How to Use Twitter to Increase Your Industry Influence

iStock — TwitterTwitter can be a confusing, fleeting media. People either love it or ignore it. Personally, I fell onto the list of people who ignore it  and for the longest time, our photography business had no presence on Twitter.  I only created a Twitter account so Tobin, my husband, could submit an application to be a part of creativeLIVE’s live in-studio audience. After we created it, it sat dormant for quite some time.

All that changed when Lindsay Adler put it in a perfect perspective for me to understand. Her real talk went something like this:

Facebook is a high school reunion. Twitter is a 24/7 cocktail party.

Now that’s an analogy that I understand! At a party, first you measure the room and figure out who you want to get to know (and honestly, who you want to get to know) then you slowly gravitate towards that person or people, listening in on a conversation and hoping for the moment to interject some witty and unforgettable banter which validates your presence. It’s just like that with Twitter.  You can instantly get the attention of some big movers and shakers in any industry with a few well-timed, and well-thought-out tweets.

After hearing Lindsay’s advice, I knew our business HAD to have a presence on Twitter.  Not to reach across the social circles, but to reach up.  We were having brief, in person interactions with some big movers and shakers, and as much as they stayed in our mind, we knew that they meet hundreds and even thousands of people at different events, so how were we supposed to stay in their minds? That’s where Twitter came in. Within just a few weeks, we established relationships major brands and working photographers.  It all started with a simple tweet and it resulted in one-on-one conversations with the VP of Wescott. The power of Twitter is now seared into my brain — I can say that if our business wasn’t on Twitter we would have not connected to, or been noticed by, companies and people outside our level of influence.

Here’s what’s worked for us:

1. The most powerful tools are the # and @ symbols. Don’t be annoying about it and hashtag every literal thing in your tweet — that just makes you look like you are, at best, new to this and, at worst, attention-seeking.  Which brings me to…

2. Be 100% genuine and sincere. It’s an obvious statement, but an important practice. People can sense obsequious or disengenious behavior from a mile away — even on the internet. The most effective way to portray your brand and engage with like-minded peers and potential customers is to be yourself and own your voice.

3. Be relevant in the conversation — don’t just spam people or be pushy. Really and truly, treat Twitter like a party.  You wouldn’t walk into a room full of strangers and shout, “Hi! here’s my card. Hire me!”  You would start a conversation, and over time, gain an understanding of who that person is and if what you do fits their needs. If you’re talking to someone you look up to or idolize, make sure you are adding to the conversation not just repeatedly blurting, “Notice me!!!”

4. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all… For the most part.  Twitter has allowed the little guy a massive platform to scream from when they are unhappy about, well, anything and big businesses know that and are on constant crowd control.  This is a very powerful tool at the hands of the consumer but “with great power comes great responsibility”  If you tweet, “BIG BRAND X sucks hard!” well, BIG BRAND X customer service division can do nothing about it but if you tweet, “Was super excited about my @BIGBRANDX gadget but it came broken out of the box #disappointed” well, the likelihood of BIG BRAND X want to publically rectify the situation improves because then you are likely to tweet that you are now happy with BIG BRAND X and they look good trying to make you happy.

5. It’s a cocktail party, not a kegger. Don’t be the drunk, antagonizing guest shouting incendiary things. Since Twitter is a “broad strokes” kind of medium, it is best to keep your “polarizer comments” to yourself — unless you are actually talking about a polarizing lens, then by all means, go ahead. If you are representing yourself on behalf of your business or your business on behalf of yourself, be thoughtful and relevant — don’t start offering potentially offensive commentary about topics that don’t have anything to do with your business.

With this new perspective of how and why to use Twitter, we have established and sustained relationships with big names in photo industry — relationships that otherwise would have dwindled — as well as increased our engagement with new and existing customers.

Sarah Smith FOLLOW >

Sarah Smith is a small business owner, photography enthusiast, and full-time mom. She lives and works in Vancouver, B.C., with her husband, Tobin, and their two kids.