“Twitter dier, I don’t understand it, so I don’t even try.” I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard that, ironically from the very people who could benefit from using Twitter to enhance their personal and/or professional brand. But where are my manners? Hello, my name is Jemila and I’m a diehard tweep or as some would say, “Twitter guru”. The 140-character based social media messaging platform is my favorite – although Instagram is close behind. I signed up in March 2009 just as I was about to graduate from college and was in the throes of job searching during the 2008-09 global economic crisis. After creating a personal site and LinkedIn profile, Twitter was my last ditch effort to put myself out there, market my skills and highlight my interests (see my first tweet ). Since figuring out how to use Twitter, it has paid off.
How To Use Twitter For Personal & Professional Branding
Despite the fact that Twitter’s membership seems to be growing slowly (about 328 million active monthly users in January 2007), it remains a powerful digital platform, not just for staying abreast with global and local news, but also for networking and enhancing one’s personal (or professional) brand. Company woes aside, it doesn’t seem like Twitter will be going where anytime soon. Recent statistics from Portland Communications show Twitter use is rising across Africa – the top five: Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and Ghana (in that order). All that means one thing: you really should pay more attention to Twitter as a tool for personal branding.
So let’s say you’ve gone ahead to sign up for a Twitter account – what next? Here are some things to keep in mind in order to transform your Twitter account into a valuable networking and branding resource.
Craft a compelling profile
First impressions are generally created in the first 30-60 seconds of meeting someone. On Twitter, the ‘bio’ or ‘about’ section is your 30 second pitch. Your bio may only allow for 160 characters, but used right, 160 characters might be all you need to make a powerful personal statement. Think about issues and topics you care about, accomplishments you are proud of, things you would like to learn, the quirks that make you who you are. Add your location to make yourself more visible. It’s a fine balance between being cliché and being authentic, so take your time to come up with what is true and unique about yourself and make sure you include relevant keywords. Also, take a look at your profile from time to time and revise it to capture other relevant information – winning an award for instance – just as you would a resumé or CV.
Decide early: Personal, professional, or both?
This is another question I come across often. Should I use my Twitter profile personally, professionally, or both? It really depends. Determine from the onset whether you plan to tweet in your professional capacity as an employee or owner of your organization, or as an individual. Not yet sure? That’s fine – focus on the topics you care about, but keep the tone friendly yet professional (steer clear of social faux pas like swear words). While you will likely highlight similar issues in both capacities – because you are the common denominator – deciding on this early on will help guide not just what you share, but how you share.
For instance, I first started using Twitter as an individual, and created a separate Twitter account for Circumspecte (this website) in 2013 after I ended up in Twitter jail for excessive tweeting – and yes, it exists. I soon realized that having separate Twitter accounts for myself (personal) and Circumspecte (professional) gave me more liberty with regards to what, how, and when I tweet. Ultimately it comes down to this: what is your brand? Figure out why you want to tweet – or blog or use any social media platform, for that matter – ideally before you set up shop. Even if you’ve been tweeting for a while, it’s not too late to reassess – it’ll only enhance your social media strategy. The video below should offer some guidance on that.
Not necessarily. The first question many people ask during my Twitter training sessions is “How do I grow my audience” – even when they are yet to set up said account. Being fixated on numbers and how many followers you have might actually be counterproductive – especially if all you do is follow every single account that follows you right back. As someone who will not just be producing information but also consuming all 140 characters per tweet in your timeline, you might want to pay attention to who you follow. Review accounts before following and make sure they tie into your ‘why I’m on Twitter’. Essentially, you craft your Twitter experience and who you follow determines what information comes through your feed – and what doesn’t. As they say, your network is your net worth – it’s all about what, or who, you are inviting into your Twitter experience.
Engage & Add Value
Garbage in, garbage out. Twitter is much like life – what you put in tends to be what you get out. Unlike Facebook which has a complex array of privacy tools, Twitter offers a simple “private” or “public” option. Even if you choose to keep your Twitter profile private, don’t miss out on the opportunity to engage beyond borders. Twitter is all about conversation. Don’t just stay in the Ghanaian or Nigerian Twittersphere – venture out into the wide, open skies. You might be surprised who and what opportunities you fly into. A bit shy? Hashtags and trending topics are a great place to start and photos are generally know to invite engagement. Retweeting or resharing other people’s tweets will also earn you some socializing points.
— #CirqVoyage (@Circumspecte_) November 2, 2016
In my book on how to use Twitter, the most important thing is to add some value (or at least try). Expert in African history? Share some little known facts. Attending a workshop on genetics? Live tweet it to spread the knowledge. Traveling across Africa and discovered something interesting? Use a travel hashtag to share your experience. These things will go a long way to help improve the quality of each interaction you have on Twitter, and eventually people will come to you because you add value. Just like networking in real life, it’s important to not just ask, ask, ask, but also to give.
Actually, scratch that. Being authentic goes hand-in-hand with add value when it comes to the ‘most important’ thing you can do for your personal brand on Twitter. Be yourself on social media, as much as possible. Don’t try to force interactions or come up with deceptive personas all in the name of gaining followers – you won’t be able to keep it up for long and will eventually get found out. That said there is no “get authentic quick scheme” and sometimes, you might fall off the wagon or join the “rat race”. How to get back on track? Check in with yourself from time to time and remind yourself about why you’re on Twitter. Better yet, keep it typed up or written somewhere for that rainy day.
— Jemila Abdulai (@jabdulai) May 2, 2017
Want more insights on how to use Twitter for personal or business branding? Sign up for a personalized Circumspecte one-on-one Twitter workshop.
Jemila Abdulai is a digital strategist, social media trainer and the creator of Circumspecte. Follow her tweets for insights on Ghana, Africa, politics, social media and more.