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A Maker's Guide to Twitter

by Pete Mosley

Published: September 2012

I think it is safe to say that my attitude to Twitter has changed radically over the past 18 months or so. I have moved from being totally sceptical about it - believing Twitter to be the domain of people sharing useless information - to a point where I now use it and have proved it to be a really useful marketing tool - particularly within the arts and crafts sector. I would go as far as to say that I feel Twitter is actually now a more useful marketing tool than Facebook, although I would absolutely advocate using the two in tandem.
Twitter is brilliant for news casting. It is also brilliant for drawing attention to the things that you do. And by the use of clever copywriting and really useful links it will funnel people back to your website. It will also help you to grow your Facebook following.

The personal/professional balance
Now I hope it is fairly obvious that tweeting about your breakfast or a random family event is hardly likely to draw a great deal of attention to your professional practice. However, tweeting an intriguing short message with a link back to your Facebook page or a link to an item for sale on Etsy, for example - or a link to a really interesting article that you think may be of interest to your professional peers - will attract interest and will get people coming back regularly to check your Twitter stream.

I also think that is permissible to balance out your professional tweets with the odd endearing personal reference. For instance, one maker I know tweets occasionally about the antics of her cat - and it just adds a touch of humanity to her Twitter stream, especially when accompanied by a charming photograph. But there are also charming photographs of her work placed on her Twitter stream at regular intervals and the combination of the two is actually quite effective.

Every tweet should contain something of interest. Where appropriate, every tweet should really have a link. Every link should be of real value. Effectively, you should give a ‘gift’ to your followers with every tweet.

There are rules about the extent to which you should undertake direct marketing activity on Twitter. I don’t think that overt sales messages that say ‘come here buy this’ work particularly well. But if you can show an article for sale or talk about a service that is for sale and share interesting information or visual information about that product or service - without ever directly mentioning buying or selling implicitly - then that’s okay.

The other thing that your tweets should do is to leave a trail back to your website. So your Twitter profile must contain a link back to whichever place on the web is home for you - the place where you want the maximum amount of traffic. So having an interesting Twitter profile with a link to your main site means that the people who like your tweets will come and look at your profile and follow the trail back to your main website.

It is also quite legitimate to tweet your email newsletter. Nowadays email programs like Constant Contact and Mail Chimp allow you to tweet your email newsletters straight into the Twitter stream. Effectively this is a really powerful way to pick up new email contacts because if folks see and share your newsletter they are also sharing the little box that allows even more new people to sign up to your newsletter. So you can use it as a tool to directly grow your email database. And it is a totally ethical to use tweets in this way.

The ‘Opt In’ principle
Assuming that you are producing something interesting and you have visual imagery or narrative about those things to share, it is much easier to grow a Twitter following quickly than it is to grow your email database or to grow the number of followers on your Facebook page. The reason for this is that people on Twitter are actively looking for others to follow. They are searching around for interesting people in a much more active way than folk on Facebook generally are. It is a different way of befriending people. Once people have ‘opted in’ by following you on Twitter they are much more likely to ‘opt in’ to joining you on Facebook or opt into your email database or website group that you may have.

How do you build a Twitter following?
Obviously the first thing you must do is to sign up to Twitter. The second thing you must do is to patiently look at what other people are tweeting. How can you do this? Begin by following craft&design magazine, follow the V&A, follow other prominent galleries and institutions that interest you. Some of those people will follow you back. This gives you access to the lists of people that they are following and the list of people that are following them. You can then explore those lists. Look for people that are a bit like you. Check them out; see how other established artists and makers are using Twitter. Look at the nature of their tweets and if you see something you like and you follow them and it seems to work for them then make a note of how their tweets are constructed, how the links work, and what they link back to. You will get some clues then as to how to construct your own Twitter stream. The next thing to do is to sit and plan a series of tweets. Don’t begin tweeting until you have got a bit of a plan and at least your first six to ten tweets written out. Know exactly what you are going to say and what each of your tweets is going to link back to.

Sharing useful information
It is really important to do more than just tweet links back to your own website. That in itself is of limited interest. You also need to tweet about things that you feel that your peers would like to read about. So find articles on the internet about artists or makers that have influenced you or people whose work you really, really like and tweet about those. Find articles to do with technical problems that you have needed to solve, or a particular glaze formula or embroidery techniques or new casting techniques that you are exploring and tweet links to those.

It is important to share things that are of special interest - that way you will begin to get a reputation as a go to person for interesting facts and pieces of narrative and snippets that people can enjoy browsing in their spare time.

