Here’s a secret no one is going to tell you about Twitter. Most of your “followers” aren’t actually following what you’re doing. They probably followed you and forgot about you. This is just not the way people use Twitter. The nature of the platform makes it a bit overwhelming once you start following multiple people, the stream of tweets becomes enormous, and much of it is irrelevant content, so people stop paying attention.
So what’s a marketer to do? Don’t throw in the towel just yet, it’s easier than you think to reach an audience and get them to pay attention. Use hashtags! Yes, those strange words that appear on a tweet preceded by #. Most people who are on Twitter will follow a hashtag stream to hear what other people are saying about things they care about. Because I used a hashtag, a tweet I wrote during the Amazing Race finale was re-tweeted 74 times by people I didn’t even know.
Want to see hashtags in action? Search #Patriots on Twitter to see what people are saying about the New England Patriots football team. You should also notice that not only are people tweeting with the hashtag #patriots, but there are plenty more: #patriotnation, #superbowl, #nfl, etc. Smart marketers that they are, the Patriots themselves have even gotten in on this stream, tweeting offers to buy playoff tickets with these hashtags. By doing this same type of search for your own product or business, you can find those valuable hashtags as well. And just like with search engine optimization, the longer tail your hashtags are, the more qualified your leads will be.
Here’s another example of how it could work. My travel buddies and I have just decided to take a trip to Istanbul this spring. I went to Twitter and searched “#travel #istanbul” to get some travel information. If you were a company selling trips to Turkey, guidebooks or excursions, wouldn’t you want to show up in that stream? Even better if you show up in that stream without an offer to buy your product and just some helpful news on traveling in Istanbul, so I’m aware of who you are, and that’s the online equivalent of I’m already in your store when I’m ready to buy!