For most of us users, Twitter is first and foremost a filter for knowledge and information. We follow another Twitter user only when their tweets are relevant and useful to us. The more you tweet links to the latest news and developments relevant to a specific subject, the more followers you’ll attract who share an interest in that subject. This is a useful way to begin to build a following for your corporate Twitter account. For us at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, that is poverty, housing and ageing. I use Google Alerts, RSS feeds, email newsletters and news websites to get the latest information daily and glean content to tweet.
It’s important to make sure that your corporate account develops a useful following, consisting of a high proportion of key stakeholders. 50,000 Twitter followers may sound impressive but quality still trumps quantity every time. Most think tanks and research organisations want to create impact and influence policy and practice with their work so it helps to start by following not only similar organisations, institutions, media and government but as many of the individual people that make up these bodies. This will prompt them to look at your profile and consider following you. This is often the only time they’ll ever look at your profile so make sure it’s appealing!
They will want to follow your organisation on Twitter because it’s an authority on particular subjects. But they will expect its Twitter account to be an effective filter for what’s worth reading on those subjects. If it is, your following will grow exponentially and if it isn’t, it won’t grow much at all. Once your corporate Twitter account is established as useful and a following is developing, you can begin to splice in your organisation’s own messages, content and media coverage and your growing following will help share these among their networks.
In order for a corporate Twitter account to be really effective, all the key staff must be using Twitter effectively themselves, applying their unique expertise to identify and filter the latest news and developments relevant to their work specifically, and tweeting links. A staff Twitter feed can be used to help feed the corporate account, which then becomes a more diverse and authentic representation of the organisation, its knowledge, expertise and authority.
The growing following of the corporate account soon becomes a useful resource to help individual staff develop their Twitter networks. By retweeting staff, you are telling your following that if they’re interested in this subject, they should follow this person for more because they’re a specialist on the subject. And by looking regularly at who the latest corporate account followers are you can recommend certain ones follow relevant staff on Twitter (I have a list of copy-and-paste follow recommendations saved in a word.doc). It helps to follow them back too as a gesture of goodwill. This will quickly render the Timeline of the corporate account useless but that doesn’t matter because you’ve got the eyes of all your colleagues on their own Timelines.