Despite launching less than a year ago, Muffin Marketing hit the 20,000 Twitter follower milestone last week. We didn’t do anything out of the ordinary, buy followers or pay for advertising, and we certainly didn’t go viral: we just posted content that we thought our audience would be interested in and give ourselves a turbo-boost by following relevant users.

Today, we’re rounding up ten things we’ve learned about Twitter in our year as Muffin Marketing.


Twitter is a hot mess

Let’s start with the big one: Twitter is a hot mess. Whether you’re a fan of the network or you never quite managed to get your head around it, there’s no denying Twitter is overwhelming and hard work. Perhaps that’s why user numbers are falling and Twitter is struggling to make money.

Timelines are jam-packed with content; companies, influencers and teenagers are crying out for attention; and robots are dominating with automated content and links. Small businesses trying to compete with all of the voices on Twitter may struggle – it’s certainly not easy to be heard.

Twitter’s algorithm differs from Facebook’s in that users see new, fresh content every time they open their app. That’s great for always-on addicts, but it means that brands have to post content more regularly than they would on other networks; the more you post, the more they’ll see you.

For super small businesses and one man bands who only have limited time and budget, we’d hazard that Twitter probably isn’t worth investing in. Create an account, schedule content using a tool like TweetDeck or HootSuite, and leave it at that. It’s hard work and the rewards are slim.


Direct messages are dead

Direct messages on Twitter suck. If you’re planning on using the network to deliver customer service, we recommend using Facebook instead. Not only are Twitter DMs inconsistent amongst different platforms (you can be having a conversation with a user on Desktop, only for it to disappear when you visit your mobile app), but they attract the attention of spammers.

Welcome messages, sales pitches and ‘TrueTwit validation’ messages can clog up your account if you have a lot of followers, and it means that genuine messages can get lost in the crowd. More than once, we missed questions and comments from real users because there were so many spam comments in our direct message inbox – and no easy way to delete them all quickly.

Nobody wants to sift through hundreds of automated direct messages

Nobody wants to sift through hundreds of automated direct messages

If you’ve got automated direct messages turned on on your account, stop. Not only are they a real annoyance, but they’re now against Twitter’s terms and conditions, and could result in your account being suspended or terminated. Make conversations with users through tweets instead.


Follow churn has its upsides and downsides

The truth is that follow churn is still the best way to increase your follower count, but that doesn’t mean that it’s an effective way of growing your business or sending more traffic to your website.

Google Chrome extensions and software can be used to automatically follow accounts, in bulk, in an attempt to increase awareness of your business and get a follow back. It’s used by millions of businesses and individuals around the world; if you haven’t seen it in action, then just open a Twitter account and wait for big accounts with thousands of followers to follow you.

Although you can grow your Twitter account by bulk following, it is against Twitter’s terms of service, and so you could be suspended for doing so. There are some benefits to taking the risk:

  • You’ll almost certainly gain new followers every day if you follow users in bulk
  • It’s fun to watch your numbers and audience grow
  • You’ll get more engagement on your posts if you have a larger audience
  • Some of the people you follow could turn into readers or potential customers

But there are downsides to follow churn, and for some people, these downsides could outweigh the benefits of gaining more followers on Twitter:

  • Some people will block you or call you out publicly for ‘follow churn’
  • You won’t always follow targeted users, especially if you use an automated tool
  • Unfollowing users who don’t follow you back can be hard work, especially as services such as Crowdfire and JustUnfollow have been limited to comply with Twitter’s new rules
  • You’ll sacrifice a clean timeline, where you know every user who you follow
  • You may end up following inappropriate accounts

We’ve used follow churn as part of our marketing strategy, following small businesses and those who are interested in marketing content. It has, without a doubt, resulted in new readers of our website, guest blogging opportunities, newsletter signups, and even generated leads.

But it is a slow and time-consuming process, and having more followers certainly doesn’t mean you’ll be more successful.


Twitter is riddled with spam

It’s sad that, in 2018, Twitter still has a problem with spam. We’re not talking about businesses tweeting the same promotional messages again and again, but rather robots and fake ‘hot girl’ accounts that want to send you to dodgy websites and away from the Twitter platform.

Despite being a marketing agency tweeting about the latest trends, we still managed to attract a lot of attention from these bots. Certain phrases and keywords appear to trigger the robots to like and retweet your content – sometimes up to forty or fifty times in the space of 10 minutes.

This tweet attracted six ‘hot girl’ robots

This tweet attracted six ‘hot girl’ robots.

If you want to prevent Twitter spam from clogging up your timeline and direct messages, then there are a few things that you can try.

We posted an article on Agorapulse about preventing social media spam, with tips such as blocking accounts, cutting down on the number of hashtags you include in your posts, and avoiding follow churn (going against our own earlier advice).


Visual content is essential to be noticed

We spent a lot of time creating visual content for social media. We post at least one graphic a day on Instagram, and we’re experimenting with more video content for social and YouTube.

The truth is, though, everybody is creating visual content in 2018. There are lots of free digital resources, like Canva and Pexels, which can be used to create visual content without spending any money, and as technology continues to improve, the quality of that content is increasing.

Because of this, it can often feel like visual content is too much hard work for what you get back. Sure, you’ll get more retweets on posts with images, and video content might attract a few more likes than a standard post, but is it worth the extra time and effort for a little more engagement?

The answer is yes.

Scroll down your timeline and see how much visual content you can spot. In 2018, businesses have to work harder than ever to capture attention, and visual content is the best way to do it.

