3 ways to start a Twitter conversation

Twitter

If Twitter is going to work for your business, you need to be strategic – don’t just open an account, follow your favourite celebrities and tell the world you’ve opened a bottle of wine. Identify businesses, journalists and influencers who could help your business. Start following them, understand their tone and style and then respond and join in relevant conversations. How do you do this?

1. Say hi to people who follow you on Twitter

Research everyone who starts following you on Twitter. When someone you rate or would like to know who follows you, follow them back. You should get an email alerting you that looks like this, so read their Bio (biography) and look at followers/following and if they look interesting, click through to their account and their website.

If you want to get to know them, talk to them – we often do this as a direct message

  • Thank them for following you
  • Add on a comment that is personal (lots of organisations have an automated ‘thanks for following’ which won’t start a conversation) eg ‘like your blog, particularly about Apprenticeships. Am going to forward to several clients’. Wouldn’t you respond to something like that – and look out for the next
  • Ask them a question that maybe you’ve been struggling with, that they could help you with
  • Offer relevant help

2. Follow Twitter conversations and join in

Have a look at the Trends on your Twitter account. Clearly you want to find topics that are relevant to your business; where people you want to engage with are commenting and you can add value to the conversation.

Unless you are an academic specialising in the English language, these trend topics above are probably not right for your business.

However, the Guardian has a stream of its journalists who comment on the Budget.

Hilary Osborne tweeted about the Daily Mail suggesting stamp duty cuts will prop up the housing market and said ‘I’m not convinced’. If you are a construction company, this could be perfect to respond with facts and figures of how you think the cut will affect your business and agree or disagree with her (the media always like a clear comment!).

You would want to include Hilary’s Twitter address in so you hope she will notice you

e.g.

‘We are in housing construction. My prediction @hilaryosborne is cuts will increase market by 10% nxt year. Happy to discuss further’.

If she spots you in time and thinks you are adding to her information, she may well call you and quote you in what she is writing. That’s how journalists increasingly work.

3. Find #conversations on Twitter

People tweet on what is happening in the world. To join up the conversations, you can put a hash tag (#) in front of a topic and Twitter then groups all those tweets together. It is a very good way to follow trends and pick up what is happening immediately.

Examples include #XFactor, #Radio4Today, #Tsunami, #Libya. As a business you probably want to join in relevant business conversations. These might be happening on an industry report being issued, the collapse of a major business, an industry spokesman appearing on a radio or TV programme etc.

As a general rule, it is best not to get into personal criticisms but make constructive and factual comments that add to the debate and demonstrate your expertise – but not in an advertising/sales type of way. Pose questions, give insights, add your views – that is the way that you hope others will respond to your tweet or retweet what you are writing.

What’s the best Twitter conversation you have started?

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Victoria Tomlinson is founder and owner of Harrogate-based PR consultancy, Northern Lights. A former director of Ernst & Young, she started her career as a graduate trainee for Plessey and later with Bradbury Wilkinson, the banknote printers, travelling around the world to sell banknotes to foreign governments. She joined Arthur Young as part of their start-up marketing team and was made a director of client services on the management committee and managing a 100-strong division. Victoria sits on the boards of Bradford University School of Management, Northern Ballet Theatre and Common Purpose North Yorkshire. She is a Prince’s Trust mentor.