As anyone with a product to sell or brand to build will know, getting your name known ‘out there’ is the hardest job of all. Whether you’re an author, painter, carpenter, website builder, yoga teacher, or armadillo trainer, getting known, for yourself as well as your product/service is a thankless and laborious task. Unless you have pots of money to give to a marketing firm who will do the work while you sit back and sip your latte, you will have to spend some regular time using the internet.
The operative word here is use. I don’t mean surf, I mean use, make use of. There is a difference. Unfortunately that difference means some time on your ass, typing, but it will be worth it. For the purposes of this blog, I’m going to concentrate on Twitter as it’s the most intensively used social media for branding, as far as I can tell from daily observation anyway.
I’m going to take it as given that you have a Twitter account that you use regularly and some followers. You will also need a pro Hootsuite account. The pro version doesn’t cost much, less than $10 per month, but you can’t follow this method without it. If you don’t have both of these, go get them and come back here.
One thing worth noting here. I’m not saying that what follows is the best way to approach branding on Twitter, or the only way. It’s my way and I’ve found it less time consuming than other ideas I’ve been told about, and far less expensive.
The secret is CONTENT.
Let’s break things down to simple terms. I want you to do three things. Know my name, know my product, and want to try my product. In order to do this, a lot of people on twitter simply flood their feed with demands to “buy my shit, it’s better than anyone else’s shit.” Of course we all know their shit is probably not better than anyone else’s, and the terse way they bombard us with demands that we buy their shit, puts us off doing so. This type of ‘call to action’ marketing is seldom successful and pisses everyone off no end.
No, what I have to do is let you know I exist first, in a non confrontational way without asking you to do anything for me. I want you to know I’m a nice person, witty, clever, helpful, and have a great sense of humour. It’s the kind of thing you do on a first date. In order to give you the chance to get to know me as a person, I fill my Twitter feed with all sorts of stuff that has nothing whatsoever to do with my product. These tweets are known as ‘content.’
You will see this content on your feed, if you are one of my followers, and will hopefully find it interesting, thought provoking, and sometimes funny. You will think, “she’s cool, she’s into the same stuff as me.” Or you might think, “her funny memes are awesome, I think I’ll retweet them.” Then again you might think, “that article she linked to was just what I needed to sort out that problem I was struggling with.” Do you see what’s happening here? You’re beginning to think I’m the dogs bollocks. Because you like me now, you will be more willing to retweet my tweets, and when you finally see one that pertains to my product, a book link, you are less likely to scroll on past.
That is how content works, in a nutshell. So how do we do it? It’s easy really but there is an outlay of work at the beginning, and regular upkeep each week. There are four basic steps.
Compiling your list of content from around the internet.
Making your blocks of tweets.
Producing a csv file in Excel.
Upload the finished csv file to Hootsuite.
The first step is by far and away the most work. It involves trawling the internet for articles, videos, meme’s, blogs, lists, anything you want to include in your content. It is important to keep your content relevant to your product. If you are a carpenter, you don’t want to post recipes or cute kitties, unless of course they have a funny ‘woodworking’ angle. As a science fiction author, my content is outer space, science fiction, NASA, writing, and everything relevant to my subject. You want to attract people who are interested in the broad subject within which your product lies, so this will help you target your content.
Step two is making up blocks of tweets. I do blocks of six, but you can have any number you like. I would say that four or five is probably as low as you should go. My blocks consist of an article, a list, a video, a quote, a funny meme, and a book link, in that order. These blocks of six are repeated throughout my entire content list. Notice that only one in every six tweets are about my product, my books. This means that my followers can get to know me without the hard sell and when a book tweet comes along, they don’t mind because they know I give them lots of other interesting stuff too.
Next you need to build your csv file in Excel. You will be scheduling your content via Hootsuite, which demands a csv file so there is no choice here. Fortunately it’s easy, just filling in two columns of a spreadsheet in Excel.
Open a blank Excel sheet. You will be using the first two columns only. In column A, you will be putting the date and time of each tweet. In column B goes the tweet itself. The tweet needs to include a link to the article, video, meme, or whatever, and for this you will need to use a link shortener. There are loads to choose from on the internet, but I find it quicker and easier to use Hootsuite’s own.
If you’ve not used Hootsuite before, above is a screenshot of the tweet input box. Notice I’ve put a URL in the long narrow bit at the bottom? Click ‘Shorten’ and you end up with a nice short link that won’t take up all of your 140 characters.
