2012-12-31: For me, Twitter's where everything starts, for four reasons:
Most traffic to a website still comes from search, but Google is listening more and more to social media for clues about which are the best sites to show its users. Twitter contributes to that. So while you may measure your Twitter results directly and say "ah well, search is still top", Twitter is driving your search traffic.
Twitter just asks 140 characters from you, so it's an easy thing to start.
Because Twitter is lightweight, you can tweet pictures (even videos) and associated comments as you work using a smartphone.
And the great thing about Twitter is you can follow, and perhaps engage with, anyone you like. With Facebook, they have to let you in, and with LinkedIn it's even harder. With Twitter, you can follow whoever you like, so it's the start of an engagement process that can pull hard-to-reach people into your other accounts.
The problem is, as with all things, it's a numbers game. If you want more followers, one strategy is to follow others. Twitter etiquette says at some point everyone looks through their latest followers and decides whether to follow back or not.
A basic Twitter follow strategy
So if I'm a Scarborough book-keeper and I follow all the businesses in Scarborough, some will follow me back. Those have at least a slight interest in what I do. After that, it's all about engagement. They've done the modern equivalent of answering the phone to my cold call.
So how do I find all the business in Scarborough? Well, the idea of social networking is that you're supposed to work through friends of friends, networking-style. When you first open a new Twitter account you let Twitter peek at your emails to find Tweeters it already knows and connect you to them. You start Twitter on day one by following the people you already know. Then you can look down their followers/following list and pick out other local businesses.
The Twitter Growbot
I'll let you into a secret. I've been developing software for this (it's called the Twitter Growbot), and I've got some initial results, which is really what inspired this blog. One result is: you might expect 10% of those you follow to follow you back.
Now it's early days, but traditionally we would want at least something from every 200 website visitors. A purchase would be nice, but even a Facebook [like] is something. 1:200. If we don't get that, there's something very wrong.
So could we use that rule of thumb for Twitter? Could we expect a sales enquiry from every 200 Tweeters who follow us back?
Hold that thought.
How many people use Twitter?
Scarborough has a population of about 60,000, and I'm expecting about 2,500 Twitter accounts that identify themselves as being in Scarborough (about 4%).
So let's say you're a restaurant in town that appeals to everyone, so you want to follow all of those 2,500 accounts. At first, 250 of them will follow you back (10%). You could get the rest by engagement .. but 250 is the least you could expect.
Out of that 250, you want to know which have come to the restaurant through Twitter so you send out a 10% off voucher for the month through Twitter only, and tot them up when they turn up at your restaurant and then if you're really good, you'll start to store their lifetime customer value by knowing when they come back each time. Say 10% turn up, average spend is £20, and then things drop off by 50% per month. So 250 x 10% is 25 people in month 1 spending 25 x £20 = £500. Month 2 it's £250, 3 is £125 etc so it ends up at £1,000 made from your initial Twitter adventures.
Of course, that's just from your first offer. Twitter is about ongoing relationships. Perhaps you could get that extra £1,000 every month.
By saving time, Twitter Growbot makes Twitter business possible
The bit that the Twitter Growbot solves is "how do you find all the businesses in Scarborough?" or anywhere, or "anyone interested in music", "all the architects" .. that sort of thing, without it taking you all day. So what was far too costly in terms of time is now something that's relatively affordable for the Twitter Growbot to do for you, which makes the whole approach a new way to get business. And it works while you are sleeping or down the pub, which is always a good feeling.
How influential are you? Klout
The other thing the Twitter Growbot does is handle Klout. What that service aims to do is give you and every Tweeter a score that represents how well each of us is doing in social media. They attempt to give us a percentage score that represents how influential we are (Barack Obama's score is 99 .. could do better). Go ahead, check out yourself and your competitors. It takes account of things like how often you tweet, how many followers you have and how many people respond. After all, anyone can tweet a load of rubbish. It's quite another thing to tweet stuff that gets people to respond. That's the principle on which newspapers live or die, they write things every day aimed at getting a rise from their readers or they go bust.
Since the Twitter Growbot now has on file pretty much every Twitter user in Scarborough, and it knows their Klout score, we can do a little analysis that might be applicable elsewhere.
