and career tool. Those who use Twitter correctly to build a huge following of people with similar interests have a bigger advantage in terms of transmitting their message, increasing their network and gaining stature as an expert in their field. Don’t procrastinate any longer and start building your Twitter following today!
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I am a PE investor focused on the food and agriculture industries. I share insights on the food revolution in an article on Financial Poise. You can subscribe to my column to learn more about the trends in food, sustainable agriculture, nutrition, etc.
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