As more people turn to Twitter to learn what people are saying about things that matter to them, small and independent business owners using Twitter must hyper-focus our ideas and how we share them. The fact that more people are using Twitter means that there are more potential customers for us. But reaching out to all of those people is neither desirable nor useful, so we must aim quite specifically at who we are trying to engage.
Since there are so many millions of people on Twitter, the people we are trying to reach — our customers — have to work harder to sort through the all the chaff to get to the wheat they seek. The small business owners who help them do that are the ones who will receive the prize of permission to be an influential part of their lives. In the year and a half that I've been using Twitter, I have discovered that certain specific actions best support my goal of reaching the people I want to serve. Here are the actions I think are at the top of the list.
- Watch. Whether you're new to Twitter or old to Twitter, you can't watch enough. Watch how the people you admire in your field use Twitter to spread their ideas. Observe their daily Twitter behavior. What time of day do they share? What do they share? How do they interact with others? What do they do that generates interaction and engagement? You will begin to notice certain patterns, some of which you can incorporate to create your own unique style.And when you have a unique style all your own, your influence grows.
- Listen. Every day starts the phase of a never-ending party on Twitter. Because the party didn't end when you left the night before, you are returning to a party in progress. Before you say much of anything, see what's going on in your little corner of the Twitter party universe.What's the conversation like? Who is sharing interesting information? What can you contribute? When you arrive at a party, you don't just jump in and start chatting with everyone. You listen to see what's going on, then join the conversation. When you listen first, whatever you say is bound to make the party better.When you make the party better, your influence expands.
- Share What You Know. One of the most effective ways to become a person of influence is to share what you know. As humans, we are designed to acquire knowledge, assimilate that knowledge and then use it to make the world a better place. When you find a website that makes your life better, you can bet it will make your followers's lives better too. Share it.Yesterday, I shared a website that has “Couch to 5K” downloadable training mixes because I thought it would help people looking for new ways to increase their fitness levels. This morning, I received a reply Tweet was from fitness expert Jenn Givler, who said how excited she was that I shared that resource with her. I found something wonderful and I shared it with others.When you share what you know, you are remembered as a person of positive influence.
- Complement Others. I don't mean make stuff up. I mean, when you see someone doing something positive, give them some uplift and encouragement. People are always sharing their media features, website launches, product photos and inspirational quotes on Twitter. An encouraging shout out that lets them know you appreciate their efforts and genuinely wish to see them succeed establishes you as a person that positively influences other people.Positively influencing even one person in the wide world is a truly beautiful thing.
- Ask For What You Want. Over and over again, I have asked questions of people on Twitter and I almost always get what I need, and then, I put it to good use. When I needed suggestions for a printer for my new MacBook, @whynotboutique, recommended an HP with Bluetooth capabilities and @PatternandPaw recommended a Canon MP980. I used these and other reply Tweets to research and purchase the best printer for me. A person who is not shy about asking for help usually gets what they want from the world, while also continually empowering others.When you empower others, your influence grows.
- Show Up. The world is going online more and more for information and to make new connections, but those connections do not end on a computer screen. The people who are really expanding their sphere of influence are the ones who are taking the show on the road. They are physically connecting with people they meet on Twitter, FaceBook, etc., and they are sharing photos and videos of the occasions online. Use Twtvite, Meetup or the business or lifestyle sections of the local paper to find events in your area, register for them and show up. Tweet photos of you and your local pals learning, sharing and laughing. Show your followers that you are involved in your community.Thinking globally and acting locally will build your influence both online and off.
- Blog. A Lot. If you want to influence people, you have to continually establish your credibility. Let's say you are an aromatherapy expert who wants to become the most requested aromatherapy speaker at health and wellness conferences in your area. Selling aromatherapy products will help, but it will only move you partly toward your goal. To reach your destination, you have to create a platform that supports your ability to shine in your field. Nothing does that better than a blog.A blog can be your very own branded expert platform and if you manage it well, it will influence people to investigate how you can help them and the people they serve.Use of a well maintained blog builds a platform that establishes you as a person of influence in your field.
- Re-Tweet Others In Your Field. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to repeat things that have been helpful to you, especially if they are spoken by people who compete with you in a particular market. At first, this may seem counter-intuitive. After all, why repeat someone else's stroke of brilliance when you have your own to share? The answers are, because it's a good and right thing to do, because it helps other people and because it boosts your credibility to be connected to people in your field.A direct retweet of what another fabulous person says is an easy and fun way to gain respect and influence with your followers.
- Build Twitter Lists. Twitter lists are a new feature that has apparently not been activated for all users. Twitter lists allow you to create lists of Twitter users using Twitter's web interface in much the same way that everyone is already doing using PeopleBrowsr, HootSuite, Tweetdeck and Seesmic. I am building my IBN member Twitter list to contain the streams of my members who are active on Twitter and who routinely share information that is useful to small and independent business owners in the health, beauty and lifestyle industries. I am also creating a list with Tweeters in my own backyard in Charlotte.I plan to build several more lists that will allow me to choose the topic I want to zoom in on at any given time. Your Twitter lists are a reflection of who you are and what is important to you. They are also an indicator of how in tune you are with the things that matter to your customers and other stakeholders.
Allowing people to see who you care about, and what they are saying, is a sure-fire way to establish yourself as a person of influence in your field.
- Use Mixed Media. To enjoy Twitter influence, you need a vibrant Twitter stream. This starts with an engaging avatar (a photo of you, not your cat) and a nice Twitter background. (You can get one for free at Twitbacks or create a decent one yourself using Twitter's Settings feature.) Once the basic page is established, fill in the content area with interesting stuff. Nearly every single Tweet should be able to stand alone.A page filled with cryptic replies to other people may be fine for you, but you are not seeking to influence yourself. You are seeking to influence other people — the vast majority of whom you do not know you from Adam. In that case, your Tweets should be designed to engage and draw those people in so that they want to Tweet with you, learn more about you and perhaps collaborate with you in some way.
Mixing up the media you use to spread your ideas is exciting and interesting, and let's face it. The more interesting you are, the more influence you will have.
Question: What do you think of these suggestions? Am I leaving anything out? What have you been doing that works for you?