You can also add hashtags to your tweets if you wish. Many people on twitter search by using hashtags, so they are useful if you want your tweets to get noticed by people who don’t (yet) follow you. Make them relevant to the tweet itself or you will quickly receive angry tweets from several thousand irate twitterers. Believe me, I know. There is a very useful tool you can use when compiling tweets with hashtags. If you go here you can type in a word and get a readout that tells you how many people use that hashtag.
Excel looks like this:
I’ve put a block of six example tweets to illustrate how the list is built. Continue building your blocks of tweets, making sure only one tweet per block is about your product/service.
Next you need to decide how often you want your tweets to go out. I do one every thirty minutes throughout three quarters of the day. My tweeting day starts at 10:30am and goes right through to 5am the following morning. I’m in England, so I make sure I catch the folks who stay up late in the USA before breaking it off. We’re 5 or 6 hours ahead here, depending on whether it’s summer saving time or not, so my tweets go out until midnight in the USA and start again at 5am their time.
Build your time preferences into your list. You don’t have to take a break each day, I do because Hootsuite will only schedule a maximum 350 tweets at a time so I can do a week at a time. It also means I can use those tweets in busier parts of the day when more people will see them.
Back to Excel to do column A with your dates and times. This is the part that will require the regular maintenance I spoke of earlier. This is another reason I schedule a week at a time. It cuts down the time spent editing the dates in my spreadsheet.
You have a choice of two date input types. You can either have mm/dd/yy or dd/mm/yy. Whichever type you choose, input your dates and times with date first, followed by time. See my examples in the screenshot above. I’m English so I use dd/mm/yy and mine go like this:
Once you have your list, with enough tweets going out at your chosen time interval, for the period of time you want, save the spreadsheet as a csv file. You will notice that there are two choices of csv file, macintosh and MS Dos. I use MS Dos and have never had a problem. I assume that the other one is for Mac users (?). You will get a box pop up asking you if you’re sure you want to save as a csv and saying some features might not work etc etc blah blah blah, click yes. When you go to close Excel, the same box will pop up, click ‘don’t save’ this second time.
Now to upload your file to Hootsuite for scheduling. On the far left side of your hootsuite dashboard, click on the icon that looks like a paper aeroplane. This is Publisher and the place for scheduling tweets ahead of time. Down the page a bit, click on ‘Bulk Message Upload.’ A box will pop up.
Choose your file, click on the date input type and ‘submit.’ Then pray. If there are any problems, they will be listed at the bottom of the box. Basically, it won’t allow more than 350 tweets, duplicate tweets, or tweets that are not scheduled for at least ten minutes ahead. If you get any, go back and check your date and time input, it’s easy to make mistakes in Excel especially when updating week after week.
Make sure every tweet is different, it won’t allow duplicates. This will probably only apply to those tweets pertaining to your product. I have twelve books out, and making forty to fifty different tweets for each one is a huge pain the rectum, believe me. If you want, you can change a full stop for a comma, change a comma for a full stop etc, or change a word or two to make it different, I did this when compiling my lists. Once you’ve corrected any mistakes, your tweets will be scheduled and will go to your twitter as per your instructions.
It is then time to go back into your Excel spreadsheet and edit your dates so that you can reschedule the list. I have three lists of 264 tweets each, which means that apart from my book tweets, all the others are unique and different. My followers don’t see the same tweet for three weeks. Personally, I feel that less than a week between repeats is pushing people’s attention span and patience.
To edit your Excel list, click on the entries in column A and edit them in the edit box. If you look at the example of my Excel sheet, you will notice I’ve highlighted one entry in column A, which has been copied to the edit window right in the middle of the photo. It’s next to the funny shaped F. Edit your entries in there, click return and it will automatically go to the next one in the column.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
Remember to resist the temptation to fill your list with hundreds of “Buy my shit NOW” demands. Keep those to one per block of five or six. Your followers will thank you for it and you will quickly see retweets in your notifications. You will find people add you to their lists, comment on some of your content tweets, laugh at the meme’s. Your followers will get to know you without feeling you’re pressuring them to buy. If they like your content, they might decide to try your product one day.
Building your brand isn’t about getting rich quick. It’s about building your name and brand on firm foundations that will last and grow.