This article is a guest submission from Rich Campbell, Associate Professor of Marketing at Sonoma State University
I recently wrote a two part post at TheBusinessofSports.com with some suggestions of people to follow on Twitter in the sports industry, branding and social media.
There are many such lists all over the internet including this Huffington Post list of 100 “must follows”.
Following people is easy – just a click away! What comes next is the real meat of this post: how to strategically create long term engagement on Twitter.
Walk Before You Run
Step 1: When you encounter a list of awesome people, limit yourself to 5-10 new follows.
If you try to follow 100 new thought leaders, you are likely to become confused and frustrated by the volume of information you confront. So, patience pays!A Five Step Plan for Networking on Twitter #sportsbiz Click To Tweet
Step 2: Take a week or two to systematically read EVERY tweet and link that your new contact offers. Often times you will know in just a few days if this is a person you want to continue to follow.
Additional Tip: Don’t be afraid to unfollow! Twitter should be used improve your business awareness. Don’t feel obligated to keep following if someone posts too often or does not add value to your experience.
Step 3: After a few weeks, you may find yourself acutely interested in one of your new follow’s content. At this point, start retweeting the tweets you like best (if you have not been doing so already). Be selective, as you don’t want to be seen as a barnacle on their ship. But at the same time be consistent, retweeting, favoriting or commenting on their conversations a few times a week.
Step 4: Often times, this behavior will lead to a “thank you” from your contact – and you can respond with how much you enjoy the subjects they cover and discuss.
Step 5: After a few of these exchanges, close the deal by offering a LinkedIn invitation, which will make your contact aware of your background and the value you can bring to them. Also, they may choose to follow you back on Twitter. When they do, always tweet your thanks – to differentiate you from their thousands (or millions!) of other followers.
It’s simple, but not easy.
To get real results takes patience and a willingness to win some and lose some. Not everyone you retweet will respond in kind, but for those that do you have an opening to grow a relationship.
Proof of Concept
One of the people I have followed on Twitter in the last year is author Dorie Clark. I began by following her on Twitter and reading her posts in Forbes and the Harvard Business Review (I believe I first began reading her work on my LinkedIn newsfeed – now called Pulse).
I followed the steps outlined above retweeting and commenting on Dorie’s content. She thanked me several times, so I reached out with a LinkedIn invitation, and we swapped emails. When she held a event in San Francisco to promote her book Reinventing You, she was kind enough to invite me.
Even though I could not make it, her invitation allowed me to let her know that I would be in Boston (which I knew was her residence based on reading her posts) a few weeks later. As a result she invited me (and a colleague) to hear her speak at Harvard when I was in town. Afterward we had a nice thirty minute visit.
About a month after my follow up “thank you”, I reached out to Dorie about co-authoring a piece around our shared interest in Personal Branding. A few weeks later, it was published on her blog at Forbes.com.
All that from engaging with someone I admire on Twitter.
Getting a Social Superstar in Your Corner
Another contact I have developed is with social superstar Gary Vaynerchuk. I am one of his over ONE MILLION followers, so getting noticed by Gary is challenging. A few months ago as the release of his book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook approached, he tweeted out to see if any professors were planning to use the book in the spring semester.
I quickly responded and with the help of his book’s “CEO” Nate, I adopted it for my upcoming Executive MBA course at Sonoma State and Gary will be joining us for a thirty minute Skype session in class.
In both of these examples, building a relationship with someone on Twitter was a slow process. This isn’t a ‘just add water and lose 30 lbs in 20 minutes’ technique, it takes time and patience.
Become intimately familiar with your new follow, then be prepared to act when the opportunity presents itself. The expression “luck is where opportunity meets preparation” fits with both of these instances.
I’ve interacted with so many people on Twitter, but these two stories are exceptional – not the rule – don’t expect immediate result with everyone you follow.
Finally, another great way to develop relationships via Twitter is to participate in “chats”. I hope to have another post soon on WorkInSports.com with tips on how you can leverage Sports Business chats to develop your network, as we head into 2014.