The good news, though, is that you don’t have to slave over Photoshop and spend all of your free time creating visual content. Using Buffer and Twitter Analytics, we found our most popular visual content and reused and repurposed it to maximise our investment.

We found that our daily Instagram posts, for example, could be just as effective when tweeted out or posted to Facebook, and we realised that reusing graphics every month or two can work.

Attempting to use social media without visual content isn’t a good idea, but that doesn’t mean everything you post has to be visual. Experiment with different content formats and see what works best for your business.


You can find clients on Twitter

Naysayers would argue that selling your products and services on social media is impossible, and in some respects, it is. Don’t expect to post a tweet about what you do and expect to make millions overnight – you need a consistent social media strategy to encourage people to get in touch.

The good news, though, is that you can find clients on social media. Depending on the nature of your business, they will be few and far between, but they’ll come if you’re determined enough.

The marketing rule of seven can certainly be applied here: if an interested party sees your name seven times, they’ll be more likely to see you as a trusted figure, and they’ll be more likely to buy from you.

Posting regularly and mixing up your strategy and experimenting with different media – like video and GIFs – can help you stand out and attract the attention of potential customers.


Without Buffer, we probably wouldn’t have bothered

When it comes to Facebook, posting too much content can lower your engagement and reach – but on Twitter, we found that the opposite is true. The more times you post, the more people will see your content and be exposed to your brand, so it pays to go heavy with a content strategy.

We spent the majority of 2017 experimenting with different posting schedules.

Although we’re a UK-based marketing agency, our posts attract attention from American businesses, so making sure we posted throughout the day was important. Buffer made that possible.

By scheduling our content a week in advance, we could portray an always-on Twitter presence, which allowed us to attract likes, retweets and new followers practically 24 hours a day.

And the difference between Buffer and other social media scheduling tools is that we can create our own weekly schedule, and add posts to our queue without manually scheduling.

It sounds trivial, but when you’re scheduling upwards of 100 posts a week, manually typing in the time and date on each post is mind-numbing; Buffer takes away the annoyance and makes that a breeze.

To keep our engagement levels up, we also took part in regular Twitter hours, which allowed us to have conversations with our followers and reach out to new people.

It’s often hard to find the time to take part in Twitter hours, though, and our experiments showed that automated tweets to go out during Twitter hours just doesn’t cut it – you have to be present if you want engagement.


We don’t have enough content not to share others’

Unless you’ve been publishing content every day for the past five years, you’ll probably have to rely on other sources of information to keep your Twitter channel up to date. And that’s okay. As Kissmetrics writes, it makes sense to utilise others’ content to boost your own strategy.

When we started to put together our social media content strategy, we highlighted some of our favourite marketing blogs and sources and removed those that felt like a direct competition to our business.

After all, we don’t want to spend time convincing people to follow us, and then lose them as a potential client as they click through to a competitor’s website from our account.

The results have been great.

We post at least ten tweets a day, and regularly share news articles and tutorials from some of the most respected marketing and business blogs, like Search Engine Journal, HubSpot and the Content Marketing Institute.

And, of course, we tweet out our own posts and tutorials, as well as the occasional post about our marketing services.

Combined, this has helped us become a reputable source of marketing information, and makes mentions of our blog and services appear genuine and sincere; too many promotional and sales posts can put people off and encourage them to unfollow you.


Twitter is a game of vanity – and it’s easy to get caught up

Whether we want to admit it or not, it’s hard not to get caught up in the vanity of Twitter.

Twitter has always been about numbers – the more followers, likes and retweets you have, the more successful you appear as an individual or as a company, and the more likely others are to perceive you as a reputable and trustworthy source.

As more people switch on to Twitter’s automation, though, that attitude is changing.

And that’s a good thing. Nowadays, finding genuine success on Twitter requires quality and consistent content – the number of followers you have isn’t as important as it once was.

If you’re spending all of your time and energy on growing your Twitter account or asking people to like and retweet your posts, don’t bother. Take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

We see accounts with literally millions of followers get zero engagements on their posts – no retweets, no likes and no comments. It’s all well and good paying for followers or inflating your follower count by follow churn, but if nobody’s interested in your material, you’ll never convert.

@PopWrapped: 2.2M followers – and not one of them interacted with this tweet


It’s still our favourite social network

Despite all of its drawbacks, we still consider Twitter to be our favourite social network. When we think about Facebook, with its algorithms that make it hard to reach people without spending money, and Instagram, which is too visual and requires lots of time on Photoshop, Twitter is head and shoulders above the competition.

It’s also one of the most user-friendly social networks and has more tools and hacks than any other.

Facebook and Instagram’s platforms feel much more restrictive and insular, whereas Twitter has always been around sharing news and linking out to other sources.

And, when we look at our analytics, Twitter consistently delivers more traffic to our website than Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Instagram combined, but perhaps that’s because of a larger audience and that fact that we spend more of our time on the network compared with the others.


Wrapping up

If you’re prepared to post quality content on a regular basis, and you try out some of the techniques we have mentioned in this article, like bulk following relevant users and taking part in Twitter hours, you can grow your Twitter in no time.

We’ve found it easy to inflate our follow count, and although not every one of our followers is going to become a customer, we’ve created a social media traffic source that’s consistent and useful in the world of marketing.

But the truth is that numbers aren’t important. X retweets won’t make you famous, and there’s no guarantee your followers will be interested in your products and services, so don’t hedge your bets on Twitter becoming an overnight money maker.

Whether you’re trying out Twitter for the first time or you’re using today’s case study to form a new social media marketing strategy, good luck with your campaign.

Be sure to follow us on @MuffinMarketing, and get in touch if you’ve found a strategy that works well on Twitter.