(Originally posted in SteamFeed)

As the recent Pace salsa debacle proved, a brand’s Twitter followers have the ability to truly influence its reputation — with some followers playing a bigger part in shaping that reputation than you would think. The truth of the Twitterverse is that all followers are not created equal, so it’s important that brands ensure their tweets are reaching — and positively resonating with — the right people. Read this article for a few unconventional ways to become your followers’ Twitter soulmate.


Big brands spend millions on digital marketing. Sometimes, however, a reputation can come down to just a few characters — 140, to be exact.

In the digital landscape, a smart, effective presence on Twitter has far more significance than its bite-size format might lead you to believe. And right now, your brand has two kinds of Twitter followers: those who read your tweets and scroll past, and those who do more. On Twitter, that means they’re “engaging”: sharing, retweeting, or replying to friends, celebrities, or your brand. But what makes them so different than your other followers, and what can you do to create a following that’s even more lively and involved?

Win the Twitter Advantage

To truly use your Twitter following to your brand’s advantage, you need to build a meaningful connection with your followers. And to do that, you need a complete picture of who’s following you and why. What do they get from your brand right now? And, more importantly, what don’t they get?

The best way to find the answer is a bit unconventional: You need to look beyond your own Twitter account to other people’s feeds. (Yes, even your competitors’!) Once you find out who users are engaging with and what they’re sharing, you can use these insights to create a detailed picture of exactly who your followers are and how you’re going to connect with them in a way that’s interesting, meaningful, and relevant to their lives.

Defining Your Audience

The first step to a more active Twitter following? Ignore a large portion of your followers. This might sound strange, but the best way to extend your reach on social media is to exclusively target followers who have engaged with you in the past. You need to build a connection with these people and prove that your brand is a valuable part of their social lives.

Why focus all your efforts on targeting engagers specifically? These are real people with active accounts, and they’re also more likely to make the leap from small engagement to big engagement. You can foster this behavior, but first, you have to find out a few things:

  • Figure out what other brands they’re engaging with and why. Try to create a holistic picture of their online behavior. Do they retweet content from BuzzFeed, NPR, or both? Which brand tweets are they reacting to and why?
  • See which hashtags and links your engagers are already sharing. These are solid, hard-and-fast numbers that can show where to concentrate your marketing efforts and media dollars.
  • Track which celebrities and sports stars they interact with. This is another good touchstone to use when creating a vision of your target’s online behavior. (And, down the road, it could be helpful for evaluating sponsorship opportunities.)

Refining Your Strategy

After you’ve created a detailed “persona” that you’re seeking to engage, the next step is to figure out the right way to speak to this audience. Here are four unconventional ideas that can help you stand out:

1. Use other brands’ successes and failures.

Don’t just depend on your own metrics. Here’s a hypothetical: Let’s say ESPN is researching whether a segment on the dangers of concussion in youth football would appeal to its audience. Which publishers have run a similar story? How often was it shared and, most importantly, by whom? After running these numbers, ESPN has a clear, numbers-driven view of just how successful their segment is bound to be — all thanks to their competitors’ numbers.

2. Piggyback on what’s trending.

Hashtag popularity waxes and wanes on Twitter constantly. Now, brands are using them to their advantage by taking generic hashtags (#YOLO, for example) and tagging them in their own promoted tweets. Of course, as with all things pop culture, there’s a huge risk if you get it wrong. Remember: You can’t use “hunch-based” marketing if you have a lot to lose, but when it’s a good fit, it’s golden.

3. Hack hashtags.

Here’s another sly move in the Twittersphere: hijacking another brand’s hashtag campaign to get your word out. Consider the notorious “#askMcD” campaign, which garnered all kinds of hate for McDonald’s. But who would want to hack it? Agencies specializing in branding, for example — whether it’s to dissect McDonald’s failed campaign or contribute witty commentary.

4. Partner with celebrities.

Sometimes, a celebrity tweet is all it takes. Take a look at what CMT has done with Shaquille O’Neal: One tweet from @Shaq scored the network a whole new kind of reach. But here’s what’s interesting: CMT could actually have saved a lot of cash by partnering with a celebrity with fewer followers (such as Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas, who has far more followers in common with CMT than Shaq does). The lesson is clear: “Bigger” isn’t always better, but “more relevant” is. (And it can save you media dollars, too.)

Applying It in Real Life

Unconventional ideas work because they’re unusual. (That means they can seem a little risky.) Social media is an ever-changing playing field still in its infancy. There aren’t really any rules; any creative idea could become the next go-to tactic to create an engaged, active following.
Remember, the same tried-and-true tactics will get you the same results. There’s only one concrete way to create change: Try something new, and see where it takes you and your following.