February 4, 2011 Tony Morgan

9 Twitter Strategies to Engage Your Audience

It’s been about two years since I really got intentional about using Twitter as part of my ministry strategy. I did it because my primary audience (other church leaders) is very engaged on that platform. Your audience (people in your church) may not be. In fact, my guess is they aren’t. For you, Facebook is probably the place you need to be more intentional. However, for those of you who find the folks you connect with hanging out on Twitter, here are…

9 Twitter Strategies to Engage Your Audience

  1. Tell your story rather than hiding behind your organization. Not that your business or church shouldn’t have its own Twitter profile, but most folks would rather follow a person than an entity. For example, @WestRidgeChurch has just over 800 followers while @BrianBloye has 3,500. People want to hear Brian’s story more than the organization he serves.
  2. Follow everyone. The goal here isn’t to prove you can build a bigger Twitter following than someone else. The goal is to improve communications with your network. The way Twitter works is that when you follow someone, they are able to “direct message” you. You want that. I can’t tell you how many coaching and consulting connections I’ve made through direct messages. (Just had another one today.) And, to be honest, I’d rather communicate using Twitter over email. With only 140 characters, conversations are to the point and more efficient. I use Tweet Adder to automate this.
  3. Use “lists” to follow your true friends. Right now I’m following over 48,000 people, but I’m only really tracking 100 folks. I can filter through all that potential noise by using a Twitter list. Here’s the list of folks I’m truly following right now.
  4. Connect Twitter to Facebook. Even though my audience is very engaged on Twitter, Facebook is still the number one place for social networking. I’ve set up my Facebook page so that everything I share on Twitter automatically posts to Facebook. Use this Twitter app on Facebook. By doing that, I’m able to connect with a completely different audience.
  5. Link everything you post on your website to your Twitter feed…multiple times. It wasn’t very long ago that Google was the number one way folks found my website. Today, Twitter is the champion. As an example, last month 30% of the visits to my website came from Twitter, while only 18% came from Google. (In case you’re curious: 21% direct, 9% Feedburner RSS feeds, 6% Facebook, 16% other) Folks use Twitter as their news reader. Because of that, I use the WordTwit WordPress plugin to push everything I post on my website to Twitter. Then, because I realize most people use Twitter just to capture instant updates, I repost links a few times throughout the day. This is also critical to share links with my friends in different times zones particularly on the west coast, in Europe and in Australia.
  6. Share much more than you promote. Again, I realize Twitter has become the news reader for most people. With that in mind, I use bit.ly to share links to other articles I find that I think may be of value to my audience. My primary goal on Twitter is to share what I’m learning and experiencing. Because I also have to put food on the table, there are times when I need to promote opportunities for churches to purchase services I offer, but that’s hopefully a very small percentage of the Twitter updates in my stream.
  7. Participate in the conversation. The fun part of Twitter is getting to connect with people who I can’t do life with in person. Because we’re limited to 140 characters or less, it actually makes it possible to engage lots of those relationships. I do my best to respond to every question or request that comes through on Twitter through a response or direct message. So, yes, it’s possible to do that even though I’m following 48,000 people.
  8. Use a social media dashboard to post updates, read update streams and direct message. The actual Twitter site is improving over time, but I still prefer to use TweetDeck to track the conversations and the Twitter updates of my friends. (By the way, I use the Twitter app on my Android phone.) There may be better options for those of you managing multiple Twitter accounts, but TweetDeck has served me well.
  9. Track your engagement. You have to measure what you’re doing to know that your investment of time is worth it. Obviously, my primary objective is to connect with my friends, but, at the same time, I want to add value. Two key measures for me are determining how many people use Twitter to connect to my website. (See the stats above.) I do that using Google Analytics. I also want to see if people find value in the information I’m sharing. I track that using bit.ly. Through the bit.ly dashboard, I know that my Twitter audience followed over 17,000 links that I shared last month. I can track that engagement over time to better understand whether or not what I’m sharing is helpful to my followers.

Now it’s your turn. What are some strategies you’ve learned? How do you use Twitter to better engage with your audience? Join the conversation by sharing your comment.

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Tony Morgan

Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of The Unstuck Group, theunstuckgroup.com. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). He's written several books and articles that have been featured with the Willow Creek Association, Catalyst and Pastors.com.
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