No one with any degree of sanity can safely dismiss the impact of Twitter. Everyone of note is using it, as are about half the people who aren’t of note. Most of the latter category are either watching the people who are of note, or doing their best to become one of them. Other social media services may have equal popularity, but none has changed the fundamental way people communicate as much as this little service that forces them to compress their thoughts into 140 characters or less.
One of the most useful features of Twitter is the ‘follow’ function. Following someone on Twitter means his or her posts automatically go to your homepage. You can further customize this by creating lists, which will affect which timeline various users will appear in.
However, remember that your homepage is visible to everyone who has the link, whether they’re following you or not. Just having your link lets them see who you’re following, and who’s following you in particular. In the effort to establish a proper awareness of a brand, the company one keeps is exceedingly important. As a result, learning to manage both the following and followed by functions on your Twitter account is extremely important to a web branding effort.
Whom to Follow
Choosing whom to follow can seem like a simple task, and at the heart of things it genuinely is. For a private account, you follow who strikes your interests and leave it at that. For a brand-driven account, however, a bit of selectivity is important.
First, choose accounts that synch with the key interests of your brand. One of the keys to good brand management is focus. Everyone your account follows will have their messages displayed, so it pays to make sure those messages are bringing up information that reminds people about what you want them to think of.
Second, it is vital that you choose accounts that post actively. Twitter is a short message service, not a traditional blog. The content is too minimal for you to rely on slow posters, so before you put someone on follow make sure they are inclined to post on a regular basis. Content is still everything, after all.
Third, limit the accounts your brand is following based on your audience. Following two hundred others might keep your feed going very steadily, but it also means your audience could miss important messages in the scrollover. Be selective; don’t jam the channel with so many data – no matter how vital – that it all becomes noise. Force yourself to choose only the most relevant options. The emphasis on quality over quantity will prove invaluable in the highly critical realms of the web.
When NOT to Follow
It might sound a bit mercenary, but it is important to be relentlessly critical of the feeds you are following. The web is a judgmental place, and despite the stereotypical depictions in the media it is also a place with an exceptionally long memory. As a case in point, during Ron Paul’s most recent presidential campaign, articles from a magazine he edited years ago were brought into evidence. The web is like this with everything.
If someone your feed is following posts something that goes against your brand image, block them. It can be as innocuous as a difference of opinion, or as outrageous as a racially insensitive remark, but be assured someone somewhere has a record. Post about it, and put up a notification as to your decision. Cover your bases, instead of giving the benefit of the doubt.
Presenting the Picture
Of course, there are occasions when you might want to follow someone whose image contradicts your own. There is no hard and fast rule, after all. Remember, for example, that you can compose lists that display users in managed groups. This is a valuable tool that can create the all-important context necessary for good brand management and promotion.
For example, consider a brand that promotes environmental awareness and social activism. It might be odd to see them following a blog from a petrol company, but the list they put this company in makes all the difference. This list might be, for speculation purposes, a watchdog collection of all the major industrial concerns in an area. When the companies promote a new initiative or claim they’re helping the local environment in their tweets, the watchdogs can post a Twitter link to a news article linking them to dangerous practices, and so forth.
So despite the above rule of caution in association, it is equally important to remember that no rule is ironclad. Do what the situation warrants, adapting your techniques to the moment available.
Policing the Audience
The composite of who follows your feed says as much about your group as the composite of whom you’re following. A little pruning is often in order. Yes, sometimes the following list can be so large as to make it difficult to manage. Stephen Fry, a famous English comedian, has 1.5 million people following his account.
Still, pay at least some attention to the ‘followed by’ feed. Randomly select one or two every day to see what they’re saying. This is a great way to get aware of what kind of perception you have in the web community, and to do something about it, if need be. Additionally, if you happen to come across a troublemaker you’d rather not have associated with your account, well, so much the better.