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How to build engagement on Twitter






Twitter engagement – is it really all that elusive?

I was asked by someone recently to share some thoughts on social media, especially Twitter, in the hopes that I would pass along a little advice or a few suggestions.  One of the biggest pieces of advice I gave struck me as funny to say out loud, but I was being honest.  I thought I would write about what I shared here to start a bit of a conversation.

As many of you know, Twitter is one of my favourite places to connect with others. I have been using Twitter consistently for nearly four years and would have a hard time expressing what all it has brought me.  I wouldn’t trade the network I have there for anything.  I would love to hear about the experience others have had, either personally or professionally.

Do you use it for both?  Have you struggled with either?

Here are three of the most important things to remember to get the most out of Twitter:

If you want engagement on Twitter, be engaging

That’s it.

It sounds foolishly simple, doesn’t it?  And yet, we keep hearing about how to build engagement.  It’s still a piece of the puzzle that is missing for many individuals and brands.  It may elude some of them forever.

And in many cases, you can hardly blame them.  Take your average office and line up the team members. Then send each one into a room of strangers for a few hours each day.  At the end of the week, how many do you think have made connections, made a friend, made a point, made someone laugh?  How many hid in a corner?  How many passed out business cards and ran?  How many quit?

This is sort of what it’s like to ask someone to jump onto a social media network like Twitter and tell them to swim.  It takes time to build a network, and time to make connections.  There aren’t a lot of shortcuts, and it’s not an easy thing for every person to do.  Not everyone has the ability to make and guide conversation, with a natural curiosity and grace with other people.  But those who have these qualities typically do flourish and enjoy.

How you use Twitter will shape what Twitter will become for you

Here’s another interesting aspect of Twitter.  It becomes what you make of it.  Isn’t that so true of many things in life?  Yes, it is absolutely true in this case.  Are you using it for conversation?  To make connections?  To broadcast your own content or message?  Imagine for a moment that you have walked into a room full of people.  You are handed a microphone, and you walk to the front of the room, talk about your business or life or latest happenings for five minutes, drop the microphone and leave the room.  That’s a little what it’s like to jump on Twitter for five minutes a day to send out a few tweets, then leave. There might be a few people that hear you, but you probably didn’t cut through the noise, and you left immediately afterwards.  You missed any and every opportunity to connect.

Now imagine you are in that same room.  You go out into the hallway and invite a few more people in.  You take your microphone and speak for a few minutes, then put down your microphone to go mingle.  You introduce yourself, you meet people, you answer questions.  You listen to others react to what you said, and take the opportunity to enjoy the conversation or explain yourself further. You exchange contact information and make plans to connect again.

Guess what?  You’re engaged.

Scheduled posts help you share your content more efficiently, but you miss the interaction

We all love to save time, don’t we?  Imagine, being able to take something time consuming and rip all the time investment out of it.  Automate to build efficiency is what we are told, correct?  In much of our workday, this is great advice.  Find your shortcuts, shorten meetings, blow up the “reply all” button – these are all great ideas.  But to automate all your social media is to cut away all your opportunities to interact with anyone who shows an interest.  You caught someone’s eye, they took the time to reply to you – and where are you?  Oh, in a meeting.  At lunch.  Sleeping.  Meetings and lunch and sleeping are important, but be careful you aren’t sabotaging your own efforts.  When you are trying to find traction and working to build community and engagement, remember that a scheduled tweet is nothing more than a tempting window display in a store than never opens.

Yes, Twitter is a part of any business social strategy.  There are analytics to be concerned with.  We can get very technical about it, and sometimes we need to.  But there’s more going on than meets the eye.  There’s a little bit of mystery and magic to it all, but really it comes down to the same grace and consideration you would use in real life. Remember that behind almost every Twitter account is a real person – looking to be heard, looking to learn, looking to connect.  If you were face to face with each individual, how would you speak to them?  How might you approach them?  How much care would you take in responding to their questions or concerns?

And now I’d love to hear from you – are you active on Twitter?  Personally, professionally, both? How has your experience been so far?  Any challenges?  What works for you?  What have you gained?

Oh…and don’t forget to come find me on Twitter @littlemissmocha.


  • Louise

    February 1, 2013., 2:10 pm / Reply

    Great post, Jen. My biggest challenge is finding the time. I agree that one needs to stick around and engage and have conversations, but I struggle with finding the time and space to do that. Advice?

    • Jen Taylor

      February 1, 2013., 11:33 pm / Reply

      This can definitely be a challenge. I think it's important to recognize how much of your usage is social and how much might actually be growing or establishing a network that is good for what you are doing professionally. I usually try to check in a few times a day but how long I stay and what I do completely depends on how much time I have that day. I usually only linger in extended conversations or silliness when I'm on social time or killing time while I wait for something else in my day. Allocate some time and use it well for give and share within your network, then play in your spare time only and see if that helps. ; )

  • Maria

    February 1, 2013., 2:26 pm / Reply

    Great post, Jen. It takes a lot of time building relationships but it's so worth it!

    • Jen Taylor

      February 2, 2013., 12:08 am / Reply

      Absolutely. When I look at my personal and professional networks now compared to four years ago, I am staggered at what has come my way. Thanks for reading. ; )

  • Diana

    February 1, 2013., 2:55 pm / Reply

    You have incorporated very good analogies to underline the basics of engagement on Twitter. I couldn't agree with you more on all three points, Jen. Tweet you soon!

    • Jen Taylor

      February 2, 2013., 12:08 am / Reply

      Thanks, Diana! See you on Twitter. ; )

  • alimartell

    February 1, 2013., 3:41 pm / Reply

    I love this post! For me personally, though, I'm actually not sure how I feel about twitter anymore. I mostly have been experimenting...putting the same information on facebook and twitter just to see how they both unfold. I have found that for community, conversation etc. (and for traffic too. hardly any of my blog traffic comes from Twitter) Facebook works way better for me. Recently, I think I have realized that I just don't have enough time to put into Twitter to reap the rewards of it. Most of my friends who love Twitter spend a lot more time on it than I do. I think it comes down to two things for me: 1. Be engaging with other people. Answer questions. RT their stuff. Favorite their funny tweets. Ask Questions. Respond. 2. Do it A LOT. :)

    • Jen Taylor

      February 1, 2013., 11:30 pm / Reply

      I would agree that Twitter has changed over the years I have been using it. The trick is to either evolve with it or find ways to keep the network you know and love accessible by using lists or the like. It's definitely expanded, and that can be a good or bad thing depending on what you are looking for. Great tips, thanks for sharing. ; )

  • dee brun

    February 4, 2013., 9:56 am / Reply

    Such great points...Time is the key, both finding it and the time it takes to build... Cheers

  • Chris

    February 5, 2013., 2:37 pm / Reply

    I am in love with Twitter as well and you totally nailed it with this one. Most importantly, be engaging!

  • Robin | Farewell, Stranger

    February 9, 2013., 11:44 pm / Reply

    I saw you post this (on Facebook, ironically) and kept meaning to come back to read it, so I finally did. It's good. Really good. I know all that, and used to do it, but I just don't anymore. Twitter has sort of flamed out for me and it's because so many people I follow started doing either gazillions of Twitter parties (gak) or just tweeted out rather than getting involved in conversations. And so I cut back out of annoyance, and now I'm way more invested in Facebook. I started on Twitter with a different account almost 4 years ago, and I used it for professional purposes. I had way more interaction on it then, both conversational and sharing ideas. It was great. I've now deleted that account because... well, it's a long story, but the one I use now feels very different.


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