Actually, I cleared the database recently, so I know there are about 2,500 Twitter accounts with "Scarborough" in their location (and not the overseas Scarboroughs), but this Klout sample comprises the top 1,816 of those .. I'm confident it's the top ones just because I've seen the process at work and it quickly captures the theatre, the newspaper and so on because they are so widely connected.
It seems you get a Klout score of 10 just for having an account, so 10 is the real-world baseline. Anyway, here's how it distributes:
As a ballpark first impression, you might say the distribution splits into quarters, the first four blocks are of similar size and after that are a couple of outliers.
To get a Klout score of below 20 you've pretty much got to have joined, tried it and forgotten you have an account. Here you'll find people who haven't Tweeted for over a year, whose profile says "I wonder what Twitter's all about" and who maybe haven't uploaded a profile pic. The exception is those who have just started .. TW Surge is the account I opened for the Twitter Growbot service, it had 5 followers this morning (9 now) and I created it 9 days ago.
You can see that the majority of people have a Klout score of between 20 and 29.99. I'd call those occasional users. With apologies for singling people out here, Acoustic Gathering's Klout is 27.99, with just 447 followers and nothing tweeted since September, that seems about right, but I imagine their Klout would rise dramatically when the event is on. Barbican Scarborough, a bar, has tweeted three times in the last two months and there's no evidence of engagement. If you tweeted either of these, you wouldn't really expect a response inside a month.
Between a Klout score of 30 & 39.99 we have E W Photography and instantly we can see frequency and conversations. Storm Bar also has frequency and there's some retweeting and a few more followers (710). So here we have enthusiasts, people using and enjoying Twitter, getting some success and probably quite happy.
From Klout 40-49.99 things step up. Take a look at Eatmecafe. Obviously all my comments are based on what I see on these accounts right now (at 12:26 on Monday 31 December 2012, you will see different things), but at EatMeCafe, everything's a conversation. Well, that's almost the definition of engagement. With scarboroughjazz it's not so obvious but they do have 1,599 followers. With energetic local charity Ellie's Fund .. the engagement leaps off the Twitter page. If you live in Scarborough, you know Ellie's Fund and the story behind it. And Heather is that kind of person too .. she introduced herself to me and my partner when we walked into a local cafe and we ended up having breakfast together, she recognised us from Facebook .. that's the level of engagement we're talking about. The result for her was I got one of her charity collection boxes into a local shop I was working with and started a relationship between the two. At this level, these people are really using social media to further their goals, so I'm going to call these 'drivers'.
From Klout 50-59.99, we're very much above the norm, outside of those four big blocks, there are just 3% of Tweeters here, Tina Boden is a small business advocate so very well connected, SAFC has 2,938 followers and tweets all the SAFC news and games, Patrick Billington is a local DJ, social media enthusiast with a number of social media accounts, and FeltMeUp Designs has been very active for years.
Now, this surprised me greatly, but the person with the highest Klout score in Scarborough at the moment, unless I've missed someone, is me. Now, looking at that account objectively, there's nothing there that raises me above real local Twitter stars like those I've mentioned so it must be something else. I think it's that I've connected other social media accounts to Klout, so it's not just measuring my Twitter activities, but also my relentless use of Facebook and other services. So thank-you for the top slot, but it's undeserved for my Twitters anyway. Moving on ..
So how can we use all this? If Klout gives us insight into how active someone is and allows us to slice and dice our followers, then we can start to target people. If we go out and follow a load of people .. well for a start there's not much point following anyone under Klout 20 because they're unlikely to ever log in and see it. So you're already being selective.
(Of course, as your own Klout score rises, savvy users .. Twitter drivers .. will be more likely to seek you out, and more likely to follow you back.)
So what if you followed people over Klout 20 (who also fitted your criteria (in Scarborough, is an architect/business/woman, owns a dog .. )), watched who followed you back, worked out their Klout score and their relevance to you, added your targets to a Twitter list, and checked that list every day (at least) for opportunities to reply, engage, help, mention?
Well now, you're starting to get serious about this. You never know, it might just pay off.
Maybe "get serious about Twitter" would be a good new years resolution. (You can talk to me (perhaps here) if you like.)