Twitter is a wonderful way to build and connect a community – ESPECIALLY A CHURCH COMMUNITY!
It started out as a bit of a mystery. In a world of video, images, sound effects, and other snazzy things on the web, it was strictly just text.
And in the world of blog posts, articles, and the ever-exploding universe of content creation online, it limited users to just 140 characters to express themselves.
Lots of people scratched their heads, trying to figure out exactly what this service would be good for. How could you use short, text-only messages to accomplish anything at all? But as we’ve discovered in the last few years, what first seemed like the limitations of Twitter were actually its biggest strengths.
Although it can be a bit difficult at first to figure out what all the action is about, if you stick with it you’ll soon come to value what Twitter provides: almost instantaneous, real-time communication with a world of other Twitter users.
Twitter gives you the ability to speak to many people at once in a collaborative conversation that spreads faster than any other medium.
In fact, Twitter has become such a central utility in the social media sphere that it is now the go-to source for breaking news, keeping up with trends, and connecting you to the networks of newsmakers using it as an independent means of unregulated communication around the world.
But all that just leads to the questions you’re just bursting to ask : How can we use Twitter? What good would it be to us?
The Many Faces of Twitter
Because Twitter updates—tweets—are so simple, you might miss all the ways enterprising people have come up with to use this service. I have often compared it to a utility like your electric supply. They just run power to your home or office; it’s up to you what you do with it. It’s the same with Twitter. They provide the platform, it is up to you how you use it.
I’d like to focus on one aspect of Twitter, and that’s the way it can help us build a tribe of people interested in what we do.
They are looking for the community we’ve built or attracted, people’s engagement with us, and our ability to reach out to people who form the basis of an active and engaged community.
Twitter can help us build that community, and can be instrumental in getting it up and running quickly. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you venture into the Twitter stream looking for the people who will become your tribe:
Tips to Help Build Your Tribe on Twitter
- Register! You’ll need to register at Twitter.com before you start. It’s dead easy. Then once you’re in, take a look around. You might like to look at my Twitter account @ianvward but even better go to @BitterneParish. After a while you might want to click on somebody’s ‘Follow’ button. It’s nothing to be frightened of.
- Create a great profile. All too often, you see users on Twitter who don’t spell out why others might want to click the “Follow” button. Some people use this incredibly valuable space — the profile statement — to say things like “I love peanut butter.” Make sure our profile statements say right away what we do and why we do it, and say it in a way that connects with other people who have the same interests.
- Dress up your page. The standard profile page Twitter gives you when you create an account is pretty plain, and you have the chance to dress it up with your own thumbnail image, a custom background, images that relate to what you do, and now even a primary header image. Although it’s not a make-or-break decision, a page that’s been customized shows people you take your presence there seriously and invites them to do so too. It’s all pretty easy to do.
- Find the right people to follow. The first thing to do is to look for people to follow and learn from. I started with opinion formers and journalists -actually I started by following the Archbishop of York and ‘No10‘. Try it! Look for people with lots of followers and follow them. You can then look through all their followers for people to connect to who are likely to be interested in your content, too.
- Learn to RT. Now that you’re following people who are popular in your field, start re-posting their useful tweets. This is called “re-tweeting” in Twitter language, shortened to RT. You are now supplying your own followers with great information and resources that are specific to your field. They will like you for that. You can and should create updates about your own books, blog posts, events, and other things, and if you keep to about 1 of your own for every 3 or 4 from other people, you’ll have happy followers.
- Shorten your links. With only 140 characters to use, you’ll quickly find out that short links are better. Although Twitter will automatically shorten long links, use a service like TinyURL or bit.ly that can shorten your links and also provide you with information about who clicks them.
- Syndicate your blog. We could have this site as a Bitterne blog, and it’s pretty simple to set it up so that every time you add a post it will automatically generate a Tweet from your account. This gives our followers access to all content as soon as it’s posted, another way to build your community.
- The art of Twitter conversation. Lots of people use Twitter to meet new people and to discuss topics of mutual interest. When you’re learning Twitter, set aside time to scan your feed for interesting comments, questions, or requests and reply to them in real time.
- Take it slow and easy. One of the biggest complaints I hear from authors new to Twitter is that they “can’t figure it out.” Maybe the way we got started will work for you, too. After setting up my account and following a few people, I spent time just following, reading, clicking through links in other people’s tweets, and learning about the service. I probably spent about 30 minutes a day on it, and after several weeks, it was natural to start to respond to what others were posting.
The original author of this blog did the exact steps outlined in this article almost every day. And over time, he accumulated more than 16,000 followers who look forward to his Tweets because they contain links to interesting, useful or entertaining articles and resources.
And that’s how to start building a great tribe. Give it a try; you can do it.