You could become known as a ‘go to’ person for handy hints and tips. You could produce a number of short PDF’s of different glaze recipes or different embroidery or knitting stitches or information about different painting techniques or silversmithing techniques. Or you could tweet information about glass fusing techniques and materials. The possibilities are endless.

You can also tweet links to books you have read or reviews you have read or products that you have used and particularly enjoyed. Folk always like discovering about new ways that they can extend their own practice and if you can help them do that in some way then your Twitter following is going to grow quite rapidly as a result.

Do some research and write a list of the things that you would like to link to. Then you have got a store of stuff and you will never be left scratching your head when you are doing your twittering of an evening.

Discipline
As you may know, a tweet is limited to 140 characters – including the link. This forces an incredible amount of discipline into your copywriting. I find that using Twitter has really sharpened up my ability to write concisely.

Building a following
Once you have prepared your list of tweets you then need to build a following to tweet out to. I think you can do this in canny ways. I have already mentioned following and studying the list of followers of other institutions and publications and galleries. Go through those lists and pick out the people that you like, that you would want to follow and that you kind of fancy having follow you back - and then just systematically follow them. You can do this in short bursts. I glibly refer to this as ‘twittering in my pyjamas’ because I sit for half an hour late at night two or three times a week and I systematically follow people - and it pays results.

Once you have got around 500 followers it really does become viral and you will notice that an increasing number of people follow you on a daily basis. We have grown the Twitter stream at craft&design Magazine over the last 18 months from 0 to more than 5,500 followers simply by doing this systematically.

Hash tags (#)
You may have wondered why people use these in their tweets. When you write a term with a hash tag in front of it, it then becomes searchable. Why is that useful? A few weeks ago I attended a crafts event at Loughborough Town Hall called ‘Sock’ and somebody who was taking part invented the hash tag ‘#SOCK’. As the event grew nearer more and more people who were involved also put the #SOCK in with their tweets. At the time, if you put #SOCK into the search box in Twitter you found all of the tweets from all of the people that were tweeting about that particular event. So you were able to find out who was exhibiting, who was coming along, and what they were up to. We attended the British Craft Trade Fair this year and people were using #BCTF on their tweets and messages about that event. So all of the folk that were interested in or attending or tweeting about things to do with the British Craft Trade Fair could then be found and we could see the narrative developing around that event. It is really quite an interesting phenomenon - well worth exploring.

How long does this take?
People ask me about the time that is involved in running a Twitter feed. Yes, there is a time commitment in setting the whole thing up and getting your initial following. Thereafter it really only needs attention now and again. Tweeting once a day is okay. Tweeting two or three times a week is also absolutely fine. You need to make your own sensible choice about that. If you have an event coming up, then tweeting three or four times a day in the run up to the event is absolutely fine - especially if you are using hash tags and it is an event that other people are watching out for and are interested in. Play it by ear, but don’t over commit yourself.

There are also some clever tools that you can use with Twitter. I use one called ‘Socialoomph.com’ that automatically replies to every single person that follows me - inviting them to join my Facebook page. As a result my Facebook group and traffic to my page and traffic to my website has increased dramatically over the last 12 months.

Apps called ‘Tweet Deck’ and ‘Hootsuite’ allow you to manage your Twitter feed more effectively. One thing they allow you to do is to take all those tweets you planned and load them all up and then automatically tweet them for you at the appointed date and time. That alone is a really powerful time-saver.

The final thing I wanted to talk about was the use of ‘mentions’. By that I mean incorporating the twitter name of particular people or groups into the tweets that you put out there. So for instance if you began a tweet with @petemosley and then said ‘I would really like you to look at my website’ and then gave your website address, that will show up in my Twitter feed as an invitation for me to go and have a look. And I very probably would. Don’t overdo it. Used sensitively, it is a great way of striking up a conversation with people that you don’t yet know.

The other thing you should use the @ for is to acknowledge when new people have followed you. Once a week put up a message that says ‘Thank you to my new followers’ and then list the twitter names of all of the people that have followed you that week. It is a really generous thing to do because you are then twittering out their contact details to your entire list and the Twitter community at large. Traditionally this is done on a Friday with the hash tag #FF

That is Twitter in a nutshell. Why don’t you give it a go? Who knows, like me, you may become a convert.

Where do I start?
Get a friend to give you a tour around their Twitter feed and help you familiarise yourself with the application before you start. Their explanation will make life a lot easier.

 
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